In a previous post I reviewed Craftsman’s push and hold down peg clamps, but if you don’t have a workbench with dog holes, these clamps may not be of much use to you. That’s why Sears sells the Craftsman portable peg clamping workbench, so that you can put these clamps to good use.
We previously posted about the Craftsman peg table here. It’s a portable workbench with dog holes across the worksurface in a grid.
To give something for the push peg clamps to push against, Sears also sells 8″ and 12″ aluminum peg fences, but let’s take a look at what you get with the Workbench first:
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This workbench is designed to be easily set up when you need it, and folded for storage when you don’t. As you are setting it up you can set the height to be either 21-14″ or 32-1/4″, via the extensible aluminum legs. Once the legs are out and locked in place, the 31 pound bench can support up to 330 pounds.
At this point, it should be noted that, like the peg clamps, the workbench and the peg fences are made by Armor Tool. Craftsman’s peg fence offerings are identical to Armor’s, but while Armor sells 4″, 8″, and 14″ lengths, Craftsman’s are available in 8″ and 12″ lengths.
I’m mentioning this because Armor has additional product images on their website, and some better ones than I could take. Rather than making you suffer through badly lit photos from my shop, I’m going to use some of Armor’s pictures.
For the sake of this review, simply think “Craftsman” anytime you see “Armor” on the sides of the workbench.
The top comes molded with a series of 3/4″ holes spaced 3″ apart in a square pattern over the entire top.
The top can also be removed via the four clips on the side. Whether this is for easy replacement of the top, or that you can clip another type of top onto the workbench is unclear.
Stuart’s Note: I received a Craftsman peg table for review, and there was shipping damage. One of the tabletop 4 side tabs, where the frame’s clips attach to, was broken off. I could have repaired it, but it might not have been too easy since the clip fracture showed glass-reinforced construction. That was actually a surprising but welcome realization – that the top was made from glass-reinforced polymer.
The workbench also has 3/4″ holes in the sides, giving you even more flexibility in where and how you clamp a project.
Built into the table is a 3 outlet surge-protected power strip. Rather than having a power tail that would get in the way, you plug your extension cord right into the side of the workbench. There are also a few cutouts in the opposite side of the bench for keeping various tools easily reachable.
The bottom of the extruded aluminum peg fences have T-slots that allow the pegs to slide into any position along the length of the fence. This allows you to not only position the fence anywhere along a row or column of holes, but also to position the fence in diagonal holes so the fence is at an angle. Once the pegs are in position you need you tighten them to keep them in place.
The fences have two different height sides: 5/8″ and 1-1/4″. Presumably the lower profile side of the fence is used with 5/8″ and thicker materials so you can sand and plane right up the edge of the wood without hitting the fence.
Unpacking the Workbench
When I got the box inside after almost dropping the hand off from the delivery guy, I started ripping open the packaging and found it packed with the kind of cheap styrofoam that breaks apart into little balls and sticks to absolutely everything. I was getting super annoyed and just wanted to get the packaging in the garbage.
I mention this to give you an idea of the state of mind I was in when I started to examine the table.
Already a little annoyed, I became extremely disappointed when I saw that several rivets weren’t set properly in multiple locations. Some rivets were so loose, like the above latch pin, that the latch pin rattled.
Others weren’t as loose like the rivet above on the leg cross brace, but for something that supposedly retails for $160, you don’t want to see this kind of quality control failure.
The sale price of the bench is $100, and we’ve seen it go as low as $90 on sale, but still.
Stuart’s Note: My test sample had crooked rivets as well.
As I was setting up the workbench, I also noticed that the metal diagonal supports weren’t deburred very well, so they could easily cut your hands if you weren’t careful.
Stuart’s Note: I used a tool to tap the supports in and out of place. The metal was thin and gave me the impression that I’d pinch or cut my hands if I weren’t careful.
I swung out the legs without extending them, and since it seemed really sturdy in this configuration, stepped up onto the workbench. (Don’t try this at home.)
The workbench can supposedly support 330 pounds, and supported my weight with minimal flexing, but I don’t think I’d recommend using it as a platform because of the next problem I discovered.
When I fully extended the legs, I found that in the long direction it’s as stable as you can expect, probably because the legs splay out to the sides at an angle to make the footprint larger than the work surface. But from front to back, the bench wants to jump around when using anything but the lightest force.
If you look at the workbench from the side you can immediately see why: the legs run straight down parallel several inches inside the edge of the workbench, giving the bench a narrower footprint in that direction.
In our Craftsman peg table preview post, there’s an image of a prototype table with legs that fold on the outside of the workbench. But the tradeoff with that design is that you can’t have middle support and compact folding for storage.
Checking out the Workbench
I noted in the peg clamp review that the push peg clamp tended to lift the material off the surface when you actuated it. When used with the Craftsman table, not only does it lift the workpiece, but it rocks the peg fence.
You can dial down the force on the clamp, to where the lifting and rocking is minimal, but the holding force drops so low, it’s barely putting pressure on the workpiece. This might be fine for most situations, but I still think it’s a flaw with this type of clamp.
To test my theory about the stability of the workbench, I clamped a piece of wood to the table with a peg fence and a push peg clamp, and I used a block plane to ease the edge of the board. As I was going from one side to the other, the workbench was very stable and didn’t rock at all.
When I tried sanding the board with a 100 grit sanding block from side to side it also was very stable.
But as soon as I tried to sand from front to back, the table started to rock off it’s legs. I was using very little down pressure, but the friction between the 100 grit sandpaper and the pine workpiece was enough to pull the workbench off it’s feet.
The outlets work exactly as you expect they would. There’s no on/off switch, just a circuit breaker reset button.
I ran into the problem that I didn’t have a small enough cord in my shop to supply power to the workbench, so I had to go out into garage to get a cord that would fit. When I did find a cord, it was nice that the recessed hole was big enough for the useless tab off the bottom of the outlet and I didn’t have to snip it off like I have had to do before for this style of inlet.
I understand the reason for the recessed outlet. If the male prongs were exposed, there would be a high chance of damage when the workbench was put edge-down for storage. Or, knocking into the plug during use might be enough to bend the pegs a little.
Using the Whole Peg Clamping System on a Project
To test out the peg workbench and all the accessories, I used them to build a rolling bin. I have unused space under my workbench shelf and after a little thought I decided to make a rolling bin to fit underneath my workbench to store some of my most used tools.
The bin is very simply constructed: 2x8s screwed together with pocket hole joinery, and the bottom is held in by a groove around the bottom of the bin. For the rolling part I decided to attach some old inline skate wheels to the sides. This allows me to adjust the height of the drawers to where the bottom is just above the floor, maximizing the storage space.
I cut the four sides to length with my miter saw, and then used the peg clamping workbench and the hold down peg clamp with my pocket hole jig to drill three pocket holes on each side of the front and back of the bin.
I was surprised that the hold down peg clamp worked as well in the plastic top as in my 3″ thick wooden bench top. Drilling all the holes went really fast, because it’s so easy to reposition the hold down clamp and re-engage it.
When it came time to assemble the bin, I used the long and short fence in combination with one of the push peg clamps to help hold the sides as I screwed the bin together. As I just needed enough pressure to hold the boards upright in the right position, this setup actually worked pretty well.
After screwing the box together, all that was left as to mount the roller blade wheels. I’ve found a 5/16″ bolt fits through the bearing in a inline skate wheel almost perfectly, so it was just a matter of drilling holes at the same height on all four corners of the bin and bolting on the wheels. The finished bin rolls nicely under my bench.
I like all the peg clamping accessories, and if I had to choose my favorite it’d be the hold down peg clamp that I recently reviewed separately, but the push peg clamp and the peg fences are very useful too, especially when you have a surface with a grid of peg holes.
Unfortunately, that’s really the best thing I can say about the peg clamping workbench: that the plastic top with its grid of peg holes works really well in conjunction with all the accessories.
The peg workbench is really lacking some quality control, and has at least one serious design flaw. The mis-seated rivets and the sharp edges are unacceptable for a product that is supposed to retail at or over $100.
The narrow placement of the legs, and the fact they don’t splay out to the front and back, means the bench is somewhat unstable and easily rocks from front to back, again something I might expect of a much cheaper workbench.
Stuart’s Note: I was also extremely disappointed with the construction quality of the workbench. I spoke with representatives of Armor Tool, who were surprised to hear about the incompletely seated rivets and sharp leg supports. They promised to look into the matter, and noted that customer satisfaction seemed to be quite high.
These benches are highly functional, and I was quite impressed with the accuracy, supposed strength, and well-finished nature of the benchtop. That doesn’t make up for the lower-than-expected quality of the frame.
Given that Sears’ user reviews are quite positive, perhaps our bad copies were fluke occurrences. Over the phone, the Armor manager sounded genuinely surprised when I described our experiences.
But even if the rivets were perfectly seated and the leg supports finger-friendly and smooth, that wouldn’t eliminate the front-to-back wobble. If you can, brace the bench up against a wall or other solid fixture to help maximize front-to-back stability those occasional times you need to work with forces in that direction. Most work will likely be along the length of the bench anyways.
Like the clamps, the peg fences were also well built and thought out. I had no issues other than how they rolled over a bit when I really put horizontal pressure on them with the push peg clamps.
The Craftsman portable peg clamping workbench is listed at $160, but goes on sale for as low as $100, or $90 with Craftsman Club discount.
Buy Now (Portable Peg Clamping Workbench)
The 8″ and 12″ peg fences are normally $19 and $22 respectively at Sears, but are on sale as of the time of this posting for $15 and $18.
Thank you to Craftsman for providing these test samples unconditionally.