A reader recently asked if the Black & Decker Workmate was still king of the portable workbenches. Honestly, I don’t think so, although the standard/entry model’s $35 pricing is certainly still attractively low.
I remember when my father bought his Workmate at a Black & Decker outlet store. But, that was maybe 25 to 30 years ago, and I am fairly certain today’s models are much lighter-built. My father’s Workmate was a chore to move around, but it was fairly sturdy, easy to use, and versatile.
It has been a few years since I’ve played around with a Workmate at a local store, but the last couple of times I “kicked the tires,” the on-display basic Workmates felt a bit flimsy. I’m sure they’re still useful.
Here’s a good question – are there better ways to spend $35 on alternate workholding equipment?
All Workmates have a clamping work surface which is controlled by two hand cranks. The idea is that you adjust one side to your work material thickness and then adjust the other for your clamping pressure.
Work can be clamped between the wide jaws, where there is also a groove down the center for holding round stock, or plastic swivel pegs that pop into the dog holes on the top surface.
As an aside, can you spot what’s wrong in the above image of the Workmate clamping onto a bicycle frame?
Black & Decker says that Workmate has versatile clamping options, for holding all kinds of projects and materials in different orientations.
The Workmate WM125 can support up to 350 pounds and also has non-skid feet. Ignore this product image’s depiction of “adjustable swivel pegs” – what it’s pointing to are the clamp’s crank handles.
Black & Decker says the Workmate WM125 weighs 15 pounds, which makes it relatively lightweight.
The swivel pegs are useful for clamping horizontal objects of different shapes and sizes. If you don’t need them, they are easily removed.
Is the Workmate still Worth Buying?
Based on the times I used my father’s Workmate, and from the brief impressions I have had with in-store demo models over the years (but not recently), I would say YES.
There are quite a few different folding workbenches I would choose over this one, and without hesitation, but, the Workmate is priced at $35 and with free shipping.
When looking at user reviews, there are some complaints about built quality, but most negativity is focused on the assembly instructions. Most recent reviews are actually quite positive.
Would I recommend this to frequent users? No – there are many more modern designs that offer greater versatility. However, I there is simply nothing else I can recommend at this price point, except maybe for plastic sawhorses.
If you’re on a tight budget, this is going to be the best portable workbench of clamping table solution unless you’re willing to spend at least double the price.
Yes, it’s going to be a little flimsy. Yes, your work surface is limited in size, although you can place a wood board in between the fixed and movable clamping jaws if you need more support.
At $35 shipped, you’re probably getting your money’s worth, and no more.
There’s simply nothing else at this price point. I suppose you could get a small folding table instead, but they tend to be quite flimsy and you’d still need to spend extra on clamps.
What kind of portable or folding workbench would you recommend to someone looking to spend less than $50?
At the $50 under price point you will have a difficult time finding other options. The closest alternative the Hart work table is no longer offered by Home Depot. At $54 it was a strong competitor in this category and many people bought it for less than $50. Harbor Freight has a version of the Workmate that is less expensive, and useable. Worx also has a multilegged work table for $58. I’m sure there are others. Look forward to seeing others feedback on this topic.
The hart is now at $54 at walmart. Out of stock, but that is where they are.
This basic Workmate goes down in price to $25 often (last time – in early April). And indeed it’s quite flimsy.
The Harbor Freight one is around 20 bucks and totally worth it. I carved plenty of bowls on it and it’s made an ok scroll saw stand lately after I added some weight to it.
I did pick up an old workmate at a garage sale and it’s way better than the modern ones though.
I’ve got two of them – well sort of, they’re clones made under the brand “Jobmate”. They were sold at Canadian Tire, not sure if they still are.
I didn’t buy mine – pretty sure I got them from my dad when he downsized several years ago. One was already assembled, the second is still in its much disintegrated cardboard box. I think the Work Mate is a good concept, but the one I use has always been a little frustrating. The cranks don’t spin smoothly, the folding joints are stiff, I’ve broken the plastic lock on one side and I find it tough to pull the plastic pegs out of their holes.
However, they are cheap. What’s more, despite the frustrations I still have the darn thing. I just don’t use the clamping aspect much anymore – now it’s just a table I’m not afraid to beat up.
They look identical. I wonder if the B&D version is built any better than mine. A quick googling shows the B&D version is $90 here in Canada – you’d be much better off buying the Dewalt or Worx folding tables at that price.
Or, on a budget, grab a couple of these folding metal sawhorses (ignore the high regular price – these are frequent flyer deals at $14-16):
I was checking to see if the Jobmate was still sold – it’s not. BUT, now there’s another clone for $50 – and since it’s Canadian Tire I’ll bet it often goes on sale for 40-50% off too.
The answer to your question is that the workmate rear plank goes through the bike’s tire. 😋
Koko The Talking Ape
Yep. Also, that horrible step-through frame requires the rear brake cables to run down the slanted top tube, then make a near-180 turn entirely unsupported or guarded to reach the brakes. That cable is going to catch on things, like twigs or your foot. And I bet it gets kinked too. At least use a mixte frame. But who wears skirts to ride a bike nowadays anyway?
But what you said is probably what Stuart meant. 🙂
The real problem is that you should never clamp a bike frame to work on it. Seat-post or fork mount (euro style) instead.
I was more referring to the Photoshop gaffe, but you’re right about this too.
At $35 it’s hard to beat. Personally I’d spend a little more for something more stable. The legs are a little flimsy and I don’t think it’s meant to stand up to much abuse. I prefer the Workmate 225 at $60 or the 425 at $100.
Performance tool has a knockoff for $50 that seems to be a little stronger.
There are also the Keter folding workbenches which range from $75-100. I swear Costco had these at one point but I haven’t seen them in years.
And the WORX Pegasus at $120 is about as high as you can go before jumping up to a Kreg project center or their new knockoff of a Festool MFT.
FWIW I love my worx pegasus to the point that I rarely fold it up. I usually keep it set up close to my main workbench for extra workspace/ a place to clamp down wood I’ll cut quickly.
I’ve actually kicked around the idea of buying a second one to either leave in my truck bed or to attach the two together for more workspace.
WORX Pegasus is exactly what I was going to recommend. I picked up one on sale for $70 a couple years ago and sent my workmate to Goodwill.
If you can find the Pegasus on sale, it’s absolutely a great option.
Agreed. The Pegasus is the one to own. Y0u can get them at the Worx Store on eBay for $60-$70 with free shipping when they are on sale, which is frequently.
I’d love to have one of the old ones we used back in the 80’s, but they were heavy mofos to tote on the hikes we had to do then. We never had to do any maintenance to them that I recall, and they always worked. Flimsy was not a word associated with them, either. A feature we appreciated was their height, too, about counter-level.
I say the Workmate is still definitely worth buying. Some years back I wanted a workmate type bench but I thought there must be something better so I looked around at alternatives. Everything I found was made of plastic/polymer where as the Workmate is mostly metal. I had reservations about the plastic getting UV damage over time and eventually becoming brittle and useless. I wasn’t planning to leave the bench outside but still that was an issue in my mind. I eventually settled on the Workmate 425 because I found one on Craigslist for the right price. Besides, no one had them in stock and it would be a special order to get one. I got a set of beefy casters and mounted the Workmate on it with some 2×4’s and now I have nice easy to move workbench. I’ve made T shaped bases for a couple of bench grinders and a vise and I can swap them out easily and secure them with the clamp. There are lots of ideas on Youtube where people expand the work surface, replace the top, make mobile bases and show how they’ve been modding/ using them to fit their needs. They’re worth looking up for ideas. Also, the bench dogs and other plastic parts are available to 3d print on Thingiverse if needed.
That one looks like a cheap imitation of the classic one that was so popular in the 70s and 80s in Europe, where it seemed like every family that did a bit of diy had one.
The back tire and the rear clamping block seem to be occupying the same space!
Ah the classic and venerable Workmate. I still have the one I purchased in the early 80s, that served as my first work bench and home shop in my first apartment after college. While I have better alternatives now, it holds too many memories for me to part with it.
Koko The Talking Ape
A couple of people have said it is “flimsy.” Does that mean it won’t support the rated weight, or does it mean it just weeble-wobbles around? (I’ve been watching AvE.) It’s that strength vs. stiffness thing again.
Just eye-balling the thing, I imagine it might sway left to right, in the direction of the clamp jaws. And if it were me, since the space under the top is not used for anything, I’d have made the broad bottom braces thinner and added long but thin diagonal braces to triangulate . That could add a lot of stiffness and maybe even reduce weight.
I still have my old workmate. It’s acting as a base for my old Rage miter saw. I wouldn’t stand on this thing but it’s served it’s purpose. Cheap, flimsy, but it’s held up for me for maybe 10 years. You can do a lot better, but good question, definitely not at this price point. I wouldn’t call it sturdy, and I wouldn’t use it for much wood working, but it’s an OK base for a tool stand (and a lot cheaper).
I have a couple of the original classic workmates from back in the day. They are built like a beast with no wobbliness to them at all.
If I need a quick workbench, I usually grab the Keter work table that I got from Sams Club. It has more surface area to work on and the height of it is perfect for me. The workmates don’t have much work area and are taller.
I too feel the new ones are very flimsy vs the older (say 90’s generation) models. I wonder if the wood top is different.
meanwhile I think the older ones did work pretty well but I will say I don’t own a set. perhaps it doesn’t really fit a need I have.
I have a 1980’s version of the 225 they still sell. Its heavy but very durable, I use mine as a portable miter saw stand alot. The cheaper version as s shown is still useful but no where near as stable. In general a great tool to have around.
I feel as if the most apt answer I can give is “No”… We have much better solutions this many years on. At the time, yes, it was kind of a given that it was either setting a precedent for home use solutions, or it was a tiny bit ahead of its time. For this, it isn’t something that should be disrespected. And, yeah, the Jobmate and Mastercraft editions at Canadian Tire are… well… at the identical state as the original B&D version… I’m pretty sure B&D is the one that made them, rebranded, for Canadian Tire, so you can’t really say they are any different.
But we do have better editions of this now. More expensive, often overlooked as being related to the Workmate… but still, the features described in the Workmate are often featured in some way on several common Sawhorse devices, and even Tool Carts.
Were we to have a kind of… Tool Museum (like fred’s plane collection, that man could write a definitive historical manual on the evolution of wood planing. A text book for every single woodworker to be trained on, and keep as reference. Seriously, fred, you get the right Textbook publisher to work with you, and you could have a pension in the millions!) then the Black & Decker Workmate would deserve its own display, demonstrating that we Humans tend to want things that do an entire job, not just dedicated use tools. It has its place, and it led to some serious innovation in the years since its first release… I think it’s even going on 40 years ago now? I remember being a child and seeing the commercial for that thing… in the 1980’s… That’s no slouch as a tool. That’s pretty good. And the tool features it inspired in the more modern replacements do owe it some serious respect for what it is.
But I have to honestly move on to the “No” part of this query. I don’t think it’s worth buying anymore. There are some very unique niches where it’s a good buy, but the ideal is to go with the tools it inspired, and updated on its design.
I grabbed a broken HF one from the trash and replaced the top with 1x6s then stained it with a half dried can of polyshades. It’s been great for what it is and the screw mechanism was gone when I got it. The mdf tops are junk amd it’s best to replace it with some real wood so it doesn’t rot out. 6 years later outside and only kinda covered there’s some rust but oh well. I can attest to making the surface larger longer boards is easy and a good idea. I’ve seen many of these workmates that seem to be made by the same company in China and rebranded for sub 40 dollars. I’d buy one in a heartbeat and do it all over again for a quick go to workspace. Great for painting or staining just slap a trash bag on top who cares about splatter. Very versatile!
I’ve had one forever. I love it.
I have a few of these B and D and yes they get the job done and I think the are a decent value but I curse at them when I have to unfold them.
The Harbor Freight looks the same or very very similar as the Powertec MT4006 and Performance Tool W54025 found on Amazon.
I’d really like to try one of the Wolfcraft units especially the height adjustable ones but sadly last I looked I can’t find any from US sellers.
Compared to some 2X scrap sawhorses and and a lousy piece of plywood—I’d say workmate is pretty limited—in terms of stability, durability, and versatility. And it’s comparatively expensive too. It makes me think about how products are actually sometimes little more than a suggestion to the imagination. It’s a worthless worktable, but maybe its someone’s only conception of a worktable—and maybe for them it might be great.
I got an old Workmate from my wife’s uncle who was serious DIY’er and it was heavy and quite worn. I kept it for a while but it started to have issues opening and closing and the peg holes were so worn they didnt hold well. Once we moved into a bigger house he bought me a nice Craftsman workbench that we put both a vise on one end and a big double grinder on the other and I used that till we moved here to TX. My garage is now standard 2 car so and all the wall space is taken so I am serious looking for a decent collapsible work bench. My new neighbor told me to check out what another neighbor a few doors down had as a portable workbench so I stopped by one day when the garage door was open and he was working on a project. I introduced myself and told him DJ told me to check with him about his portable bench and he just smiled. He walked around and came back carrying this interesting looking black and red bench. He told me he bought because of friend of his said it was just like a portable bench he bought 5 or more years ago that was rather pricey but well built and had some great features. Wont waste time here writing all about it but if you dont mind spending $170 with free shipping this is a serious portable workbench. You can find it at Griot’s Garage online. Would love to know what others think and what its predecessor was.
Amazon has it in blue for $129.
Some other stores carry it too.
$50 bulk price for a truckload of them.
Looks cool! I could have sworn Home Depot had these as well, but I can’t seem to track it down myself. If anyone wants to check it out, here’s the link to the Griot’s Garage page-
Thanks for the info Frank, identical product by a different manufacturer for $30 less. Ordered this morning and got free shipping which is a plus.
It may be a cool and functional item, if a bit overpriced for what it ultimately it, but checking one out in person, might convince me.
My primary concern is the super tiny wheels though, to use it as a creeper or cart to move goods around. Driveways? Basic concrete garage floors? …
And, while they headline it with 550lbs, the sticker on the side says starts with supporting a person weighing 150kg max. Different functions, different strengths, chances are, but it is hard to miss, when you get the hi-res photos.
I vote yes!
I’ve used these, and they aren’t bad. But on that same project, I also used a Stanley (I think) folding sawhorse that had a table that folded up. Undoubtedly, it would have been more expensive than the Workmate when they were still making it, but it was a very appealing option. The Worx Pegasus is very similar, but a bit pricey for me. Interesting question!
OK, I’m a technician-style contractor. I need to drive in, set up my stuff and do my thing, then pack up and leave with fairly long runs between job sites and home (1-2 hours). Most jobs are one day. So I don’t have time to “set up camp” like a lot of contractors. I don’t do a lot of wood working…mine is mostly steel or aluminum so clamps tend to be more on the bumper mounted vice category. I need clamps once in a while. Most of the time it’s my hand clamping a piece of Unistrut while I saw it for instance. But what I do need is table space so I don’t have to keep kneeling on the ground just to find a drill bit.
I have had the Keter. In fact my situation was that I was working on several motors in a row in the DC area and I was having to set my instrumentation, tools, and notepad all on the floor and work on my hands and knees all day with a 3 day job. So after day 1 I had to find something better. I like the Rubbermaid cart and this was frankly what I was going to buy. But the sides make it awkward to do what I do (table is better). But score one for wheels which is even better but unfortunately not to be. And the big problem I have with the Rubbermaid is that it takes up half of the bed of a pickup! That thing is huge. And it does NOT fold up. So as long as you are willing to sacrifice essentially half of your material hauling space for a roll around table, go for it. But otherwise as a road tech, it’s terrible. Anything I use needs to fold down to may be 3-4″ thick and 2-3 feet wide at most. The Rubbermaid doesn’t fold at all.
I spotted the Ketter which scored points on portability, size, no side rails, and overall functionality, at first. Only big thing I gave up was wheels. It doesn’t actually have a “clamp” like the Workmate. What it has is two of the cheapest flimsiest bar clamps you’ve ever seen that rust up within a week. My hand has about as much clamping force as this thing and just like my hand if I let go, so does the clamp. So it is slotted for pegs and bar clamps that you are going to be supplying if you want to spend that much time setting up some fancy jigging for a photo op but that’s about it. Much larger work table, has a lower shelf, and HEAVY. The handle snapped off the first year which makes lugging it around that much more aggravating. It’s really just a table for me now. This is the most stable of the bunch for the weight. It has ALMOST enough room for a couple typical tool boxes. With a suitcase laptop instrument and the various tools those come with set up on it, I really have no room even for a pad of paper. Plus when you drag it, it hops up and down and jiggles everything off the table.
Sure you can load up on 4×4’s on steel saw horses and screw it into 2 sheets of 3/4″ marine plywood but you just destroyed portability. If that was your goal, quit being cheap and buy a real work bench.
Also owned one of those Stanley plastic saw horses with the fold up table that you put on top. It’s the closest equivalent to the Workmate…flimsy, unstable, It has a build in screw mechanism that you can put a plastic peg into in order to use it as a clamp but I could never get enough clamping force to be worth anything (doesn’t hold). This was my least favorite one of the bunch. So it comes in three pieces and the table is just awkward to carry with the saw horses so rarely made it onto the work site. The saw horses themselves relied on this folding plastic piano hinge sort of mini table that kept the legs from flying apart but I had to adjust it every single time I set it up because the piano hinge mechanism fingers just would never mesh properly and did not get better with age. The table sort of sagged to the sides so everything rolled off it and with the table on, you couldn’t use it as saw horses because everything was on a tilt or bearing down on one edge of the table. That’s never mind what do you do with a roughly 12″ x 30″ table? It’s just big enough to maybe hold something while you work on it but not much else. So great concept but terrible execution. If somehow they could have made the table part straddle the saw horse or at least just did away with the piano hinge tables it might have been a functional sawhorse at least or a functional table at least but it was neither.
Was looking for a Keter alternative and spotted the Dewalt work table. Right from the top it has plenty of peg holes including a diagonal squarish design in the middle that works much better. It doesn’t come with any cheapo bar clamps or pegs. If you are into that sort of thing you supply your own, probably salvaged from other flimsy tables. It is slightly lighter than the Keter. It has a much bigger work surface than all of the ones I mentioned so far. I can fit a tool box with wrenches on it, the previously mentioned suitcase laptop testing tool and various fittings, AND still have room for a note pad on it. Very, very nice. Finally someone made a table meant to be used for something other than holding your lunch on it.
In terms of sturdiness, I could (and have) literally use the Keter like a mini-scaffold. Sure OSHA wouldn’t approve but since when do construction workers follow every rule every time. In a pinch it’s a decent 2-step ladder. That’s how stable it is. I would NEVER try this on the Dewalt. I’m sure it could hold my weight but it’s not “step height” and just doesn’t feel that stable. It isn’t as stable as the Keter but it’s good enough and better than the others.
So far the Dewalt is my new favorite work table. I originally avoided it due to the steep price and the fact that it just looked heavy and awkward but after life with the others, I’m much happier. Still wish it had wheels.
I also looked at the Olympia folding shelf and one of my crew mates has one. It’s really a bit too small for my needs and it has those little tiny “librarian” casters. I just don’t like it overall. There is another manufacturer with a much nicer fold up “Rubbermaid” style table but at around $500 it better be! Sold mostly to the aircraft industry. I guess they have that kind of money to spend.
To me the nice thing about the Workmate is the price. Back in the 90’s $35 might seem like a lot. But these days when tools run around $100 and you’re always having to replace one here or there, spending around $100 on a table doesn’t seem that bad. So that puts ALL of the tables mentioned up on the list except for some of the stupidly overpriced ones.
I would prefer a less rickety version. Agree with Koko, it weeble wobbles.
Has anyone seen the MFT style tops Bora now have for their Centipedes? Are there any other solutions like that other than Kreg that are not Festool?
I have one of the first generation B&D Workmates which I got when they were first released. It has the cast aluminum folding racks with steel frame and legs. I recently restored it, with new paintwork, polished aluminum, and new 1.5″ thick oak top pieces. It has served me well as a portable multi-bench. While not without faults, it’s useful design makes it a tool worthy of preservation. This newer model is not even close to having the same practical qualities. It’s too lightweight and unstable for the forces of hand planing, sawing, routering, etc. Really more of an inferior sawhorse marketed to the hobbyist and not the trades.
I remember having one of the older Workmates from the early 80s. Used the heck out of it and i remember my wife convincing me to get rid of it and she would get me a new on. It ended up being a WM-125 the model shown. It is not as good as the original in any way, but it is functional and it was a gift so i shouldn’t complain too much. Worst part is the feet fall off and get lost leaving the metal legs which will mark up a good floor in a second.
I did find one of the older models that was better than the one i had even originally (it has the step). Real good bargain at $25 at my local Re-Store
I have a Sears version of a workmate it is old and very solid. I was having the same problem with the rubber feet falling off and I knew I was going to end up losing one. I got a couple bottles of clear JB weld epoxy which is in like a thick liquid. I took some acetone and I cleaned both surfaces the metal and the inside of the rubber feet with a rag. Roughed up both surfaces lightly with sandpaper and I mixed up a nice batch of epoxy put a good coating inside the rubber feet and slapped those things back on and after the epoxy dried those feet are never coming off again. The whole operation took about 10 minutes and it was totally worth it. I suppose just about any good quality epoxy will work. I used the JB weld clear weld and that stuff is really effective.
I bought a Black and Decker workmate recently. It was kit of sub assemblies.
It did not assemble properly. One of the legs was longer than the corresponding leg on the other side. The metal was very thin compared to my old Workmate. In the end I returned it to Amazon. It was also the made in China. Absolute rubbish compared to the old Workmate.
I am not sure that it is correct for Black and Decker to import stuff from a country the has sided with Russia. That country is planning to kill the population of Ukraine and replace them with Russian settlers.
China is not a friend of the free world. Remember that when you buy Chinese products.
I have a second-generation Workmate. It’s nowhere near as nice as the first-gen with the cast aluminum.
I’ve used the current version, but it doesn’t feed stable enough. I prefer the DeWalt folding workbench because it feels sturdy and is very easy to set up and take down.
And then there’s the Wen MSA658
I bought a Black and Decker 301 from Amazon in England and had problems with it wobbling and jamming. It appears to have three rear legs and one front.
My neighbor returned my Black and Decker 401 that I bought in 1980.
The 401 is far better. Stronger metal and made correctly.
I will try and return the 301 to Amazon. It is a shame Black and Decker have gone this way with junk made in China. They used to made quality products at Factories in Britain.