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?