A reader wrote in with some questions and big concerns about Gladiator workbench quality based on some user reviews they found.
Zach (thank you for writing in!) said the following:
I went shopping for retail workbench tops today, first at my local Home Depot, then online, and I noticed something interesting:
Gladiator no longer gives any details about what their workbench tops are made from! I guess their brand is strong enough that they feel they can simply say “hardwood”, and people will trust the quality. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, this allows them to experiment with different materials (acacia, etc.), without complicating their supply chain or having to update their published specifications, but it also gives them significant leeway to quietly cut costs.
One reviewer on their site is accusing them of doing exactly this (screenshot below). He says that his top arrived warped, and, rather shockingly, that they’re using a hardwood veneer.
The imported “hardwood” workbenches aren’t anything new, and I’m not aware of any recent changes, and guess that either the user’s review is representative of lower quality that is cause for concern, or they were unlucky and experienced random defects that can plague any brand.
Long Answer and Discussion:
Here’s what I know, or rather I knew:
Gladiator had two product lines of seemingly identical adjustable workbenches, one series that was made in the USA, and another that was made in China.
I bought several Gladiator workbenches and also received two samples from Gladiator.
My white-legged bamboo-topped workbenches, made in the USA, shipped disassembled. The maple workbench they shipped me also shipped disassembled. The imported “hardwood” workbench they shipped me arrived partially assembled.
The made-in-China workbench uses metric hardware, and despite the instructions being the same, there was some washer/spacer placement confusion that remained unresolved.
Personally, I found the imported version easier to assemble.
The final function of the USA-made and imported workbenches were similar, and although there were distinct differences in the finish of the legs, not to mention the wood tops, they appeared comparably well-made. That was also a few years ago.
I’ve had some problems with the Gladiator workbenches. One of my bamboo tops developed a crack and delaminated in one area. The other developed a damaged/defective foot weld. One of those bamboo-topped workbenches doesn’t have the backplate fully secure either, as one of the fastener heads sheered off during assembly and I haven’t used an extractor or replaced the fastener yet.
I also had problem with a mobile workbench sample that I would have sent back if it were a purchase, where the foot weld, for the threaded stem casters, is crooked and leads to binding when the bench is moved and the caster tries to swivel. But, that could have been a fluke incident, although it’s one I hadn’t forgotten about yet.
My understanding at the time was that Gladiator’s Premier series adjustable workbenches were USA-made, with your choice of maple or bamboo tops, and the “hardwood” workbenches were imported. If there was a special retailer promo, it was usually on the imported version.
I can’t verify it, but I have the notion that Gladiator’s “hardwood” workbench top was made of rubberwood or similar, apparently a mid-density hardwood. They’ve used rubberwood on their “starter series” workbenches in the past. Without knowing the species, we could only guess. I could only tell you it didn’t look like maple, beech, or oak.
Looking on Gladiator’s website right now, I only see “hardwood” adjustable-height workbenches in 4′, 6′, and 8′ sizes, and with dark grey or white frame colors.
The absence of bamboo and maple options does suggest that the USA-models are gone and the imported models are the only ones you can buy right now.
When I first ordered Gladiator workbenches online, they arrived in terrible condition from Amazon and I had them returned. I then ordered directly from Gladiator and if my memory serves correctly they were truck-delivered and the drivers brought them in for me.
Where can you buy Gladiator workbenches these days? Sears used to be a big Gladiator partner, and they’re hardly around anymore. Home Depot might stock some online SKUs, but in-store they’re understandingly much more interested in selling their Husky-branded products.
Zack provided a copy of a user review he read that complained about Gladiator’s worktop being veneered hardwood. I don’t know how representative that might be of Gladiator’s entire line of workbenches. The product photos show a butcher block-like worktop, and that’s what I received in the past. It’s possible that the user received a bad worktop or one with flaws that the manufacturer tried to salvage and still use.
He also says:
So, I guess this is B, B+ performance as a brand? I’d love if a Toolguyd reviewer could get one of these new “hardwood…just hardwood” tabletops and do an in-depth comparison to their old, highly-reviewed maple tops.
Incidentally, Grizzly sells a competitively priced “hard maple” tabletop, and even quotes the species of maple. If I could get it without the $100 freight charge, I’d go that route in a second (does anyone in the northeast carry these in a retail context?). Edsal also sells a maple tabletop, but doesn’t say whether it’s “hard” maple or not, and the difference is meaningful, hard maple is about 50% more dent resistant, based on the Janka hardness scale. I’ve reached out to Edsal asking if they can specify.
Both Grizzly and Edsal often have solid recommendations. There are other options too, such as buying a set of industrial workbench legs, or building heavy duty mlegs via DIY methods, and buying a quality butcher block-style maple worktop. That’s a pricier approach, though, but it does give more control over the final setup, such as if you want a thicker top or specific type of work surface.
Back to Gladiator.
I don’t think Gladiator is experimenting with different hardwoods, it’s just that “hardwood” is a good catch-all and descriptive enough. I assumed that “hardwood” was more consumer-friendly than “rubberwood,” which is a hardwood, but doesn’t sound like it to anyone who hasn’t looked it up on Wikipedia yet.
Gladiator still describes their workbenches as being made from solid hardwood, and the tops definitely still look to feature butcher block-like laminations.
Speaking personally, as someone who has had good and bad experiences with purchased Gladiator products and no-cost review samples, I would be hesitant to consider Gladiator favorably against like-priced competitors, but would definitely still be open to shorting-list them if they or a retailer offered much lower pricing.
Their quality has been great in the past, and although there are some complaints, most recent user reviews seem to be positive.
Any brand can have quality fluctuations or suffer from defective components.
I gave away two of the workbenches last year, but still have two in-use.
I can’t say that the USA-made and imported workbenches are indistinguishable. The imported one was easier to assemble (despite some confusion over hardware differences), and the final appearances were similar. The hammertone metal finish was different in appearance but not quality, and the wood finish was smoother on both sides of the imported version.
I would have purchased that imported workbench, at fair pricing.
Looking online, the “hardwood” version is selling for more than I paid for my USA-made bamboo workbenches. My two benches came out to be $328 each, including freight shipping ($75 for the order).
Maybe the USA version became too expensive to produce. Maybe the quality of the imported version was so close that it became unnecessary to maintain two product lines.
I can’t tell you much about the current workbench offerings or the context around them. It is possible that the quality went down, but unfortunately there’s no way to know without further reports or user reviews.
I moved away from Gladiator workbenches, not because I wasn’t happy with the quality, but my needs changed over time. I don’t know if they would be my automatic go-to these days, but I also don’t think I would dismiss them based on one review of a warped and defective worktop.
Have you had had any recent experiences with Gladiator workbenches?
I have a 6’ Gladiator workbench in my garage, and I have abused it a lot. No problems so far.
When I purchased it, I read the so called hardwood was either bamboo or birch. Mine is not bamboo apparently. I don’t really care about the wood honestly because I don’t expect a good one considering it’s size and price.
I got a 6′ gladiator bench from sears if I remember correctly, and the top was laminated like butcherblock. I beat the heck out of it, and it worked fine until I cracked it. I’m pretty hard on benchtops, so I have no complaints. I replaced it with 1.5″ thick MDF so I could cheaply thorw another top on.
I was more unhappy that I had 2 bolts and 3 welds on it break. I replaced all the hardware with grade 8 stuff a while ago, and re-welded the seams. Again, I am pretty tough on my benches, so I don’t consider it a fault exactly, but I was unhappy at the time.
I have mostly switched to the menards racking that you buy by the piece, which has had several names. a quick look on menards shows it as ‘xtreme’ now. I ground the paint off it, welded it together, added steel slats on top out of 1/8″ plate, welded supports on the feet and added heavy duty locking casters. It’s probably not what most people would consider a ‘bench’ anymore, but has held up pretty well for a while.
And not everyone repairs their Abrams at home either. Lordie.
Heavy and solid is often just what you need in a bench. I recall an Acorn platen table we had in the welding shop – as an example. The top was something like 3 inch thick cast iron – about 8 foot long and 5 foot deep.
The owner of Fireball Tool showed (on his YouTube shop tour) his 8’x5’x2.5″ plate table, >4000#. It’s a bigger “anvil” than his 450# anvil. It’s all awesome.
(A little over an hour, but worth it. Eat it in smaller bites.)
MDF is undervalued as a workbench surface. Surprisingly durable and easy to replace when it gets worn out. MDF wants to crack at the corners. It’s far more durable if you frame the sides with something else so only the surface takes the abuse.
I’m using the butcherblock countertops carried by Lowes and Home Depot for a worktable top, seems better than any other ‘workbench’ tops I’ve seen, and cheaper to boot.
This seems to be a good route, if you feel comfortable lagging the top onto a set of Edsal legs or whatever (or just laying it across a couple of filing cabinets like my dad would have done).
Or if you like the idea of making your own legs, but want the top to be turnkey.
The limitation of butcherblock countertop stock is width, they seem to run up to 25″ width, whereas you might want a 30″ wide table. This puts you into the “island top” category, where the price per square foot advantage drops off.
I purchased a “Gladiator 8-ft Hardwood Top Adjustable Height Workbench in Hammered Granite” from Home Depot in August 2019 (Home Depot # 206390629, https://www.homedepot.com/p/206390629). This was a special order. (It was not in-stock in the store.) At the time, it was on sale for $370.
Before purchasing, I contacted Gladiator through their online chat and asked about the top material. I was told by “Monica,” of “Whirlpool in Michigan,” that the tops are made of maple.
The workbench I received indeed has a maple top. It’s beautiful and built like a tank, and I’m extremely happy with it.
Your nicely provided link to HD under the specifications tab now says “Birch Top”…
And the bench in total is “on sale” for $449.
Makes me wonder what else has changed.
No old line Craftsman-like product continuity for HD.
When I purchased it, it didn’t specify the top material; it only said “hardwood.” (Which is why I contacted Gladiator to ask.)
Now that you point that out, I can’t conclusively say which one mine is. It is a heavy, solid-wood, butcher-block type construction that looks like (and I assumed was) maple. But I just did a Google image search for birch tops, and they look the same, so now I’m not sure.
How do I tell whether this is birch or maple?
If you lick it and it tastes like syrup, it’s maple. At least that’s what the other kids told me.
I have some gladiator cabinets that I like and wanted to get the workbench to match (a bit OCD). But the sizes were not to my liking and ended up on Mcmaster-Carr and was able to “custom build one” for approximately the same price. Different top types and many different sizes! No regrets with my purchase.
Last year I needed a bench 2’x12’. I was hoping to find a cheap bench I could modify to fit my needs. I quickly came to the conclusion if you want a real heavy duty work bench you need to build it yourself or pay way more than $400 for it.
I guess the definition of work bench needs to be established. In my opinion all the “work benches” in this $400 price range are just sturdy tables with some industrial design touches to look tough. The target market for these “work benches” is the average DIYer who for the most part only needs a sturdy table and probably couldn’t build one as strong for the money. Not a slight on the DIY folks at all, just being realistic. Most of the target demographic are not going to mount a vice to it. Bang on it with a 5lb sledge hammer. Put something weighing more than 150lbs on it. Weld on it. Want to pay more than $400 for it. A sturdy table that comes disassembled and thus packaged in a box that will fit in a minivan, suv or midsize truck should work out perfect.
The next step up in quality from these tables was a huge jump in price. Think benches for an industrial setting. Lista, Equipto, vidmar etc. I finally just gave up and built my own.
What gauge steel did you use for the legs? Square tube or angle?
I ended up with 3”x3”x 3/8th” angle, 3”x3/8th”x12’ flat stock for a back lip and stiffener, and 1/2” steel plate for the top. All welded solid and bolted to floor and wall. I would have went with a more reasonable 1/4”thick tubing and 1/4” plate but I was able to buy the heavy steel dirt cheap ($600ish for materials and consumables) Hey I did say I wanted it HEAVY duty 🙂
Wow, you’re not kidding. That’s a crazy price for that much steel.
I got a Craftsman workbench from Sears a couple years ago, and it’s been great for me. It has a bamboo butcher block top, metal pegboard, large drawer, flip up storage on top, and built-in power strip with usb. I didn’t mount a vice to it because I built a heavy duty table for my vice just for beating on. For the price, I have to recommend the Craftsman workbench from Sears, no regrets here.
I have a Home Depot adjustable that has been great. I had specific needs I had to satisfy and it fit the bill perfectly. I needed an approximately 5 foot bench. Most are either 4 or 6. I also need height adjustment due to an outlet box mounted on the wall that it needed to fit under. My preference was for the bench on wheels for easy moving. I also wanted to be able to put things underneath so it couldn’t have a center crossbrace between the legs. The bench does have one, but you can move it to the rear to allow space underneath. The HD bench satisfied all of those concerns and I bought a floor model for about $200. It was a great buy and I’m still very happy with it. The height adjustment is via handcrank also.
> Edsal also sells a maple tabletop, but doesn’t say whether it’s “hard” maple or not, and the difference is meaningful, hard maple is about 50% more dent resistant, based on the Janka hardness scale. I’ve reached out to Edsal asking if they can specify.
Closing the loop on Edsal, they got back to me with a Janka hardness rating for their butcher block, which it turns out is currently ash rather than maple, if anyone cares. They quote a Janka hardness of 950, so it’s probably black ash.
This means that if you want to order a hard-maple butcher block top, your best turnkey option is probably Grizzly. The Edsal tops are about 2/3 the price, so definitely also worth considering, given that they’re 1-3/4″ thick.
I have 4 fixed height gladiator workbenches and two adjustable height benches. The fixed height are all 8 feet and the adjustable is a 6’ and 4’ which we use in my wife’s home office, it’s has a great industrial look.
I love them all, beautiful look very well made. Did have a problem on the adjustable height model with a bolt head shearing off. Got all of them at Sears, the fixed height models were about $85, a steal.
If you’re in the market, sams club and Best Buy both carry them and have sporadic sale pricing.
I have a 6′ Gladiator I bought open-box from Sears, back when we had local Sears stores. It’s been fine. It looks tougher than it is, but I haven’t had any issue with it. The top is butcher block maple but isn’t overly hard. Despite that it will probably outlast me.
I’ve drilled holes in it for vices and stops and added a shelf under the top, using the cross-members in the legs to support the shelf.
I have no complaints with it.
Lovely benches from Sears Clearance/outlet/overstock. Bought the 8 foot bench for $99 clearance and the 6 foot bench $159 clearance. Both were brand new in box. I miss those Sears Deals. At this price point I was not going to find a better workbench for my new home. Maple Top. I love these pieces and it inspired me to do my whole garage in Gladiator products. I kept on scoring deal after deal through Sears Outlets, clearance, Craigslist, Lowes Clearance and have close to 10 grand worth of GW stuff for around $3K.