A workbench is a simple structure. Even the best of them don’t need much to be effective: sturdy legs and a solid top are the only absolutes. It helps if it’s level too, but shims and sugar packets have long served man well in this regard. So why would any handyman worth his circular saw ever dream of buying one? Gladiator Garageworks believes even the simple should be sublime and that the quality and craftsmanship behind their line of workbenches is reason enough for builders spend decent bucks on a new flat-top. We recently put the 48-inch bamboo-topped adjustable model ($500) together and tackled some overdue chores to see if this is the case.
The first thing you’ll notice, regardless of whether you went the bamboo route or the maple topped version, is that the bench is, aesthetically, a work of art. In truth, it wouldn’t look out of place in front of an exposed brick wall in a Manhattan loft adorned with Cupertino’s latest and greatest. The hammered granite finish on the frame and legs set against the natural bamboo top is as trendy as those reclaimed barn-boards adorning your stairwell. Don’t be fooled by its beauty though, as this is one tough piece of furniture. Designed to handle up to 3,000 pounds of whatever you can land on it, the all-steel frame will hold up longer than the floor you place it on.
Assembly is simple and straightforward, with pre-drilled holes in the underside of the tabletop to guard against splitting. Just be sure to take your time and leave the impact gun in its box; the hardware isn’t meant to stand up to the maximum trigger twist exerted by power tools, so crank this one together by hand and save the requisite trip to the hardware store to replace headless screws. The legs are a two-piece affair in order to provide for the 15 levels of height adjustment and can be a touch finicky — unless you read the instructions first. We learned our lesson.
To save some sweat, take a measurement of the height that best suits you before the legs go in. They are adjustable, but changes in height mean flipping the bench back over to disassemble each of the supports and re-set them at the desired height. A quick-release method would be a nice feature to fully exploit the 28-inch to 42-inch potential, but this seemingly would compromise strength and rigidity and cause some users to get crunched — the table weighs about 125 pounds, so Garageworks’ chosen method makes sure you upend the beast before adjustment. Fine tuning is handled by the bolted leveling feet, with about 2.5 inches of adjustment (so your sugar packets are safe).
Put to task, the 1.75-inch-thick bamboo top is entirely resilient. We had it set up as a wet tile cutting station and band saw support while putting some finishing touches on the humble ol’ abode, and at the end of each day, a simple wipe down brought back the beautiful honey-hued finish. Likewise, scratching was less of an issue than we feared, in part due to a UV-cured protective coating that’s applied to guard against chemical spills and to keep minor scuffs and scrapes to a minimum. The hardest decision you’ll face is whether to mount the obligatory vice to its top and drill through that fantastic finish. Of course you could always buy two: each bench is designed to work with all of the modular Gladiator Garageworks componentry, so a designer workshop is only a matter of time — and money.
At just under $500, this is not an inexpensive flat-top. Considering you could make your own workbench for well under a Benjamin, plunking down a car payment for the same may make your timbers shiver. However, that same bundle of bucks spent on a designer desk is pretty much peanuts these days. Doctors won’t operate on a wonky table and chefs won’t prep their Mise en place on rough-cut counter-tops. Depending on what you plan to use it for or how highly you regard your work, this could be a beautiful investment.