Building a Portable Bench for the Neville Project

The very first consideration when working off-site (such as at a museum) is how to transport a functional and HEAVY woodworking bench.  This is a problem for most of us, but NOT if you know a master craftsman named Don WIlliams.  I posed the problem to my friend Don Williams ( ) and he offered to assist ( well actually lead ) the building of a new portable LIGHTWEIGHT workbench. Wasn’t long and I was on my way down to Don’s Barn in Virginia to build a bench. You can visit Don’s Blog at   ( ) for details on the building of my bench.  My blog will cover my efforts to enhance the bench after I brought it home.

When I returned from Dons there were additional items that I wanted to add. High on my list was a storage shelf. The shelf had to be light, ( the whole intent of the bench after all) but yet very stong.  I followed Dons lead and build a torsion framed shelf. Using an internal torsion frame provide incredible strength but has the advantage of being extemely light.


Here’s the shelf made of an 1/8″ plywood torsion internal frame. See the 1/4″ top skin next to it


Here is a close up of the internal torsion frame which is simply notched 1/8″ plywood that you cut on the table saw.


I wanted the plywood bench to appear as a solid wooden bench. SO after the shelf was completed, I re-sawed some figured beech and attached the thick beech veneers to side of the bench with hide glue.  The veneers really gave the bench a “heavy” solid wooden look.

Portable Bench

I painted the legs and supports of the bench black with my handy Home Depot $1.00/can enamel paint. The legs were simply made of pine. BTW you can see the torsion shelf at the base of the bench.


I also found a roll of cork, at the local hardware store and glued it to the plywood top The cork was a great addition as it provides a very nice mar-proof surface and hid the plywood top. While I was at it,  I also waxed a portion of the cork. ( on the right in the photo).  The waxed cork gave me a very nice stain free surface to mix shellacs and stains.


The legs and supports are hinged so it all folds together.


The bench, all closed up and ready for transport to the museum. Notice the tapped holes to add the light weight vise when time permits.


Using the bench at the Neville Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Note the heavy solid piece of MARBLE has no effect on the bench top.  Wow.



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