…(and I also drink far too much tea!).
I’m not writing this post as a lecture or to try and educate you about tool wells, it’s more about me asking for your own views and experiences. For pretty much my whole life I’ve hated tool wells. I was born a tool well hater and yes, I do think hate is the right word here.
But of course we can all change, and when you build lots and lots of workbenches the topic tends to crop up from time to time with customers; I’ve heard a lot of support for them.
My arm wasn’t twisted though until I came to design Little John last year. I experimented working off what to me seemed like very short benches (5′ long) and I realised just how cluttered things became so quickly. On a longer bench I’m used to the luxury of using one end to keep all of my tools to hand but there just wasn’t going to be the same space and so we played around with the tool well. I’ve worked off this bench for a year now and at the moment we’re looking at providing an option for a full width top without tool well. This is when I realised how much I’d miss it!
My two main reason against the tool well were, one – it surely just gets filled up with crap and shavings. And two – you sacrifice the weight in your workbench.
These are still very big concerns for me and I think if your going for a tool well you definitely want to make sure the bottom can be emptied quickly. We use two short trays that can be lifted out easily so all the shavings can fall to the floor swiftly.
Working off Little John has completely changed my perception to the point where I would now strongly consider including a tool well in my next bench.
Something else we get asked for often is storage within the base of a workbench. I’m afraid this is something that I remain strongly against but I know this is personal. I’m sure it makes a lot of sense especially for saving space in the workshop and there’s no harm in adding extra weight there to hold your bench in place. But I’ve always struggled with the idea of being able to use your workbench fully with cupboard and drawers blocking the access for holdfasts and dogs.
I also have a bad memory of an old workbench which I started out with which had a lovely row of drawers along the top. They we’re nicely made if a bit beat up and stiff but were certainly very handy for storing everything out of sight but close to hand. There was more than one time when I stood pleased after spending a good while perfectly lining up and clamping a complicated face frame or such. I’d just need to grab a block plane to true things up but of course the block plane was in the drawer which was now blocked shut by the array of clamps… everything had to be removed.
A shelf is perfect bench storage for me. You can add to this all manner of boxes, tool chests and totes so that tools are close by and the space is all well used. I particularly like the idea of making some purpose build totes for specific jobs such as a vice fitting kit. I’d always have everything ready to carry the necessary tools over to the job; they would even have a flap down lid to keep the dust out should I ever get around to making them.
I do like the idea of built in storage in an assembly bench to keep all of the bulky glues and finishes out of sight. And a final thought is how useful the English style of workbench can be for its lack of bottom rail, this makes it the perfect area for wheeling under a tool chest or small extractor and it’s so easy to brush out all of the crud which finds it’s way under your bench.
Anyway if you happen to love workbench storage or hate tool wells then I’d love to hear your reasons why – no matter how obscure. Even when you feel stuck in your ways we can always be persuaded in a new direction, we’re constantly evolving and changing. Unless you’re my old man… he never changes.
So my name’s Richard and I’ve gotten over my hatred for tool wells!
We’ll be working late tonight in a bid to get our next video up and running tomorrow. We’re taking a closer look at cutting rebates with some really basic solutions that avoid the fillister plane used in Part One of the Wall Cupboard build.