Black & decker's wm425 workmate 425 550-pound capacity portable workbench has an extremely durable and sturdy frame and an innovative one-handed clamp system. Its feature set and reliability make it ideal for carpenters, woodworkers, DIY enthusiasts, home mechanics, and anyone looking for home shop assistance.
Style: 550 lb capacity
Workmate transforms into a roomy workbench or bench tool stand
Heavyweight steel design holds up to 550-pound
One-Handed clamp system allows for independent jaw adjustment
Measures 29.2 By 8.9 By 29.5-inch
Includes four swivel pegs, extra block, and vise-to-workbench converter insert
When folks say "You get what you pay for" it's usually a negative, but in this case, it's positive as well.
This is a great little work bench. I used it for a few hours and found it tremendously useful.
This portable work bench was much more stable than I expected, actually. I really appreciate the large step platform which provides a greater range of where I can place my feet when working with my hand plane. I think that's really important for healthy ergonomics. Some other work bench/platform solutions don't offer this and I found it quite restrictive trying to work around a piece when your foot is forced into one position. That meant you have to frequently reposition your piece and clamp it down again to maintain the most comfortable working position. Having a large step area mitigates that issue quite well. Not entirely but certainly better than similar competitors. It would have been nice to have step platforms on both sides. I would have paid an extra $20 for it. (Black and Decker, are you listening?) Doing so would increase the base further for an even more stable surface. Yes it would be slightly longer when folded up but the width would remain the same and the increased height wouldn't affect the folded footprint.
On the Work Surface:
Bamboo, as most folks agree, is much softer than a hardwood like oak or birch. But this is only true of the interior pulp.. The outer shell of the grass is extremely hard and resilient, typically harder than most commonly availlable hardwoods. Fortunately, for this portable workbench, the outer surfaces of the three wooden panels that make up the surface are laminated with that portion of the Bamboo stalk. So they are impressively sturdy. The center is derived of the softer portions of the bamboo, which saves weight.. As for stiffness, all three boards are plenty stiff for most purposes, although I highly doubt each board can support the entirety of the load rating (550lbs), nor do I think something like that is implied in the load rating. It's usually a max distributed load. Anyway to give you an idea of the flexibility, if I were to stand on the foot rest and lean hard into the thinnest slat (the clamping slat), by placing the majority of my 130lb frame onto it, it will flex a bit--somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 of an inch. This more than meets my expectations.
On fit and finish:
This is one area I was not surprised about. The fit and finish reflects the price more than anything. The thing works really well, which I'm very pleased about. What I didn't get was precision. Of course precision usually means very expensive and here we have a very inexpensive work bench, so I was not expecting high precision. While the painted metal and finish of the wood surface was excellent, what was not was was the surface edges of the metal frame. They were all very rough to the touch. Fortunately no edges that have cut me yet but it just feels like it might. And throughout the unit you can see lack of tolerances in the assembly. For instance, the clamping bamboo slat did not align perfectly with the adjoining slat when closed all the way. It was 1/32" higher. Manipulating all movable parts feels rather loose.. The clamp knobs have lots of play, so does the release lever bar. But when things are locked and clamped down, all is well. This is the most important aspect and I'm glad they made sure the things stayed put. Likewise, the legs and platform are solid when locked into place. One minor issue I did have is with the springs attached to the levers used to fold and unfold the device. They pricked me. If you're not careful you might spill a bit of your own blood too. A quick fix was to grab my needle nose pliers and bend the ends of the spring so they don't stick out so much. Anyway just a quick tip.
"Made in China"?
I know many have stated that the older models are more solid, but in this day and age, where pretty much everything is manufactured overseas, you get what you get. Had this unit been made in the USA, it might be $50 more and I would have happily paid that for it if it were offered, if for anything just to support my fellow Americans. But the truth is this unit is more than adequate for the occasional DIY or beginning woodworker, and for the price it represents an excellent value. I don't expect this to last forever, due to plastic being used I the clamping mechanism. But looking at the design of the clamp, it is quite intelligent and I think the parts in plastic were selected for a reason beyond just cost cutting--they provide smoother operation than a cheaply casted metal part would. For a clamp to be made of all metal, it would have to have very high tolerance for smooth operation. At the $110 price point (street) that's an unrealistic expectation. One last very important point. I always try to buy the best, regardless of where it's made, and I'm happy to believe I have achieved it this time. I have not found any other product that does better job than this unit. For my purposes, in terms of what it's design offers, it was a great purchase.
-Good materials used (mostly).
-Good clamp force-- enough for woodworking.
-Superb engineering. Extremely easy to use. Clamp has a torque release spring design prevents over tightening. Bench dogs stay snap in semi-permanently and stay when the unit is folded up.
-Best price and value.
-Extremely easy to assemble. It comes 90% assembled. It's really just the work surface and clamp knobs. There are only 6 bolts. That's it. If you can't do that you probably should stay away from tools.
-Fit and finish can be better--rough edges, but fortunately not where it matters.
-Tolerances can be better. Work surface was not 100% flush with clamping surface, which was 1/16" higher.
-Use of plastic parts in the clamping mechanism.
UPDATE 8/22/15: It's a must-have!
Five months later, I have come to realization that this little sucker has become an indespensible tool in my workshop. There have been many occasions I needed the extra degree of freedom it offers (moving around the clamped piece) over my two massive Gladiator workbenches (8' each with bench vises and woodworking clamps installed). I use it so much I don't even bother to fold it up any more. It only goes back to its storage spot when I need the extra space. It has become is my "go-to" bench when working on larger or oddly-shaped pieces pieces that require me to move around more. Much easier than reclamping.
But even more so, it's also my go-to bench whenever I'm doing things that are a bit more destructive as I want to avoid damaging or minimizing wear and tear on my primary workbenches (such as using a torch, glue-ups, etc). I know those workbenches were designed to handle the abuse but if I had the choice between leaving burn/glue/paint marks on a permanent workbench and a replaceable cheapie, it's gonna be the cheapie :)
This is a must-have for every DIY workshop