Atomic Shop Update: The Work Bench

I’ve never owned what most professional mechanics would call a “nice” toolbox. In the past, I’ve used middle of the road Craftsman boxes almost exclusively. And frankly, I planned to continue down that same path when I started the new shop. My initial plan was to buy a couple of 44″ Harbor Freight boxes and then build a “Steevo inspired” workbench around them. That all changed once Joe from Motorhead Extraordinaire heard of my venture.

See, Joe carries a line of “Junk Yard Special” Lista boxes. Essentially, these are Lista boxes that have been returned for one reason or another by the original purchaser. Joe gets them from Lista and then resells them at 40 to 60% off their original price.

Anyway, Joe is also a sponsor of this website… And as much as I really wanted to do the “Steevo” bench, I felt a bit obligated to support him as much as he supports me. So, I got the credit card out (yes, I paid for this stuff) and bought a few pallets full of Lista stuff. The bench pictured above and below is the result and although I have yet to really use the bench or stock the boxes, here are my initial thoughts:

1. The Tool boxes. As you can see, I bought three – one 47″ wide monster with a stainless top and two 28″ wide boxes that I used as legs for one side of two separate benches. When it’s all put together, I ended up with one 20′ long bench that houses plenty of storage underneath. Now, as these are steeply discounted boxes that I considered “scratch & dent” buys, I expected them to be used in someway. The big box had a small scratch on the back – one that you will never see as it’s butted up against a wall. The two smaller boxes showed up in absolutely new condition.

But what about the boxes themselves? How do the feel in comparison to your typical Craftsman box? They are a totally different animal. For one, they weight as much as a fully loaded dump truck. I swear it. To even budge one of these things, you have to take all of the drawers out. And even then with the big box, I needed a friend to help.

The drawers are dead ass solid and smoothly glide open and closed with a solid clunk – even when empty. They just feel so much better than your typical tool box in every way. It’s absolutely overkill for a hobbyist like me, but my god – I truly understand why the pros spend thousands on toolboxes now.

Still, you know what I like best about these boxes? The fact that they are so modular. Let’s say that you want a deeper drawer up top, a couple of shallower drawers in the middle, and your deepest drawer on the bottom. No sweat. Removing the drawers and the drawer sliders takes seconds. Once done, you can arrange the drawers in any way that you see fit. This has been a god send to my tool organization thus far…

Also, Lista makes dividers and all sorts of other accessories for these drawers. I’m still playing around with ideas to use these, but plan to eventually build a hardware box at one point using the dividers to create separate compartments within each drawer. I’ll be the fairy princess of organization once I figure all this out – count on it.

So, conclusion? I’m converted. I don’t know that I could live comfortably without a super high quality box now. I might even start drinking tea… and using spicy mustard. Lista boxes make me feel like a total snob and I’m not ashamed of it. They are simply beautiful.

But, what about the rest? I also bought a couple of leg units and two huge Lista sourced stainless bench tops (dense MDF cores) from Joe. Now, some of you might snub your noses at the choice to go stainless. Some of you feel like it’s a material reserved for those that actually do drink tea in their garage while they watch their big screens mounted above. Stainless is just so damned expensive and it scratches so easily… Why spend the dough?

I grew up in Formula 1 and CART racing shops. I don’t know that I ever saw a bench that WASN’T stainless until I got older… And all of the benches in those shops, though spotlessly clean, were scratched to hell. I’ve grown to love the scratched stainless look and can’t wait for mine to get their own patina. Stainless was the only choice for me really.

Of course, it helped that I was able to pick these up from Joe and his “Junkyard Dog” stock. In fact, I couldn’t have afforded such a long bench without the 60% discount. Even so, with this discount came some problems that I’ve had to fight through.

First and foremost, these tops are 3′ deep – far too deep for a bench top in my opinion. Although it can be nice to have that extra depth at times, it makes any storage on the wall above the bench very hard to reach. I knew this when I bought them, but again – the price made them irresistible.

Also, unlike the boxes these tops were obviously used or possibly abused in shipping at one point or another. Each was bowed in the middle and had warped edges as a result. To correct that, I laid them flat on the shop floor and put a ton of weight on them for a few days. That got them mostly true. From there, I then mounted the legs one side and mounted the other to the top of the two smaller boxes. The entire exercise was frustrating as hell – dealing with uneven floors and adjustable feet on only one side of the benches plus a backing wall that wasn’t absolutely true and… I now have a plumb bench that’s level from one side to another (mostly) and very sturdy, but not until after hours and hours of working on it. If I had to do it over again, I probably would have bought new bench tops of the exact depth that I wanted. It would have cost me more for sure, but I’d have more hair now…

Anyway, I have a lot more coming as far as storage and Lista goes. Until then, enjoy the images:

You can comment on my review as well as read the rest of my shop build here.

Plastic Bins
Plastic Bins