Now that I’m a full-time carpenter/small business owner I work primarily out of my truck. How you work, how organize your tools, and how you plan projects drastically changes when you go from a nice well thought out and organized shop to an F150. The biggest loss in this transition is a sturdy workbench. This is where the Multi-Purpose Slab comes in.
A Multi-Function Slab is a poor man’s version of the Festool MFT (or Festool Multi-Function Table). I made mine from a 3/4 Sheet of MDF and paired it with Dewalt/Stanley Metal Adjustable Height Saw Horses (these are great sawhorses). This combination takes up minimal real estate in the 5.5ft bed of my truck. I would love to take my Paulk Total Station to the jobsites, but it doesn’t fit in the bed of my truck. That’s the advantage of the Multi-function slab: it’s compact and lightweight enough to maneuver into small working locations. The Paulk workbenches don’t share that advantage.
Isn’t this “Multi-Function Slab” just a glorified plywood and sawhorse combo? Yes, yes it is. The advantage is that the Plywood/MDF is planned out and layed out to make work go smoother. That’s why you keep this instead of the typical use of scrap on sawhorses for a make shift work bench. What makes it better is that you think out how you’re going to use a work bench and put in clamp locations and dog holes so that it becomes a valuable tool.
I modified Steve Olson’s original design to work with inexpensive Bessey F clamp rather than the expensive Festool clamps. To do so I drilled a grid of 1 1/4 inch holes on 6 inch centers. I then had to create a rabbit on the underside for the clamps to pop into place. My Paulk Workbench is made from 1/2″ ply and I didn’t have a problem with the clamps on it, the thicker slab left more material to bind on. The various handles and clamp slots I made with a can of wipe on poly. The rectangular shape makes nice looking cutouts.
[A note about Festool: Just because I’m making a knock-off doesn’t mean that I think Festool tools are overpriced and not as good as the “fan-boys” claim nor do I think a professional needs the “top-of-the-line” tools to do quality work. If/when I can justify the cost of such premium tools then I may or may not invest in top-shelf equipment such as Festool.]
Cost wise the Festool MFT 3 is $665 from Amazon. Would I buy one? Maybe if I ever decide to invest in the Festool ecosystem. Now let’s add up the cost of making your own MFSlab.
- $30 – 4ft x 8ft x 3/4in MDF sheet. Cut to 3ft x 5ft and a second 4ft rip is left to act as a shelf
- $80 for a pair of good adjustable height saw horses. I can say enough good things about these Stanley/Dewalt Horses. They are very good.
- $24 for a four pack of the Bessey 4″ bar clamps I use.
- $20 for painting or sealing with clear coat
That comes out to be $158 which is $507 less than the Festool MFT. Even if you factor in what your time is worth it’s still drastically cheaper. I painted mine to protect it. I try to bring it into the shop overnight so it doesn’t get rained on but if and when I need to replace it, it’s inexpensive to do and only took about an hour to make.
If you’re a carpenter of have extremely limited space this is a great tool to consider adding to your arsenal. If I was woodworking back in my college days this makes a great workbench store in an apartment or even under a bed.