A New Take on the Sawhorse and Plywood Jobsite Workbench – The Multi-function Slab

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.

With adjustable height saw horses I'm able to use the MFSlab as an outfeed table
With adjustable height saw horses I’m able to use the MFSlab as an out-feed table

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.

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[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.

 

3 thoughts on “A New Take on the Sawhorse and Plywood Jobsite Workbench – The Multi-function Slab

  1. Get table ! I am a woodshop teacher in NYC and I plan to make a few of these for use in the school . Do you have a drawing that I can work off of?….look forward to hearing from you .

    • The original creator sells a CNC plan. Mine is a knockoff of that. A can of wipe-on poly is what I used for the cut outs and my dog holes are 6″grid. I posted some pictures with my drywall square on it so you can pull some rough measurements.

      • I like how you used the acetone can as a layou t tool ..I may drill 3/4 holes and use Kreg bench dogs . They are 7.00 bucks for a set of four. ….I will check out your site on a regular basis . Have a great holiday season !!

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