An Heirloom Apartment Workbench.





Introduction: An Heirloom Apartment Workbench.

"Diamond in the rough": A idiom made popular in the modern era, thanks in part, to a lowly street rat and his, whimsical, mystical companions (ah, you will be missed Mr. Williams). The aforementioned phrase is based on the concept that you cannot see the true beauty of a diamond until it's been cut, it's brilliance laid bare (conflict diamonds besides, of course. After all, you can only polish a turd so much- MythBusteres proved it!)

As I keep telling my wife, I've an eye for quality. Thankfully, I like to keep them both open. Lucky for me, as I'm not entirely sure which one it is. Personally, I'm leaning to the left, though a solid argument can be made for the right I suppose, but I digress. Where was I? Oh, I remember...

While headed out to our favorite sushi joint I spotted this little beauty from the corner of my eye (my left eye), all but forgotten, tucked away besides the skip (Dumpster). I should have snatched it up right then and there, but me being me (I tend to garner a fair bit of random) I left it up to chance.

Well, after having gotten our munch on, lo and behold, it was still there. At first, I though it might have been a miter table, what with it's crooked smile and all. When I got closer I found it to be exactly what I never knew I always wanted!

Enter: The WORKMATE 225. The following steps recount our torrid love affair, and how after a little bit of rehab the WORKMATE 225 joined our little cabaret. Enjoy!

Step 1: Abide the Third Rule of Acquisition

For the non-über-dork amongst my readers the third rule of acquisition is, quite simply, as follows: "Never pay more for an acquisition then you have to." Just because happen to find something killer on the side of the road or while dumpster diving in your neighborhood:

That doesn't mean your free score won't amount to some hefty spending in the long run: project expenses, tetanus, bed bugs, bail... Try to see, not only the immediate cost, but the opportunity costs associated with the acquisition of that item. Ask yourself:

"What's this going to cost me; to own, maintain, restore, repair etc."

One wrong decision separates a great deal from a cash sink. Look before you leap! A fool and his money are soon parted! A bird in the hand and all that jazz...

All that being said, I had it my head this particular item was coming home with me regardless. Worst case: I bring it right back on down to the skip. Best case: I have something worth having; after a spot of elbow grease, paint, a realistic appraisal of what is and a decent vision of what could be.

Step 2: Okay So, I Want It. Now I've Got to Carry It Up Four Flights? Damn...

Once I got this heap (I mean, beauty) up stairs where I could really have a look at it, I was incredibly pleased. Sure there was a bit of superficial rust and the vice-top looked as though it'd gone twelve rounds with Frazier, but I could tell from the heft this thing was quality.

Imagine my shock, having found the modern WM series are all manufactured in China (Surprise, surprise). My heart sank upon reading recent reviews on Amazon till I spotted a happy happenstance: a bunch of really positive reviews heralding the graces of the older model WMs while condemning the newer iterations there of. Now that's a backhanded complement I can get behind, mine was made in Canada. No school like the old school, it seems "Brand" names mean less and less as the years tick on bye, maybe it's just me.

So after having boned up on the pedigree of this here little beauty I decided to give her a quick bath along with another once over (okay, okay a twice over, sheesh!*).

My Prognoses: Good

The rust was a bit worse then I thought, but hadn't compromised the structure at all, yet.

All of the plastic components seemed to be there. Score!

I folded and unfolded it a few times as I was cleaning to get at all the nooks and crannies. The movement was fluid and easy, no problems there.

The vice top was crooked, but the thread mountings weren't cracked near as I could tell.

The movement on the work surface was sound, though I wasn't given to testing it too much till I straightened it.

Teatment: Lenghty

Thorough Cleaning

Relative disassembly (all the plastic bits and bobs- Pro Tip: bag these as soon as they come off)

Scrape away any and all loose paint along with any superficial rust

Minor sanding

Through Cleaning

Rust prohibiting primer base coat

Color treatment/face lift

Custom hardwood top

*Fun fact: Evidently "Sheesh" with one E is a euphemism for lovemaking... You learn something new everyday!

Step 3: "Who Knows What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men?" ~The Shadow, Duh!

Okay, so the likelihood of a workbench harboring deep dark philosophic quandries is pretty remote, albeit not impossible... So what is an old, tired workbench most likely to harbor? Rust, and depending on how it's been treated quite possibly more then a little.

* Caution: Some older items may have lead based paints! Evidently, we just loved shellacking anything and everything we could with the stuff back in the day. Please be safe and use all proper precautions when dealing with a known neurotoxin (ie. Lead). Parkinson's doesn't look good on anyone, except maybe Michael J. but G*d if only.... How do you define a hero?

So, soliloquies aside, don your N95 particulate mask (a handy thing to have around for the avid DIYer and prepper alike!) and lets get the scrubbin! What we're looking to do here is to eliminate any loose paint, and any not-so-loose paint that may be harboring the brown blight that is rust. Pay close attention to any irregularities in the previous paint job. Sometimes there might be the most infinitesimally small gouge here and there that wouldn't normally be a problem if it weren't for a 50% relative humidity and time. Speaking of time, take yours. It took me two separate go-rounds on two separate occasions before I was satisfied, mostly...

My weapons of choice: Brillo basic (purchased at the dollar store for another project which failed spectacularly!) and Beer! More specifically, a beer bottle cap!

LIke hack: Beer bottle caps are the most amazing metal paint scrappers never devised by man. I don't know what it is about them but they seem to snag on every little air pocket and flake away the paint superbly! Don't believe me, try it! You'll have an open beer in any case, always a good thing.

Now, you could go full on American Resto. and sand blast it or strip off the old paint with "Chernobly" or whatever, but have I mentioned I rent? Noxious fumes and known carcinogens do not a happy landlord make. For this resto I principally just wanted to deal with the rust. I figured so long as I was careful with the priming and the top coats (of which there would be many) I'd be alright. We'll see!

Step 4: 1, 3, 5, 7, 11, Optimus.... Get It?

If the title didn't give me away, in this step we're talking primes yo! More specifically primer. Once all the rust was exposed and brought down to bare metal, or as close as possible. I wiped the whole thing down in 50% Isopropyl rubbing alcohol. For those playing the home game with would constitute a thrice-over with regard to cleaning.

This final cleansing was done to ensure any residual oils/grease/particulate etc. were free from the painting surface. I really just kept on rubbing with new towels till they all came up white. If you wanted to be a little more economical or eco-frieldly you could use a shop-rag or an old tee shirt. To me, this seemed the best option so that's what I went with.


The first thing I did was to clear the area where I was going to paint. Thankfully, we've a fairly sizable porch. I went out beforehand and swept the entire area as best I could, in an effort to eliminate any dust/debris that might find it's way into my pristine paint job to be. After that, I laid out a tarp (a 5X7 dollar-store special) to protect the porch from any overzealousness on my behalf and whipped out my custom paint shed. What, you don't have one?

The Paint Shed:

Because I knew I'd be outside, I wanted to take every precaution to ensure nothing flew in to thwart my efforts at restoring my little WM. So, working where I work, I snagged the biggest box(s) I could lay my hands on; taped together the bottom(s), taped up the top flaps and cut out one of the longest sides. All in all it made for an awesome little impromptu (disposable) work area.

Pro Tip: I used separate boxes for paint and primer. When maneuvering the piece inside the shed I didn't want to take the chance the primer, left lining the bottom of the first box sticking to the fresh paint of the piece on the final go round. I could just be paranoid. Once painting was complete I encapsulated the piece completly with both boxes.

Not too much to say besides. What I found to work best for me were small quick motions. The keyword being: motions. Never depress the trigger while holding the can stagnate, to avoid drips. Also, continuously shake the can during use. "Shake it till you make it!" Every now and again the nozzle would get a little bogged down with excess paint. When this happened I flipped the can upside down and shot it a few times away from the piece in question, seemed to do the trick.

Really take your time with the primer. Not only is it slated to be the foundation of your final paint-job, it's also your hands-on training for the big show! Now's the time to get acquainted with what works and what doesn't: How far away do I hold the can? Does this angle work? What about that angle? Start at top? The bottom? The side? Primer is going to be a lot more forgiving then top-coat. Practice makes perfect, does it not?

When the dust settled and the paint fumes cleared I'd gone through a can and a half for Rustoleum clean metal primer. I chose clean metal primer because I didn't feel the the rust was so bad as to necessitate the rusty metal primer, also the clean metal primer was white whereas the rusty was brown. I though a lighter base coat would make the color pop more. I could be wrong, use your own judgment.

Step 5: A Little Makeup Never Hurt Anybody!

Okay, so after the priming, I won't lie, I wanted to paint that momma-jamma straight away and call it good, but I also really wanted this to be a premium paint job and the directions on the can said top coat could be applied either one or 48hrs after the application of the primer. Given I didn't actually have the paint for the top coat (I hadn't yet settled on the color) I figured, "what's another day?" Besides, I had to work the following day so the timing was primo.

So, it's two days later and I break out a fresh box to start painting. This part really freaked me out in the beginning; the instructions on the can state: "Spray in a consistent sweeping motion, over lapping coats as you go..." Yeah... have you seem this thing? With all those nooks and crannies spraying anything with any type of consistently was damn near impossible! You can see where I was after coat one in the first pic of this step. Suffusive to say, I was sweating bullets!

Thankfully, I had the day off and had woken up early just to paint this. I went at it lightly with the first coat just to get a little color on and started really filling it out on subsequent coats. You can see in the pictures that I'd left in one of the original wooden slats for the painting. I figured I'd have to be able to reposition it while painting in the very least and as I was a bit wishy-washy on trying to craft a custom top, marring the hell out of the original sort of locked me in. Cortés would have been proud!

Step 6: Have I Mentioned I Don't Own a Machine Shop?

When it came to crafting a custom top for my little friend here, the task seemed just a little daunting. I mean, I don't own a table saw, drill press, belt sander etc. Actually, the only power tool I do own is an old Black&Decker power drill I was gifted a few years back. Thankfully, once I tracked down one of their ever so (not)helpful sales persons I was able to get a board of poplar cut for me into three 24" segments at the local big box store.

I chose poplar because it's the hardest soft wood, or softest hardwood depending on who you ask. Anyway, as I only have hand tools and very little experience wood working I figured it'd be a little easier to work with, it was also 1.87USD per foot as compared to maple or oak @ +4.00USD per foot, no thank you!

Once I got home I gave the boards a little test. If they could hold me they could certainly hold the brunt of any projects I'd be putting to them. They passed with flying colors. Once I was sure they'd last, I went ahead and transposed the positioning of the mounting holes to the new boards using the originals as templates. I also used the original holes to size the bits I'd need to drill the new boards, worked like a charm.

The only hiccup came with the counter sunk holes through which the mounting bolts were threaded. Not having a drill press or countersink bit kit was a bit of bummer. I was able to use a spade bit to get most of the hole dug and finished it with a standard wood bit, crises averted! I was also very mindful of my drilling angle. The drill I have has a bubble level on the back which helped a great deal toward ensuring I kept straight and true.

Once they were properly drilled and symmetrical (thank goodness!) I gave them a good once over with some 160 grit, knocking off any hard edges, then slathered them in some *boiled linseed oil, left over from my Axe resto: You can kinda sorta see the color differential in the photos. The boards were quite thirsty and after about four consecutive coats I wiped them down and, after a quick test fit, treated them with some fixn' wax from the pathfinder school LLC. (no affiliation, just a great product I fully endorse).

* Quick note on boiled linseed oil: If you choose to use this product, use caution. It is flammable, and under goes an exothermic reaction as it dries (it gets hot). If you crumple shop rags soaked with the stuff in the garbage straight away, you liable to find yourself in a four alarm type of situation in no short order.

As you can see in the pics I kept a bucket of water besides my work station to toss my used paper towels into, and afterwards dry them in an area they're unlikely to combust. Of course, I was also chomping on a stogie and burning citronella candles out of frame... What? I never said I was a role model.

Step 7: The Devils in the Details...

All the plastic bits and bobbles underwent a thorough cleaning. Once they were fully dry I decided that while the footings were tension fit initially, I'd use an epoxy to keep them in place for the foreseeable future, didn't take much effort really. The epoxy I used was Guerilla brand two part epoxy with a five minute working time and thirty minute total set time.

I'd also removed the tension springs that held the clips that retain the footplate in an upright position during painting. I replaced them here and gave it one last inspection prior to calling it a day. Turned out I needed to touch up a few small areas with the spray paint, only took a few minutes. After that between the paint and the epoxy i set this back out in the pouch to air out and dry.

Step 8: And Many Happy Returns...

That's it! project over. All in all, it took me about 15-20 hours to complete this project with a total expenditure just over 30.00USD


Brillo basic scrub pads (free as I'd already had them)

160 grit sandpaper (free as I already had it)

Scrub sponge (free, retired from dish duty)

Guerilla brand two part epoxy (4.97USD)

Rustoleum clean metal primer (2X3.87USD)

Rustoleum gloss protective enamel hunter green (2X3.87)

Power drill w/various bits (free as I'd already owned them)

Large card board boxes (free)

5x7 blue tarp (free as I'd already owned it)

Boiled linseed oil (free as I'd already owned it)

Paper towels (free as I'd already had them)

Poplar boards (6ft@1.87per ft)

White lithium grease (free as I'd already owned it)



  • Trash to Treasure

    Trash to Treasure
  • Paper Contest 2018

    Paper Contest 2018
  • Science of Cooking

    Science of Cooking

We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.




Great restore job. I've had two of these. They better condition one I gave to my brother-in-law for his house remodeling. I kept the worse for wear and intend on restoring it. I definitely like the way yours came out, color, wood and all. I do have a question tho ... why didn't you drill the extra top holes for the bench dogs?

I have one of these workmates as well. I had the same reaction, this is what i never knew I always wanted. haha my girlfriends grandpa brought it back from a trash pile in san diego and its pretty good condition but this is just superb.. good work friend you have a new follower after seeing some of your prep kits as well.

cheers mate. Been meaning to write u a new post for ages. Been caught up with my latest obsession for a while now (lockpicking). Hopefully I'll get some new articles written in now too long.

plastic wine corks make good extra bench dogs in my experience

While never a big fan of these workbenches your humor and puns kept me reading to the end. Great write up and it looks like you had a good time with it.

yeppers, we had a grand old time together. Unfortunately the ol' girls been benched for the winter.

You know what I think of your rantings; always a good, entertaining read. Maybe you should consider authoring something worth some money one day.
Nice refurb fo sho! I, too, scored one of these a few years back; the Workmate Ultimate. Got it from the estate of a pack-ratter such as myself, albeit mine was kenneled in his garage and looks as though it was taken care of, so zero rust. Gunk and build-up, yes, but no corrosion to speak of. I've not barely even cleaned it since the pick, and have used it like a stolen bike, but your instructable has inspired me to give it some love. It came with no bench dogs, nor did I really know they existed, I've only just utilized ingenuity to make it work. Maybe I can find some pics of them and have my hand at making them for an opportunity of some less stressful tooling up.
Anyway, nice, inspiring project. Your end project looks really nice. The poplar is a beautiful touch.

Thanks for the support . Check your inbox when ya get a sec. Cheers!

Awesome refurb :) my dad was a joiner and had one off these, he would of been proud of this one :) well done :)

Thanks I'm pretty proud of it myself. It's funny, headed out to the car today there another one out there besides the skip, newer model though. People really ought to respect their tools.