Introduction: Restore an Old Workmate Bench

Hello and Welcome!!

This Instructable follows the relatively short journey of taking a battered, old workmate, and transforming it into a usable, "like-new" one.

What you will need:

  1. Old workmate
  2. Wire brush
  3. Varying grades of sandpaper, some 60 grit as the roughest, up to 240 grit as the smoothest.
  4. Paint - Hammerite Black Rust Resistant paint in the hammered finish was what I used.
  5. Paint - Red paint just for the plastic handles.
  6. Paintbrush
  7. Wood - I used Oak. Will need to be two planks, to replace the old grips on the bench. Depends on the size of your original Workmate, but mine were 500x100mm.
  8. Drill
  9. Drill bits - again, depends on the size of the orginal fixings of the grip runners, but around an 8mm and then a 10mm would likely be enough. Also will need some bits (potentially use a Forstner) around 20mm for the fixing holes, if you will require these.
  10. Some Hex-head bolts, again, these need to mirror the old fixings, but mine were M8, around 25mm long.
  11. Danish Oil
  12. WD-40/ Other oil lubricant
  13. Time and Patience!!

Step 1: Clearing the Old!

In this step, I would suggest doing it outside, due to the fine metal particles which will be flying everywhere. If this is not an option, at least wear breathing apparatus.

  1. If the wooden grips are in anything like the state of my old one, then just cut them off - you won't be needing them again! You basically just need to get them off, revealing the plastic runners (as shown in the photo).
  2. Removing the bolts from the plastic runners WILL TAKE A LONG TIME. Mine were extremely rusted, and as soon as I twisted them to unscrew, the heads just broke off, and I was left with a sheared bolt, with barely any grip. If this happens, go to the WD-40... Spray some on around the base of the bolt, and let it soak in for at least 5 minutes, then just go back and use some pliers to twist it lightly.
  3. Keep on using the oil-twist approach, and you will get there eventually. Care is of the essence, as if you break the plastic runners, it will be a nightmare to try and find some replacements!
  4. Once all the bolts are removed, then the plastic runners will be able to be taken off, leaving just the metal shell of the workmate.

Brush and Sand

  1. Go in first with a wire brush on every metal surface - make sure to do the underside, as well as the side visible from the top. All of the rust needs to be scraped right back, and any paint left needs to go down effectively to the bare metal.
  2. Clearly, where there is rust, if extensive, use a something like Loctite Rust Remedy to solid this up.
  3. Once the wire brush has done the brute of the work, then move onto the 60 grit paper.
  4. The 60 grit is to get off the finer bits of the paint, and begin to get the metal down to a smooth surface.
  5. Once paint is off, go over with the 240 grit to make it smooth. Don't worry too much about the look, and any light scratches, as this will help the purchase of the paint.

Step 2: Paint!

As the picture shows, this is the ultimate finish that I went for with the Hammerite.

I applied it with a brush, doing first everything on the underside, i.e, not viewable when in its normal position. This was so that no damage would be caused to the top side.

Make sure all the parts in all of the corners are painted as well, it's worth having light directly on the Workmate for the duration.

Turn the Workmate over, and start on the front. Be careful not to over apply the paint - otherwise it will go blotchy. With Hammerite you don't really need to do a second coat if the first is consistent enough. It dries quickly as well, so you will be able to see its progress.

Don't paint much at all on the bits of the metal where the runners will go - this surface needs to be kept smooth, otherwise the wooden grips will not run properly.


Mine were orange originally, and had faded massively. I decided to go with a bold, blood red colour, to contrast with the black of the metal. These are self explanatory to paint!

Step 3: Wooden Grips

This stage is choosing and then making the wooden grips. I was restoring my Workmate in order to have a base on which to use base my lathe, and so all I needed was the wooden tops fixed; no extra fixing holes needed.

I chose Oak as the base for my boards, and cut them to size, mostly by just a test measuring of what looked right with the base. Mine were just over 20mm thick - they have to be deep enough to allow the protruding plastic of the runners to fit in. (See the notes in the photos).

The next bit will require a bit of careful measuring, as it will be to fit the plastic runners into the boards.

  1. The protruding plastic fits into the underside, and the other hole is for the bolt running all the way from the top side.
  2. The protruding part does not have to exactly fit into the underside, if it is a bit loose, then it may play to your favour if the measuring and the drilling of the bolt hole does not go exactly to plan.
  3. The bolt hole needs to fit into the slot in the runner. This will likely be kept in place by a nut/washer affair on the underside, but this depends on the model.
  4. To make the bolts fit flush with the wooden boards, then I drilled a wider hole than that of the bolt head in order for it to sit half way down the width of the board.


Once they wooden grips are in position, and all test fitted, take them off, and give them a good couple of coats of Danish Oil, or similar preserve just to keep from from morphing in shape whilst in situ.

Step 4: Stand Back, and Admire Your Work!

All is now done!! As you can see, I then used mine for a lathe base, just fitting the oak lathe base onto the top of the Workmate, and I was good to go - absolutely no problems with the Workmate being unsteady etc etc.

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