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What is Benchwork?

Malcolm Tatum
By
Updated May 17, 2024
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Benchwork is a term used to describe any type of labor or work that is managed using a workbench rather than with the use of heavy machinery in a plant setting or in a larger area. The term is also sometimes used to refer to the structures that support finished projects such as model train sets that are set up on a more or less permanent basis. With all applications, the idea is that the labor is completed at a stationary setting rather than relying on machinery to do the job.

In terms of the creation of goods, there are several different examples of benchwork. Carpentry benchwork involves the crafting of different types of furniture or frames for upholstered furniture pieces. Here, the idea behind the benchwork furniture creation is to carefully craft each component by hand, with some pieces built and assembled entirely on the workbench. At other times, the individual pieces are hand crafted as part of the benchwork and assembled at another site.

Benchwork construction is often thought of as being more time-consuming than using machinery to mass produce different types of products. While the process is somewhat slower, proponents of the approach tend to claim that the construction is of a higher quality than can be produced with the use of machines. Others find there is no real difference in the quality of the two approaches, or that the modern use of computer technology as part of the manufacturing process makes it possible to mass produce furniture and similar goods that are superior to products made in a benchwork setting.

As it relates to creating permanent displays for working train model sets, benchwork often involves the task of what is known as track planning. This simply means that the top area of the bench or frame that will support the train set is laid out in terms of where the tracks will be placed and what the surrounding landscape for the presentation will be. In this scenario, the goal is to make sure the benchwork is strong enough to support the presentation for an extended period of time, and that the underside of the supporting structure is accessible, making it possible to install and repair any type of electrical wiring or circuitry that is necessary to the operation of the model trains. This is true whether the train is set up at home as part of a hobby, or if the train is on permanent display at a museum or some other public venue.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including About Mechanics, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By Perdido — On Jul 29, 2012

I use my bench for working with seashells. I do everything from jewelry to hanging wall art, and I like to do it on top of my wooden bench in my crafts room.

I can lay all the shells out on the table so that I can see them easily. That makes choosing which ones to use so much simpler.

Sometimes, I sew them onto canvas to create shapes like seahorses or palm trees. Other times, I string them onto wire with beads to make jewelry.

It's great to have a bench specifically for this purpose, because if I have to leave a project unfinished for awhile, I can just leave it on the bench and walk away. It's much better than when I used to work at the kitchen table, because I would have to clean up everything and put it all away, no matter how far I was from being done.

By JackWhack — On Jul 29, 2012

My dad has a rolling work bench in his shop, and he has done a lot of work on it throughout the years. He is an electrical engineer, and in his spare time, he repairs computers and televisions for people.

He always puts them on top of the work bench before beginning. After he has inspected them, he can roll the bench around to different areas of the shop as needed. He has different types of work stations housing tools set up around the shop.

I stayed out there with him a lot as a kid. I tried to roll the bench around once, but I found that it was way too heavy for my little body to push. I guess that's a good thing, because I probably would have gotten into trouble!

By DylanB — On Jul 28, 2012

@orangey03 – People can get away with charging more for benchwork than for mass-produced stuff, because the process is so lengthy and more complex. Personally, I would be willing to pay more for furniture made by hand than in a factory.

I have a cousin who makes and sells picnic tables, and he gets hundreds of dollars for each one. If he uses a more expensive wood, he can even get over a thousand bucks for one!

He usually only uses high-priced wood if the customer requests it, though. It wouldn't be economical to have a bunch of thousand-dollar picnic tables sitting around until they got sold.

By orangey03 — On Jul 27, 2012

My husband does a lot of benchwork for other people on the side. It isn't his regular job, because he doesn't get enough work to support us, but it is something that he really enjoys doing.

Woodwork done on a bench is nice, because the customer can have the item built to their specifications. There is no mass production to worry about.

He built a set of bar stools for a friend last month. This month, he is working on a custom dining room table and chair set for a coworker, and he is getting good money for that project.

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum

Writer

Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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