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Remember Skil’s XBench? We wrote about it back in 2008 and to decent response, but it looks like Skil recently released an updated version that looks a lot more like Black & Decker’s industry-standard Workmate. In fact, it looks a whole lot like a steel and aluminum version of the X-Frame [What’s This?].

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Skil claims its version will support up to 440 pounds (versus the X-Frame’s 350), and the XBench looks more portable — like it’ll fold up smaller and weigh less. I definitely like the track-sliding work holders as opposed to the B&D’s, which install into just a few pre-drilled holes. Sandwiched between those pretty aluminum rails and the steel frame you’ll find good ‘ole MDF benchtops.

Of course, the XBench is a bit more expensive, too, weighing in at a hefty $70 versus under $50 for the X-Frame. (Right now it looks like Lowe’s is the only place you’ll find the new model. Amazon and most others return the old version via search.) In fact, shop hard and you can buy two X-Frames for the XBench’s price.

But hey — price isn’t everything. Do you need two portable benches, or one that does the job just right? Which one would you buy if you were buying today?

XBench Work Station [Skil]
Street Pricing [Lowe’s]

 

11 Responses to Skil’s Updated XBench: Simpler, Better?

  1. John says:

    I’d say this looks like a pretty similar tool, at about 1/3 the price. while it does not hold as much weight, it looks strikingly similar http://www.amazon.com/Performance-W54025-Multi-Purpose-Workbench/dp/B002UBPZIE/ref=pd_cp_hi_3

  2. Robert D says:

    Go to the Lowe’s site and read the bad reviews it got

  3. Kris says:

    I still have my 1st generation Workmate, circa early 80’s. The MDF tables rotted away so I replaced them with appropriately drilled/cut 2 x 6. I’ve replaced one of the original plastic cranks when it snapped a couple of years ago. It’s a heavy s0b but it still does the job. No matter what I throw on it it holds it without wobbling or torquing, something the new aluminum stuff can’t claim.

  4. Brau says:

    I’d buy another pop-up WorkMate (early 80’s non-X design) but not the Skil because I prefer to work/cut/clamp on a wooden surface and don’t like metal underneath to damage knives, saws, or become damaged and sharp.

  5. Liz says:

    I’m still working off my grandfathers saw horses, which is nostalgic but sometimes not very affective. I’ve been thinking about buying one of the workbenches like these. Doesn’t sound like this one bench is liked by many people. Is the Black and Decker bench the way to go? Anyone have this one and really like it?

  6. Wheels17 says:

    @Kris.. I think mine’s older than yours, and still working fine. It has plywood tops, which I’d guess would predate particle board. I wouldn’t trade it for anything on the market today.

    From B&D’s official history:
    1973 – … The Workmate┬« portable workbench and vise was introduced in the United Kingdom and received an award of excellence from England’s Design Council.

    1975 – The Workmate portable vise and workcenter was introduced for sale in the U.S.A.

    Google books has a history (with a page missing from the preview).

    http://books.google.com/books?id=MNZprtnqT3wC&pg=PA210#v=onepage&q&f=false

  7. IronHerder says:

    Workbench knock-offs are probably the best value for this type of item. I got two for free at a promotion for an auto parts store. My Mrs. & I had to arrive at the store at 5 a.m. to be 1st in line, but our marriage survived the enforced togetherness. The wood tops for these are not plywood nor MDF, but apparently some sort of Asian/tropical hardwood.

    Because of the nature of my current projects & the fact that my workshop is mostly filled with lumber scraps, I am a shade-tree carpenter. I have 3 pair of sawhorses & 3 “workbenches”, which is not too many, and may be just about right. One has a 2 ft. X 2 ft. plywood top clamped in place using a 2X4 screwed into the plywood. It’s very handy for keeping tools & supplies within easy reach. The other 2 are used to hold work pieces (duh) or tools (compound miter saw, bench-top jointer, miter boxes, etc.), again clamped in place by a 2X4 mounted underneath a base plate. To increase their utility, I modify my “workbenches” by mounting small pieces of pegboard & electrical splitters (GFCI outlets would be better) to the legs. Marginal improvements, to be sure, but they make me feel better.

    IronHerder

  8. Adam R. says:

    Saw it at Lowes on Friday. Don’t know if it was because the display had already been abused or if it is a design problem, but the jaws would not close parallel to each other. There was always racking one way or the other.

    Seemed to be pretty sturdy. They had it right next to the old version. The clamps are the same with the exception of sliding on the new one. The handles are the same. The new one had the extrusions on the edges of the MDF for the clamps to slide on.

    If you had some 8020 extrusions or similar material, it could be attached to the old one and you would have pretty much the same functionality.

  9. Steve says:

    I wish someone would make a quality portable workbench that was all metal and wood. All the plastic pieces on these things has kept me from buying one.

  10. PutnamEco says:

    Re:
    Steve Says: I wish someone would make a quality portable workbench that was all metal and wood
    ———
    Walko, Festool, and Kreg (there are a few not easily found others as well) all make worthy portable workbench systems. Not going to escape plastic and MDF but at least it is good quality plastic and MDF. The real question is whether your willing to pay for that quality.

  11. Shopmonger says:

    I love the people who still think plastic is not strong enough for their needs….but they trust plastic everyday when driving a car, or on their parallel jaw clamps, or how about a child safety seat…….. Welcome to the new century. In fact one of my new favorite clamps is all plastic except for the spring…..and wow what power…..adjustable spring clamp from bessey..

    ShopMonger

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