Sketchup Blog - News and Notes from the Sketchup folks

Ready, set... Maker Bench

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Maker Bench is going to be an open source, CNC workbench for everyone. Sounds fun, right? Well, then, help us design a Maker Bench!

At SketchUp HQ, we spend a lot of time thinking about how SketchUp works, and trying to make it work much or even just a bit better. Over the years, we’ve found that SketchUp users think a lot about how SketchUp works too.

This got us thinking: It’s fun to think about how something works, especially when that something is used to make other somethings. We call this circular design task meta-making -- making the things that people use for making.

So, we thought it would be great to spin up a new meta-making project with the SketchUp and maker communities: it’s called Maker Bench, and it’s a CNC workbench for everyone.

(What’s that? You’re ready to start designing your own maker bench now? Jump into the SketchUp Forums to get going. Otherwise, read on!).

Along with Eric Schimelpfenig at SketchThis.net, we’ve been kicking the idea of a Maker Bench around for a few years now. In that time, we’ve built WikiHouses, Open Desks, geodomes, modirondack chairs, skpr bots, and lots of other things too. As part-time makers, we always seem to find ourselves retrofitting work spaces, jigs, and tools in new environments. What if it were really, really easy to design and build our own workspace, and then bring it with us?

Last year, we came across Ron Paulk’s phenomenal workbench. We were impressed (not to mention full of desire), and we wondered what Ron’s project would look like if designed for makers, not professional carpenters.

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Maker Bench: standing or sitting? You decide!

Our curiosity with this idea came to a point this past December, and we started asking ourselves, “what do makers need in a work bench?” Well, here are a few starting ideas:

Accessibility: A Maker Bench should be accessible to anyone who makes anything. That means it should be simple to construct and be fabricatable using tools that are commonly accessible at a makerspace or TechShop. Further, Maker Benches should require an economical amount of material and minimal hardware.

Portability: A Maker Bench should fit easily in your car.

Storability: Maker Benches should work well in environments where there may not be a lot of space (a garage, a worksite, a shop, or a makerspace). Ideally, it should be easy to break down and store one or many Benches.

Modularity: People have different workspace requirements or constraints. Maker Benches should be modular so that you have control over how much space you need.

Retrofittability’: Along with modularity for dimensional workspace, a Maker Bench should be modular enough to accommodate specialized use cases. A few that came to mind right away were drawing, CNC work, soldering, and 3D printing.

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The top of each Maker Bench is removable and customizable. We’ve designed this one for use with ShopBot’s Handibot.

As we mentioned before, we’re only part-time makers, so another requirement for the project is that the designs for Maker Bench should be open for anyone to customize.

With that in mind, our first major step in actually making a Maker Bench is to ask you for help. What should a Maker Bench look like? What else should it be able to do (or help people do)? How can we make it better?

Jump into the SketchUp forums, and join our Maker Bench conversation. Tell us what you want to see in a Maker Bench. Better yet, download the starter-models and start tinkering. We hope to spend the next two months modifying the design, and then fabricate our first set of prototypes at Maker Faire Bay Area in May.

Along the way, we’ll share our conceptual and as-built models, our good ideas, our bad ideas, our cutting files, and our build photos. Please, join us! We’re aiming to meta-make a workspace that’s practical and useful for people who tinker and build, and we’re planning to have some fun while we’re at it.


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14 comments :

Elvis Moraes said...

This is great!
I do not have a bench and really miss one, this seems like a perfect model where I can make several and fit to the size I wanted, perfect!

Many thanks to the makers

Stan said...

The bench is a great idea. Contributions can include accessories such as holdowns, clamps, 90 and 45 degree alignment blocks, etc. All can be made by CNC, enabled by 3/4 inch dog holes milled or drilled into the top.

Hector Fernandez said...

The quest for the perfect portable bench never seems
to end. On small surfaces like this one it helps to
have a lower shelf where the brace is between
the legs. It gives you a place to drop larger tools to
keep your workspace clear.

Andrew O'Donohue said...

can this be downloaded as a sketchup model

Eugene Simonalle said...

Found the vanilla maker bench in the Sketchup warehouse. Here's a link: https://3dwarehouse.sketchup.com/model.html?id=u72fd2640-4727-4df6-88e1-925d8e812bde

Unknown said...

Maybe ask us how to make SU better. Making a bench virtually? Why?

SketchUp Team said...

@ Elvis -- we'd love to see what ideas you come up with. Please share on our forum! http://goo.gl/7tn4hU

@ Andrew -- yes! There are links to download the model on our forum thread. http://goo.gl/7tn4hU

@ Stand -- would love to see how you envision those modifications. Please download a copy of the model and feel free to mess around!

@unknown -- we actually have a feature request category in our forum. Hope you'll share your ideas! http://goo.gl/uTgFxt

-Mark

Mickay said...

I love my Ron Paulk’s bench! It is very portable in my SUV. At home I have one part up on the horses the other under the top one, resting on top of the holes in the horses. It's a great bench at home when not needed elsewhere.

Dave Heller said...

As a woodworker, a bench without a vise is practically useless. Look at the Lee Valley bench dog hardware:http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/page.aspx?p=31127&cat=1,41637,41645,31127
Their system is based on 3/4" holes and is now the defacto standard for North American woodworking benches. They have all kinds of fittings and fixtures.
The bench also needs to resist racking and flexing. Not sure if yours does - the hinges on the side legs could be problematic.
I hate to be a party pooper, but have you looked at an old B&D Workmates? The new ones are pretty flimsy but the originals ( 1970's) are pretty decent portable benches.

Kerisdale said...

A lot of people have very little room. Could the bench be a table or whatever when not being used as a bench ?
Richard

Ian Pearson said...

Hi, I'm a dyed in the wool metal worker, but for the experience of working with Sketchup I'd be interested to see how the drawing is produced as I only have previous experience in a low level 2D Cad Key Light program.
I've played with the program by looking at the video tutorial, but apart from creating rectangles and circles that I pull out or push in, making sense of an actual scaled drawing is still beyond my ken.

Mark Agnes said...

I'm thinking they could connect together on any edge if more workspace is needed. Use some sort of cleat so that they would hold together firmly but without needing to use extra clamps or bolts or anything.

Alex Bruski said...

Mark Agnes commented about joining multiple tables together. If a 3/4" hole were drilled in the top, side, and end of each corner with the center of the hole 2" from each edge then the tables could be connected with a 6" piece of 3/4" dowel with 3/8" cross bores 4" apart. Then a 1-1/4" long 3/4" dowel with a 3/8" dowel extending out of one end 3/4" could slide into the hole in the table top and lock the pins for a solid table connection.

The lock pin could be a 1/4" dowel offset from the center of the 3/4" dowel pin by 1/16" and then it would become a cam lock. A 1/4" groove could be cut into the top of the lock pin so it could be turned with a quarter inch thick plywood insert that could be removed after the tables are locked together, thus leaving a smooth table top.

The hole could be used for bench dogs, quick accessory attachments, and many more uses when not being used for joining tables together.

Carlos said...

"As a woodworker, a bench without a vise is practically useless."

100% agree with Dave, at least a small one if you wish to work with electronics and small mechanics as well, which I believe this workbench is for.


Something I can think of for portability, is a double top. One that becomes a panel for clamped tools. The second one as the actual tabletop.

Unfortunately, I can't contribute on the design, since SketchUp does not run on Linux/Ubuntu !