Like many old homes, ours came with a legacy of “improvements” from previous owners. Some of those improvements, didn’t really live up to their name. Like when we found live electrical wires encased in newspaper before they were plastered over. Our garage sported an old DIY workbench that was assembled from a variety of timbers and thankfully didn’t have any electrical “improvements.” Based on the bench layout, we also suspect they didn’t have the benefit of drafting the plans for it on SketchUp. For an old DIY bench, it still functioned respectably even though it looked pretty bad. We’re working on a refresh of the HomeFixated HQ, and unfortunately for the old workbench, its time had run out. Luckily, Gladiator Garageworks stepped in to send one of their new bamboo-topped workbenches for us to review (and later abuse). What follows is the before and after transformation of our workbench.
The Old Workbench
Since we’d heard without a little history we are destined to relive our past, we thought a few photos and details from the old bench might put the whole project in context. I’ve definitely encountered rougher demolition jobs, but despite the small project size this old workbench didn’t go down without a fight. To clear out the old we grabbed three handy demo tools; a heavy duty version of the NailJack, the aptly-named Jackson Pulverizer and True Temper Clawbar. The NailJack made quick work of the multitude of nails still stuck into the framing of the garage and the old 2×4’s were no match for a few swings and pries from the Pulverizer and ClawBar.
We found a few interesting details with the old workbench. The bench sported one lonely drawer that was supported mostly by a thin center rail. Whoever crafted the workbench nailed a small piece of sheetmetal to the end of the rail and then nailed the sheetmetal to the back wall. It was a pretty clever little trick for a clean install and a support that didn’t split after a bunch of nails were toe-nailed in.
I had also marveled at how sturdy this bench appeared to be, despite banging it around and applying pressure with our beefy Wilton Vise. I always chalked that up to the excessive amount of nails physically marrying the bench to the framing of the garage. Turns out the bench had another secret. I was a bit dismayed to discover that in the interests of stability, the ends of the 2×4 bench framing were literally embedded several inches into the concrete floor! Once I got the demolition completed I had several “dust collecting receptacles”, also known as holes in the concrete floor.
With the demolition done all that remained of the old bench was a pile of wood scrap. But you didn’t come here to read about our crappy old bench. It was time to unbox the Gladiator
Gladiator Bamboo Workbench Unboxing
Like many fun things for your garage, the Gladiator bamboo workbench arrives via freight delivery. Freight delivery is also code for “this thing is really heavy and the FedEx / UPS guys don’t want to get a hernia.” The delivery thankfully showed up in good shape and opening the box didn’t yield any unpleasant surprises. By the way, if you’re getting a freight delivery, don’t sign off on the delivery without noting visible damage. And, if there’s enough visible damage, sometimes it’s best not to accept the delivery at all. If you’re able to, I’d recommend having the workbench box placed roughly where you plan to use it. It’s heavy! In my case, I opened the box, removed everything but the bamboo top, and then carefully slid the top into the workbench area using the cardboard as an improv sled. If you attempt a similar feat of daring, just make sure there aren’t any holes in the cardboard as you don’t want to destroy the top before you actually start using it.
If all in the box opening went well, you should have a sexy bamboo benchtop with its bottom side facing up. This will enable you to assemble the workbench upside down, and without doing something crazy like putting the top on sawhorses and crawling awkwardly underneath to install the legs. It’s not rocket science, but it still pays to read the instructions here.
The first task is getting the main leg supports in place. Because the Gladiator Bamboo Workbench is height adjustable, the legs actually come in two separate components. The main leg supports, (I made that term up), are what get bolted directly to the benchtop. Everything is pre-drilled, so if you’re about to attach the leg supports and don’t see any holes, it’s time to flip the top over. I would never carelessly and accidentally install the leg support facing the wrong way. I especially wouldn’t install both of them the wrong way and then forehead slap myself. However, it’s worth noting that each leg support has a front and a back. The back side of the leg support is the side with holes in it to secure a rear support panel (I made that term up too).
Don’t snug down the lag bolts all the way until you get that rear panel in place. I found the holes that secure the rear panel to the bamboo didn’t allow enough clearance for my socket wrench. Adding a socket extension solved that problem, but it’s something to be aware of if you plan on using a ratchet instead of a crescent wrench. There’s enough tightening of bolts in this assembly that I’d recommend using a ratchet if possible.
Once the main leg supports and rear panel are snugged up, it’s time to put the legs together. This is where some key decision making comes into play: selecting the height of the bench. Although the bench height is adjustable I would not describe it as incredibly quick and easy to adjust once you have your workbench upright and in place. If you’re replacing an existing bench, you may already know the height you want. In my case, I wanted to go slightly higher than my previous bench. I already have a lower bench in the shop, and for many tasks, I like having the work closer to me to avoid hunching over it. As a result, I opted for the tallest setting on the bench. With whatever height you settle on, factor in the adjustable feet which screw into the bottom of each leg for leveling and/or fine-tuning the overall height.
Assembling the legs is a pretty straight forward affair. A couple plastic liners go into place before the legs are inserted to whatever height you have in mind. Two bolts slide through the legs and are fastened into place with the equivalent of plastic wing nuts. Despite not being big fans of plastic hardware, everything including the wing nuts, felt solid and secure. The leveling feet screw into a very solid threaded metal plate welded into the bottom of each leg.
After all this, then comes the hard part: flipping the workbench over. No matter how much juicing you’ve done recently, and regardless of how big your biceps are, getting the Gladiator Bamboo Workbench flipped over is definitely a two (or more) person job. Flipping the workbench over in our case was made even more challenging by not only tight quarters, but the long leg length due to the maximum height we decided on.
Once the bench was flipped over, I grabbed a couple levels to get overall level dialed in. I just crouched under the bench, lifted the corner I was adjusting the leveling feet on slightly and spun the feet as needed. All finished!
Gladiator Bamboo Workbench Spec’s
The six foot Gladiator Bamboo Workbench is designed to hold up to 3,000 pounds! That’s the equivalent of putting a small car on top of your workbench (both our lawyers and those of Gladiator concur that placing cars of any size on your workbench is not advisable). Our particular bench is 72″ wide x 29-42″ high x 24″ deep. The height is of course a range, due to the 15 different available height settings (plus a few more if you count using the level feet to go up or down more). You can also find Gladiator workbenches in 4 foot and 8 foot widths. Suffice it to say, both the top and the sturdy legs and supports below are designed to take just about whatever you want to dish out.
The Bamboo Workbench Top
This brings us to a glaring complaint about this workbench. . . the bamboo top is just too nice! On the old workbench there was a certain amount of freedom knowing the surface was already distressed. This was evident from countless holes, gouges, and even burn marks. With the bamboo top I’ll definitely be working a little more carefully. That said, the bamboo top is great from a few standpoints. For one, the finish is very smooth and easy to clean. And since bamboo is known for its strength, it’s hard to imagine a tougher surface short of using steel. Bamboo is also a very sustainable, fast-growing resource so you can sleep easy knowing you aren’t personally responsible for wiping out more virgin amazonian rainforest hardwood. Lastly, it looks great!
One of the biggest things I look for in a good workbench is stability. The last thing you want is a workbench that flops around like your grandma’s folding jigsaw puzzle table. I had actually planned to strap the workbench legs to the wall for extra stability, but the Gladiator workbench is so solid I’m not sure it’s necessary. Even at its tallest height setting (raising its center of gravity) and with a beefy vice on top of the bench, it’s rock solid.
The adjustable height isn’t a quick adjust you’re likely to change daily, but it’s fantastic to have the flexibility to install the bench at the height that’s best for you, your typical usage, and the space you’re installing in. Thanks to the height options, it’s even ADA compliant. If you plan to slide storage under the bench (Gladiator or otherwise), make sure to select a height with enough clearance. Right now we’ve got the Gladiator Premier Modular Gear Drawer tucked easily under, however, we’ll be showing off another taller Gladiator storage solution in an upcoming review. With the gear drawer, we could have gone lower, but with the upcoming storage product review, the tallest setting was just perfect to provide the clearance we needed. Bottom line is the height adjustability makes for a dramatically more versatile and flexible workbench solution.
Gladiator Garageworks has never been known as a low-end price competitor. However, as with many things you put in your garage, home or elsewhere, it’s a case of you get what you pay for. If you’re shopping with price as your primary factor, you likely won’t wind up buying Gladiator. If you’re looking for a great balance of quality and value you should definitely consider Gladiator. I’ve purchased low-end garage storage solutions in the past, and their thin gauge metal, wobbly drawers and rickety structures can haunt you as long as you own them. Just imagine how many garage storage companies go through the torture testing that Gladiator subjects their products to:
Some Notes on Color and Finish Options
We were a little confused when we unpacked our workbench as the dark grey finish we were accustomed to seeing was replaced by a much brighter and whiter version. A quick check with the Gladiator team revealed that they do, in fact, have two different finish options available. Here’s their summary:
We call the grey finish “hammered granite”, and we call the white finish “Everest white” or “Hammered white”.
The Hammered Granite finish is available in all three sizes (4′, 6′, and 8′), as well as in both wood and bamboo worktop version…so six (6) hammered granite versions available.
The Everest/Hammered White finish is only available in 6′ and 8′, and in both wood and bamboo worktop versions…so four (4) white versions available.
If you’re particular about colors like I am, it’s worth noting the grey finish comes with black hardware trim (eg. the height adjustment knobs) and the white finish comes with white trim. What color should you go with? If you’re starting your Gladiator collection from scratch the color choice comes down to personal preference more than anything else. If you already have Gladiator gear to begin with, I’d recommend sticking with your existing color scheme. Personally, I like the more rugged look of the grey / hammered granite finish. It’s easy to miss the finish options on Amazon or directly on Gladiator’s website. Make sure you’re selecting either “Granite” or “White” so you’re getting the finish you expect.
The Official Before and After
Our workbench area is still a work in progress. In fact, it has already changed a bit since the photo shown here. Even so, the Gladiator Bamboo Workbench made a big difference in this work area. It’s a clean, solid design, and, thanks to the adjustable height, the closest you’ll get to a custom bench install without actually going custom.
You can find the Gladiator GAWB06BAZG 6-Foot Adjustable Height Bamboo Work Bench for $549 via Amazon.