When you need to carry a variety of tools for a job, most of us turn to our favorite tool belts. It’s easier than lugging a tool box around. It’s a major improvement over constantly bending over to pick up a tool or climb down a ladder. Still, if I can get away with it, I’d rather not wear a tool belt and still keep my tools at arms reach. Many of us will agree that our favorite work spaces are around a work bench. Unfortunately, we can’t take those with us.
That’s where the MagBench Portable Work Bench comes in. As you might have guessed from the name, it uses magnets to create a small work bench anywhere that you can attach it. That leaves the potential for some pretty tight limitations, but we’re going to see just how useful it is and what pros might be able to take advantage of its features.
The MagBench comes in three varieties. The full size MagBench is 12″ x 12″ and is rated to support up to 50 pounds. The MagBench Standard is designed with laptops in mind while the MagBench Utility features holes for a variety of tools and a recess to keep hardware from rolling away. An 8″ x 10″ MagBench Mini is also available designed for use with tablets. We got our hands on the MagBench Utility and Standard models for this review.
4 rare earth magnets are used to attach the MagBench to ferrous surfaces. Rare earth magnets are much stronger than the magnets we played with as kids. They contain crystalline structures that are easy to magnetize in one direction while resisting magnetization in any other. This results in very high magnetic anisotropy. In other words, it’s a freakishly strong magnet.
While the rare earth magnets hold the MagBench to a surface, it has some features to improve its durability as well. All the hardware is stainless steel. The majority of the surfaces are about 3/8″ thick marine grade HPDE plastic. With some attention to keeping it out of the elements, MagBenches should last a considerable time.
MagBenches fold up and are held securely by another magnet on the inside surfaces. To make it easy for transport, carrying bags are included.
Considering the Best Uses
The most obvious limitation is that the MagBench is only going attach to ferrous surfaces like steel. Even that isn’t fool proof. Thin and painted steel won’t create as strong a bond as thick, non-painted steel will. We tried the MagBench on several different steel surfaces. On a good, thick I-Beam, it held very well in spite of the fact that it was painted and that the magnets were only partially on the steel. On the exterior wall of the steel structure though, the weight of the unit by itself was enough to make it slide down.
Normally, I’d think that a 12″ x 12″ working surface is a bit too limited, but it actually works as an advantage for the MagBench. The size is perfect to leave semi-permanently on the inside of a control or electrical box. It’s also large enough to fit a nice selection of hand tools, meters, and small power tools. When it comes to wiring a box or holding diagnostic tools for electricians, it’s a great fit. HVAC installers and maintenance crews will also find the MagBench to be a very convenient place to hold their tools in easy reach when working in tighter spaces.
Makers of the MagBench are well aware of its limitations and they’re not hiding it somewhere in the small print. There’s an outstanding FAQ on their website that covers a variety of topics. They also include a printed sheet of very helpful tips with the MagBench. The only excuse you’ve got for not knowing what to expect ahead of time is that you didn’t bother to look.
How Useful is the MagBench… Really?
I set up tools for some basic electrical work on the MagBench. It kept my 12V Ridgid drill, several hand drivers, pliers, and hardware in place with no issue. I didn’t feel like the space was too small, nor that I was in danger of losing anything to gravity. For the MagBench Standard model, there were no issues whatsoever holding a laptop in place.
That brought me to an application that I didn’t think of at first – Remote jobsite help. With the pair of MagBenches at my disposal, it would be a piece of cake to set up my laptop on one and tools on the other. This has an outstanding application in that I can keep my hands free to work with the tools that I need while video conferencing with someone else. Maybe it’s a project manager that needs to see exactly what’s going on. Perhaps I need to troubleshoot an issue that’s out of my wheelhouse and I need someone from the office that can’t just drop everything and run over. Either way, I set up the MagBench so they can see what they need while I can be the extension of their hands from anywhere in the world.
Or maybe I just want to stream something on Netflix…
Honestly, there are a lot more applications for the MagBench than I can possibly list here. You’ll need to consider how often you’re working around surfaces that the units will attach to. I’m not concerned about the durability at all. They seem very well built.
The MagBench units that we tested run $139.95. While this may seem steep on the surface, I really don’t think you should overlook the high build quality with these. While the MagBench website does list a number of real applications for use, I think it’s the electricians, Audio/Video/Telecom, and HVAC pros that are going to be the most excited about these products. Other pros may want to hold out for a wider platform.