Portable Work Benches
Published: March 2010
Keeping tools, reels of wire and supplies of conduit organizeD, accessible and ready to use is a challenge every electrician understands. Portable job-site storage containers, wire racks and easily movable work benches that can be rolled maintain worker efficiency to accomplish more in less time, which contributes to bottom-line profits.
“Work bench and storage products have broad appeal to many trades; however, electricians and plumbers tend to be the primary users, especially with models that include a pipe vise for cutting conduit and pipes,” said Ron Axon, Greenlee Textron senior product manager. “These products are very versatile and easily customized for specific contractor’s needs.” Axon added that the growing use of lean construction practices at job sites relies heavily on flexible storage options and tool mounting solutions to bring materials and tools to the job site efficiently. This supports good work flow practices to reduce waste and speed up work completion.
Portable storage and work benches
“Contractors require a variety of storage solutions to complete their jobs safely, efficiently and professionally,” Axon said. “With the growth in lean construction practices at job sites, an expanded variety of storage products are needed to support this, especially with mobile storage solutions. The storage product choices available give contractors the ability to choose the right storage solution for the job and complete their work faster, safer and easier.”
Product versatility, construction quality, security and storage compartment size are considerations when evaluating and comparing products. One-piece skids, comfortable handles, a lack of sharp corners or weld burrs, large casters and integrated hoist rings improve portability by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort when handling. These also allow for the ability to move quickly around the job site by hand or with equipment.
Work benches, Axon said, complement storage chests and upright cabinets by providing an accessible, flat work surface that does not require shifting to access the storage compartment interior and provide versatility for mounting different tools on top or on the sides to support specific types of work.
Portable wire carts keep supplies of wire easily accessible, so they can be moved around the job as necessary. They save time and labor by keeping supplies together and facilitating wire pulling. They come in many sizes and capacities to accommodate reels of various sizes. Some wagon-style models include shelves and storage areas and are designed to carry conduit. In addition, models that combine wire, storage and work bench features are very versatile.
“The wire cart is an essential piece of equipment for electrical contractors,” said Don Godfrey, national marketing coordinator for Maxis Tools. “The trend is that electrical contractors are looking for more ways to enhance efficiency on the job site, and quality wire carts are one way to achieve savings in labor costs. We have seen an overall increase in the interest of wire cart products and also for models that include a print table, a material shelf, conduit rack and a portable workbench.”
The trend for tool companies to expand their traditional product lines applies to the storage, wire cart and work bench categories. Greenlee is recognized as a leading manufacturer of tools for the electrical industry, and Burndy, best known for connection and termination tools and products, recently introduced an extensive line of modular wire management products including modular carts and portable work benches.
“These products are highly portable, multifunctional and sturdy,” said Bob Poirier, senior product manager, Burndy. “They allow electricians to have all of the tools and accessories where they are needed in order to get the job done in a timely manner.”
Burndy (www.burndy.com) wire management products include the SmartCart wire management system designed to carry virtually everything an electrician needs on a job site. Features include dimples in handles to facilitate mounting tool boxes; a motionless vise for cutting 1/2-, 3/4- or 1-inch conduit; and a built-in tray for fish tapes and other tools. The design permits easy mounting of an extension base plate to accommodate additional storage and doubles as a wire guide for pulling wire.
Basic types of caddies available include hand truck, folding models and spool caddies. Removable racks accommodate various wire gauges. Two-wheeled carts are available in light- and heavy-duty models in standard configurations that can be customized with specialized accessories purchased separately.
Maxis (www.maxis-tools.com) markets the Wire Wagon line designed and developed by a working electrician to meet the needs of the electrical workplace. Its six models primarily are for holding and transporting reels of wire.
Capacities vary from the Model 538 service cart, which holds 12 500-foot spools of No. 12 wire and folds flat for storage, to the Model 510, which holds as many as 14 2,500-foot spools or a combination of 500- and 2,250-foot spools. Several hundred feet of conduit and other tools and materials can be stored on the top shelf, which also can be used as a workbench for assembly of components. The Model 520 is designed specifically for MC cable.
The Model 550 is a work bench, print table and multipurpose storage cart on wheels that holds quantities of conduit, materials, supplies and tools.
The 30-by-48-inch work surface is easily moved from the flat workbench position to an angled print table position. It has two shelves for material and tool storage and the bottom frame is designed to hold conduit and struts.
Greenlee (www.greenlee.com) markets workbenches with a work surface positioned at a comfortable working height. Its tough composition surface resists impact and has a chain vice and telescoping wrench stop for added convenience and productivity. There also are sturdy, secure, large-capacity storage boxes for tools and materials. Standard models have a removable, self-stored shelf. Deluxe models feature adjustable shelves and drawers, enabling the user to configure the workbench to meet exact measurements.
Greenlee deluxe field office boxes offer more than 100 cubic feet of space for storing tools, supplies, blueprints and more. A full-width, grooved-edge lid is easy to grip. Overlapping lid closures and welded seams are stiffer, stronger and more secure, helping to lock out weather and vandals. Large, heavy-duty handles fold flush to avoid impact damage. Greenlee’s textured industrial powder-coat finish is more durable than conventional baked enamel to last longer, protect steel better and resist rust.
Other manufacturers offer a variety of storage and wire handling products.
Sumner Manufacturing Co. (www.sumner.com) makes a broad range of material handling carts, including wire carts; racks on wheels for holding and moving steel and PVC conduit and PVC pipe, cable reel racks and stands; and the Spool Mac reel transporter that accommodates reels of various sizes for positioning for wire pulling.
Vestil Manufacturing Corp. (www.vestilmfg.com) makes a portable wire reel caddy that is transported by a hand truck. The caddy has four spool bars that accommodate various size reels. Wire can be dispensed while the caddy is in either horizontal or vertical positions. The Model Wire-D-WHK offers the same capabilities on a model mounted on casters. Also available is an economy wire reel caddy mounted on 6-inch wheels. Eleven spool bars accommodate various size reels; cable can be dispensed with the caddy in either vertical or horizontal positions. A storage tray on top adds versatility.
Associated Electric Products (www.assoc-elec-prod.com) markets a heavy- duty wire cart with quick-load design that doesn’t require clips or pins. A pivoting wire feeder arm groups wires for pulling and reduces stress on wires’ insulation. Solid, 8-inch wheels facilitate moving around job sites. The Wire Wheel is another Associated Electric product that holds two reels of cable. It is easily carried by one person. Simply set the carrier and reels on the floor, and start pulling.
Link Concepts (www.link-concepts.com) wire safety vault is a hard plastic protection shell that fits over plastic wire spools protecting them and providing a convenient, safe way to move spools to and around job sites.
Cable Reel Systems (www.verticalcablecaddy.com) offers a simple, inexpensive hand-carried caddy useful for hard-to-access areas. The ergonomic handle allows easy carrying; center poles are available in 18-, 24- and 30-inch sizes; and dual ball-bearing disks dispense wire and cable smoothly. The handle detaches quickly for loading and unloading spools.
Diversified Products (www.jottodesk.net) truck cabs often do double duty as mobile offices, and the Jotto Desk laptop computer desk secures computer on an easy-to-use portable desktop. Mounting bases are available for major truck brands and install in minutes with simple hand tools. The laptop computer locks firmly to the desktop and can be moved to different positions for ease of use. The unit can be easily removed when not needed.
GRIFFIN, a construction and tools writer from Oklahoma City, can be reached at email@example.com.