No matter what you build or how you organize your crew, you can't go wrong setting up a central cutting station. You may be like me and work on top of an old door with folding legs, or work on 2x12 planks set on sawhorses. But if you get tired of rebuilding these job-built stations, or worse--if you find them in the Dumpster because your crew thought they were scrap--check out these manufactured, portable workstations.
The units I reviewed for this article provide solid work surfaces. Their collapsible designs and wheel kits make them relatively easy to set up and take down. As I found out, some are easier to operate than others, but these setups are perfect for multiple tasks and their outfeed supports allow you to work with long stock alone. The workstations are not cheap, however; most cost between $130 and $400. They're also pretty large, and have lots of parts. The part count alone was enough to make me wonder about their cost versus benefit. I reviewed workstations from Delta, DeWalt, Iowa Manufacturing, Lee Unlimited, Milwaukee, Rousseau, Steelman, and TracRac.
These workstations fall into two distinct categories: bench type and beam type. The bench types (Delta, Lee Unlimited, Rousseau, and Steelman) have outfeed rollers or fixed outfeed supports. These workstations are essentially long, collapsible tables. They're heavier than the beam types and take up more space whether set up or folded. But they're beefier, too, and give you more room to work and more basic versatility.
Beam-type units (DeWalt, Iowa Manufacturing, Milwaukee, and TracRac) are folding, four-legged workstands (like a sawhorse) with outrigger work supports. You attach your miter saw to brackets, and those brackets connect to the stand's top rail. You set the saw on the stand, then adjust your infeed/outfeed supports to proper height and support length. Depending on the unit, these brackets adjust to about 6 feet out from either side of the saw, but can go further as needed. By and large, this configuration is best suited for miter saws and some limited workbench duty, like routing trim. This type of station is generally easier to move. It also takes up less space and sets up faster than the bench types.
Despite my skepticism, I discovered both types of workstations can save lots of set-up and tear-down time in thelong run. There's nothing to assemble on site, no one's going to raid your workstation to use the lumber, you can cut alone, and they offer better efficiency for the contractor on the move. There are great differences between these tools, however. Depending on your needs, you may get more from one type than the other.
This tabletop design is best used as a multi-function workbench (as opposed to a miter-saw-specific cut station.) It works great for your miter saw, but you can also remove the saw and still have a wide, stable work platform with rollers or supports for routing, cutting, or even staging lumber. And, if you have the room, you can set up your portable table saw at one end and use the station as an outfeed table. I generally get the most use out of these units on longer duration jobs, especially trim jobs, where I need a good, straight tabletop for accurate cuts.
These benches are tough to move. Sure, they fold up and have wheels for easy transport, but they're still heavy enough that I wouldn't look forward to breaking them down and moving them every day. They also take up a lot of room. That's a problem if you work out of your truck or have a small shop with limited storage space.
If you only have to move them infrequently, then you can really maximize their benefits. A good spot for a bench-type workstation is in the shop. You can move the unit around your floor space, use it for multiple jobs, or store it quickly depending on your needs.
One note: I wouldn't permanently afix my miter saw to any of the bench-type stations without modifying my connections for easy saw removal. When you're folding up the unit, the wheels can get away from you; I have nightmares about my $600 miter saw crashing to the ground while attached to the workstation.