Out of the box, beam-type workstations are designed to be used only as miter saw cutting stations. They're light, fold easily, and--most important--take up a smaller chunk of storage space than their bench-type cousins.
But if you want to get multiple uses from the bench top like I do, buy extra brackets and retrofit them to some plywood for extra table space. This solution requires a small, additional set-up cost, but I think it's worth it. You'll end up with a small workbench that's stable, straight, pretty tough, and easy to set up and break down.
Beam-type units fold up tightly enough to fit in your job box or behind the front seat of an extra-cab pickup truck. You can use this type of system if you work out of your truck for one-off jobs (set it up on a customer's deck for a quick job) or for long-term projects like framing where you'll use and store it on a jobsite for weeks.
Both types of workstations provide a dedicated place for your miter saws and other tools. They're fairly tough, too. I left these units outside for a month and saw no signs of corrosion or wear. I think they can handle the elements over the long term, but your crew might be their biggest enemy. My crew can break almost anything and these units are no exception. By the same token, if your crew is gentler than mine and you're only using the stations for trim work, they'll probably last longer.
Smaller contractors probably will get the most out of portable workstations, especially beam-type units. You can set them up and break them down quickly each day. And, if you have a small crew, they'll be less likely to abuse the workstations the way a large crew abuses things they didn't buy themselves. For my sites, I'd get two: a beam-type unit like DeWalt's for faster jobs, and a bench-type model like Delta's or Rousseau's for my shop and/or long-term trim work. And then there's the Lee Unlimited Power Bench. I'd put this on a framing site as a set table. It's indestructible.
Portable Workstation ReviewsDelta:
This is a great table. Easy to set up and break down. The rollers are set up on a unique, adjustable bracket that lets you customize their length to support different material lengths. Model 50-155, $239. 800-223-7278, www.deltamachinery.com
. Lee Unlimited:
While I loved the simple, innovative design, this model is heavy (85 lbs.) and cumbersome to set up. I'd use it as a framing station where I could leave it set up for awhile; you can really load it with lumber. Power Bench, $399. 605-365-5430, www.powerbench.com
. Rousseau Co.:
This beautiful table offers a good, stable work area. I wouldn't want to move this workstation around all the time. It's easy to assemble, but there are lots of parts to adjust. Model HD2950, $299. 800-635-3416, www.rousseauco.com
This one's the easiest bench-type stand to assemble and use. It has two outfeed rollers that adjust nicely. If I did end up breaking my table down each day, this would be one of my top choices. Powerbench model MS245W, $199. 800-255-7011, www.steelman-js.com
With only four parts to assemble, this unit sets up and breaks down quickly and stores well. Saw mounts to two brackets that easily clip onto rail body. You could use extra clips on other tools for quick changeover. Model DW723, $229. 800-433-9258, www.dewalt.com
Light, stable, easily foldable workstation with nice price tag. Infeed/outfeed rollers are smooth but outriggers for extra length are hard to adjust. Same goes for table-height adjustments. Model 48-08-0450, $165. 877-729-3878, www.mil-electric-tool.com
. Iowa Manufacturing:
Time-consuming assembly, but once set up is easy to fold. Outriggers extend to 106-inch work length. Aluminum keeps it light. Best used with single miter saw because of time it takes to adjust infeed/outfeed rollers. StableMate Model XWC-36, $140. 800-882-4422. TracRac:
Lots of parts to assemble. Tubular aluminum legs establish wide, stable base. Outfeed extension works well with good clamp. I liked the way you mount the saw to the table and then attach the table to the workstation. TracMaster, $200. 800-501-1587, www.tracrac.com
Steve Veroneau owns Transformations LLC, a custom framing and trim company in Falls Church, Va., and is a contributing editor to Hanley-Wood's Tools of the Trade.