Workbench Personality No. 3: The Cheapskate


Quick editor’s note: These entries on the six kinds of workbench builders are all 100 percent true. I have removed the names of the people involved (except for Todd). Note that I have only love for these nutjobs.

My encounters with The Cheapskate could fill a book on workbenches. This is but one short story.

I receive a fax. On the paper is the message: “Could you call me at XXX-XXX-XXXX please? I have an important question about workbenches.”

Intrigued, I call. My first question: Hey, uh, why the fax?

The Cheapskate: “We’re not allowed to make long-distance calls here at my place of employment. But they didn’t say anything about making long-distance faxes.”

A cold stone grows in my stomach.

The Cheapskate gets down to business: “I want to build a Roubo workbench, but I’m tight on fundage. We’ve got these pallets where I work, and I’m wondering if those will work? I don’t know what the species is – something weird – and the stock is thin and filled with nails and spiral screw things.”

I am certified in counseling The Pallet People. So I know what to do.

Question: What sort of sizes can you get from the pallets?

The Cheapskate: “About 1/2” thick, 4” wide and 48” long.”

Me: So for an 8’-long bench, you will need almost 100 of those pieces just for the benchtop. You will need to de-nail them, flatten them and glue them together in stages that are staggered – probably about 18 to 20 stages – if I remember right from my Pallet People Intervention Manual.

The Cheapskate: “Brilliant! Thanks so much! I’ll do it!”

A few weeks pass; another fax arrives.

The Cheapskate: “I’m working on the benchtop, and I have a technical question for you. How little glue do I need to use to stick these pieces together? I mean, I’m trying to recover all the squeeze-out, but I’ve laminated seven layers so far and used up a 16 oz. bottle of glue. That’s crazy.

“Can I get away with just gluing a little bit at the top and bottom of each board – leaving the middle dry?”

Me: I explain that glue is the cheapest part of any project. (“Not this one!” he interjects. “So far I’ve spent money only on glue!”) Deep breath. OK, I say, if you use this strategy, once you flatten the benchtop a few times the top will delaminate.

There is silence on the phone line. (I’ve won!)

Then he answers: “What if I put a paste of rice and water in the middle instead of glue? I’ve heard that rice glue was used in Japanese cultures. We have a lot of rice.”

I unplug the office fax machine.


The Cheapskate sends me an email: “I need to make a face vise and a tail vise, but all I have on hand is all-thread rod from a neighbor’s fencing job – 32 tpi. Can you help?”

I am seriously considering counseling for myself when a follow-up email arrives. It continues the discussion of the 32 tpi vises.

The Cheapskate: “I’m thinking a quick-release mechanism is the way to go – 32 tpi is really slow. But it’s super precise! So here’s the thing.  I have a friend with a SawStop. He set the thing off when ripping my benchtop for me (some of the glue wasn’t dry). The SawStop cartridge has these strong blue springs in it. He was going to THROW THEM AWAY! That got me thinking: I could use those as a quick-release trigger for my vise – holding a bit of metal against the all-thread.

“Have you ever seen plans for something like this?”

Weeks pass, and I hope The Cheapskate has taken up Animal Husbandry, cheaping out on animal condoms or something. But then I get a phone call.

The Cheapskate: “I see you’re teaching a workbench class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking.”

Me: Yup.

The Cheapskate: “I was wondering: Could you get a student to take videos of your lectures and send them to me? Not the building part. Just the part where you explain how to make the thing. I don’t really have the fundage to take a class.”

Me: I’m afraid that’s not really fair to the students or the owner of the school. Sorry.

The Cheapskate: “Hey, I totally understand. How about I just come to the class and watch? Is that OK? I won’t build anything. I’ll just be there, like a fly on the wall to listen? That OK?”

— Christopher Schwarz, editor, Lost Art Press
Personal site:

Next up: Workbench Personality No. 4: The Best of Everything

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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27 Responses to Workbench Personality No. 3: The Cheapskate

  1. Ron Michaelsen says:

    Could you please build me the highest quality Roubo workbench and ship it to me in California? I’d really like one but all my money is tied up in tools. That would be an awesome Christmas present from you. Happy Hanukkah!


    • Me too! …and please throw in the Roubo de luxes and Hayward series along with a couple of hold fasts and dividers – that would be awesome. By the way – I lost the number for the shipping company, so if you’d please take care of that too, you’re a star!


  2. Aaron says:

    Whew! When I saw the title of this post I thought that perhaps finally I was implicated! But lol this takes the cake for cheapness!


  3. Anthony says:

    This has to be true, even you couldn’t make up something sp pathetic.


  4. Salko Safic says:

    I have never thankfully met someone like that in my life. I sincerely hope he read this post and realises just how, well you know what I mean.


  5. bloksav says:

    Some of my best builds are made out of pallet wood, but I guess I am sort of cheap..


  6. Tom Bittner says:

    I see you’ve met my brother in law.


  7. fitz says:

    Multiple snorts!


  8. Bob Jones says:

    I’ve read both of your blogs for years and this series is the best by far. If I were you I would have cut public email years before you did. I can’t handle this much stupid.


  9. Oh man! This guy is my hero!


  10. wilburpan says:

    $300 is, well, you know.


  11. Justin says:

    These write-ups are fantastic. I’ve only had the bug for a few years and I can relate to each of these profiles. If in fact you were as accommodating in these situations as your articles state, you’re a more patient man than me. I look forward to reading the next one.


  12. Scott Stewart says:

    That is hilarious…I have spent some time as a “pallet people” but in my defence I live in the subarctic where pallets are the only hardwood..anyway as the young people say LMAO!


  13. davevaness says:

    I swear I must have worked with this guy. We would take turns bring in donut on Fridays. When is was Jon’s turn he would bring a box of Hostess donuts that he got at the day old store. Before he took them out he would count who was there and take any extra out of the box so no one got more than one. The only way anyone got a meal out of him was to stick their finger down his throat!.


  14. Martin Green says:

    I hope the cheapskate didn’t have “shifty eyes”


  15. Quercus Robur says:

    Even before reading the yet-to-be-published personalities, I can personally attest that this is 100% true. They do exist, every single one of them.


  16. Doug Plummer says:

    Smoke meat Low and Slow


  17. I just can’t help but wonder if he reimbursed his friend for the cost of the SawStop cartridge. That would drive the cost of his bench significantly. I read this post to my wife and we both could not stop laughing.


  18. Brian Lee says:

    Iove these! How do I subscribe to the series?


  19. obewank says:

    I have been to about 10 of Kelly Mehler’s classes in Berea-including two of yours – and I think I have met all of the folks you have mentioned !


  20. Keith says:

    Now I really understand why you dropped your public e-mail address.


  21. Richard Sutton says:

    This is why I only discuss projects with my dog. I feel like I worked for this man, on every job for forty years.


  22. Steve Kirincich says:

    Still waiting for the quality, bargain-priced workbench from Harbor Freight!


  23. bobbarnettpe says:

    I loved it. Bless your heart for having to deal with these people. Of course if you didn’t you wouldn’t have great stories to tell.


  24. Joe says:

    So, did this person ever finish his bench?


  25. True cheapskates, like the one mentioned in Chris’ post, take two-ply toilet paper and roll one ply onto an empty roll. Two for one!


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