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I Forge Iron

layout /work tables

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 One of the most important ''tools '' that I have in my shop are my layout/ work tables. 

The main function is for  laying out and assembling projects as they develop . They are heavy enough to straighten long bars , but I try to minimize the heavy pounding , using  the anvils or heavy platten table for that purpose instead.

These are carefully  set up level  with square corners so that they function as a quick and accurate reference point when forging or fabricating a part to shape.

A finished length   can be marked on the table with soapstone when drawing stock to size or a hole layout can be referenced or a bend or curve laid against a marked line.

The table top is kept clear except for the job and tools at hand with a lower side table to keep parts or additional tools handy but out of the way.

A heavy bottom shelf is handy for storing jigging  materials as well as  cross bars for hanging clamps.

Having electrical outlets wired in near each corner keeps cord clutter to a minimum and there is a solid ground that is permanently mounted directly back to the welder.

Fo large projects it's handy to have two tables set up level with each other   with a gap between them to get access into the middle of a big assembly.

It's handy to have a vise or two near the corners , but mounted off to the side on a separate post and footing so that the whole surface of the table and the edges and corners are kept clear.

Good lights and the jib crane  overhead complete the set up. 

Here are a couple in my shop;



main layout table 82''x 42'' x 1'' plate, weighs about a ton, sits on concrete footings below grade.


36 '' x 48''x  5/8''  plate with grid work of bored and tapped holes. The cheap chinese rotating head vise is set low and is very handy for grinding  , and cutting.

Set same level as main table.


Smaller tables  with various post vises and flypress and next to the forges. These are a place to hold tooling or to do smaller layouts for parts being worked in the vise or press.


5' x 10' x 5'' platten table set up level on heavy foundation. 

The post vise is set so the jaws are below the table top so there is no obstruction for long work. The table top weighs about 5,600# and is bolted to the frame anchored into the foundation.

There's about half  a ton of various tools , clamps , dogs, bending pins ,etc, made to fit  the 2'' square openings in the table.

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I really loved the power hammer pictures of yours and I'm amazed by these, too! Very nicely planned shop, and helpful topics to think about my own workspace. 

Thank you for sharing!

The tool holding solutions around the shop are brilliant - simple, functioning and space-friendly :)

Is the red machine on the second picture an iron-worker?



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You could get by for a while with a heavy wood top with a piece of thinner plate on top.

The main thing is that it is level and flat. If it isn't flat all your work ends up crooked or you are always having to compensate .

Hold the legs back from the corners by the throat depth of your biggest clamps, so you can clamp fences ,stops or the work all around the edges and the corners of the  work surface.

A slight coating of rust on the surface holds a chalked line better than smooth plate and with care, a drawing in soapstone laid out accurately on the tabletop will last the life of the project.

  The red machine in the background in the second photo is a Cleveland 50 ton hydraulic ironworker.

This is really handy for cutting bar stock and flats up to 10'' wide  to length, and punching large holes , shaped holes and slots . 

The coper/notcher station gets used for profiling plate and mitering and notching angle iron and flats.

Being able to do all these kinds of operations by shearing action is so much faster and less painful than drilling or sawing. The hole punch and dies will probably punch up to a thousand holes if not abused .

There's another steel table with a vise behind it for catching cutoffs .  

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  • 4 weeks later...

My table is 5'x10'x1".

That's a ton.

I couldn't be without it for all the reasons give.

Not only the corners, but the edges as well are used.

I never weld on it nor grind on it.

With my tooling I can put a section of railing on the top and with a small post vice and my right angle heading tool pop rivets easily and quickly.

It's a breeze checking for edge bend, twist, bow or whatever.

The steel yard I got it from in '84 told me that all "sheet" steel smaller than 1" came rolled. 1" and larger came flat so no "memory" bow in my table.

Anyone know if this is true? I've never had a reason to doubt this, but it's been in use but that's a long ago memory.

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  • 2 months later...

One way to expand both the size and capability of a layout work table is with wide flange beam sections.

Wide flange or H beam sections are better than I beams in that the flanges are straight in profile rather than tapered so that clamps hold more securely.

I use these if the project at hand is wider than my table or I need to clamp or need access in the middle or underside of the piece.

In some ways this arrangement is better than a full width table in that by standing between the protruding beam ends , you can more comfortably reach into the middle of the table without to bend over so far.

The picture below shows a set up for assembling the frame of a gate. The beams are laid out and clamped to the table square and parallel .

The mortised side bar is clamped at the end of the beam  and the cross bars with tenons are clamped tight to the beam with heavy fitters clamps. The  tenons are headed off with a rounding hammer , a 4 # sledge and a punch, using a OA torch with a big cutting tip run through a gas saver for the heat source.

After the tenons on both sides of the frame are set the  vertical pickets are riveted in using the top of the wide flange and a small block as backing.

Because the table is flat and heavy and the beams are set up square any inaccuracies can be corrected as the work progresses .




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23 minutes ago, beaudry said:

The beams are laid out and clamped to the table square and parallel .

Thank you for this latest addendum to your already enjoyable thread. And as you have reiterated in your last sentence, this is one ideal extension to the concept of the "Layout Table". Elegant and straightforward.

Robert Taylor

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I like it !!!  & think I have 4'' H beam in the pile have to ck that out soon ! better set up then I do ! Well Heck LOL -- PS & you can get a clamp anywhere on the project @ hand with that ! can't do that on a flat table / Man I own you a Beer :)

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