Whether you're hanging crown molding, tinkering in the garage or repairing something on your vehicle, having a horizontal surface to place tools or other parts on is an absolute necessity. But it always seems this space is in short supply and you end up setting things on the floor or making a precarious workbench out of an old piece of plywood. (Been there, done that.) Fortunately, there's an easy and affordable solution to this problem and it's called the Centipede.
Collapsible and incredible
Manufactured by a company called Bora Tool, this portable workbench is absolutely ingenious. For starters, it weighs just a few pounds and is about as easy to carry as a laptop bag. The Centipede also collapses down to almost nothing, yet it can support a huge amount of weight.
The example tested here happens to be a 2-by-4-foot model that's 30 inches high when deployed. Bora also sells 4-by-4 and 4-by-6 variants, as well as a whopping 4-by-8-foot version. For reference, that's the size of a standard sheet of building material like plywood or drywall. Depending on the model, two Centipede heights are offered: 30 inches (like you see here) and 36. For added flexibility, optional risers are available, adding 6 inches of height. There are plenty of other accessories, too, but more on those in a minute.
The Centipede is super compact and light. When folded up, the 2-by-4 unit measures just 6 by 9 by 38 inches and weighs a mere 12.5 pounds, yet when deployed it can support a huge amount of weight, up to 2,500 pounds, which is incredible for something this compact. Of course, larger Centipedes can hold even more: 3,500, 4,500 or even 6,000 pounds, a full 3 tons for the 4-by-8 version. That's enough to support a crew-cab Chevy Silverado 1500 Trail Boss pickup and still have enough capacity for a couple passengers.
A snap to use, plenty of accessories
As tools go, the Centipede couldn't be simpler. The whole thing unfurls in about two seconds, you basically just slide it open, kind of like shaking a tablecloth. The legs telescope as you extend or retract the workbench, while thin metal links triangulate these supports, providing immense strength. Despite looking as flimsy as a box kite, this thing is seriously solid.
Up top, you'll find the so-called P-Tops. These rotating attachment points allow you to quickly affix a range of accessories to the Centipede, everything from non-slip pads to quick clamps to those risers I mentioned earlier.
A fiberboard top is sold as an accessory, too. It's priced at about $80, though honestly, this item should probably be standard as the Centipede is dramatically less useful without it. Sure, you could lay a piece of plywood on top, but it wouldn't be nearly as nice. That working surface attaches to the P-Tops with a series of pins that come up from the bottom and twist into place. While they hold things nice and tight, these locks are a bit kludgy to use and two had to be modified to work as intended because a couple inserts in the top weren't set quite deeply enough.
The 2-by-4-foot Bora Centipede comes with four X-Cups and two quick clamps. The X-Cups are designed to hold 2x4 pieces of lumber (cleverly, either vertically or horizontally) so they're easy to saw or drill. These don't grip the wood all that well, but they're good enough for light-duty work. As for the quick clamps, just stick them through the holes in the tabletop and press down firmly to lock things in place. Again, they're nowhere near as good as a proper clamp, but they should work well enough for many smaller projects.
Non-slip pads are another valuable accessory for this portable workbench. As expected, they pop right into those holes in the tabletop (which should be included in the base price) but these pads prevent parts or projects from sliding around while you're working on them. They seem effective, especially on sensitive things you'd rather not clamp down for risk of marring the surface.
Hooks are another interesting Centipede accessory. These attach to the P-Tops, coming from the bottom up and twisting to lock firmly in place. They're great for storing an extension cord or air hose, rather than having them on the floor where they're a potential trip hazard.
Without question, one of the handiest add-ons you can get for the Centipede are those risers mentioned earlier. They elevate the surface by about 6 inches, bringing it to a more comfortable height. To attach them you have to unbolt the P-Tops with a 19-mm or 3/4-inch socket, install the riser and tighten it down with the included thumb screw and then reattach the P-Tops to the risers. This takes about five minutes to do, but it's dead-simple to figure out, just make sure not to overtighten the nuts or thumb screws -- you definitely don't need a ratchet to do this. Everything is plastic and the threads could strip if you're not careful, so be aware.
You need a Centipede workbench
Considering its strength, versatility and featherweight construction, you might expect the Centipede portable workbench to cost a young fortune, but it doesn't. This entry-level version goes for just about $90, while the most-expensive variant -- that 4-by-8 model -- is a little more than $200. Accessories are very reasonably priced, too, and there are many more available than what was covered here.
The Centipede is one of the most ingenious tools to come out in a long time. Thanks to its lightweight construction and incredible strength this portable workbench is a tremendous asset for any do-it-yourselfer. Sure, that tabletop should be included and we experienced some fitment issues with the locking pins, but overall the Centipede is 95% there, so it's still an excellent buy and a tremendous value.