Introduction: 2x4 Mega Bench

Picture of 2x4 Mega Bench

I decided to make this workbench out of 2x4's because I needed something stable and strong enough to take a lot of abuse. Also, for the cost, it's "cheaper" and stronger than just about anything you can buy.

In this instructable I'll direct the reader through a step-by-step process on how to replicate this project and even offer a few tips on how to save you a lot of time!

Step 1: Tool, Supplies, and Costs

Tools:

  • Planer
  • Miter Saw
  • Circular Saw
  • Drill
  • Hand Planer
  • Sander
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Safety Gear


Supplies:

2x4's, 32 @ $2.78 ea.

Carriage Bolts, 8 @ $1.00 ea.

Rod Coupling Nuts, 8 @ $1.30 ea.

Rubber Furniture Cups, 8 @ $3.00

Pack of Hot Glue Sticks, 1 @ $6.00

Box of 2.5" Screws, 1 @ $15.00

Simpson Tie plates, 16 @ $0.60 ea.

Wood Varnish, 1 @ $16.00

Wood Glue, 1/3 gal @ $30.00 gal

Total Costs: $186.96

Time to complete project: about 8 working hours (2 days when accounting for drying time of glue)

***Note: Following a tip later in this instructable would cut this time in half***

Step 2: Safety First!

Picture of Safety First!

Whenever working with power tools, safety gear and protocols should always be strictly adhered to. I tend to learn things the hard way, but I'm sure you're smarter than that.

Step 3: Prepping the Wood

Picture of Prepping the Wood

Take a little time to square up the sides of each 2x4 to help improve contact area for gluing in the next step. I suggest doing this for all 4 sides of the boards since most lumber has a fair amount of defects.

Step 4: Gluing

Picture of Gluing

  1. Divide your boards in to even number groups.
  2. Each group should have the same crowning (bow in the same direction). Get them to be as uniform as possible.
  3. Once organized, begin applying a liberal amount of glue to the top surface of the first board then stacking the second on top of it. Repeat this process until the last board is stacked (no need for glue on the last board).
  4. Apply pipe clamps approximately every foot, alternating from top to bottom.
  5. Double check to make sure the boards are still aligned before fully tightening the clamps.
  6. Make sure each clamp is very tight by going back and re-tightening them several times following a pattern of starting in the middle and working outward.
  7. Allow 24 hours to dry

Repeat this step for each group

***TIP: Check your local lumber yard. Often times they have an industrial size planer you can use for a nominal fee. In my case, the local lumber store would run my boards through their 35" planer for only $15. I discovered this after the fact, but doing this would have saved a lot of time. I could have cut out the next 3 steps and had it all done in 1 with a perfect finish!!***

Step 5: Plane Each Section

Picture of Plane Each Section

Once the the glue has dried, run each section through the planer, both top and bottom.

Keep track of the final thickness of each section. They need to match each other by the end.

Note: You'll notice in my pictures that one section is shorter than the others. This was by accident from making 2 trips to home depot and not paying attention. I only realized my mistake after standing them next to each other in this picture.

Step 6: Glue the Sections Together

Picture of Glue the Sections Together
  1. Align the sections together in a way they fit best. Even after all the prep work there will likely be some bowing in each section. Match these as best as you can.
  2. Stand them on the side and apply glue to the surfaces that will connect. Glue only needs to be applied to one of the surfaces that connect together. Most of the glue gets squeezed out so there's no need to waste it.
  3. Secure good alignment between sections and apply the clamps in alternating top and bottom positions.
  4. Allow 24 hours to dry.

Step 7: Hand Plane the Imperfections

Picture of Hand Plane the Imperfections

In the pictures you can see that, despite my best efforts, one section was still 1/8th of an inch off on each end.

A little love from a hand planer will smooth out these joints.

Do this for both sides.

Step 8: Sanding

Picture of Sanding

The love from the planer is a little rough and tends to leave small grooves after each pass. Sanding with progressively finer grits starting with 80 and ending with 250 or so will clean these up nicely.

3 steps in sanding should be plenty and will produce a nice result.

Step 9: Trimming the Ends

Picture of Trimming the Ends

Use a straight edge (level) and square to get a nice line to even out the ends of your bench top.

With a circular saw cut along the line.

Because my blade didn't have the depth needed, I had to repeat this process after flipping the table over.

Step 10: Building Support

Picture of Building Support

I fastened a couple 2x4's together to make a base support to attach legs.

On the underside of the table align these supports and secure them down with some wood glue and a couple of wood clamps.

I used a Kregg jig to help seat in a few screws.

Step 11: Making Legs

Picture of Making Legs

By gluing together a couple of boards and securing them with some screws, I was able to build a few legs.

Note: The supports in the previous step was made this same way.

Step 12: Leg Footings

Picture of Leg Footings

A board was placed on top of the supports and marked underneath to easily assure proper distances between legs.

The legs were then attached to the table using the Simpson Tie Plates. I found these to be very stable in holding the legs in position.

A 1.5" gap was left on the backside of the table to allow space for an additional support (shown in a later step).

Step 13: Cross Supports

Picture of Cross Supports

Additional supports were added to give rigidity to the legs, front to back.

Step 14: Cross Beams

Picture of Cross Beams

These supports were added to the back side of the legs to resist side-to-side motion.

I positioned the boards using clamps and marked off where the cuts needed to be made. It's a little faster and easier than measuring.

Step 15: Foot Holds

Picture of Foot Holds

Under each leg was drilled a hole using a spade bit.

The proper depth needed can be marked off using a piece of tape on the bit.

The rod coupling nuts were then pushed into the holes. These will hold the feet.

Step 16: Make a Few Feet

Picture of Make a Few Feet

With the bolts, furniture cups, and hot glue you'll make some leveling feet for the bench.

Follow this instructable HERE

I was surprised at how well these work. Hot glue doesn't seem strong enough but I'm very happy with the results.

Step 17: A Finished Look

Picture of A Finished Look

I added a soft edge to the table using a palm router just for a little aesthetics.

Step 18: Varnish

Picture of Varnish

I applied a couple coats of varnish to limit the amount of staining and help preserve the natural colors in the wood.

Let dry overnight and it'll be ready to go!

Step 19: Thanks for Reading!

I hope you enjoyed this project. I've put this workbench through a lot of abuse since then so it was worth it! Please feel free to comment and add suggestions for improvements, if needed.

I have many more projects on the way so please follow me if you want to see more. Thanks again!

Comments

theatre_tech_guru (author)2017-04-03

This is awesome I got to call my lumber yards to see if they have a plainer!

mr_marte (author)2017-01-25

Wow, what a beautiful bench! Thanks for all the geat pictures :-)

mb220s (author)2016-12-27

I built a bench when I was 25 from a Better Homes & Gardens Handyman's Book. It probably isn't as rugged as yours but it's served me 54 years. One thing they suggested was to overlay a 1/4" piece of plywood with counter sunk screw holes. Over the years your bench will accumulate gouges, paint, spills, etc. The nice thing about the plywood is that it can be reversed and used over. Nice post!

AllenInks (author)mb220s2017-01-12

or hardboard (Masonite), which doesn't splinter when gouged.

uncle frogy (author)2016-01-28

I have seen benches use hardboard (Masonite) glued to the top to give a good flat hard waring easily replaced surface when using softwood lumber for benchtops.

with a little planing it might even be possible to laminate mortice's for the legs.

great work!

uncle frogy

AllenInks (author)uncle frogy2017-01-12

I have Masonite tops, but they are screwed on using countersunk flat top screws. Never had a problem hitting a screw with a plane or other tool. And this arrangement makes it easier to flip over the Masonite when the first upward facing surface gets all buggered up, and then use the other surface for a few years. Not sure you could do that if the Masonite is glued down.

The only problem is ... it doesn't look as nice as the varnished 2x4s.

AlM6 (author)uncle frogy2016-01-28

If you shellac the masonite it makes it impervious to most liquids.

MathewO (author)2016-01-28

tlp801,

Thank you for posting this. I enjoy seeing people making things like this. You were right to build it heavy and tough.

It looks like you used douglas fir, which is a great choice for workbenches. It's harder and tougher than pine, spruce or hemlock. Of the softwood available in dimensional lumber, it'a the superior wood. I assume you're west of the mississippi. If east, the best choice is southern yellow pine.

It's not really possible to over-build a bench. They take a lot of abuse. One tip I recommend is to always hammer over one of you legs. It doesn't matter how burly the bench.

You did well to have open access to the bottom of the benchtop. This will make clamping much easier. Have you considered dog holes? 3/4" holes run perpendicular through the top. This will allow you to use bench dogs and holdfasts. You can find these in any woodworking catalog, or in specialized woodworking stores. You won't find them in the box stores.

Enjoy.

Ninzerbean (author)MathewO2017-01-03

What do you mean by "hammer over one of your legs"?

tlp801 (author)MathewO2016-01-28

Thank you! I do live in the West. I've considered putting in dog holes but I've never really used them before so I'm not very familiar of how useful it would be. I'll definitely look further into it. I left the bottom open to put in a few drawers... maybe for my next project. :)

HeatherT4 (author)tlp8012016-02-01

I'd love to see how you add drawers!

MathewO (author)tlp8012016-01-28

drawers are good. But leave some space between the top and the drawers. Say, 12" or so. Also, if plan to attach a face vise, you'll need space for that. I don't know, but you look like a woodworker. We woodies have some strong opinions on workbenches. Look up Chris Schwarz. He's written two books on the subject. And has singlehandedly revived interest in old school bench designs from like the 1700s. Just a word of caution, it's a big subject and full of controversy. You've got a great bench. it will serve you well.

MartinG111 (author)2016-12-27

Work bench top

I went to a arcade shop (older ) place... they had a old used shuffle board plank. it came as 16 feet long and was a bank board. meaning the middle 3 feet have a bolge out. I simply cut the plank in half. voola 8 foot bench top..no glue or bolts required. certainly heavy enough. needs reinforced legs but those are the only cost. plank was 0 dollars . they were glad to get rid of it. that wood is HARD!!!.

my solution

Waste Of Space (author)2016-12-27

Good 'ible.

In step (9) Why did you not use the edge of the level to run the saw against?

tlp801 (author)Waste Of Space2016-12-27

Good question. I completed this project back in January of this year (2016) but I believe I used the line for reference then positioned the level as a rail guide for my saw. I'll go back and edit that section to clarify this point. Thank you for the feedback.

ErnestiK1 (author)2016-12-27

I am scratching my head while reading your advice about the crowning direction. I know three professional joiners (including my brother) and they have all use alternative crowning direction. This is to make sure the laminated board will work as it should without minimal twisting while drying. Also, a friend working in a laminated board factory told me that the best class boards were glued with alternating crowning direction and the B class products in what order the happen to land on the base. Being a joiner as well he found the latter very frustrating, of course.

tlp801 (author)ErnestiK12016-12-27

I think you make a very good point. This is only my second project of this type and it looks like I may have made some erroneous assumptions. Thanks for the heads up!!

Dennis Paugh (author)2016-12-27

Real nice ! If you would like tomake it stronger on one of the 2x4 on the leg's cut the with of the 2x4 for your cross over like a jack for a header. Thank you for the poast think I will make one .

Dwargh (author)2016-02-25

A-Ma-Zing, sir! Well planned i'ble! I'll vote for ya!

VictorB58 (author)2016-01-31

Thank you!

kathymccown (author)2016-01-28

I love how you are so specific and use regular language that regular people can understand. I have been thinking about making a regular work bench and this will work just right for me. Although, like one of the others commented, it would be a great dining room table. Just beautiful. Thanks for posting.

sleighbedguy (author)2016-01-28

To expand on what tsallgood said, getting and LVL beam would have saved you a ton of time. I bought one through Home Depot that was 15" wide, 3-1/2" thick and 20' long delivered the next day for $150. They probably even make one close to your final dimension where you wouldn't have to glue it at all. You have to order it through the Pro Desk, and they can get you a quote. The finish wasn't perfect, but the price was far cheaper than I had imagined (a contractor I has contemplating using told me it would be $1000).

It looks great, and I hate to knock your build, but for someone who is contemplating it...they can save a bunch of time on the glue up.

tlp801 (author)sleighbedguy2016-01-28

I heard about those after I was half way into this project. Good suggestion though! I still had a lot of fun putting this together and learned a lot from it. Once I get better at the process I'll probably build a nice dinning room table.

sleighbedguy (author)tlp8012016-01-28

In that vein, look at your local Craigslist to see if they have any bowling alley lanes if you are looking at doing a table. Here is Houston, there is an ad today for $20 a lineal foot. It weighs a ton, but would make an awesome table if you're back is strong enough.

Ken57 (author)2016-01-28

A suggestion for the bench top would be to drill a number of holes aligned with each piece and use threaded rod with nuts & washers to clamp the entire top at one time. Either glue or screw/nail solid lumber to hide the nuts. Then plane and sand. This would allow to replace damaged lumber that is certain to occur over time and use, instead of building an entire bench top again.

tlp801 (author)Ken572016-01-28

I initially planned on using all-thread and bolting them together in addition to the glue but haven't gotten around to doing it. So far it's been holding up great. Doing it without the glue sounds like it would be a great idea though!

JGDean (author)2016-01-28

For anyone interested in edge-gluing panels or making tabletops this way I have to recommend

https://www.instructables.com/id/4-Way-Panel-Clamps...

This is not my idea, but I wish it were. They work fantastic!!!

tlp801 (author)JGDean2016-01-28

Very Nice!! I'm going to have to do that for sure!

dlukasek (author)2016-01-28

Great looking bench! Another method for creating a dead flat surface would be to make a simple router sled which runs along two straight edged boards clamped to each of the long sides. Google "router sled" for many ideas on how to do this.

tlp801 (author)dlukasek2016-01-28

Very good suggestion!! I thought about doing something like that but realized I was going to beat the hell out of it anyways, so having a perfect level wasn't my focus. Looking back, a local hardwood store would put it through their 35" planer for only $15. Now that's worth it! Much less work and still have the perfect finish.

itsmescotty (author)dlukasek2016-01-28

friend of mine and her hubby spent DAYS hand planeing the end grain of an 8" thick piece they cut off of a tree stump to use as a small table. She almost fainted when I told her to use a router sled.

markstutzman (author)dlukasek2016-01-28

This is an excellent suggestion. I've just made one of these router sleds, ostensible for flattening large hardwood slabs, but for the initial test, I'm going to use it to flatten a glued-up 2x4 benchtop similar to what's presented in this Instructable.

dd9927diy (author)2016-01-28

Nice looking workbench. I would hate to use it, because most of my stuff is rough and greasy. So I used old semi trailer flooring, 1 3/8 OAK, and belt sanded it smooth. You can often get sections from a trucking company that is replacing some, you may have to piece it some, but since it is all the same thickness, and has a lap joint, it is easy to work with. With the supply of free, it made me a workbench that I can abuse, and not feel too badly about. Or you can buy it in sections up to 53 feet long, but be prepared for sticker shock. That oak is golden tree.

tlp801 (author)dd9927diy2016-01-28

I agree! After I finished it I thought "this looks too nice to abuse." But I can always build another if I need to. I made a similar workbench from junk pallet wood (also posted here on instructables) and it turned out even better, so I never want to beat on it! Sometimes the weathered wood has the most character!

Here's the link to the other bench I made with pallets:

https://www.instructables.com/id/Palletable-Workbench/

Gerry_D (author)2016-01-28

That's one hell-of-a bench!

If it floats, you can have the beginnings of an aircraft carrier!

Seriously, You did a very fine job and it should last more than your lifetime.

RumBot (author)2016-01-28

Are you landing helicopters on this thing? Or just needed a place to park your tank? What I mean to say is it looks incredibly sturdy. Well done! ;)

anjin12 (author)2016-01-28

Great Job ... I used 4 layers of 1/2 MDF, banded by 2/4 with a 1/8 sacrificial top of press board. Top is damn heavy, but great to work on because of the stability. Ends and sides are 2x6 half lapped at the joints to further increase stability. About 6 months after building it, I cut 4 inches off the bottom and added heavy casters to allow it to rolled around easier in the garage. My first true 'woodworking' project without help from my Dad (grin). Enjoyed making all the dust and chips using the jointer, planer, hand planer, 3 different sanders and 3 types of saws. Great fun.

My one suggestion for you would have been to use a biscuit jointer to ensure alignment of the 3 sections of your table top. But, still, a great project.

patrick.hobbs (author)2016-01-28

There's nothing aside from glue holding the top boards together? Or do the cross members screw into each top board? I'm new to woodworking in general, so I'm just curious how strong that bond is. Would the boards split over time?

A good glue joint is actually stronger than the wood itself. Here's a link to an article on glue strength that Fine Woodworking magazine ran a few years back, which may help enlighten you:

http://www.titebond.com/Libraries/News_Articles/Ho...

Note that the link is from Titebond because the direct link on the FWW magazine site is behind a paywall...

tlp801 (author)patrick.hobbs2016-01-28

Only the glue is holding them together. I do have some screws on the underside but only to attach the legs. I was a little nervous to see it hold all that wood together, but once it's cured it's very strong! From what I've read Titebond is the best woodglue out there. I actually finished this project over the summer but didn't have time to post it on here until just now, but so far everything has held up well to all the abuse!

tsallgood (author)2016-01-28

Tip #2: You could have saved even more time and jumped directly to step #9 using a glulam garage door header. These are basically a stack of already glued up and planed 2x4s but made from a much better grade of lumber. They are available most commercial lumber yards and generally only marginally more expensive than a similar stack of home-center grade 2x4's.

avayan (author)2016-01-28

Well, consider myself instructed! I had a planner and sold it because I was never able to get results like this. Now I know what I was doing wrong (i.e. expecting that the planner was going to miraculously leave a super soft finish on the work.) The table looks mega-gorgeous! Great job!

Peter.Steele (author)avayan2016-01-28

You needed a different planer, then, or some new knives in that one. I've got a Dewalt 734, and except for a little scarfing at the ends it gives me the softest, cleanest face you can even imagine. 220 grit sanding wouldn't leave it any better. It's like petting a bunny or something. It was one of the best purchases I've ever made.

segphoenix (author)2016-01-28

Great idea! I built a similar bench but added an intermediate shelf and used heavy duty locking, rolling wheels available at Tractor Supply so I can move the bench easily.

ILykMakin (author)2016-01-28

Swap out the legs and that would be a killer dining table.

For a boat full of Vikings! #Lengthy!

DavidS531 (author)2016-01-28

Man if I made something this nice, I'd shoot any one who spilled on or damaged it. Nice job but I'm too picky and better stay with used stuff. Great job though.

maritimer95gt (author)2016-01-26

Great write up! Great pics! Thanks for all the effort you put into this instructable.

Mike Kapotsy (author)2016-01-26

Nice looking workbench! Good luck!

Mike Kapotsy (author)2016-01-26

Nice looking workbench! Good luck!

Rco87 (author)2016-01-25

Amazing work! I have been looking into getting a butcher block style table top for my metal frame work bench I built a few years ago, as the plywood top isn't strong enough. After seeing this I think I'll go ahead and try making one myself. Thanks again!

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Bio: My goal with every instructable is to be short & sweet with lots of pictures.
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