Introduction: Customizable Work Bench

TLDR; Go to my blog post to use my interactive, mobile-friendly, 3D widget to input your dimensions and instantly generate a materials list and cut list for your customized workbench. Follow the rest of the steps for instructions assembling the workbench.



I've been getting my garage into shape to be able to work on all kinds of projects. I anticipate doing all sorts of making from coding, to soldering electronics, to woodworking, to 3D printing and other CNC projects. Over the last fews years, I've accumulated some fun toys such as a MakerBot Replicator 2 (won in an Instructables contest), a Pocket NC 5-axis desktop CNC machine (traded for some programming work) and some other more common tools such as a soldering iron and other traditional tools. I'd like to have access to these tools on my work bench while still having plenty of room to work. I'd also like to be able to work standing up or sitting down, so I figured a standing desk with a stool would be the way to go.

A friend of mine made some standing work benches for his shop that I liked but were not quite as deep as I wanted. I figured a 3 foot deep work bench would work great. I always like to have a programming component to my projects, so I adapted my friend's design to be an interactive OpenJSCAD widget which allowed me to set the depth along with any other dimension to my taste. You can play with the widget yourself on my blog post (don't worry, no coding required). It allows you to customize the table to fit your space, to suit your height, or just tweak things to taste. I've read that the ergonomic height for light work is about 3 inches below the height of your elbow, so I made mine 43 inches tall, but you can adjust the height to anything you like. All required boards and exactly how to cut them will be generated for you along with the number of required screws. Give it a try! You can design your own table and follow these instructions for how to assemble it, or just follow along to build the same one that I did.

Thanks for taking a look at my Instructable. Please consider voting for it in the Tables and Desks Contest!

Step 1: Design Your Table

The first step is to design your table! Head over to my blog to use the widget. Note that the widget requires WebGL, which is active by default in all major browser, but your device must support it. It will not work on some older devices.

Once you're on my site, scroll down and you will be presented with an interactive 3D model of the table that we will be building in the following steps. You can adjust the settings for your table and a list of the necessary boards and how to cut them as well as the number of screws will be generated for you below the widget. Just modify the different parameters and click the Update button to get an updated 3D model and materials list. It's even mobile friendly, so you can pull it up on your phone or tablet rather than printing anything off. Here's a description of each parameter:

Table Width - The total width that your table will take up. Have a specific space in mind and an 8ft table just won't quite make it? Adjust this to the exact size for your space (max of 8 feet).

Table Height - Not 6'1"? Want a sitting desk rather than a standing bench? Adjust this to match your height needs. I recommend 3" below your elbow when standing for light work (soldering, small assembly) or 6" below your elbow for heavy work. This is the measurement from the ground to the top face of your table.

Table Depth - Want to use a whole 8'x4' sheet of plywood for your table top? Just half? Adjust this value to change the depth of your table to match your needs.

Backboard - Check this box if you want a backboard with a shelf on top. The backboard leaves a 3-1/2" gap between the peg board and the table top (so a 2" gap that cords can fit through). The shelf above the peg board also has a 2" gap between the frame and the shelf so cords can easily be run down to the table. Leave this unchecked if you just want a table.

Shelf Height - This measurement determines exactly how tall your shelf will be from the ground up. Keep in mind how deep your table is. While I can readily reach things on my shelf, I made it a little too tall to easily reach the power strips that I mounted to the top of the frame. This height and the table height determine the height of the peg board. The default settings make the peg board come out to 24" tall, exactly half a 8'x4' sheet.

Shelf Depth - How deep the shelf will be. The default value of 11.875" allows for both the 36" table top and shelf to be cut from a single sheet of 8'x4' plywood with an 1/8" kerf (saw blade thickness). Setting this to 0 will remove the shelf and the Shelf Height measurement will represent the height of the backboard frame instead.

Overhang - Suggested in the comments. This allows for you to design the plywood sheet to hang off the front of your table for easier clamping and sweeping debris off the table top.

After designing the table how you'd like it, follow the rest of these instructions for how to assemble your customized version of the table. If you don't want to go through the trouble of using the widget, the dimensions for the 2x4s, plywood and peg board as well as the number of required screws are listed in the images above.

Step 2: Tools

Next, gather your tools! These are the tools I used in this project:

Miter saw - Used to cut the 2x4s.

Impact Driver - Used to screw everything together.

Tape Measure - Used to measure everything. This one is especially thick, which allows it to span 11 feet or more while unsupported.

Combination square (optional) - The combination square was helpful when marking off lengths and getting a 45 degree mark. This one was a gift and is rather pricey, but there are suitable alternatives for less than $15.

Step 3: Cut Your Materials

Cut all your boards using the dimensions generated by the table widget (see step 1 for the dimensions I used). Everything will be labeled A-K or A-F if you don't want a backboard. The boards labeled F have two 45 degree cuts on the ends and the boards labeled I have a 45 degree cut on one end as pictured above. Your local hardware store may be able to cut the plywood and peg board for you (that's what I did).

Step 4: Build Table Top

Lay out the frame of the table top using boards labeled A and B and start screwing everything together, 2 screws per joint. I used 3" screws. The distance between supports varies depending on your configuration (see dimension I, in my case 23-5/8"), but they will be no more than 2 feet apart and are evenly spaced.

Next, place your plywood sheet labeled C on top, square it up with the frame you just built and screw it down. I used 2-1/2" screws to secure the plywood. I put a screw in at the edge of every support (just over from them, so I didn't hit the screws that were already in).

Step 5: Attach Legs

Next make each leg, by screwing together the 4 pairs of 2x4s labeled D using three 3" screws each. Flip the table top over, as we'll be attaching the legs with it upside down, but don't screw the legs in yet.

Before attaching the legs to the table top, we need to attach the crossing supports labeled E and F. Layout two legs, along with the cross supports as shown in the photo using spare pieces of 2x4 as spacers. The 45 degree cuts should be flush with the top of the leg. The height of the top of board E should match dimension II (by default 24-3/4"). Sink two 3" screws through the legs (D) into the horizontal joist (E). Sink two screws through each leg (D) into the 45s (F), one 2-1/2" and one 3" along. Attach each leg to the table with four 2-1/2" screws (2 on each side that the leg connects to the table). Once the legs have been fastened to the table, sink an additional 2-1/2" screw and 3" screw through the horizontal joist into each of the 45s. I made the mistake of fastening everything together before attaching the legs, and had to take out screws to fit the legs into the table top. The screws into the 45s, though, aren't accessible once the legs are in, so leave those in or use longer screws that can go through everything.

Step 6: Attach Backboard and Shelf

Now for the backboard. You'll need the 2x4s labeled G, H and I, plywood labeled J for the shelf and peg board labeled K.

Lay out your G and H 2x4s to start framing out the backboard. Space the joists using dimension I (in this case 23-5/8"). Screw everything together, using 2 screws per stud. I used 3" screws.

Place boards labeled I next to each joist that you just screwed together and attach them each with three 2-1/2" screws. The top of each shelf support should be 4-1/4" from the top of the frame. Once the plywood shelf is placed on top, there will be a 2" gap for power cords to fit through.

Set the plywood labeled J in place and attach it using two 2-1/2" screws per support. Then attach the peg board labeled K, using three 2-1/2" screws per support.

If you have a friend handy, this would be a good time to grab them. Lift the whole backboard assembly onto to table with the peg board down and the shelf hanging off the edge. Tip the backboard up, and get it flush with the back of the table. Hold it in place while you tack it in place with a 4" screw in the middle. Place two 4" screws on either side of each support, angling one of them back so they both are secured into the table's back 2x4 or into one of the joists.

Step 7: Fill It Up With Tools!

The last step is to fill your work bench up with tools! I also put two 4' power strips along the top, so it's easy to get to power anywhere on the bench. The chords can feed down through the gap in the shelf through the gap at the bottom to any devices on the table. Here's how mine turned out. This is the stool pictured above. It raises high enough to work well as a seat even with my 43" tall table top.

Thanks for reading along, I hope you enjoyed it! Please consider voting for my Instructable in the Tables and Desks Contest.

Comments

author
blspringer made it! (author)2017-07-24

What type of wood did you use for the 2x4's

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MichaelK553 made it! (author)2017-07-04

Outstanding design and instructions. Thank you so much. This was perfect in my recently cleaned up garage. Fit great under my new shelves. I didn't build the shelf as I already had the shelves above. The light I added was added to the shelves. All in all a great combo and I really appreciate the how easily customizable the design was.

Well done!

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allwinedesigns made it! (author)allwinedesigns2017-07-05

Looks fantastic, Michael, well done!

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pawtanwar made it! (author)2017-01-09

Loved it! and also congrats for being the finalist

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allwinedesigns made it! (author)allwinedesigns2017-01-09

Thank you!

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maustin65 made it! (author)2017-01-08

Really solid workbench! Dare I say even over engineered haha, but in a great way. Made a couple minor changes, main one being that I shortened the crossing supports so that instead of overlapping on the horizontal joist, they meet on the outside. I did this to leave room to add one more shelf below the main workbench area, probably 72" x 18". I also did not make the 45 degree cuts on the shelf supports mainly out off visual preference. Decided to cut slots into the peg board so that it went all the way to the top as well. Minor changes, structurally followed it all the way and it turned out awesome. Only took a few hours with some help from buddies during assembly. Thanks for the great set of plans!

workbench 1.jpgworkbench 2.jpgworkbench 4.jpgworkbench 3.jpg
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allwinedesigns made it! (author)allwinedesigns2017-01-08

Awesome! Thanks for sharing. I'm regretting making the 45 degree cuts on the shelf now. After thinking a little about lighting, I'd like to put a second plywood sheet screwed to the bottom of them to give a small, divided shelf along with a flat surface along the length of the table for led strips to go. I think I'll still go for it, but I think the 45s will look a bit strange.

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maustin65 made it! (author)maustin652017-01-08

Yup, I was considering lighting too, either a few smaller ones and drill holes through the shelf supports for wiring, or something like you said. Fun project

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zooms99 made it! (author)2017-01-05

Great design. I've been looking at diy workbenches and I love your approach. Would you mind sharing the code? I'm not a programmer, but I use openSCAD at work a lot and I would love to see how you layout you code. I'm just YouTube taught, so seeing how someone else approaches things would be helpful. Thanks for all your hard work, this is definitely one of the best instructable I've seen.

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allwinedesigns made it! (author)allwinedesigns2017-01-05

It's implemented in OpenJSCAD which is a little different than OpenSCAD. The code is all on Github. You can interactively play with the code here:

https://allwinedesigns.github.io/OpenJSCAD.org/

Or look at the code directly here:

https://github.com/AllwineDesigns/OpenJSCAD.org/bl...

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DBMatic made it! (author)2017-01-03

Great job on the instructions jallwine! Made the table portion and will be working on the backboard as time permits.

Workbench Bottom.jpgWorkbench Top.jpg
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allwinedesigns made it! (author)allwinedesigns2017-01-03

Nice work! Thanks for sharing pictures.

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idkwat2namme made it! (author)2016-12-16

Just curious about the cut list algorithm. Does it do any optimizing? Are the pieces A-F hard coded in order and when the pieces no longer fit on the board the algo starts a new board?

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allwinedesigns made it! (author)allwinedesigns2016-12-16

The labels A-F are assigned by which part they are and the cut list algorithm doesn't know anything about the labels (they're looked up later by length). There are two greedy algorithms performed and which ever takes fewer boards is displayed. The first sorts all the required boards by length then assigns them in order to a 96" board until no more can fit. It continues that process until everything has been cut. The second figures out every combination of cuts that could work for a 96" board and sorts them by the minimum waste, performs the cuts for the one with the least waste, then updates the list given what we still need and continues the process. Usually, the first one needs the fewest number of boards, but sometimes the second does a better job. One example of it picking the second option happens when the only option you change from the default is the shelf depth. Set it to 0 the second algorithm requires fewer boards.

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idkwat2namme made it! (author)idkwat2namme2016-12-21

You have my vote. Very impressive! I will be making one of these soon for the basement workshop.

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allwinedesigns made it! (author)allwinedesigns2016-12-21

Thanks idkwat2namme!

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Jimmy Daniels made it! (author)2016-12-19

Hope you win John, well done sir.

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allwinedesigns made it! (author)allwinedesigns2016-12-19

Thanks, Jimmy!

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dbenedetto made it! (author)2016-12-17

AWESOME!!!! Voted!

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allwinedesigns made it! (author)allwinedesigns2016-12-17

Thanks @dbenedetto!

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FrancescoK2 made it! (author)2016-12-15

This is great! A button to convert everything in metric would be just perfect!

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allwinedesigns made it! (author)allwinedesigns2016-12-16

I've been putting some thought into that. The way its implemented right now its a little tricky to change the values in the parameter inputs on the fly (I'm sure I can figure that out, though). The tricky part is that this was designed around the fact that a 96" 2x4 is very common. In places where metric is the dominate measurement system, are they the same size just listed in metric? Or say, is the most common board 4cm x 9cm x 2.5m (I just threw those numbers out as they're the closest round numbers to what a 2x4 converts to in metric)?

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FrancescoK2 made it! (author)FrancescoK22016-12-16

The imperial 2x4 is indeed very popular, I see it popping up pretty much everywhere. There are lots of metric boards which come pretty close to a 2x4 but AFAIK there really isn't one that is more widespread than the others.

BTW shouldn't a 2x4 convert to 50mm x 100mm ??

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allwinedesigns made it! (author)allwinedesigns2016-12-16

A 2x4 is actually 1.5" x 3.5". How about the length of the board? The cut list can differ significantly if the boards are less that 96". Ideally, I'd put in the most common length, but I could just leave the actual dimensions exactly how they are and just allow you to enter the desired units in metric and display the cuts in metric, even though I'll still be assuming the board dimensions are the standard imperial dimensions.

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DirkS36 made it! (author)DirkS362016-12-16

Not sure if this is true in other countries that use the metric system, but in the Netherlands the largest boards are typically listed as 244cm long (so, exactly 96").

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cchubb made it! (author)2016-12-15

I love the online cut calculator. Only suggestion I would make from experience is to input 34" as the depth of the workbench, then cut the plywood at 36" wide so you have a 2" overhang on the front edge. You might even want to make the workbench 32" deep for a 4" overhang. Then you can clamp things directly to the bench and it's much easier to sweep things off into your hands.

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allwinedesigns made it! (author)allwinedesigns2016-12-15

Alright, I added the overhang feature to the widget. Let me know what you think!

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cchubb made it! (author)cchubb2016-12-16

Wow, that was quick! Bravo!

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allwinedesigns made it! (author)allwinedesigns2016-12-15

Thanks @cchubb! I actually ran into this problem just the other day. I wanted to clamp something but the plywood+2x4 was too thick. A little late for me, but that's a great idea to add to the widget. I'll definitely put an overhang amount!

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TheOtherHank1 made it! (author)2016-12-16

I just played around with the widget. The overhang calculation seems to be a bit quirky. When I say that the table should have a depth of 36" and an overhang of 2", it makes the table 38" deep. To my mind it seems like it should keep the table depth 36" but make the frame under the tabletop be 34". I can work around it by making the table 34" with an overhang of 2", but that seems inelegant.

I've been looking for a table design to build and this seems like the one.

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allwinedesigns made it! (author)allwinedesigns2016-12-16

Ok, the overhang behavior should be how you described now. I did some quick testing, but if you see anything wrong, please let me know!

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allwinedesigns made it! (author)allwinedesigns2016-12-16

Thanks for the feedback, Hank! I think your suggestion makes much more sense. I'll fix that.

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algoritmos made it! (author)2016-12-16

Really enjoyed. Where did you buy the magnifying glass and the lamp, which model or reference?

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allwinedesigns made it! (author)allwinedesigns2016-12-16

I responded above, but for other's reference: http://www.joann.com/ottlite-13w-desk-lamp-with-ma...

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AndreL29 made it! (author)2016-12-15

I would suggest that lights be installed underneath the overhang.

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algoritmos made it! (author)algoritmos2016-12-16

An LED strip would look cool, I did it on my workbench, but I liked that magnifying glass and lamp with the pivoting arm.

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allwinedesigns made it! (author)allwinedesigns2016-12-15

That's on my todo list!

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calummmmm made it! (author)2016-12-16

Really beautiful and simplistic design :) I'm stuck in a tiny shared apartment and bursting with inspiration and the need for my own workbench! This model is perfect and I appreciate you going through the effort to make the widget (what programme did you use by the way?)

As the instructables community has pointed out the wall mounted tool rack, LED lighting and overhang are little tips I'd love to include - so thanks everyone for chipping in.

If I do happen to move out of my 0.25m^2 box of a room, this shall be the first project I tackle. Thanks for posting!

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allwinedesigns made it! (author)allwinedesigns2016-12-16

The widget is an adaptation of OpenJSCad: http://openjscad.org/

All the source code is on GitHub: https://github.com/AllwineDesigns/OpenJSCAD.org

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allwinedesigns made it! (author)allwinedesigns2016-12-16

Thanks @calummmmm! I hope you're able to find space for a workbench soon!

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Nakedgolfer made it! (author)2016-12-15

Nice looking work bench. I have something similar, but because of a lack of space, I used an inside door frame with the door as my bench. When I need to use the bench I simply turn the doorknob and it opens down to a usable height. I also added legs with hinges that fold up when I close the bench.

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allwinedesigns made it! (author)allwinedesigns2016-12-15

Interesting, I used to use an inside door as a work table as well. It's a very affordable way to get a large surface. I hadn't thought to actually use the whole door frame through, very creative!

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FlorinJ made it! (author)2016-12-15

I've built myself something similar, already a few years ago. Only, the pegboard I have suspended on the wall, un-attached to the table. When I hammer on the table, I don't need all tools on the pegboard to start shaking. I also use a shelving rack built from scraps to keep tools, rather than keeping them on the table, for the same reason. (Constantly moving the portable table saw/miter saw/thickness planer/drill stand/table grinder on and off the table also helps staying fit.)

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allwinedesigns made it! (author)allwinedesigns2016-12-15

That's a good call. I'll keep that in mind for when I need a more heavy duty station (this one is more for light assembly/soldering/planning). For those in your position, where you wouldn't want the peg board attached to the table, the widget provides a check box that allows you to disable the backboard.

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MrM37 made it! (author)2016-12-15

Great Bench looking forward to having a go!

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allwinedesigns made it! (author)allwinedesigns2016-12-15

Thanks @MrM37! Let me know how it turns out :)

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DanielW208 made it! (author)2016-12-15

This is great. This is very similar to what I was envisioning in my mind. Thanks for sharing (and I love the widget). Do you mind provinding the rough cost of the materials?

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allwinedesigns made it! (author)allwinedesigns2016-12-15

Thanks Daniel! I'd say it's right around $100 in materials.

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TeresaM7 made it! (author)2016-12-15

Number 187 on my I NEED TO DO THIS list. Dang. I need to be two people!

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Bio: I've been a software developer my whole life, studied computer science with a focus on 3D graphics in college, was an effects artist for ... More »
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