Introduction: Freestanding Workbench With POWER!
I needed a workbench. Which is a straightforward process of buy wood, cut wood, build bench, add clutter. Unfortunately for me, my current situation is much more complicated. I'm using the basement as a temporary workspace until I get a few weekends to build out the garage. Whatever I build needs to be portable enough to easily be moved out to the garage when the time comes. Because the walls in my basement are old and bowed, I can't attach anything to them, so this needs to be freestanding. At this point, I decided to go all in and design this bench to use a folding table as it's base. My thought being it would take some of the complexity out of the project, making it more approachable for a beginner and combined with being wholly freestanding, would make this a great project for someone in a lease or apartment.
I apologize for the lack of photos, but I made up for it with TWO VIDEOS!!!
Step 1: Cutting It to Size
This can be built using 2x2s, 2x3s or 2x4s. I couldn't find straight 2x2s or 2x3s, so I ended up having to rip 2x6s down. If you're lucky enough to find straight 2x3s or 2x4s, use them and don't worry about it.
The dimensions of your work bench are based on the dimensions of your table. Mine was 8 feet long by 29" wide, so I decided to make my bench top 36" long. A little over hang in one direction won't be an issue and it will let you add holes for bench dogs or bolt something like a drill press down to the table top without issue.
For the bench top and tool wall, I used 3/8" OSB. Feel free to sub in another material, but at $8 for a standard sized sheet it's tough to beat. 3/8" is the minimum thickness I would recommend, anything thinner than that won't stand up to any abuse.
For the tool wall, I kept mine at 4' tall, feel free to size however you'd like. Remember though, tools take up more space than you'll think. No one ever felt like they had too much storage.
Step 2: Framed!
The design for the bench and tool wall is simply two boxes stacked at right angles to each other. Building it is a straight forward affair. I used pocket holes and screws, or through holes and screws to connect everything together.
For the tool wall, you'll construct a perimeter frame and screw the OSB into it using 1 1/4" screws. The OSB acts as a brace to keep everything solid. Use the factory cut edge as a reference when you're assembling to make sure the OSB will mount flush. To make sure the frame is square measure the diagonals (from one corner across to the other corner). If those numbers are the same, or within an 1/8", the frame is square. Screw the OSB into the frame with screws spaced every 12-16 inches.
The bench top is built the same way as the tool wall, the only difference is you'll place the framing pieces on their side. This gives a bit more surface area to screw into and makes for a lower overall height. The bench top also has three additional cross pieces, spaced evenly, that make for a more robust work surface.
Step 3: Upsy-daisy
This can be done by yourself, but a helping set of hands will make this much easier.
The tool wall is mounted vertically along the long side, flush with the edge of the work surface, with the OSB facing away from the bench top (you'll see why in a minute). Use a couple pieces of wood to brace the sides, this keeps everything stable and upright. For a little extra insurance,, use 2 1/2" screws spaced every 12-16" to secure the frame of the tool wall to the frame of the bench top. Between that and the braces, you now have a stable and secure work area! Congratulate yourself, you've earned it.
Step 4: Let's Get Organized.
I used 1x2 strapping and bamboo skewers to make the majority of my tool holders. I'd recommend this approach for anyone for two key reasons: Low cost and adaptability. An eight foot section of 1x2 strapping costs $1.50 USD and a pack of 100 bamboo skewers costs less than a dollar. You can quickly build a holder for any of the tools you own for what amounts to a few cents. If it doesn't work, you're only out a few cents and a few minutes time. I won't go into detailed measurements, as your requirements will be different than mine but I will touch on the general principles for the different types of holders.
A drill press will make this hole process much simpler and more consistent, but you can get by with handheld drill.
The basic concept is you have pegs sticking up at a slight angle (20-30 degrees) out of a piece of 1x2, spaced far enough apart to easily grab any one tool. The slight incline keeps your tools from falling off when you bump or jostle the bench. For most hand tools, the bamboo pegs will be more than adequate. A few scraps of 1x2 with an angled cut will handle anything larger or bulkier.
The trick is to keep the lengths short, no longer than 3 inches for the bamboo; six for the 1x2s. This will keep everything strong. Using the 1x2 as a base lets you move groups of tools around the board easily.
Step 5: The Basic Holder
The basic idea behind the majority of the tool holders is a peg with an upward angle poking through a piece of wood. By themselves, each peg can hold a single tool (wrenches or sockets for example). Paired together they can hold almost anything (socket wrenches or driver extensions).
Simply lay out the set of tools you want to hang, and space them fairly evenly apart. Take a rough measurement with a generous margin and then cut a piece of 1x2 to match. Mark where you want the tools to hang, still spaced evenly, and then drill the holes.
A drill press makes this a snap. Simply set up a guide on your table and then stack millwork shims (the kind used for squaring up door and window frames) until you get the angle you like. I used three but four would be better. A hand drill held at a slight angle will accomplish the same thing, but the results won't be as uniform.
Step 6: Hammers and Saws, Oh My.
Bamboo is incredibly strong. A few small pieces can hold a large hammer with no issue. This is just a variation of the basic holder, but the pegs are spaced out to fit around the handle of the hammer. The only difference is in the mounting. Instead of placing screws at each end of the mounting block, place them inline with the hammer. I doubt it makes a real difference on such a small piece, but having the fastener behind the weight of a hammer seems stronger.
Saws get a similar treatment as the hammer. I used the handle of the saw as my reference point and spaced the pegs out to the inside edges of the handhold. Then, you angle the holder until the saw is in a good position.
Step 7: Arranging and Hanging
Now with hangers made for all your tools, it's time to start... hanging them.
This is where a careful consideration of what you like to work on and which tools you use most often. Despite my first three instructables, I'm not actually a woodworker. I lean towards more mechanical hobbies. For me, having my wrenches and sockets front and center was key. Everything else would fit around that. Your bench will probably look different. Having the ability to easily and quickly move and organize the space is where the real advantage of this system comes into play. Apart from the strength advantages, this is really why I chose this over pegboard or slat walls.
Step 8: Now Make Things!
With an organized workspace, the possibilities to create are near endless! Having my tools in sight, organized in a way that makes sense to me, I've been able to accomplish more in the last month than ever before.
Sharp-eyed readers will notice the hangers for my pliers and my screwdrivers, and wonder why I didn't include how to build them. I'm not happy with the design I chose, so I'm going to remake them.
Now go build wonderful things!
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