Cheap and Easy Garage Workbench

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Introduction: Cheap and Easy Garage Workbench

I recently wrapped up the construction on my new work surface / workbench in the garage at our new home. The final measurements are 12 feet long, 2 feet deep, with a slightly larger angled corner work area. There was an existing metal cabinet that I wanted to match the bench height to, so the entire work surface is a very comfortable 42" height - which just happens to match the "belly-button height" guideline for building benches, too! The top is a dual-layer construction with a plywood base for stability and a melamine-wrapped OSB work surface for easy cleanup and chemical/water resistance.

Parts list:
4'x8' sheet of 1/2 inch plywood - I had Lowes cut it down to 4x4, 2x4, and 2x4
4'x8' sheet of 3/4 inch OSB (melamine-wrapped) - I had Lowes cut it down to 4x4, 2x4, and 2x4
Multiple 8 foot 2x4s - Cut to various lengths (I think I used a total of 8 or 10 boards)
Small box of 3-inch deck screws
Large box of 2.5-inch deck screws
Small box of 1.25-inch exterior screws

Tools Used:
Tape Measure
Level
Square
Screw Gun
Drill
Jig Saw

Time to Complete:
Roughly 4 hours. It took me a while because I was very careful about leveling, measuring, cutting, and pre-drilling on this project.

Cost to Complete:
Approximately $100 in materials.

*It should be noted that I pre-drilled EVERY hole for this project so that I would not split the 2x4s, the wall studs, or the work surface.*

Step 1: Planning

I did a quick rendering in Google Sketchup to figure out the measurements I wanted for the work surface, and also to get a general idea of how I wanted to brace the underside for strength and stability. The final measurements are not exact to my Sketchup rendering because I chose to do a dual-layer work surface, but the 3d drawing only shows a 1/2" plywood surface.

*It should be noted that I pre-drilled EVERY hole for this project so that I would not split the 2x4s, the wall studs, or the work surface.*

Step 2: Constructing the Base

I started by installing 12 feet of 2x4 to the wall studs in one direction, and 4 feet of 2x4 in the other. I secured these using 3 inch long decking screws. This creates a nice stable platform to build the frame from. I was working alone, so it was a difficult task to keep such long runs of 2x4 level, but it came out quite good.

After installing the "headers" to the wall studs, I installed the 2x4 cross members that connect the front face to the rear header. I toe-nailed these pieces using 2.5 inch deck screws. After making sure everything was square and level, I installed leg extensions to the front of the form. I did not anchor these to the floor, but might do that in the future for added piece-of-mind.

Once the square parts of the frame are completed, it is time to: triangulate, triangulate, triangulate! I installed a lot of mitered 2x4s to add stability and distribute the weight across the various parts of the bench. I varied the length of these so that the toe-nailed screws would not come into contact inside the frame. I can tell you that the bench supports all 215 lbs of my weight at every point, so it should do just fine for normal uses.

*It should be noted that I pre-drilled EVERY hole for this project so that I would not split the 2x4s, the wall studs, or the work surface.*

Step 3: Securing the Work Surface

I chose to use a dual layer work surface for my workbench for two reasons:
1. The bottom layer of plywood gives the bench some "grain" for stability, and also a level surface to mount a top on.
2. The top layer of melamine-wrapped OSB is easy to clean, and can be replaced later if it gets too damaged.

The first thing I did was lay out the 4'x4' piece of plywood for the corner of the workbench and mark it to cut the angled portion. I just used a jig saw to do this since it was handy. Once you have cut the plywood, secure it to the assembled frame. I used 1.25 inch exterior screws to attache the plywood to the frame. Because the plywood is not going to be seen or used for working on, I secured it along all the edges as well as at each triangulated joint. I wanted to make certain that it was securely fastened, and as level as possible.

Once the plywood was in place, I repeated the angled cut on the OSB, and began attaching the three pieces of using four 2.5 inch deck screws in each piece. The OSB is so heavy and thick that I was not overly worried about securing it, other than to make sure it would not move. Additionally, since I want to be able to easily remove the OSB later if it becomes damaged, the fewer screws there are the easier that process will be.

*It should be noted that I pre-drilled EVERY hole for this project so that I would not split the 2x4s, the wall studs, or the work surface.*

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20 Comments

Hello Omninate,

I really enjoyed your posted plan and all the comments. I am in need of just such a work bench to work on my newest hobby [scale model assembly]. I have a lot of storage units, both made by me and purchased; this would provide an abundance of room for them.

I am not entirely new to woodworking so I have a suggestion(s) for you and others to consider when building this style work bench. 1. I would reduce the amount of corner bracing and use a few straight cut braces between the header and the apron pieces; similar to standard bracing practices [such as 16" on center; 24" on center; etc.]. 2. I would use lag screws with washers on the header to the studs in the wall; possibly 1/4" x 3", at about one (1) per stud if the header is straight and flat or a few more if the header is warped or twisted. 3. I would use either a standard leg leveler or a lag screw at each leg just in case the floor "changes" height over the course of time. For my purposes, I intend to have a portion of the final top surface covered with plate glass for a smooth level surface for construction and another portion covered in hardboard where finishing can be done. This allows me to replace the hardboard when it is no longer suitable for finishing.

These are my thoughts for my bench. I want to say, again, how much I appreceate your craftsmanship and posting. Thank you.

I made this using your plans as a guide and love the way it turned out. The only thing I am unsure about is the stability of the legs. any slight nudge and they come off plumb. A big enough knock could cause me to lose the entire leg and therefore 25% of the support for the front of the bench. I could anchor the legs to the cement garage floor, but Id rather not have to drill permanent holes into it. Adding cross beams between the legs would do the trick, but doing so would mean sacrificing the ability to use the under side of the bench for storage, which I am not willing to do. I also thought about sliding those cross beams up a bit to create more of a table apron, but I unsure if this would secure the legs adequately. Does anybody have any ideas as to how I could/should go about this? Thanks in advance!

what is the height of the table?

I have included a picture from SketchUp that documents the dimensions. The overall height of the workbench surface is 42-inches.

Nice job Ive been looking all over trying to find plans I could use that would allow me to adjust them for things like drawers and a section of the top for metal work, my mini lathe,drill press,and welding your design works perfectly thanks for documenting it.

When triangulating, how did you get the holes for the screws and exactly 45 degrees

This is AWESOME! Looks to be perfect in my small double car garage and it's a corner unit as well! Even better!
You didn't use a table saw or anything like that??? Just a jigsaw to make all the cuts?

I am following everything up to the framing. Did you build the frame on the ground first THEN bolt it to the back of the 2x4 that is 12' long against the wall, or did you build it in the air so to speak building off the back 2x4?

First time I'm going to be building anything like this but so far your plan/idea is wonderful!

Thanks,
-Nigel

Hi Nigel,

I built this "in the air" to make sure it fit perfectly into the corner - I wasn't sure if that was perfectly square or not. I used a circular saw (I know I wrote jig saw - sometimes i have a brain fart) to make all the cuts. If I were to do it again, I would probably build it on the ground and just bolt it into place on the board attached to the wall.

Also, to answer the question of the excessive bracing.. I was not originally planning to do floor extensions, and was worried I would accidentally back my jeep into the corner of the bench at some point and destroy the whole thing.

-Nate

Nate,

Awesome! I am already starting to plan this out.

Last question I think I have is how did you do the cut on the far left on the top of the work bench. IE: How it's not straight, it has the two angle's into it?
I ask only because I don't know if a circular saw would be able to make the center cut because of both angles surrounding it? Hope that makes sense.

The more and more I look at this I love it because it's not DEEP as others I have seen and since space IS a factor this is what makes yours great to me!

Have you thought about putting a varnish on the wood to help protect it or is that not needed?

Thanks again!
-Nigel

VERY good observation! I think you are talking about the top for the bench that is the "corner" piece, and I actually cheated on that piece. My sketchup drawing shows that being one solid piece, but in reality I didn't want to screw around with trying to get into those cuts either.

What I ended up doing was cutting one square piece for the corner, and then chopped off one of the corners to make the angled surface. I then used a smaller rectangular piece of ply to fill in the last part of the surface.

As for finishing.. my wife and I decided that the legs and structure of the whole thing needed some finishing touches - more for aesthetics than for function. We ultimately used one of the black poly/varnish products from MinWax because she had it left over from another project. But the bench-top surface of mine needs no finishing because it is a white melamine product. So it is already a nice white surface, with resistance to oil and other spills.

Hope that helps!
-Nate