Introduction: Kids Foldaway Workbench

Picture of Kids Foldaway Workbench

My 9 year old nephew had a little woodwork set and no bench, so he's been woodworking on the floor since he got it. He hasn't been allocated too much room in my sisters house and so the length and the width of the bench are much shorter than I would like them to be. This, coupled with the fact that I had to make it the right height for him, makes the bench top heavy and more of a challenge to keep steady. I added a length of wood to the feet at the rear to reduce the wobble from side to side and a stretcher along the bottom to try and combat any movement along the benches length. I still think there's some improvement to be made to this design, perhaps with some angled braces to reduce the wobble even more. She also wanted it to be foldable so it could be packed away or moved to the side when not in use, I'll show you what I came up with.

If you'd like to check out the build I have a video of the process up on my YouTube channel and more detailed instructions to follow, I hope you enjoy it!

Step 1: Tools and Materials Used

Picture of Tools and Materials Used

Tools:


- Pencil, rule and combination square

- Crosscut saw and Tenon Saw (or table saw)

- Many many clamps!

- Jointer plane and smoothing plane (or planer thicknesser)

- Mallet and chisel

- Gouge

- Hand drill and brace (or drill)

- 3mm and 8mm bit

- 2 spanners/socket kits

Materials:


Pallet wood comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes, I was lucky enough to have quite a few lengths of some long and sturdy planks, I'll detail below what I used:

- Bench top : 20 lengths at 700mm X 60mm X 20mm

Legs : 12 lengths at 700mm X 60mm X 20mm

Leg cross pieces : 1 length at 360mm X 60mm X 20mm and 1 length at 240mm X 60mm X 20mm.

Stretcher : 3 lengths at 760mm X 60mm X 20mm

Back Leg Stabiliser : 3 lengths at 600mm X 60mm X 20mm

- 16 X 40mm screws

- 12 X 30mm screws

- 4 X 50mm hinges

- 4 Bolts, 8mm X 80mm

- 4 X 8mm washers

- 4 X 8mm bolts

Step 2: Gluing Up

Picture of Gluing Up

Because all I had to work with was some pallet wood I had to glue up plenty of lengths to get the thickness I wanted. 20 pieces were needed for the bench top and I had to use a jointer plane to get each face as flat as possible before gluing up. The same process had to be repeated for the legs. Its worth taking the time to figure out the best way up to have the pieces on the benchtop. This is pallet wood so it wont be perfect but you can at least try to avoid knots and holes where possible.

Step 3: Flattening and Squaring the Top and Legs

Picture of Flattening and Squaring the Top and Legs

This process if of course a lot faster if you have a planer thicknesser but....where's the fun in that?. I used a jointer plane to make diagonal sweeps across the top of the bench to get it as flat as possible. I then followed up with a smoothing plane across the length of the top to get it as smooth as possible. Then all I had left to do was to square off and cut the ends and plane around the corners, trying to reduce potential splinters. Its quite satisfying to hold a massive, heavy chunk of wood in your hands that was glued together and smoothed down by you.

The legs were smoothed with the same process, squaring the length with a jointer plane and then finishing with a smoothing plane.

Step 4: Attaching the Leg Cross Pieces

Picture of Attaching the Leg Cross Pieces

I cut the cross pieces to the measurements shown in the plans and then marked their width onto the legs. I made 4 saw cuts into each joint; two cuts up to the edges and another two in the centre as relief cuts for when I chip the waste out with a chisel. Its important to add some relief cuts to try and avoid large chunks of wood coming out and splitting away when chiselling.

I made sure the cross pieces were square to the legs and then inserted three screws into each leg.

Step 5: Attaching the Hinges and Legs

Picture of Attaching the Hinges and Legs

I positioned the wider set of legs in each corner, 20mm from each edge and marked where the hinges would go. I made a recess into the bottom of the bench for each hinge and then another recess on each leg for the hinges. I attached them with screws.

Step 6: Making and Attaching the Stretcher

Picture of Making and Attaching the Stretcher

After gluing up the pieces and cutting the stretcher to the right length I placed it on top of the cross pieces and marked the width of the stretcher. I used those marks to cut out the notches for the stretcher to fit into. After they were cut I pushed the stretcher into the notches and placed clamps at the bottom of the legs to push them out as far as they'd go. This was an important step as the notches have to be cut into the stretcher at the right point to hold the legs in the correct place.

Step 7: Cutting and Fitting the Leg Stabiliser

Picture of Cutting and Fitting the Leg Stabiliser

I made the plans a little different and more uniform for this step as I think they'd be more stable with the reviewed plans but I'll show you how I did it. After cutting the notches in the legs and the notches into the stabiliser as shown in the plans I spent a little time taking away a little material at a time until they fit together snugly. Its important to cut the notches into the stabiliser over sized and trim down piece by piece, always testing the size against the legs to get the best fit possible.

Step 8: Fitting the Vice

Picture of Fitting the Vice

Taking the vice and placing it onto the bench upside down was the easiest way to mark it up. I decided to have the vice flush with the bench side, this isn't necessary and some people prefer to have it protruding. After marking where the vice would go I then chiselled out the end of the bench to give it a flush fit. I then placed the vice into the newly cut gap and marked the holes for the bolts to go through. Taking a brace and an 8mm bit I bored all the way through the bench top.

The holes needed to be large enough at the top to accommodate a socket head in order for the bolts to be tightened up. So I marked around a socket head and made the holes a little larger than the head. I also had to cut down around 20mm into the bench so that the bolts would come through far enough on the bottom side to attach a nut to. If you have longer bolts this wont be so much of an issue. Other people may also decide to use carriage bolts which can just be screwed in from the bottom, I felt that bolts all the way through would be safer.

I then had to widen the top holes further to accommodate the washers, these may not be entirely essential but to me its just another precaution to take to make sure the vice doesn't come loose.

Step 9: Optional Step: Covering the Vice Jaws

Picture of Optional Step: Covering the Vice Jaws

I haven't included the materials or tools for this step earlier in the Instructable as I see this as more of an optional step. Some people are happy to leave their jaws uncovered, some will make jigs to fit into the jaws and some, like my little bench here, will cover the jaws to "soften" their grip against wood. This is just to try and minimise any marking that can be made onto the wood when clamping it into the vice.

I found a piece of wood roughly the right width and slowly planed it down until it fit on the end of the bench. I drilled 4 holes into it, 2 on each end, countersunk them and screwed it onto the bench. For the outer vice I simply cut a piece of leather and stuck it to the jaw with some double sided tape. This will probably come off over time but it can easily be reattached for more tape. Maybe super glue or contact cement would be a more permanent solution.

Step 10: Assemble and Enjoy!

Picture of Assemble and Enjoy!

This bench was a little tricky to make, especially with the measurements that had to be followed and all in all its a step up from using the floor but I still think there's room for improvement. It's able to fold away and be assembled very quickly but it is rather heavy. I think that mass helps a little with the rigidity of the bench though. Maybe in the future I'll add some angled braces to it and a locking system to hold the folded up legs in place. It could probably do with some kind of carry handle too as its a little awkward to pick up.

I'm still rather pleased with it though and my nephew seems to like it, so hopefully he'll use it to make some things in the near future!

If you'd like to check out more photos and videos or just talk to me about what I get up to then head over to my Timber Anew Facebook Page and give it a like. You could also subscribe to my YouTube Channel and check out my library of videos and keep up to date with future videos, including live builds.

Thank you for checking this out, all comments and thoughts are appreciated!

Comments

thepantheonzaibatsu (author)2017-09-26

Hello from Canada.

Just wanted to say I really enjoyed this. I live in a tiny place in a big city... I'm thinking of taking this idea and building my own in order to work on my condo balcony. I'm not very handy, or patient, but I love learning so I think this'll be a good project. I'll let you know.

Thanks again for taking the time to share. Really appreciate it.

Aw well thank you, I hope you can make it work for you. I would have thought a larger version would benefit from a longer, wider and heavier benchtop but obviously you can only make what fits into your space. I hope it works out well!

klixtopher (author)2017-07-29

Great build, I am always impressed when I see people do work like this
with hand tools, especially when I struggle to do the same things with
power tools. I noticed you are using Phillips screws. If they are
available to you, Robertson (square drive) bits and screws will make a
world of difference when using a brace and bit. I can drive a three
inch wood screw into a 4x4 with a Robertson manual screw driver and not
have it slip out! Also my kids have trouble with hand saws, and I have
been thinking of getting them a Japanese style wood saw which cuts on
the pull stroke (as opposed to the push); might work well for your
nephew too. Again nice work, I will certainly reference this when I get
around to building one for my kids.

timberanew (author)klixtopher2017-07-29

Thank you so much, I enjoy the quiet of a power tool free workshop. I've never heard of Robertson screws I will have to check those out, thank you. I have a Japanese Ryoba in my collection, that's a good idea I'll have to get him one for Christmas or something. I think there's better designs out there and I wish I could've made it wider and longer but I had to work to given dimensions.

klixtopher (author)timberanew2017-07-29

It takes great skill to be able work within the constraints you are given.

timberanew (author)klixtopher2017-07-30

Thank you, I still have plenty to learn but I try my best.

Lovetra (author)2017-07-23

I think this is a great start in getting a kid into doing something other than spending most of the day sitting on the couch watching TV when not in school.

When encouraged to work with hands it lessens boredom and "I don't have anything to do!" syndrome!

timberanew (author)Lovetra2017-07-23

Haha, you have no idea how much I have to hear "I'm boooooored" when he comes over for a visit. Like you say he's often glued to the TV or a tablet so it'd be great if he uses it a lot and starts churning out some projects. Thank you for your compliments, I'm very appreciative that people take time out of their day to bring some good thoughts into mine.

Lovetra (author)timberanew2017-07-25

My folks had a solution to "I'm boooooored"! They gave me a hard working chore and if I didn't get it done there was a consequence attached. It wasn't a nice work bench and it sure as H--- wasn't a Trip to Disneyland!

It taught me a work ethic I still apply to myself at age 80!

Find ways to make him use it! Maybe some fun projects to catch his interest. He needs the experience!

timberanew (author)Lovetra2017-07-25

Haha well that sounds like the right way to me! I will do my best to give him plenty of ideas, hopefully that'll get him going. Thank you.

John Meister (author)2017-07-24

This is a wonderful example of a labor of love. I really hope your nephew gets to build many memories on this bench. Well done Uncle!

timberanew (author)John Meister2017-07-25

Haha thanks a lot John! I hope he makes plenty of things on it too!

cltcgroome (author)2017-07-24

On the one hand I am sure that your nephew loves that bench. On the other I can also see it as a portable bench that is easy to put into the back of my truck! Add a yoke shaped handle and two wide straps and you could carry the entire bundle with one hand. Lift it from the back of the car or truck and have it set up in 5 min. it has enough space for a good many projects. you still need to add an addition for holding tools but this is an awesome project. Thank You for publishing this instructable!

timberanew (author)cltcgroome2017-07-24

You're right, it could be thrown into the back of a truck or even a car and taken somewhere. I was actually going to put some kind of handle or strap onto it to make it easy to carry but it's going to spend its life in one room so I didn't see the need. That's given me inspiration to do the same thing for an adult bench though, thank you! I think that can certainly be achieved. My pleasure, thank you for commenting, taking the time to look at it and for the wonderful compliments, I'm so appreciative of the support.

Irishintx (author)2017-07-23

I agree with the flush fit of the vise. It adds stability to the piece you are working on.
This item was well done, bravo for your workmanship and choice of tools.
If your 9 year old nephew takes after his Uncle, he will be an awesome carpenter.
What I like about your design...
It can be upsized for adults with workshops that have limited space.

timberanew (author)Irishintx2017-07-23

Thank you very much, haha well I hope he continues woodworking, it would be great to see him start making all kinds of things. That's true it could be re sized for limited workshop space, if the bench top was longer it could also have identical pairs of legs on either side which would add to the rigidity I think.

Ah thank you, I've never used contact cement but I've heard its useful for that kind of thing, thank you for confirming that for me.

dkistner (author)2017-07-23

I absolutely love your video! It's mesmerizing to watch. I'm just beginning to try to learn how to do a little woodworking to make garden structures, and the techniques you taught in this will come in quite handy! And it just goes to show you don't have to have expensive power equipment and hardware do do woodworking. Thank you!

timberanew (author)dkistner2017-07-23

My pleasure! Thank you for checking it out and taking the time to comment. Well that is what I like to show people, that you don't need a table saw, bandsaw, planer thicknesser etc. etc. to make something. Also you don't need the most expensive tools in the world, they may be better than the tools I have but I cant afford them and I know a lot of others can't too. Thank you again for your comment, I'm glad you got something from it!

Irishintx (author)2017-07-23

Forgot to mention.
Contact cement for leather would fo the trick. Might slso attack a piece across the length of inside face.

domino88 (author)2017-07-23

Beautiful work! Building workbenches for kids is really rewarding!

timberanew (author)domino882017-07-23

Thank you vey much! Yes it involved some brainstorming but in the end it was rewarding you're right!

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Bio: Growing up in a rural area in the East of England I've always been interested in nature and trees and found myself building things ... More »
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