Introduction: Laminated 2X4 Work Tables

Picture of Laminated 2X4 Work Tables

This is instructable on turning big box home center construction lumber into functional furniture you could be proud of.

To follow this instructable you will need some intermediate level woodworking tools and a lot of patience.

Step 1: Materials and Tools


  • To make two of these tables I used 15 - 2 X 6 X 12' boards.
  • You'll also need about a quart of glue per table
  • 4 X 3/8" X 5" carriage bolts + nuts and washers per table.
  • 1 quart of your favorite finish (I used a semi-gloss water based poly)
  • 24 plate joiner biscuits per table are optional

I used 2 X 6 lumber instead of 2 X 4 so I could more economically use material and I wanted a top that was more than 1.5" thick.

Longer boards are usually higher quality than the 8' boards because they take more mature trees to make. The longest pieces are 6' so I bought 12' boards and cut them in half.


  • Table Saw
  • Jointer
  • Wood Chisels
  • Drill
  • Circular Saw
  • Hand Saws
  • Assorted measuring tools
  • Router with 1/4" roundover bit

Optional Tools

  • Drill Press
  • Miter Saw
  • Biscuit Joiner
  • Planer
  • Band Saw
  • Oscillating Spindle Sander

Step 2: Patience & Stress

Picture of Patience & Stress

Patience is key to using construction lumber. Even if it says the lumber is kiln dried it will usually have a much higher moisture content then what is recommended for wood working. As the wood dries it will shrink creating internal stresses on the boards. Depending on the grain orientation this may cause the board to twist, bend, cup and or check.

To help combat the effects of the excess moisture you'll need to let it dry for a long time, more than a month most likely. You can help this a little bit by picking light boards (weight not color) since they have less water weight. Buying larger sizes also help because are not sold as often staying on the shelves longer drying out. 2X4s sell quickly so they are "fresher" and therefore have a higher water content.

Stack the lumber so that there is good air flow between the boards so they dry evenly.

Once the wood has had a good chance to dry you'll want to start cutting it to the rough shape.

You can see the effect of drying in the 2nd picture how the internal stresses in the board were released when it was ripped half. This may be due to there still being a higher moisture content in the middle of the board.

I found out the hard way I should have let these ripped boards dry some more before moving on, but I was able to make it work with a little more time on the jointer.

Step 3: Glue Time!

Picture of Glue Time!

When it came time to start gluing up the boards I did 4 boards at a time because my jointer is 6" wide and to get a flat tabletop you really need a jointer.

I book matched the ripped boards for 2 reasons.

  1. It looks cool
  2. The bends in the wood will counteract each other normalizing the stresses to pull them straight.

Use a liberal amount of glue since the faces have not been jointed or planed.

Use lots of clamps to keep even pressure and straighten any bent boards.

When the glue has set up for about an hour scrape off the excess. This will reduce the wear and tear on your jointer blades later.

Step 4: Straighten Up!

Picture of Straighten Up!

The key to getting a good flat laminated table top is a good Jointer. The longer the in-feed / out-feed tables the better. These 6' long 6" wide glue laminations are are about the limit for what my old Delta jointer can handle.

The technique I use when using a jointer are listed below

  • Make sure your machine is setup properly: The fence is square with the out-feed table. The knifes are set properly and at the exact height of the out-feed table.
  • Run boards with the concave face down making multiple shallow passes alternating the leading edge end for end.
  • When you have a twist in the board I put pressure as far back on the board as possible until a clean flat edge has established contact on the out-feed table then make sure that fresh cut edge remains in contact with the out-feed table.
  • Keep repeating using shallow 1/32" cuts (until you're comfortable with the technique then you can make more aggressive passes.
  • When you have the face smooth and straight it's time to joint the edge making sure your fence is set exactly 90 degrees to the out-feed table (it should be both if you're machine is nice and tight and has those adjustments but if you have an old machine like mine, align the fence to the out-feed)
  • Same technique applies but now you'll have the added task of making sure the freshly flattened edge is tight against the fence as well.

Once you have one flat face and edge you'll want to make sure the glue lamination is parallel.

You can get away without a planer for this step if you jointer is setup properly but there is still a chance it might not be perfectly parallel.

The 1st step is going back to the table saw and setting the fence to cut off the opposite sides that are most likely crowned or convex.

One more pass through the jointer (or Planer) will clean up the saw marks and you're ready for then next step!

Step 5: More Glue Please

Picture of More Glue Please

I made two tables for this project. Both are roughly the same size 6' Long 30" deep and 29" tall but one of them have a 12" X 24" cutout for a sewing machine.

This is the only difference between the two tables. The process to glue up the 4 board laminations into a 20 board lamination is the same.

It's not necessary to use a plate joiner, but it does help with alignment. Even if your boards are straight the process of gluing and clamping multiple boards together can easily slip causing misalignment. The use of a plate joiner and biscuits will prevent the boards from slipping during the gluing and clamping process.

This careful alignment will prevent you form having to smooth and flatten the entire table top surface and limit it to only a minor amount of sanding.

The sewing machine cutout was done prior to glue-up because the thickness of the top (2.25") was too much for my jig saw so I cut the radius-ed corners with a band saw cleaning up the straight sections with table saw plunge cuts and my oscillating spindle sander for the corners. A rasp would also work if you don't have the sander.

Step 6: She's Got Legs

Picture of She's Got Legs

The leg design for these tables are a K brace style. They turned out very strong and provide enough clearance to move in and around freely.

The wood used is two 2 X 6 boards laminated together then ripped to different widths to minimize waste.

The angled braces were laid out using stair gauge blocks and a framing square.

Mortise and tenon joints are used for all joints with normal wood glue (no fasteners or wedges.)

Mortises are 1st laid out with a marking gauge then roughed out on the drill and finally cleaned up with a chisel.

Tenons were cut primarily on the table saw and cleaned up using hand saws.

The 1/2" relief cut on the bottom was made by clamping two feet together then drilling a 1" diameter hole 3" from each end. The middle was cut out using a plunge cut on the table saw (yes I know it's not safe) and a handsaw to cut the remainder.

All exposed surfaces were hit with a 1/4" round over bit and everything was sanded prior to glue-up.

Step 7: Brace Yourself

Picture of Brace Yourself

The cross brace for the back was made from 2 X 6 material was well. It was planed and jointed to make everything smooth and straight.

I screwed 2 boards together exactly in the middle then spread them apart to find the exact angle needed to connect the two legs.

Once that angle is laid out it's transferred to all four boards and the material between the lines is half removed. I used a circular saw and chisels to remove the material but a router could do the trick too.

I made sure to stay inside the line and used chisels to pear off material to the line.

The 1's pass was about 1/8" too shallow so I made another pass until things lined up perfectly.

Normal wood glue is used for the joint and it dried before I use a straightedge and saw to trim the ends to they line up with the legs.

Step 8: Sewing Machine Tray

Picture of Sewing Machine Tray

The last bit of construction is a tray to support the sewing machine

I had some scrap 2 X 4 s and 1/2" plywood I used to make the tray.

The 2 X 4 s are ripped, jointed and planed so the depth of the tray matches the exact height of her machine.

To counteract the expansion and contraction the top will experience (~ 1/8") due to seasonal changes the tray was attached with long screws where only the head section of the screw went through an 1/8" diameter hole, but the rest of the screw went through a larger 1/2" diameter hole. This larger hole allows the screw to move as the wood moves.

The screw heads were counter bored to prevent snagging on your legs / pants.

After the tray is screwed in place I prepared a ledge for the insert to rest on. I used washer head screws and over sized holes in these as well so I could adjust the insert height to match the table surface.

The inserts are made from some 1/2" cherry veneer plywood I had left over. Fortunately my wife had an acrylic surface that already had the machine cutout so I just traced the profile and now everyone's happy!

Step 9: Finishing

Picture of Finishing

For the finish I used a common water based semi gloss polyurethane.

The legs, braces and table bottoms received 3 coats each.

The table tops received 4 coats each

After the 1st and 2nd coats I sand with 220 grit paper.

If you want to stain a project like this you would 1st use a sanding sealer or wood conditioner prior to staining. This will even out how the stain is absorbed by the wood and prevent blotchy spots. You'll also have to be a lot more careful when sanding. any imperfection in the wood surface gets magnified by stain. This is why I use clear finishes on all my projects ;p

That's it.

I hope you enjoyed this instructable.

You can make great looking furniture with big box store lumber you just need to be patient in letting it dry thoroughly. Have a jointer / planer to straighten makes a world of difference but not 100% necessary.


kmpres (author)2018-01-11

Great design, thanks. While I understand the criticisms regarding the K braces, the robustness of the overall structure more than makes up for them. If it were tested I suspect the table would take a half ton or more of weight on the front edge before the rear legs would crack or the glued tenons would give way - more than enough for normal purposes. The tenons can be screwed, pinned or wedged for more strength but I don't think even that is necessary. And yes, it is a work table, because that is what you do on it, regardless of your line of work.

AboubacarH (author)2018-01-08

I like this work how i linig

mscharch (author)2017-04-04

Wow! So many comments. I'll try to clarify some of the questions.

My day job I'm an engineer so the 1st step for me is gathering requirements. My wife (customer) wanted something heavy that would absorb the vibrations her machines make. She would be sitting at these tables while in use so she also wanted the front to be open so she wouldn't be banging her knees into a corner leg. Last was the room configuration, since these 2 tables would be in an L shape it necessitated the cutout where the customer wanted it (and who am I to disagree.)

As far as strength of the legs go, I'm 6'6" 250lbs and when I sit in the middle on the edge and bounce up and down there is no movement. Another reason not to have concern is during clamping the front edge was taller than the back so I maxed the clamping pressure on the cantilevered side to try to bring it square. I cranked the clamps as hard as I could and still couldn't get them perfectly parallel and the clamps are rated @ 1500lbs clamping force.

These are work tables, not anvils, if they were meant to be hammered on all day they are meant to be flat, smooth, heavy, not a knee knocker and cheap. All materials for both tables were less than $150.

I think someone else answered the 2X4 vs 2X6 question, but I'll add my 2cents. Economy of material was the main reason. I've made 2X4 laminated tables before and know that the straightening and flattening process will take about 1/2" off of the original thickness. Requirement #1 being heavy to absorb vibration I wanted something more than 1.5" but 3 was too much imo. The happy medium turned out ripping 2X6s in half. The final thickness was just under 2.25" (60mm) and weighed about 100lbs.

Thanks for all the comments, I hope some were inspired and/or educated. That's what this community is all about.

PeeDonkeyPit (author)mscharch2017-04-07

Engineer here, too ('88). Drove my statics and dynamics profs nuts because, as a BSEE, I was more comfortable using formulae and calculating everything than using the tables, and they didn't know how to calculate thee results themselves :)

Don't sweat the comments, my friend - EXCELLENT 'ible, excellent product, well thought out, and aesthetically pleasing. Don't sweat the "experts." I plan to use your table top design in a true cantilever, floating "L" shaped computer desk. You have inspired me :)

crazypj (author)PeeDonkeyPit2017-12-30

I would think the 'weakest' point would be the rear upright as it's being 'bent' in the middle from the braces? Even so, pretty sure it would take 1/2 ton or more on the front edge to actually damage things? (I'm not an engineer but I have worked on 'stuff' for 48+ yrs)

crazypj (author)2017-12-30

That's a really good looking piece of furniture. I don't have a planer of joiner though (or anywhere to put them if I could afford them) I guess 'garage quality' workbenches would be a good practice for anyone wanting to try this without 'equipment'?

onlyHischild (author)2017-12-28

Absolutely love, mscharch! After thoroughly reading the steps and all the comments the only thing I'd wish to see is a pic of the 2 tables in the room. I too am a sewer, but don't have a 6'6" 250lb hubby who could build this, much less one who can do squat with a hammer (in lieu of that shortcoming, I live through others' blessings).

Syncubus (author)2017-12-28

Lovely bench. For those commenting on the sturdiness of the design, one way to remove some of the springiness while still maintaining the cantilevered design would be to change the angles of the braces to a shallower angle. It would add some complexity/layout to the joinery, but angling one brace to the leg, then angling the second brace to join into the first brace would beef up the design for more abusive applications. Se attached pic for 'thousand-word' summary.

Nneil (author)2017-12-28

VERY nice job! Instructions are top notch too. Thank you for posting this!

explosivemaker (author)2017-11-10

Very nice. This is the kind of content that deserves to be featured.

jtriebenbach (author)2017-05-03

I have an idea, but I am curious as to how you attached the top to the legs.

benditright (author)2017-05-02

Hi All,

I am a real beginner when it comes to working with timber. I want to build a workbench as the first addition to my new corrugated metal sheet shed. This design is awesome, but too complex for me currently. Does anyone have a really simple plan for a basic workbench that I can add a vice to please?

Much appreciated in advance.

KraigK1 (author)2017-04-10

I would like to know if you get full B/P's with the download? I really want to make this table as it would come in handy as a computer/wood working table.

TwoButton (author)2017-04-04

Nice table!
Would like some information on the thread racks in your picture. My wife is very much into sewing, embroidery, and quilting. So she has LOTS of thread and in need of more thread racks. I would prefer to build rather than buy as I can then maximum the available space.

Any suggestions / information would be appreciated.

Thank you

mscharch (author)TwoButton2017-04-06

The rows are 2" apart and the dowels are 1.75 apart. The dowel hole are drilled into a piece of square stock that's had one edge cut off @ 45 degrees to make the angle.

TwoButton (author)mscharch2017-04-06

Thank you.

TheNottingHammer (author)2017-04-05

Really nice job! With perhaps a different finish and maybe a little mod here and there, that table would look great in any number of rooms - Workshop, Kitchen, Dining Room, study. Amazing what you can do with ordinary 2" x 6" softwood I particularly love the 'K' braces as my first name is Ken!

roley1 (author)2017-04-04

Wow an amazing design purpose built for the task your "customer" required it for. Also equally amazing finished product. It has my vote.

Just to put in my 2 cents worth on the whole overhang debate. I currently use an old wood dining table as my workbench it has about 9 inch overhang over the legs and I have a vice bolted to the one side at each end of it. I have never had issues with with it overbalancing and comparing it to your design ( that you have never said is a workbench even though nearly everyone is saying it would not be safe for that purpose) your design has an overhang of about 3 inches if you follow the front line of the top edge of the 'K' straight down so what if it does not have a leg in each corner. Neither does a park bench and I have seen quite large amounts of weight sitting on the front edge of park benches many times.

craftsman44 (author)2017-04-04

This looks very nice and, like others, I would caution the user from adding weight to the top front. The same look can be accomplished by using a 3/4 sheet material for the top and run a 1x4 band around the perimeter. The top would weigh far less and thus allow the frame to support more weight if one chose to use it for something other than light display.

spark master (author)craftsman442017-04-04

he built a sewing bench that is why the thing has a machine cut out. The other is for hand sewing and laying out. Without 4 corner legs I would not put my bench vise on it. I am not a fan of cantilever style tables for any use as eventually it is going to be tipped over. Unless you bolt them to the floor or wall or both. My roll around kitchen Island was recalled because stupid people load up the drawers and pull out shelves (all on 1 side), and pulled them out all at once and then leaned on them. Absolutely no thought about cause and effect. Mind you, it is really hard to do with the Island, but 2-3 people successfully did it. The fix was recall and destroy. Mine is 18 years old and we have no issues, but we aren't silly.

As Ron says "ya can't fix stupid"

mscharch (author)spark master2017-04-04

It may look cantilevered but the bearing point on the ground is only an inch from the edge of the top surface. Most tables I've seen have a bigger overhang then this to help prevent the knee banging scenario my wife would like to avoid.

If it fails anywhere it would be a tensile break in the back of the K intersection, or a sheer glue joint failure where the straight leg is mortised into the top plate.

Steelcase rather ingeniously fixed just the "stupid" you speak of with their lateral file cabinets - they have simple plastic toggles all connected to a band down the height of the cabinet. The band has features at each drawer to interfere with its path if the band is not in its relaxed state. When you pull out any drawer, it's toggle gets flipped, pushing against the band. The band, then, interferes the remaining drawer slides, preventing you from having more than one open at a time. Simple, and ingenious. (And, no: I haven't tried to pull two drawers at once really fast. Yet...) ;)

PeeDonkeyPit (author)craftsman442017-04-04

?? I don't understand the comment regarding cautioning the user against adding weight to the front, top. the top is obviously sturdy enough to take any form of loading reasonable for 2x4s on edge (quite high), and the forward legs and K-braces will counter any moments about the base of the upward brace that would cause it to tip. Please explain your concern.

Man Up (author)PeeDonkeyPit2017-04-04

The concern appears to be weight. But honestly, a 2x4 table top would not weigh that much, and would be extremely sturdy. The proposed method of using 3/4" sheet material would not only be less sturdy, but it could be heavier. Sheet goods (plywood, MDF) have a higher density than pine. Also, sheet goods warp over time unless properly braced. If the goal is to achieve the highest strength at the lowest weight, 1/4" luan over a 1/2" perimeter frame with torsion-box internal supports assembled as a glued lamination with a edge-banded perimeter would be the best option. But that would be a lot of hassle, not a lot of gain, and frankly, wouldn't look as good as this table already does.

PeeDonkeyPit (author)Man Up2017-04-04

Oh, I get why they make the warning - I just don't understand their premise for it. Simple statics: the tensile and compressive strengths of the pine boards arranged in this manner are more than sufficient to take weight - a LOT of weight. The top isn't a true cantilever, due to the bracing; more like a truss bridgework - half of a modern storage style roof truss, to be closer to the design. I haven't solved the forces through the structure; however, I see very, very little concern regarding material strength or structural stability... Looks like a great project, and attractive outcome, and my kudos mscharch for a job well conceived and executed!

Man Up (author)PeeDonkeyPit2017-04-04

Agreed. Frankly, I would have absolutely zero concern for the weight or structural integrity of this table for any typical use. I would not split logs on it. I would absolutely put my computer setup on, or my ham radio gear, or a test bench, etc, etc. Frankly, I would sit on it without worry.

mscharch (author)Man Up2017-04-04

I think I'll wait until there are a few scratches on it before I start using them to split wood. ;p

austin.hall.129794 (author)2017-04-04

Good table, only thing I would point out that this design is no good for using it as a metal / woodworking bench as the cantelevered top is not fully supported, those diagonal braces are not enough if you were to use this design for that kind of use. There is a reason why a workbench has a leg on each corner and braces in between.

I don't think its a work bench. Its a sewing table. And its perfect for that!

MartinH14 (author)LeNeveu22017-04-04

Sewing is work. :)

Austin: Just put a brace on each side in front of the K looking legs for the strength you need. I made a similar table with 4 braces, except I used a 6 x 1 1/2" or so board for the front. It's lower than the top. On one end I cut a 4" hole. Now, when things roll or fall off of the table top, they go into this 'well' and not on the floor. If there is saw dust from a project, I sweep it into the 'well' and then to the hole where I have attached a coffee can underneath to catch the saw dust. I use this saw dust, mixed with wood glue, to fill in any voids in the top of the table or any other project that needs a bit of help. It's been going strong for over 30 years:) I hope this is clear:)

CarmelitaC (author)2017-04-04

Change the title; it is misleading.

You made a sewing machine table and a work table...for sewing and design purposes; not for heavy duty work.

The entire design is overkill, no problem. Make it stout is always good advice. But, since I am someone who sews, and I happen to have a lovely custon-made sewing machine table, I hate to tell you that unless you are sewing teeny-tiny items, the widest part of the work surface should be to the LEFT of the machine as that is where all the action takes place. Other than that it's a fine design.


keyguy13 (author)CarmelitaC2017-04-04

you realize all you would have to do is flip the table right?

Man Up (author)CarmelitaC2017-04-04

The title does not indicate suitability for heavy duty work. I would readily trust this table for my my electronics shop bench, for a computer table, and for a number of ordinary purposes that are more strenuous than sewing or fabric cutting.

Man Up (author)2017-04-04

For those of us who don't have a jointer, have no fear. I've always had very good luck with pine just ripping it on a well set up table saw. It's a soft enough wood that as long as you get a smooth cut on a sharp blade, any small gaps (up to 1/16th) that do arise from the drying process get closed with firm clamping pressure. Anything up to 1/4" can be knocked down with a #5 14" jack plane adjusted to act as a jointer plane. These tricks won't help with most hardwoods, but pine, fir and poplar can be coerced nicely.

craftsman44 (author)2017-04-04

PeeDonkeyPit you said it yourself forward leg. As I see it, it's missing.?? With four legs, five or six of us could stand on it.

craftsman44 (author)2017-04-04

Hi RobertB163, The comment re: 2x4 vs 2x6 might be better understood realixing that he is using the material glued together (laminated in title) on edge. So he/ she is not using it in the 1.5" dimension, but rather ripped and face-glued. In other words a 2x6 (actual 5.5") ripped yields 2 boards 2-11/16" allowing for the blade. Cutting off the rounded edge of "store-bought" lumber, you can essential get 2-1/2" of thickness placing the ripped boards on edge. It is pretty common practice among traditional woodworkers to build bench tops with a 3-4" thickness in this manner. Lots of glue involved. Hope that helps.

rmelchiori (author)2017-04-04

It turned out beautiful. Amazing what can be done with plain old construction lumber.

RobertB163 (author)2017-04-04

I don't understand the 2X6 vs 2X4 comment; both are 1.5 inches thick. The difference is the width: 5.5 inches vs 3.5 inches.

rmelchiori (author)RobertB1632017-04-04

He wanted to create a thicker work surface so he split the 2 x 6 down the middle to give him 2 piece that are nominally 1 1/2" x 2 5/8" roughly. Once he laminated them, he had a 2 5/8" thick work surface

David Catriel (author)2017-04-04

Absolutely beautiful. I've been looking for a simple desk design to match the wood/copper shelfset I made (, and will moist probably base my desk design on yours and just add shelving (and maybe a hanging drawer set) with copper. Thx for the idea!

sgbotsford (author)2017-04-04

Two thoughts:

A: Depending on what you are using it for, you may want to put shelving underneath. If your are doing that, however you probably want a more conventional 4 legged table.

B: Some merit in attaching a power bar to the table. If you use it as a work table and ever have more than two devices to plug in, this comes in handy.

Stormjack (author)2017-04-04

That's beautiful. Thanks for sharing your plan.

ChrisOKrazy (author)2017-04-04

Nice design and easy to follow instructions great job!

LeNeveu2 (author)2017-04-04

WOW!! That is absolutely beautiful!! Nice Job.

maripaz (author)2017-04-04

This is an extremely useful instructable. Hope to advance my skills enough to be able to build it.

puckflame (author)2017-04-03

looks like a very sturdy table!

seamster (author)2017-04-03

Excellent table, and a great instructable too. Loads of great tips throughout!

I love the sewing machine cut-out. I've done the exact same thing on a couple of tables I've made - extremely useful!

Mikhandmaker. (author)2017-04-03

Great Job! Congratulations

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