Picture of Low cost tank-tough workbench
Build a workbench that can survive being run over by a tank, or at least anything you can throw at it you lily livered pantywaist.

There have been a number of workbench Instructables on this site, many of them very well done. However, the key to a workbench that can be pummeled and trammeled and abused like a rented mule is anchoring. This Instructable presents a method for building a workbench that will not only serve as an electronics soldering, model airplane building, or knitting platform but will also support metalworking and woodworking vices and the subsequent abuse that comes with such duty.

This workbench plan assumes that you have access to a variety of 2x4 lumber scraps, some spare plywood, particle board, or OSB or the means to purchase said materials. Also required are rudimentary woodworking skills, the tools to cut wood, and the fasteners to bind wood together. Oh and 3 pounds of zombie flesh.

Step 1: Bill of materials

To complete this project you can use a variety of materials. The key pieces will be a few long sections of dimensional lumber such as a few 8' 2x4s. Otherwise some scrap 2x4 pieces and a few sections of plywood, OSB, MDF, or particle board will be sufficient. The following are roughly the amounts of scrap lumber needed, you can use this as a guide when scavenging or when buying your lumber.

  • 2x 8' 2x4s
  • 2x 36" 2x4s
  • 4x 24" 2x4s
  • 12x 18" 2x4s
  • 27"x8' 1/2" thick plywood
  • 27"x8' 1/2" thick OSB
  • Handful of 2.5" general purpose screws
  • Handful of 3" general purpose screws
  • Handful of 1 5/8" general purpose screws
  • 1x steel L-bracket
  • 1x 3/8" expanding concrete anchors
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"Build a workbench that can survive being run over by a tank, or at least
anything you can throw at it you lily livered pantywaist."... bold words, but... it is wooden... even m' wife has a steel bench, ya pansy...

Still nice bench =)

looks tank tough. just if you have a post tension stress foundation, don't drill into it...
jmengel (author)  Fivesevenx287 years ago
Post-tension stress foundations No post tension stress on my foundation. Why would drilling a hole in one be bad? The concrete in such a foundation is in compression, it is the cables that are in tension.

moucon jmengel4 years ago
That's not exactly accurate. The top of post-tensioned concrete is in compression- but the bottom is in tension. Concrete does well in compression - terrible in tension, so the tension cables are there to transfer those tension forces in the slab. Think of a bow and arrow - the string is the tension cable and the bow is the slab. There are several reasons you can't drill a post-tensioned slab. A hole in the concrete could change the shear forces entirely and start a crack. Cutting a cable with a drill bit (highly unlikely but possible) is obviously a very bad thing. But anyway- post-tensioning would not apply to something below-grade. It's a technique that's employed to make on-grade slabs perform better in poor/unstable/expansive soils It wouldn't have anything to do with a basement situation. Peace out.
not sure, but there is a stamp on foundation that says "DO NOT DRILL! POST TENSION FOUNDATION." I'm not a structural engineer, but my guess is that if you hit one of the cables the foundation will crack from imbalanced forces on the slab.
Well i know diddly about foundations but couldn't you use a metal detector to locate and avoid the cables, maybe even just a strong spherical magnet rolled across the floor?
Good idea.
Good Instructable.
Personally I would not use OSB as the top of a workbench, too rough surface, but I would throw over it an inexpensive 1/8” (6mm) sheet of masonite which is very strong and that could be replaced any time needed and will give you a very nice smooth surface.
Thanks for sharing it with us.
Masonite is not really strong by itself. Placed on top of a frame such as the demonstrated workbench with backing plywood and OSB it will take a lot of abuse. On its own the masonite will be destroyed. After 3 years of use I can tell you that this workbench is tough as nails and that the OSB top is not as rough as you think. OSB has a smooth and a rough side, I put the smooth side up. Put the rough side up when sheathing a roof, ask me how I know that one.... My indoor workbench is much smoother for electronics and other craft type use, but for hacksaw, welding, angle grinding, pounding, and other sundry destruction the OSB bench has been great.
whats osb
OSB (oriented strand board) is a water-resistant, cut size panel ideal for interior use and general exterior applications.
thanks man
Hmm! I did not say to use a masonite by itself as you think... what I said was "I would throw over it an inexpensive 1/8” (6mm) sheet of masonite" it means over the OSB or plywood.
diluded0005 years ago
Nice bench. I was trying to count up how many benches I have made, going back about 30 years - at least ten. I'm partial to 4x6 for the legs, if I can find them. For metalwork I got a section of laminate counter top from the home store, and built cabinets underneath. The really hot stuff goes on a 1/4" aluminum plate on legs to keep the heat off the plastic. But the laminate holds up well for splatter and grinding sparks. I have another laminate bench that I built a potter's wheel into, that is good for wet messes. Up at my cabin, I built a top from laminated 2x4s, gluing the ~4" sides together and nailing with a pneumatic framing nailer. The lamination makes a heavy surface for hammering, and there were enough scraps around to build it without driving down the mountain for plwood. Tieing the bench to the floor and wall always stiffens things up nicely. My best bench has metal legs and a laminated maple top, it gets used for fine woodwork mostly.
DIYfan5 years ago
Any time you need weight, cheap, run down to the nearest place that sells 95 lb bags of cement or concrete or garden gravel. Keep it in the bag for ease of removal. $5 worth is enough to stabilize a table/workbench used to just about anything, carving, engine work, vibratory tooling, you name it.

jmengel (author)  DIYfan5 years ago
Good tip, thanks.
oroberous5 years ago
Did you get a good deal on the tool storage drawers ? I have been looking for some like that but I can't believe the prices I am seeing. I wish I was good enough with wood to make my own !
jmengel (author)  oroberous5 years ago
I was able to take advantage of a 15% off garage organization sale but otherwise I had to hold my nose and pay for them.  The quality on the drawer chests was head and shoulders above the cheaper options, visit the store and try them out for yourself.  The wall cabinets are not as impressive, but cheaper relatively so I just went ahead with them as well.
moN1Ker6 years ago
how'd you secure those perpendicular floating 2x4"s squaring off each 24-36"? Did you just 45° a screw in the top & bottom to the back wall support stud?
jmengel (author)  moN1Ker6 years ago
Yes, the two middle perpendicular "cross braces" were toe-screwed into the back wall stud.
Woodworking vise needs to be mounted so that tops of its jaws are flush with or a hair below bench top surface.
jmengel (author)  charlessenf-gm6 years ago
Good point. I still haven't faced the jaws yet either, I guess it is clear how much woodworking i do.
I should have indicated that I made the same error when building my last bench. I used most of a 36" wide solid core exterior door - trimming off the pars that had swelled from being stored in contact with moist concrete. I "trimmed" it in 2 x 4's rabbited out to fit - I'll have to do an instructable on it, too much to explain in a short note. Suffice it to say it was tough and solid - but the vise didn't quite work with the design. I need to revisit my design with an idea of getting the vise flush to the top and to one end of the bench - but it gets in the way of the "leg" at that end now! Oh, well, that's why God made drawing boards.
dpocius6 years ago
Well done! The anchoring to floor and walls is a great idea, esp. out here in earthquake country. Recently, I built a 92" x 30" bruiser. For the top, I used a piece of 1-1/8" thick plywood floor underlayment left over from the garage construction. Weighs a ton, but mucho solid! I scored a 2'x4' piece of scrap laminate floor material from a flooring outlet center ($1.25) for a sacrificial work surface,at front center where I do most of my sacrificing of perfectly good wood and metal. Lastly, I used a workbench bracket kit from Simpson (the construction bracket people) to assemble the frame. For some reason, a Home Depot out in Colorado was closing these out for 9 bucks, marked down from 30-something. I bought 4 sets, just because. Assembled per instructions, is amazingly strong! Simpson knows their stuff, I tell you what!
moucon7 years ago
Diagonal braces under the top are unnecessary and a waste of wood. Plywood or OSB provides all the lateral stability you need, especially if you're fastening to two walls as this is. Double up or thicken (to 2x6) the front rail and lose the diagonal down-braces as well.
jmengel (author)  moucon7 years ago
Thanks for your opinion.
I actually think the down-braces are useful if you want to put huge loads on the front edge of the bench. You could probably walk a horse up on that thing. A vertical leg would be much, much stronger, but the diagonals look good. I agree with moucon that the diagonal bracing inside the table face doesn't add to the strength of the table, though. the lateral loads you might put on a table of this sort just aren't high enough. maybe if you plan on ramming it from the side, repeatedly (and then only at one corner), with a tank. and even then, I think the plywood face would take most of the load anyway.
jmengel (author)  nagutron7 years ago
The diagonal bracing strengthens the table in that it increases the number of supports for the plywood, reducing the maximum unsupported span it must cover. That will make punching a hole in the table top that much harder. I really am hard on workbenches, I use the metal vice as a metal forming station. Bending 3/16" steel can take a toll. Thanks for the comments.
moucon jmengel7 years ago
If that's what you want to do, another thing you could do is double the top... and use a close-core (no void) plywood, instead of OSB. Something that will be very strong in compression. You could also go closer together on your supports generally - 12" or 16" instead of 24". Nothing terrible about the diagonal bracing, but in tension (the force you'd put on them by loading from the top) the connections to the frame will probably fail before anything else does. When you load one of those diagonals from above, the load is transferred to the ends -vertically on the connections. If the down force is extreme, the top would fail first... then the connections at the ends of the braces...then the main brace... and finally the diagonals, but by then the bench would be trashed so it wouldn't matter. Always follow the load path.
rumwrks moucon7 years ago
Adding a bottom skin would also reinforce the top substantially. I saw a design a few years ago in a popular woodworking magazine (can't recall which one specifically) that built a bench similar to this, but they put a skin on both the top and the bottom. Effectively this acts like an I beam, and greatly increases the overall rigidity. A little easier to do with a freestanding bench than a wall attached bench, and yours looks plenty strong anyway.
I've got a workbench like that =D I'm about to take it apart to build a bigger one though.
jmengel (author)  rumwrks7 years ago
You are correct. I thought about making the bench top a "monocoque" by skinning the bottom too but wanted to wait until I had the vices attached. Now that these are in, the motivation has left me since as you say it is strong enough. In the past I have used the 2x4 and plywood monocoque method to make some very rigid structures for fluid dynamics engineering experiment setups. Much stiffer than commercial extruded aluminum rails by weight. Thanks for the comments!
pekar7 years ago
jmengel (author)  pekar7 years ago
Looks good to me. Now that is a heavy duty top. I would have used screws rather than nails to secure the 2x4s but it is a small point.
pekar jmengel7 years ago
I used ring shanked nails, and a framing nailer, screws would have taken too long.
I'm sure the nails are plenty strong but you can't take it apart to recover the lumber nearly as easily.
Senseless7 years ago
When I built my workshop I planned ahead and set J-Bolts in the block walls to anchor the bench to and I used a 2x6 and a 2x4 to make the face of the bench rest on top of the 4x4's I used for my legs.

The workshop is under ground on three sides which is unusual for Florida and has no windows so it doubles as a safe room and there is enough room under the bench to sleep two. I wanted the workbench to be strong enough to provide shelter if a tornado tore up the upper floors of the house and collapsed it into the basement, I'd have a safe spot to huddle until someone hopefully came along and dug us out.


Uh, be sure to pack some cyanide tablets under there.
My workbench is in the shed so there's no good place to anchor too. Filing/sawing does shake the whole place. My plan to rectify this is to build a cupboard under the bench and attach the bench to that. I'll keep all my heaviest stuff in there.
I've used 18mm exterior ply for my workbench top with "garage floor" paint to protect it from spills.
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