MTI-workbench

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Introduction: MTI-workbench

After doing a couple of DIY reclaimed wood projects, I realized I could do with a bigger workbench. Something sturdier, with room for tools and a bigger work surface.

So I set out to design one. This is going to be a big one. I made this over a month ago, have been thinking about and designing it for a lot longer. I've already had questions from people if I could make one for them, or where people can buy the plans. So besides putting it on my blog I also made a small web store where you can buy the plans if you like this project. I hope it's okay to mention that here. EDIT: because of an argument with Ron, I took the plans down for now. They may be back later.

We're renovating a home at the moment with some family and I've put this workbench to good use there. Initially, my parents/siblings/others thought it would be too big and clumsy to put indoors (small house) but between a pair of wobbly saw horses, a door that was being repaired on a workmate and became a table instead, and tools littered al over the floor, I got frustrated enough to just ignore everyone and bring the darn thing upstairs. Everybody loved it. No more tools littered on the floor, wobbly saw horses that never get put aside cause you always need to saw something, finding good ways to hold or clamp stuff down... I should have brought this up on day 1. Would have saved us a lot of time.

So let's have an instructable on how I built it. You can read more on my blog at thelowlander.org. Happy building!

Step 1: A Single Sheet of Plywood.

So: specs... This entire workbench has a worktop of 120*80 cm. Also known as the dimensions of the surface area of a EUR size pallet.

The reason I went with this size is because I love working with pallets since I was small (my dad and I used to work with them a lot) Pile a few up and you have a makeshift workbench. There's a whole story behind it that would make this instructable waaay too huge, so I left that for the blog :) Trust me, it's a cool read.

More specs:

  • This workbench has a working area like an EUR pallet, 120*80 cm.
  • It can be made from a single sheet of 2440*1220*18 mm plywood.
  • It has bench dog holes which can be used to clamp a lot of stuff down.
  • It has a modular slot where you can put different modules. For instance, I made a module for my miter saw from some other plywood scraps I had.
  • It has a good amount of storage for tools.
  • It's lightweight. Pack up and carry.
  • It's very sturdy.
  • All you need to set it up for work are a pair of saw horses or a pile of pallets.

I started by putting the 3D design into a 2D plan. Then I printed the plan and bought a sheet of plywood. I cut the plywood into 3 main pieces first: the top, the bottom, and the leftover where all the rest of the pieces would be cut from. Let's call the vertical pieces "girders".

Step 2: Cutting All the Pieces

To cut all the girders I worked from one side of the leftover piece towards the other end. By that I mean I measured one girder, drilled all the holes, rounded the inside edges, THEN cut the girder apart from the main piece, and ONLY then did I measure again for the next piece (keeping measurements that don't change to save time obviously).

The reason I worked this way was that I could never have a nasty surprise if my saw blade cut away a bit too much material. I left a large margin in the plans to account for whatever thickness of saw blade, but I think it's still good practice to work from one piece to the next, so that's how I do it. I didn't do the first girder this way though, and I was lucky it was wide enough... again: safe margins.

After all the girders were cut I stored everything in my tiny tool shed to continue the next day.

Step 3: Drilling the Bench Dog Holes.

This was not really difficult (except if you want it really, REALLY tight and straight), but it was very tedious.

The top of the workbench needed bench dog holes, so here I had to measure and drill them. Spend as much time measuring as you can spare. The better your measurements, the better your holes will be aligned.

I didn't have any fancy tools or method to drill holes. I had to do it manually. I was lucky enough that I could borrow my dad's drill press. I tried to get the holes as straight as I could, and this went fairly well. I put a big piece of thick cardboard underneath to prevent tear out on the other side of the board.

I also measured the area that would be cut our for the modular space, and drilled holes there. Once I drilled all the holes, I cut out this area, and used it later as a separate module.

Step 4: Assembling All the Pieces

Time to add everything together: I started by turning the top around so I could align the center girders more easily (didn't have to measure carefully anymore). Then I laid out the outer frame, clamped it, and laid in the rest of the internal frame and clamped what I could.

Then I drilled pilot holes, added glue, and screwed the outer frame together. Afterwards I did the same for the inner frame. The short, open girders inside were the last ones to be screwed in place, and they were a bit trickier because I couldn't drill through from the other side. So Instead I drilled and screwed from the side of the girder itself. Countersink the screw and you're good to go.

After that I put glue on top of the frame and put the bottom on. I drilled pilot holes and screwed the bottom on tight.

I then flipped the workbench over and repeated those steps for the top of the workbench. My work-flow for anything that needs to connect is basically:

  • Clamp workpieces together
  • Drill pilot holes
  • Drill screws just enough so they protrude enough to “slot” in the pilot hole on the other workpiece
  • Remove clamps
  • Add glue to connected surfaces
  • Connect workpieces again (screws “slot” in pilot holes)
  • Clamp and tighten screws
  • Let glue dry
  • Sand and finish

So after everything was connected, I sanded it some and then put an oil based finish on it.

Step 5: Finished MTI-workbench

The fully assembled workbench and putting it to use: I made some bench dogs, and afterwards I made another toolbox for my neighbour like the smaller one I made for my dad a while ago. This one went a lot faster now that I could properly clamp stuff.

I've been using this workbench for slightly over a month now. I'm loving how convenient it's proven to be during the renovation. Especially how my family changed their mind so radically about how very useful it turned out to be.

I hope you enjoyed this instructable, and if you want the measurements that I used, you can find them at my website/store.

Happy building!

Step 6: BONUS: First Project on MTI-workbench

Just for the heck of it, because I'm not sure it deserves another instructable: here is a mini instructable on the first project on my MTI-workbench: A new toolbox for my neighbour.

Like the previous one, I used rough pallet wood for the toolbox. Being able to clamp it down better made it easier to plane and sand stuff, made it easier to cut (although I didn't use the router properly... I got somewhat impatient).

The cool part is that I actually started with much rougher pallet wood, and ended up with a really smooth toolbox.

Steps:

  • Find nice boards.
  • Cut boards to size
  • Clamp and plane/sand
  • Cut round corners
  • Clamp the whole thing together for a dry fit
  • Drill holes for handle
  • Round off handle and put into place.
  • Drill pilot holes
  • Add glue
  • Screw together
  • Sand down (and remove excess wood from handle)

Fun stuff :)

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34 Comments

Nice idea for a portable work bench. But, all you share are some pictures of the build at a couple of different stages and some dialog, mainly about how you developed the idea, very little on the how you actually built it. IMHO the spirit of instructables is to teach others how to make something. It would be nice if you would add a list of tools used, the size and number of screws, their spacing, etc... I would never have thought to use screws to go into the ends of wood that thin, I would have selected brads to hold the material in place until the glue set. I understand why you didn't use dowels but, why did you choose screws? The girders would have to be true to give proper support, or the screws would likely tear out, and the girders would collapse. How did you square their ends? A jig or template and a hand planer or belt sander?

Thanks for the feedback, I never thought about that! I may update the instructable to include it when I'm a bit less swamped, but I'll answer some of the questions now:

I don't remember the exact kind of screw I used, whether they were stainless or "regular" but I make sure they protrude at least a cm into the other piece. I used screws for the simple reason that I like using them and I don't have a brad-nail gun. Didn't want to hammer nails in manually either. I don't think nails grip as tight or as well as screws do. When wood starts to work, sometimes nails pop up a little bit. I've never seen screws do that. But I'm definitely no expert here, so if there is a good reason to use nails or brads I'm up for hearing it.

I did mention where I put screws in the plans, Basically in all the corners or where girders meet. And where there is enough "meat" for the screw to grab. I pre-drilled all the holes so the screws wouldn't split the wood. I tend to put all the screws in through the holes just enough that they "slot" into the pilot holes, but not enough to grab yet. That way I can take the workpieces apart and apply glue first. I like to dry fit stuff before I glue up.

I don't know what you mean with the girders must be true, but the inside girders are very, VERY sturdy.

I don't have a belt sander. I measured meticulously before making any cuts with a tape measure and several 90 degree rulers. You could choose not to do that because I made safe margins in the plans, so you could just saw and use a sander or something to clean up, but I didn't have to do that and my girders came out very close to the right size. I did do a little cleanup with a hand-held sander but it wasn't really necessary.

Hope this answers your questions. Could you tell me why/when you would choose brad nails over screws?

This portable wok bench is a form of torsion box. Made of plywood, and held together mainly by glue, with butt joints. Butt joints, glued together, in thin wood/veneering are one of the perfect places to use brads. Initially they will act as clamps until the glue dries. Then they add strength to the joint against lateral forces - where a glue bond, and this type of joint are weakest. Another nice thing about brads, installed with a brad gun, is you can control the piece being attached with one hand, while "nailing" with the other. Thus the 2 pieces can be put together, as desired, long before the glue gets a chance to dry. Now you can move on to the next piece quickly, or add other types of clamps, without your work falling apart, or before the glue dries. Do a Google on "torsion box" (without the quotes). You will find a number of good, quality, wood workers putting them together with glue, and brads, also get a better visual of when or why to use them. They are also great for installing trim, and molding around the house, which is what got me started using them. Besides the time they save me, I can buy 1000 of them (18ga) for around $3.00USD for my Bostitch brad gun. In the end you will find nail guns pay for themselves through the price of their consumables, just like laser printers. Have a blessed day!

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This bench is very much a knock off of the Paulk Total Station introduced two years ago on Youtube. It is sad to see others claim credit for work not theirs.

Ron Paulk designer of the Paulk Workbench, Paulk Total Station, and Paulk Miter Stand.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-N7RlWHaFbE

With all due respect sir, that is simply not true. I reviewed a lot of workbenches before I came to this design, and I drew and built it from the ground up to suit my own needs.

I have seen your workbenches and they're awesome, but not very practical for my needs. The Paulk workbench consists of 2 big slabs that you link with the sawhorses, and the total station basically looks like a "very glorified" (meaning no disrespect) miter saw station with some other tools on it. The structures of both are different from mine and they both look like it takes way more space than I have to store or even to set them up.

My workbench is basically a glorified pallet. I can take it outside, work until it starts raining and store everything again in no time. I could even just store my tools inside the shed, drop another closed pallet on top and leave the bench itself outside.

I've already mentioned how I came to my design. I basically went from pallets to modified pallets to pallets with a plywood top to full plywood to steel frame and back to plywood. Originally I wanted my whole workbench to be made from reclaimed pallet wood, so when I made the decision to stick with plywood I didn't want to have to buy many expensive sheets and be left with a lot of scraps. So fitting the whole bench in a single sheet of plywood if possible was a design criteria.

I've always stored tools between pallets, since waaaaay back when I was a kid. I didn't get that idea from your workbench. Originally I thought about modifying a pallet to be my workbench... I love pallets. Pallets were a BIG design criteria.

I wanted space to expand to grow my skills, so I needed a space for tools I might use in the future. Virtually every workbench/workflow I've seen online has some combination of miter saw/table saw/router table system. A central modular space for future tools was a design criteria.

I saw several MDF slabs online, the one I like best is the Multifunction slab designed by Steve Olson. Before I saw those MDF slabs I just wanted to make a workbench with legs and I didn't have a good idea how to attach and store them. Afterwards I wanted to make my workbench as mobile and light as those slabs, but with more storage for tools and space for a cool miter/router/whatever tool. Obviously it's not as light, but still lighter than most heavy duty pallets and quite easy to carry. And you don't need special legs anymore. I can setup on whatever is already there.

I did not make a knock off of your work, I very much designed this myself and I do not have any intention to steal your work, or anybody else's work for that matter. Your total station looks structurally different from my workbench. Again, I mean no offense, but I wouldn't trust really heavy items on the total station like I would on the MTI-workbench because of how I designed it. If you're allowed to sell your designs, I think I can do the same with mine.

I have no probem whatsoever with crediting other people for their influence. You sir, are in that list, but you are far from the only one and certainly not the greatest influence. Maybe the biggest "aha" moment for my workbench came from Steve Olson with his MDF slab. I even had inspiration from the Eastwood company. They have videos on welding and their steel workbench is frigging awesome (for welding)! Others I follow for inspiration include people like Jimmy Diresta, Jay Bates, Matthiass Wandel, Bob from "I like to make stuff" Paoson woodworking, Mirock, April Wilkerson, Izzy Swan, Tim Sway, John Malecki and several others. Google and Pinterest are awesome too.

Your work is awesome and you deserve all the credit you can get for it, but the MTI-workbench is my design, my work, not yours.

Take a close look at the PTS, yours is a twin. Mine is 3x6 and sets up in under 5 minutes as I demonstrated two years ago on youtube. I can stand on it and jump up and down. Also, if I don't set up the miter extensions, it sets up even faster. You may dispute the heavily borrowed design, but my email inbox challenges your assertion of it being "Your Design." Yours does lack the complete functionality of being a miter stand, table saw outfield, and router table, but the bones of my design are obviously present. You can write lengthily replies, but comparing a photo of my Total Station and your bench speaks a thousand words.

In your Youtube video titled "PAULK WORK BENCH", between 0:59 - 1:10 minutes, you describe how your work bench came to be. I am having trouble understanding why you, or anyone else, believe that another builder couldn't possibly want and design a bench, like yours, from their own imagination, needs and experience. I worked for a man, Charlie Thompson, in the 1970's. He was a master carpenter, house builder, also owned the Ohio State Roof Truss Co., and K&G Lumber yard. He designed, built and utilized a very similar portable plywood bench to this. The biggest differences I see between your bench, this bench and his is: Charlie's had 2 wood worker vices on one side, it housed a Dewalt Radial Arm Saw, and their deminsions. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Ron Paulk you have "invented" a workbench years ago, OK.
And for years you are beating a dead horse!
In every youtube video "Ron Paulk: Designer of the Paulk Workbench"
"Ron Paulk: Designer of the Awsome rolling Wayntraintoolbox"
"Ron Paulk: Designer of the Whaterver Station"
For this reasons i had cancelled my subscription to your youtube channel.
I always waitet for "as seen on TV". I cant hear it anymore, its so annoying!
You
act like Apple!
You also copied parts from other workbenches an claim
that you invented all alone.
Benchdogholes an Clampingholes and all this
things where inventetd long long before you lived.
Do you have a patend on this workbench?
Ok, mtilemans workbench is a simillar AND IMPROVED design.
His workbenchsize is much better for the Homeworkshop, yours for the professional.
He should mentioned your workbench in his instructable, OK.
IMHO on this instructable (helping) site is no place to take money for plans.
Takeing money for an explanation, an instructable, an plan is not helping, its selling!
I hope he puts the Plans online again, i consider to build it for my small garage.

I did write a lengthy reply, then took a deep breath and calmed down. Let's agree to disagree. I firmly believe that the MTI-workbench is my own design, because it is, period. And you believe what you believe. I took the link out of the store just to be respectful, I still very much disagree though. I think I have every right to do with my own work what I want. I have other things I'm working on I could put in there instead.

Looks like a Ron Paulk inspired workstation to me. Your argument sounds much like the argument that Vanilla Ice made when Queen accused him of stealing their riff from Under Pressure and sampling it for Ice Ice Baby. All he did was add an extra high hat and swore it was an original. All you've done is add space for a miter saw. Give credit where credit is due.