Instructables

Make a Portable Workstation

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Picture of Make a Portable Workstation
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After having finished my CNC router (see my other Instructable), my workshop (a small shed in my backyard 3 x 6 m), became pretty full. The only other tools that I can fit in there are a small table saw, a drill press and some small powertools and handtools. So most of my woodworking happens outside. Next to woodworking and CNC stuff, I also like to work on smaller projects with electronics, which requires soldering etc. Since my 'workshop' is pretty full, I didn't have a proper place to work on these smaller projects. So I just moved some of my smaller tools (screwdrivers, soldering iron, pliers etc.) into my bedroom and worked on my electonics projects there. My parents were ok with the fact that I did some soldering in my bedroom, (better than in the kitchen or the living room), but didn't like the fact that my tools were laying all over the place. The table I was doing my work on also became pretty dented and full of glue and solder blobs. That's why I came up with this portable workstation. It has plenty of storage for all the tools I need, it also has some drawers where I keep solder, heat shrink tubing, wires etc. The lid forms a worksurface, so my parents don't have to worry about the table. I made it in the form of a suitcase, so that it would be very portable.
Ben Heck, from the Ben Heck show had a similar idea a couple of years ago for his portable workbench. I really liked his design, but it was quite complicated to build and it required the use of a CNC machine. For this build I decided to simplify the design quite a bit, so that it would be easier to replicate by people without fancy tools. It also has a bit more storage capabilities and you can customize it any way you want.

 
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Step 1: Tools + materials

Tools:

- Table saw (a circular saw or handsaw works as well)
- Router table or handheld router
- Drill
- Screwdriver
- Hand sander
- Tape measure
- Chisel
- Clamps
- A band clamp makes your live a whole lot easier when glueing.

Optional:

- CNC router

Safety:

Always wear safety glasses, hearing protection and a dust mask while working with powertools!

Materials:

- 1 sheet of 9mm birch plywood (2440x1220x12mm, you won't need the whole sheet, but it's nice to have some extra. Any 9mm plywood will work).
- 10 hinges (I used 6 40x20mm and 4 15x25mm)
- handle (I made mine out of some scrap wood)
- wood glue
- screws (+/- 3x12mm for the hinges)
- For the tool holders, I used scrap pieces of wood
- Elastic band
- Self adhesive velcro

Optional:
- powerstrip

Step 2: Design

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I used the free CAD program Sketchup, to make a basic design of the portable workstation I wanted to build. This went pretty fast, and by making a CAD drawing first, the rest of the project went a lot faster. Sketchup allows you to quickly and easily experiment with different designs and looks.
The joinery isn't very complex, just a lot of rabbets (grooves). You can see that the two doors also have a place to store tools. The worksuface consists of three pieces of wood, which are hinged together. Everything folds up nicely and you can carry the workstation around as a suitcase.
 
 

Step 3: Cutlist

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Now that I had my design completed, I created a cutlist for all of the pieces (see image above). This was very convenient for the next step: cutting everything out.

Step 4: Layout, measure and cut

Using a piece of chalk and my cutlist, I laid out all the pieces on the sheet of plywood. Try to order them so that you have the least amount of waist. I only needed about 3/5 of the sheet, so I saved the rest for a future project.

Next I used a handsaw to cut the sheet down into more manageable pieces.

I used the table saw to cut the pieces to their final dimensions. Make sure you set up your tablesaw correctly: all pieces should be square and cut to size as good as possible.

Step 5: Making grooves

To make the grooves in all of the pieces, I set up my handheld router inside of a router table. You can also use a dado blade in your tablesaw. All grooves/rabbets are 9mm wide and 3mm deep. Always try out your setup on a test piece first!

I also created the grooves in the back and bottom/top pieces of the main body. This is where the divider will go. For this I used the handheld router and clamped down another piece of wood as a guide. I used a chisel to clean up the ends.

I also cut a notch in the top and bottom of the main body (see pictures).

Note: If you don't have a router or a router table, you can just butt join the pieces together. The grooves mainly help to align the pieces and also make the project a bit stronger. However if you can't cut the grooves the dimensions of your pieces will be different.
 

Step 6: Sanding

It is a good idea to sand the inside faces of all the pieces before you glue everything together. This will be a lot more difficult when everything is assembled.

The last few images show all of the pieces.

Step 9: Wooden handle

I went to the hardware store to look for a nice sturdy handle, but I couldn't find anything I liked. So I decided to make my own wooden handle. It's made from an old table leg (beech wood). I first made a pattern out of a piece of MDF. I used it to trace out the shape onto the piece of wood. Using the jig saw, I cut it to rough shape. Than I stuck the pattern on the rough cut blank with double sided tape. I used a pattern bit in my router table (I just used my cnc :) ) and a roundover bit to get it to its final shape and make it feel nice. I used glue and screws, to mount it to the main body. It's very strong and I think it looks really nice.

Step 10: Installing the hardware

Installing the hardware was very easy. Just mark where you want the hinges to go, mark the hole locations, predrill and drive the screws. I wasn't sure how I would keep the lid closed. I decided that a simple pin would be the easiest option (see pictures).

Step 11: Tool holders

I haven't made any plans for this step, because this really depends on what tools you want to put in. I used nails, screws,  hooks, velcro, elastic band and some leftover pieces of plywood. I used a staple gun to create some loops that hold the pliers. I added a piece of plywood with a lot of holes drilled into it for the screwdrivers. I also added a power strip.
I made two very simple drawers to hold things like solder, wires, connectors etc. Most other tools hang on hooks or screws. The bit set is held in place by self adhesive velcro.
I made some 'straps' to hold the soldering iron in place by sticking the self adhesive backs of the velcro together. The pictures from this step and the folowing step should give you some good ideas for making you own tool holders.

Step 12: Fill it up

Well this is the easy part. Now it's time to fill the portable workstation with your favorite tools and all the other things you use most frequently.

Step 13: Make it fancy

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Your portable workstation is never complete without some cool instructables stickers :).

Step 14: Conclusion

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So that's it. Now I have a nice portable workspace, I can take anywhere. It has lot's of storage for all of my favorite tools and a nice worksurface where I can work on future projects. Total cost for this project was less than 50 dollars. It took me around 3 weekends to complete. There is still some room for more tools and I might add a small lamp in the near future, but I am very happy with the way it turned out. If you decide to build your own, please post a picture in the comment section and I will add it to this Instructable.

If you have any questions about this instructable, please feel free to leave a comment. And if you also like CNC machines, have a look at my other instructable.

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sway2 months ago

Great job! I'm very happy to see you won the Judge's Prize for this. I voted for you :-)

Benne (author)  sway2 months ago

Thanks! I'm really happy as well :). Thank you all very much for the votes and the great comments and support I really appreciate it!!! And thank you SpaceGambit for this awesome prize!

john mosier2 months ago

super cool, you should show a version with measurements of each board that is a net picture, you could also add to the work station sockets and a soldering station

thanks for sharing you awesome instructable

Akin Yildiz2 months ago

how cool is this man?! wow, very nice, i 100% need to make one, i dont' even have a shed anymore :( just a 1 bedroom apartment, I have to put away my tools after each use....!

Dave A2 months ago

gefeliciteerd Benne, met het winnen van de Jury prijs! (Een tweede cnc in je kleine werkplaats, dat wordt passen en meten ;-) ) Nederland is goed vertegenwoordigd in deze contest.

Benne (author)  Dave A2 months ago

Dankjewel! U ook gefeliciteerd! Na mijn eindexamens zal ik eens kijken wat voor leuks we er allemaal mee kunnen doen. Ik denk dat ik er een laser module op ga zetten, om hem als laser graveerder te kunnen gebruiken. Het wordt inderdaad lastig om er nog een plekje voor te vinden :). Op mijn middelbare school worden nu ook Science+ lessen gegeven. Misschien kunnen er volgend jaar wel een aantal lessen over CNC toepassingen gegeven worden, dan kan de machine ook een tijdje op school staan.

Het is inderdaad erg leuk om te zien dat steeds meer Nederlanders op Instructables actief zijn, maar het is natuurlijk ook een fantastische website!

Eh Lie Us!3 months ago

Nice. At first glance my thoughts went to "wow, a mortal's version of the Studley's tool chest!"

vincent75203 months ago

Neat.

I'm sure zillions of Instructables viewers already voted for this project.

I join them right away !…

foobear3 months ago

I need about 10 of these. hee hee

shazni3 months ago
Grand prize??? I hope so! Good luck :-)
s00500 made it!3 months ago

This is really nice!!! I've also rebuild Ben Hecks Portable Workbench (Since I don't own a cnc it was a bit more difficult =D)
I've ducumented the whole thing on my Website!

Check it out =D

http://lbsfilm.at/the-portable-workbench/

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Benne (author)  s005003 months ago

Awesome! It looks really nice, especially knowing you did this all by hand without the use of a CNC machine. Where did you get those tool holders for your pliers? Those look really convenient and can hold all kinds of tools. Your website also looks great, lots of beautiful pictures and well documented projects. Nice to see someone of my age being interested in technology and making things as well.

s00500 Benne3 months ago
Thanks!!!
Yes it was quite a bit of work =D
The tool holders are actually clips for installing cables and pipes. I found them in our cellar and thought the might work. It's not the best solution and I would love to have some 3D printed parts for the tools but as time and money are always my biggest enemies....
Thanks again (I've been working and designing on my website for quite a long time now but I'm still not finished..)
The Wapusk3 months ago

This looks excellent though I might suggest some sort of flat fold or mortised hinge, such as those used in fine carpentry. I can see it might not work with the thickness of wood you're using, but ultimately it could create an uninterrupted work surface.

mclancer3 months ago

What a fantastic idea and execution. The idea of a "tool box" combined with a "workstation" is brilliant. There are only 2 small suggestions I could make.

1... Install 2 small chains (or rope/wire) from the top of the main section, to the sides of the main piece of the work surface. This is to not let it pivot forward more than 90 degrees in case there is not enough support for the work station.

2... Tools can be heavy. adding small wheels and a telescoping handle (like a suitcase) for us people that are getting older.

I needed to replace my portable tool case, and this Instructable will provide me with ideas and modivation to start my own project. Thank you.

Benne (author)  mclancer3 months ago

Great suggestions! I really like the idea of adding small wheels, which would definitely make it even more portable.

agis683 months ago

excellent idea and well presented voted as well

Benne (author)  agis683 months ago

Thanks!

BALDORKHAN3 months ago

Very good!!!!!

BALDORKHAN3 months ago
Very good!!!!!
AJMansfield3 months ago

You should really consider cleaning your garage out, if you have to move things to your bedroom...

Benne (author)  AJMansfield3 months ago

Well it's not really a 'garage'. It's a small shed 3x6m (or maybe even smaller) in my backyard and my homemade CNC router already takes up half of the space :). It's also a place for garden equipment from my parents and all the room that's left is taken up by my small table saw, drill press, wood storage and some small powertools. So there really isn't enough space to put in a small desk, where I can solder etc. I already moved a lot of stuff from my parents out of the shed, so I really can't throw out more. A portable workstation for my bedroom definitely seemed like the best option. Hope you liked it.

NEIN3 months ago

Very nice! It's somewhat similar to one I've been working on, with a few key differences. You got my vote!

Benne (author)  NEIN3 months ago

Thanks!

Is het gebaseerd op Ben Heck's portable workbench of ben je op hetzelfde idee gekomen?

Ja, ik denk dat het moet zijn: het is zo vergelijkbaar!

Benne (author)  msemtd3 months ago

Hallo DIYToday en msemtd,

Dit ontwerp is inderdaad gebaseerd op Ben Heck's portable workbench welke hij een aantal jaar geleden heeft gemaakt. Ik ben net als jullie een trouwe fan/kijker van de Ben Heck show en ben al een aantal jaar op zijn Youtube kanaal geabonneerd. Ik heb een link naar Ben's website toegevoegd aan stap 1 met wat extra toelichting. Ik heb voor mijn ontwerp gekozen om de basis relatief simpel te houden, zodat iedereen zijn eigen invulling hieraan kan geven. Door de hole deuren is er ook wat meer ophang mogelijkheid voor verschillende gereedschappen. Ben's design is erg ingenieus maar ook zodanig moeilijk/precies passend, dat een CNC machine eigenlijk wel een vereiste is. Mijn ontwerp is dan ook relatief simpel en ik heb geprobeerd om alles zo goed mogelijk te documenteren.

Met vriendelijke groet,

Benne

msemtd Benne3 months ago

Hi Benne,

Ik ben een grote fan van Ben's Show. Ik hou van uw versie van het plan en ik zal proberen om het te maken! Spijt voor mijn slechte Nederlands!

LanderDeBoeck3 months ago

Mooie instructie!!!

Benne (author)  LanderDeBoeck3 months ago

Dank u wel

Aussiek083 months ago
Stolen from the Ben heck show (YouTube)
Benne (author)  Aussiek083 months ago

Hello Assiek08,

I just added a link to Ben's website and a bit more explanation to the first step. I don't think you should say that I completely stole Ben's design, but as a big fan of the Ben Heck show (I have been subscribed for many years), can I say that I definitely got inspired by his build and the main idea of this portable workstation is based around his design. I did however alter his design quite a bit to make it easier for other people like me (17 year olds and/or people without many fancy tools) to build, without the use of a CNC machine. I also changed the whole inside, to give it more storage and more room to hang tools. I should have added a link to Ben's website earlier (which I now have done) and I hope you still liked it.

Greetings,

Benne

msemtd3 months ago

Heel goed werk!

muddog153 months ago
Can I buy one?
overca$t3 months ago
Beautifully designed. A lot of thought has clearly gone into it. Instructions are great too with lots of photos. I'd been looking at designing a mobile workstation myself but your solution fits my needs perfectly - thanks!
Matatas overca$t3 months ago

do you have old pc? if you do you can build electrinics box wiht psu

Matatas3 months ago

Briliant idea!!

irish4life3 months ago
Great but would be better in inches. Not very literate in metric conversions.
annrrr3 months ago
Has this been entered for the contest yet? I am trying to vote for it but not seeing it under list of entries . . .
Benne (author)  annrrr3 months ago

I guess it takes about two days for the instructable to be accepted to the contest (probably monday). So if you would be willing to vote on monday, or when it gets accepted, that would be awesome!

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