Introduction: Maker Bench

Picture of Maker Bench
If you were a part of MAKE:'s 06 Maker Faire in San Mateo California, you probably didn't miss the the Maker Bench. Many of the projects were set on these sturdy, overbuilt tables made of aluminum pipe and fittings. In this project we will walk you throught the steps and point out the pieces and parts you need to build your own Maker Bench.

tools required:
5/16” Hex Key
Drill (not required)
Screw Driver

parts list:
6’ x 30” Plywood Tabletop
4 wood screws

1 1/2" Aluminum Schedule 40 Pipe:
4 x 3’ 1-1/2”
4 x 2’ 1”
3 x 5’ 7”

(available at: )
4 x L61-8 Kee Lite Flange
6 X L10-8 Kee Lite Single Socket Tee
4 x L20-8 Kee Lite Side Outlet Elbow
4 x 105-8 Kee Klamp Sheeting Clip

Note about pipe size: this bench was overbuilt. If you wanted to shave the cost of this bench you could:

1) Use a different type of pipe (e.g. thinner wall tubing)  You can also use fence tube if you really want to cut cost.
2) Use a smaller diameter pipe.  
  • Make sure that you buy fittings that correspond to the pipe size that you have chosen.
3) Use Kee Klamp fittings instead of Kee Lite.

Step 1: Assemble the Legs

Picture of Assemble the Legs

If you ordered your bench from O'Reilly or from Simplified Building Concepts then this step will already be complete.

Slip-on the four L20s to one end of each of the four 3' 1-1/2' pipes. Tighten down the set screw.

Slip-on four L10s to the other end of the pipes.
Lay the pipes on the ground with the L20s all facing the same direction (see below)
Position two L10s so that they are aligned with the vertical portion of the L20. Tighten the set screw. (see left below)
Position two L10s so that they are aligned with the horizontal portion of the L20. Tighten the set screw. (see right below)

These will be you legs.

Step 2: Attach Feet

Attach all four L61 Flange fittings to bottom of pre-assembled 3’ 1-1/2” leg pipes

Step 3: Build the Bench Leg Sets

Fit the 2’ 1” pipe from step 2 into the L10 Single Socket Tee fittings attached to one of the four 3’ 1-1/2” leg pipes. Fit a 2’ 1” pipe (with no fittings on it) into L20 Side Outlet Elbows directly above and parallel to the other 2’ 1” pipe. Tighten set-screws.

Repeat step above with remaining 2’1” and 3’1-1/2” pipes.

There should now be two separate sets of two 3’1-1/2” legs, each attached by one upper and one lower 2’1” pipe.

Step 4: Complete the Frame

Picture of Complete the Frame

Take one of the leg-sets and fit two of the three 5’ 7” pipes into the two L20 fittings that are on top of the legs. Fit the remaining 5’ 7” pipe into the L10 fitting that has not been tightened on the lower 2’ 1” pipe. Tighten the set-screws that will secure the three 5’ 7” pipes. The 5’ 7” pipe that is attached to the L10 of the lower 2’ 1” pipe should be able to swivel.

Fit the three 5’ 7” pipe ends into the remaining leg-set L20 and L10 fitting(s). Tighten all three set-screws and finally tighten the remaining L10 set-screw on the 2’ 1” pipe. Ensure all set-screws are now fully tightened.

Step 5: Attach the Top

Picture of Attach the Top

Place Plywood Tabletop on top of bench frame evenly and level. Place Sheeting Clamps approximately 6 inches in from each end of Tabletop on the bottom side of Tabletop and on the bottom side of the 5’ 7” pipe. Next, mark where holes will need to be drilled into wood, or simply screw the Sheeting Clamps into place without drilling. Screw Sheeting Clips to bottom of Tabletop with ½ inch screws.

Drilling holes prior to sinking screws may prevent wood from splitting.


mvillalpando (author)2015-01-04

On my first job, at a bagel bakery, the original owners had made these type of benches back in the 1950's, or prior, to be used to make the bagels by hand. They are still in use, but for other purposes because the bagels are now made on machines. Point being, these tables will outlast you! Thanks for the Instructable! I'll definitely have to build me one soon.

michaelgc (author)2014-08-15

I was looking for ideas for a new workbench in my shed and I am definitely going to use some of the ideas from this bench, don't think I am going to pay for it but this shouldn't be to hard to replicate.

Coffee (author)2007-07-24

It's a nice bench, but I have to question the price point, and it would probably be improved by more generic instructions. A really nice bench, but is it worth $500?

Scurvymcdiggle (author)Coffee2011-09-27

more and more you have to consider the source on this website...kinda sad. the person who posted it sells the pieces to make this bench and it is attached to MAKE which sell magazines for 35 dollars. but yeah it has a lot of potential.

NimbleElf (author)2010-02-19

I like the concept of the bench (simple, super ridged and strong and easy to put together), and at first I thought seriously about putting this idea to use. Then I looked up the price of the materials- eeeeEEEEEOOOOOW!  the aluminum pipe alone is over $6.00 a foot! The "feet" (circular pipe -to-floor fittings) are $30.00 each! So, for an 8 foot long bench with a (modest) 2 foot width, the four "stretchers" (long part of bench) would be $48.00 each=$192. The "rails" (for the width) @ 2 feet each (you need four) will come to $48.00, The "feet" @ $30.00 each is $120.00, the kee-clamp "side elbow" L20-7 are $17.40 each and comes to $69.60 for the needed four, and four of the L21-7 kee klamps will come to $59.52 : the grand total (and you haven't even bought the material for the top of the bench yet) is $489.12 !!  Ummm, when I think of "making" something, I usually am concerned with saving some money over buying the equivalent item already made. I could never afford to build one of these.

andres783 (author)NimbleElf2011-09-13

Just FYI, galvanized pipe will do the job just fine. Thougher to cut, but sturdy as hell. You can find it at HD or Lowes for 1.99 a foot. Fittings can be Holleander, for 2.50 each.

Just in case you do want to build it. If it still is too expensive, go with PVC. One thing for sure, you can customize almost everything on this table, after completion with a few twists of a hex key.

lsymms (author)2008-05-29

Harbor Freight has all these fittings for 1/4-1/2 the price. Note that the parts will not be well made and you can assume some issues. Specifically with flat parts not being flat, but considering the fact that you can walk in-store save that much and not pay and wait for shipping: it might be worth the trouble.

buildingteen (author)2006-11-06

Thanks I was thinking maybe make it with pvc and fill it with cement or sand.

shooby (author)buildingteen2008-03-26

If you do this, take some steps to avoid sagging in the horizontal cross brace.

vonslatt (author)buildingteen2006-11-12

I just built a pair of benches using old bed frames - I pick up a couple at the town dump almost every week. Total cost $0.

Have a look: Workbench built with bed frame angle iron.


andytoomajian (author)vonslatt2007-04-20

Jake, thats awesome. Your bench kicks MAKE's ass anyday. Great re-use of old bed frames.

carlos66ba (author)2007-06-11

Very nice table!!!

true_geek (author)2007-04-29

I gots to build me one of these!

corradini (author)2007-04-19

Trying to "be nice", per instructables' policy (hey, Saul), and constructive with my criticism....

Love the table, but part of engineering is COST vs. function. And "cost" can be not just money, but time, resources, distraction, etc. One of the tenets of Extreme Programming is to write the minimal amount of code possible that accomplishes the necessary function. The same thing applies in the world of Physical Stuff.

This sucker is, as the great folks at SB have pointed out, wildly over-engineered -- which is why it's so bloody expensive. There are all KINDS of materials which are as rigid (if not more), far cheaper, as easily available, as easy to work with, and - yes - as easy to disassemble (although nobody's made much of a case for that as one of the key design constraints).

First of all - it's NOT "cheating" in engineering to, e.g., simply go to craigslist and type in "lab bench" -- bingo. Gorgeous heavy-duty industrial assembly benches, some with drawers and wired for power - $50 - 220. (As of 4/19, Bay Area - but still...). eBay's like that, too.

If you can BUY a great used -- or even brand-new! -- lab-bench for less than you can MAKE it for -- what's the point? (Don't anyone get on me for making a lathe from scratch for far more than it would cost me to buy one - I've explained why! You don't learn all that much allen-wrenching a kit-bench together. ;-)

Second - I needed exactly such a bench recently. I'm building a high-temperature (500°C) bench reactor that needs a fume hood, to be portable/movable, and to be somewhat explosivo-proof (as I'm heating methanol -- that is, NASCAR fuel -- to 300°C on it. At home.) I built it in an afternoon from scrap 2x4s I had sitting around, a half-sheet of plywood, and some heat-resistant concrete "backerboard" from the Big Orange Borg. Painted it with high-temp (1200°F) spray-paint on the "hot side". Put some aluminum c-channel around the center panel and some angle-channel on the edges of the flat surface. (Love that "GOOP" stuff! Right up there with WD-40, FastSteel, JBWeld, polycaprolactone (aka "ShapeLok"), and a Dremel clone.)

Total cost (even assuming I'd bought everything) -- less than $80. And - it looks good. No "Make" stencil, but I printed out a "HOT - NO TOUCH" stencil and Xacto'd it for spray-painting in red on the hot side.

Sorry - no photos yet - still chatting with my patent dude about that, seeing as how I've got equipment mounted on it. >;-)

buildingteen (author)2006-11-05

is it sturdy enough to use it as a workbench like sawing and hammering? How about PVC

Hi, The answer to your question about the bench is "yes, definitely". It's made with schedule 40 pipe which has extremely thick walls, so it's very stable. I don't know about PVC.. some other people in the instructables community would probably be better equipped to answer that one.

After all the talk about PVC pipe and fittings we now have some available that are akin to what we offer in steel and aluminum. Take a look and let us know what you think:

faster (author)2007-04-11

The fittings are called "Kee Klamp" they come in lots of shapes and sizes. Google the name and you will find lots of places that have them.

radiorental (author)2006-07-23

"MAKE Bench $429.99 plus $50 shipping (in North America)" ammmmm.....

With no top... but they do include a "Make" stencil!

ironically you can make your own stencil!

Operandi (author)2007-03-09

Where can you buy these type of fittings cheapest/cheaper?

buildingteen (author)2006-11-17

I was thinking today for a cheap tablesaw a good Idea would be to use one of these but smaller and with a slot in it (or any old sturdy table) and get an old circular saw off and mount it to the bottom. You could probably make one out of pvc and old plywood and an old saw for like $30

trebuchet03 (author)buildingteen2007-02-28

{I know it's a late response} My father has a table in his shop for that :P It works surprisingly well - just be anal about alignment and take the extra time to build a fence ;)

dustyhoffsky (author)2006-08-12

I agree with andytoomajian and others who complain about the cost. But then, the author is "simplifiedbuilding" from whom you buy the expensive fittings, so isn't this just an ad for them? I think MAKE should monitor, and possibly, ban, these kinds of entries.

Make doesn't control instructabes Squid labs does

_soapy_ (author)dustyhoffsky2006-11-01

I disagree. If a retailer posts something cool, then good for them! If they overcharge for something (in the eyes of some) then those people can use these comments to address that, or, even better, they can write up a cheaper version of the same project, and mark it "Half price MAKE table!" This is what the site is about - sharing the design concepts. Details are down to individual preferences.

mustaphabarakat (author)2006-12-13

[Removed by author]

NickH (author)2006-07-29

I used 1.5 inch PVC to make a computer/keyboard table. It's absolutely stable. The trick is to use enough braces. When I finished it, I sprayed it with aluminum paint. The photo is kind of messy, but you get the idea.

NickH (author)NickH2006-12-01

Here's a couple of shots of the legs. The shots are from underneath the table and show the electronic keyboard shelf retracted and extended in playing position.

HeresyOfTruth (author)NickH2006-11-03

I was just watching something where I guy built pipe furniture, and filled the pipes with sand to add stability. Cool bench NickH!

simplifiedbuilding (author)NickH2006-07-29

Well, there you a have it! Nice table Nick.

I think the key element to stability in NickH's table is the wide board/plywood/whatever he used as a backing. That adds a tremendous amount of strength to this type of design. Nice job.

HeresyOfTruth (author)2006-11-03

I like the idea you've come up with, and think it's a good inspiration.

andytoomajian (author)2006-07-31

this is what i hate about MAKE. it would be a nice work table, but putting it together, even if you save a little and buy your own pieces, is significantly more expensive than many sturdy workbenches already on the market. why bother. scrap wood is a lot easier to come by cheap than scrap pipe, and a frame of 2x4's with 4x4 legs would be plenty sturdy, even overbuilt. not to mention easier to add storage shelving and hooks to.

_soapy_ (author)andytoomajian2006-11-01

So design and post your own, cheaper design! Just let this be your inspiration.

skafish (author)2006-09-08

Thank you for the great plans with the link to simplified building. I didn't know anything about simplified building before finding this story, and these are the types of fittings I need for this type of project and many others that I am involved in that need modular metal framing for transportability. To those complaining about price, if you know of cheaper options for heavy-duty metal framing for projects like this, please share!

flippertong (author)2006-08-30

Would like to try this project with the fence post, however I am confused, you mention 4 L10 units being required, but the picture would suggest 6? Am I missing something? Thanks for your time...

You're Right!!! There was a typo in my project that I am going to correct.

simplifiedbuilding (author)2006-08-14

Thoughts on Cost.. Since posting this we discovered that you could probably cut the cost of this bench in half (off of the price we built it for) but using size 7 fittings and then 1-5/8" Fence Post Line (16G) from Home Depot or a fence supplier.

tr0g (author)2006-07-31

Well, it is more expensive than 2x4s and 4x4s. However, it has a couple of advantages that those don't. First off, you can break it down a hell of a lot easier. Take the allen wrench and unbolt the whole thing and you're ready to go. I'm getting ready to move. My 2x4 and 3/4" MDF workbenches will probably stay, simple because I don't want to hassle with moving them. Secondly, even without unbolting it, it's easier to move than the old wood chunk. If your workspace requires reconfiguring frequently, it may be an idea. But it is pretty damn expensive. I priced it out on McMaster-Carr with 1" steel pipe and it's still $310. I dunno if portability is worth that much.

hencethus (author)tr0g2006-07-31

Where did you find the "side outlet elbow" fittings? I didn't see them on McMaster-Carr.

hencethus (author)2006-07-29

How about making this out of PVC? Would that probably be too flimsy?

I'm not really sure.. I think if you cut down the the length it might be able to work. If you try it and it works out.. let us know!

jswilson64 (author)2006-07-25

You can make something that looks similar using iron pipe and fittings. It'll be heavier but have the same look. Lumber is cheaper & easier to work with. I built a workbench out of "cull lumber" from local Home Depot stores - probably cost less than $50.

theRIAA (author)2006-07-23

that looks very spensive. i made my computer table with 2x8s for the top, 4x4s for th legs, and 2x4s on either end to hold the 2x8s together and onto the 4x4s

About This Instructable




Bio: I own a online business that sells industrial pipe fittings (Kee Klamp), PVC (pipe and fittings), as well as unique projects made with these products.
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