Instructables
Picture of No Frills Workbench
OK, my goal with this bench was to:
  1. make it strong
  2. use all 4 feet by 8 feet (actually 49" by 97") of one MDF board with virtually zero waste
  3. keep it simple (dimensional lumber & lap/butt joints)
  4. keep it inexpensive
  5. ???
  6. PROFIT (ha ok, metaphorically speaking)

Step 1: The Design


To keep it simple the frame is from dimensional lumber and attached by lap and butt joints and I spent a good deal of time determining their optimal placement and making sure I'd have screws in the right places to maximize the strength and long-term durability of this work bench.  Check out the pictures for details as it'd be too confusing to explain.

Design Notes
  • I intentionally placed the front 2x6 legs inside of the top frame so that I'd have a perfect rectangle on all edges of the bench top.  This also means the top frame is flush with the walls where I placed the bench.
  • The shelf is not as deep as the top so that when you stand in front of it you won't hit your shins on the shelf
  • The are 4 legs so that the bench can stand on its own should I need to move it for any reason.
  • The overall dimensions for this bench are: 96 inches wide, 27.5 inches deep, 40 inches high.  Make it as wide as is comfortable for your space, like in a kitchen: there's no such thing as too much 'counter space.'
Some math to determine the depth for the top and shelf
Whatever width your MDF (or plywood) is you'll want to find two numbers that have a difference of 7 and together add up to the total.    Based on this you'll know where to cut (rip) your 4x8 piece in two.
For Example:
48" = 27.5" top + 20.5" shelf
49" = 28" top + 21" shelf

The reason for this is the "6 inch side" of the 2x6 is actually 5 1/2 inches and "4 inch side" of the 2x4 is 1 1/2 inches, which totals ... 7 inches.  Hopefully from this explanation and the pictures you can decipher what I mean.  I broke a cardinal rule of carpentry by not measuring first.  I assumed the 4ftx8ft piece of MDF I bought was 48x96 but it was actually 49x97.  I think they do this so that if you drop the MDF on it's edge in transport you can still strip it down an inch on any side.

Height
My 2 cents about how to choose the right overall bench height:
  1. Your purpose for the bench - do you want things at hip height so you don't need to bend over?  OR will you need to get weight/leverage with what may be on the bench top?
  2.  Obviously the answer to #1 changes based on your personal height.
I'm about 6' 2" so I choose a height of 40 inches (+MDF & Hardboard thickness < 1") which is right about at my hips and is perfect for my needs.  The placement of the shelf depends on what you have to store.  Find the tallest thing you may want to put ontop of or below the shelf and plan accordingly.
 
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Here's mine
photo-2013-07-24 2:08 PM.jpgphoto-2013-07-24 2:08 PM.jpg
lmperkins2 years ago
Thanks for the excellent instructable. I just finished mine. The only thing I changed was adding a 2" lip on the front and side for clamping as suggested in the comments. I'm very happy with it. Final dimensions 27" by 76". Thanks again.
workbench.JPG
loftyduck (author)  lmperkins1 year ago
You're welcome, it feels good to help/inspire others. I hope it's holding up well - looks nice
ccoltmanm1 year ago
Here is my shot. Didn't finish the bottom shelf yet, and I am planning on a few things with the top shelf/shelves.
photo (2).JPGphoto (2).JPG
loftyduck (author)  ccoltmanm1 year ago
Looks nice, I like the variation - you can never have too many shelves.
russ_hensel2 years ago
I cannot quite see from you pictures if you have done this, but I would almost always recommend that the top of a workbench stick out past its support so that it is easy to clamp things to the top of the bench. I usually allow about 2 inches.
I also build slight overlaps on my benches for the same reason.

Two other differences I add for my benches ~

* a double thickness of the MDF/Paricleboard/Plywood top along the front half to give a stronger top, with a "tool well" along the back.

* I also make a stronger leg arrangement, so there's no movement or flexing with any serious bashing..[ Also, with a span of more than 6 feet or so I would add a third set of legs in the middle..].

I like to make allowance in designing a bench to have a metalworking vice or small anvil mounted square over one of the legs, so it doesn't bounce during serious work.. And for woodworking vice(s), towards either end.

I will try to put together an 'instructable' when next I build a bench, because the ones I'm currently using are more than a couple of decades old..
seamster2 years ago
This is an excellent design, especially the replaceable hardboard top. Great post!
jeffrey42832 years ago
Very nice! This is a great simple workbench.
vrrusa2 years ago
FINALLY!! I am a very small woman who is leery about my table saw & Cant lift a sheet of plywood. BUT i love my chopsaw & am very good with it. FINALLY someone figured out how to make a workbench that was buildable with the chopsaw! I can get them to cut the top & I am done! LOVE YOU!!!
You went to the underpants gnome school of planning, didn't you?
hjjusa2 years ago
I built one pretty much like this, except I covered the MDF with formica so It wouldn't swell and stain and It stays level also put a pegboard back on it to hang tools, amazing how sturdy this style of bench is. Good "ible.
SIRJAMES092 years ago
BRAVO!!!! BRAVO!!!!

You have just convinced me of how important it is for me to build my own bench...an enjoyable read, well documented, easy to understand....I can not say enough good things about this bench, :)

TY for sharing Sir.