Introduction: Outdoor Workbench With Internal Wood Storage
For the past year and a half we have been living in a small, one bedroom apartment, where the only place for me to get dirty work done is on the deck outside. When I first went to build something, I realized that I needed a surface to work on - primarily to protect the deck as I drilled through pieces of wood. However, being impatient to build something other than a proper workbench, I decided to use a small piece of particle board supported off the floor by some scraps of wood screwed to its bottom side. I later added a small drill press vise to this improvised "workbench." Over time it became apparent that my "workbench" needed an upgrade. Whenever I would support a workpiece in the vice, it was not really supported as the entire workbench would slide around on the floor. Additionally, after a day of work my legs would inevitably be sore from kneeling on the floor of the deck. Yes, I needed a proper workbench. As I pondered workbench ideas, I realized that I could use a workbench to solve another issue we were having on the deck. Over time a pile of scrap wood had begun to accumulate in the corner of the deck. Not only was this pile an eyesore, but the wood was entirely exposed to the elements. If I were to create an enclosed workbench with internal storage for the wood, I could solve both issues I was having.
Step 1: The Design
I used Sketchup to draw up the design for the workbench. 4x4" posts would form the corners, with 2x4's and 2x2's being used for the remainder of the structure. 1/2" plywood would be used to enclose the sides of the workbench and for the construction of doors located at each end. The internal storage length would be slightly greater than 4', which would allow all of my scraps to easily fit. For the top of the workbench I decided to use a 3/4" thick PVC board. I was worried that a wood-based top would eventually degrade and potentially warp as the workbench would be out in the weather. The exposed wood components would be coated with a deck stain to give them some degree of weather protection.
Step 2: Cut Stuff
It seems like the first step of any project is cutting lots of things and this project was no different. The following cuts are all of the primary cuts for this project:
The 4x4's were cut to 36" lengths (x4)
The 2x4's were cut to
50" long (x8)
13" long (x8)
24" long (x2)
The 2x2's were cut to
24" long (x4)
13" long (x2)
The 3/4" PVC (11 1/4" wide) was cut to 55" long (x2)
The 1/2" Plywood was cut into the following pieces:
31" x 48" (x2)
16" x 25" (x2)
12 3/4" x 23 3/4" (x2)
1 7/8" wide strips: 12 3/4" long (x4) & 23 3/4" long (x4)
1" wide strips: 22" long (x2)
Step 3: Cut the Tenons
The 50" long 2x4's are designed to be connect the 4x4 posts along the bottom and top of the sides of the workbench. Instead of butt joining the 2x4's to the 4x4's, I decided to create tenons on the ends of the 2x4's, which would fit into mortises in the 4x4's. I had never done a mortise and tenon joint before, but it didn't look too difficult so I thought I would give it a whirl.
With the 2x4's cut to 50", a 1" wide tenon was cut into each end of the boards using a circular saw. No special dado blade here. I just cut multiple passes at a depth of 3/8" until each tenon was roughly cut on all sides of the board. Since I made the circular saw passes quite close together, it was easy to clean up the tenon with a chisel. This process was repeated on both ends of all four of the 50" long 2x4's.
Step 4: Assemble the Sides
Before assembling the sides of the workbench, numerous holes were pre-drilled to make the final assembly easier. Holes were drilled through the ends of each 50" tenoned 2x4. These holes were countersunk by around 1" to allow the 3 1/2" deck screws to pass through with sufficient threads available on the far end. Two similar holes were drilled through the 2x4's at distances of 1" on both sides of the midline. With the holes through the 4" direction drilled, holes were drilled through the sides of the 50" 2x4's as shown above. These holes would be used later on to attach the two sides of the workbench together. 4 holes were also drilled at evenly-spaced distances along the lengths of the four 24" long 2x2's. These holes were later used to attach the sides to the 4x4's.
With all of the holes drilled, the sides were assembled with the vertical 2x2's and 2x4's being glued and screwed into place. This process was repeated for the second side assembly.
Step 5: Mortise the 4x4's
The completed sides were laid up against the 4x4's with the positions of the tenons being marked onto the 4x4's. These marks were cleaned up, with the size of the mortise being 0.75" x 2.5" x 1" deep. The mortises were cut by first drilling four overlapping 3/4" holes with a forstner bit. I made sure to drill these holes to a bit over 1" in depth to ensure that the tenon would fully fit into the finished mortise. Once the holes were drilled, a 3/4" wide chisel was used to square up the mortise.
Step 6: Fasten Sides to 4x4's
Once all 8 mortises were cut, the sides were attached to the 4x4's. I applied glue to the tenons and pressed them into the mortises. This was a tight fit and I had to knock the 4x4's onto the tenons using a hammer. I placed a small block of wood under the hammer to protect the 4x4's as I pounded everything together. Once the tenons and mortises were tightly together, the sides were screwed to the 4x4's by the 4 holes previously drilled in the 2x2's. Although not shown in the pictures, I also drove angled screws through each mortise and tenon joint. I doubt this was necessary, but after being hammered together the joints still seemed like they needed to be pulled together a bit. By putting a screw directly through each joint, I was able to pull these joints more tightly together. Both sides of the workbench were assembled using the procedure outlined above.
Step 7: Connecting the Sides Together
The two sides of the workbench were placed 13" apart with the bottom of the workbench facing downward. Using the previously-drilled holes, three 13" 2x4's were screwed between the two sides along the top of the workbench. A single 13" 2x4 was attached between the sides of the workbench at the midpoint of the bottom.
Next, angled holes were drilled in the ends of the four remaining 13" 2x4's. These 2x4's were then used to attach the two sides together at the ends of the workbench. Eventually, the doors will fit in between these 2x4's. With all eight 13" 2x4's screwed into place between the sides of the workbench, the main structure of the workbench was complete.
Step 8: Sills for the Ends of the Plywood Floor
Before installing the plywood floor inside of the workbench, small sills needed to be added to support the ends of the floor. These sills were created from the 13" 2x2's and were screwed to the back of the lower 2x4's located at each end of the workbench.
Step 9: The PVC Top
The 3/4" thick PVC boards were placed on the top of the workbench and screwed into place using small finishing screws. To ensure symmetry in the finished workbench, the seam between the two boards was placed along the centerline of the workbench. The holes for the screws were predrilled through the PVC to ensure that the top would fasten down snuggly when screwed.
Once fastened to the workbench, the outside edges of the two PVC boards needed to be trimmed flush with the edge of the workbench. I could have left an overhang, but I wanted to trim back the boards to prevent breakage if I were to accidentally apply too much pressure to the overhang. Interestingly, the width between the edge of the PVC and edge of the workbench perfectly corresponded to the width between the blade and outside edge of my circular saw. This meant that I could create a fence for the circular saw by simply screwing a piece of aluminum to the outer edge of the PVC. Because of this, it was very easy to accurately trim the edges of the top.
Step 10: The Internal Floor
The internal floor of the workbench was made from the 16" x 25" pieces of plywood. Notches cut in each corner of these pieces to allowed them to sit in between the vertical supports of the workbench. Ideally I would have used a jigsaw to cut these notches, but I don't have one so I used my small hand saw. Once the two floor pieces were cut, they were fitted into the bottom of the workbench and screwed down using finishing screws.
Step 11: Sides
Next, the two 31" x 48" plywood pieces were screwed into place to form the solid sides of the workbench. Finishing screws were placed at regular intervals around the perimeter of these boards, as well as into the vertical support along the midpoint of the sides.
Step 12: The Doors
The two doors were designed to be very simple to make, despite looking a bit more complicated. A 23 3/4" x 12 3/4" piece of plywood forms the main structure of each door. Small mitered strips of plywood (1 7/8" wide) were attached to the face of this plywood to create the impression of a shaker-style door. My initial plan was to attach the plywood strips using only glue. However, given my limited number of clamps, I decided to glue and screw these strips to the door. The screws were driven through the back of the doors to keep the hardware hidden.
Step 13: Door Hardware
It took me some time to decide what type of hinges I would use for the doors. I finally settled on Euro-type hinges. If you aren't familiar with Euro hinges you should look them up. They look really complicated, but when it comes to installing and adjusting them they couldn't be simpler. The hardest part is drilling the large hole in the backside of the door for the hinge to sit into. I used a 1 3/8" forstner bit to drill this hole to a depth of approximately 3/8". The hinges came with a handy guide on where to drill this hole relative to the edge of the door. Once the large hole is drilled, the hinges are simply screwed to the door.
Euro hinges are really two separate pieces; the hinge on the door and a bracket, which attaches the hinge to the body of the cabinet. The directions with the hinge told me how far in from the face of the cabinet (outer face of the door) these brackets needed to be placed. The vertical position of these brackets was determined based on the positioning of the hinges on the door. There is no need to be super precise on the alignment of these brackets as everything can be positioned after the door is mounted.
Once the brackets were attached to the workbench, the door hinges were clipped into them, securing the door to the workbench. A small screw on the bracket is used to adjust the left and right position of the door relative to each hinge. For the vertical adjustment, the screws mounting the brackets to the workbench are simply loosened. Since these screws are in slots, the brackets can simply be slid up or down as desired. Once the correct vertical position is found, these bracket screws are re-tightened. Because of the easy installation and adjustment of the Euro hinges I was able to get the doors installed and perfectly aligned within several minutes.
After the doors were mounted, I screwed a small 1" x 22" strip of plywood to the inside of each door opening to serve as a stop to prevent the door from closing too far.
Small bolt latches were attached to each door to secure them closed. When closed, the bolts slide into small holes drilled into the 4x4's. These latches serve the double function of acting as small handles to help open the doors.
Step 14: Finishing
The workbench and doors were lightly sanded before being stained with a deck stain. Fortunately, I was able to purchase deck stain in a quart size. Even then, I had much more than I needed.
Step 15: Finishing Touches
Once the stain dried, I added two small, fixed casters to the legs on the one end of the workbench. These wheels were placed so that they are nearly resting on the floor, but do not support any weight of the workbench. A handle was added above the door on the opposite end. By lifting up on the handle, the weight of the workbench will be transferred to the casters - allowing it to be "wheelbarrowed" around the deck. This seemed like the simplest solution for creating a mobile workbench, which would still be extremely stable when set into position.
The final step was to remove the drill press vise from my old "workbench" and fasten onto its new home.
Step 16: It's Finished!
After several weekends of work I was happy to finally finish up this workbench. All of my scrap wood stores nicely inside and our deck looks much neater. Plus, I now have a much more ergonomic and practical work surface for future projects.