Introduction: Scissor Bench - Adjustable Height, Motorized Workstation

Picture of Scissor Bench - Adjustable Height, Motorized Workstation

I salvaged an old drive motor from a lift chair I replaced for my father. The chair was junk but the motor and drive was still working fine. So I removed the chair elements and kept the motor and actuator.

I wanted to make a scissor style lift workstation. One that would work more at a seated position. Ideally I was making a scroll saw bench that could easily change height for another person to comfortably use. But I realized quickly that you could use this in a lot of different applications. An out feed for my table-saw, joiner or planer.

I made this with all construction grade material to keep the cost to around 20 bucks. I used old window washing or paint extensions sticks for the pivot points.

Step 1: Planning

I started with a sketch on paper gathering measurements from my scroll saw as I went.

I needed to figure out the footprint for my scroll saw. Next I measured how much travel distance the actuator has to it. And lastly I got rough idea of what was comfortable for me while seated in a standard chair. I then switched to Google sketch up to build a more accurate model of what I was making.

You can download the Sketch up model by clicking here.

Step 2:

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A quick stop at a home store yielded a couple 2X10X8. I made the plans with 2X4s in mind but you get better quality material when you get the 2X10s and rip them into 2X4s yourself. I had some old window washing sticks on hand already. They are 1-1/8” thick and work perfectly.

Step 3:

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I (rough) crosscut the material for easy handling in my cramped shop first. Next, I removed the blunt edges by ripping 1/8” of material off of one side only. I did all of the cuts at once for more accurate results. I then ripped the boards at 3-1/2” wide. Finally, I crosscut them to finished dimension.

Step 4: Scissor Legs

Picture of Scissor Legs

The scissor legs consist of 4 lengths of 2X4s with three holes in each one equally spaced apart. This sounds easy enough, but I had problems. There was no room for error on this. If your holes don’t align perfectly, you’re going to have problems too. The boards MUST have equal widths and lengths. A drill press comes in handy here. I drilled the first scissor leg, all three holes then clamped it onto the next board and drilled the holes using the first as a “key” for each board after. When it’s done, see how well you did by inserting a dowel through all 4 boards into each hole. It really is the moment of truth. You don’t want to bang it with anything. Maybe a bump with the heel of your hand but that’s about it.  Remember you can sand the dowels if you need to and use paste wax to free it up. But you really don’t want it too tight or loose.

Sorry for the lack of photos in this step. I am a one-man-show and this was a tough step for me alone.

Step 5:

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The frames are nothing more than 4 boards on edge, glued and screwed together forming a box. On the longer sides of the box I need a single hole at one end and a slot that the sliding dowel will slide on, on the other end. Use a router, jig saw or drill press. I glued up the sides with a slot opening already there, and drilled the hole for the stationary dowel.

NOTE: I built the frames twice. I loaned my jig-saw to a neighbor and he returned it broken. I ended up ruining the first set of frames when I tried to clean up the slot with a chisel because of the bad cut from the jig saw. Anyway, moving on.

Step 6: Make Some Wooden Washers/Spacers

Picture of Make Some Wooden Washers/Spacers

I made ten washers with a hole-saw and 1/8” MDF hardboard. 2” hole saw to make the large washer and a 1-1/8” for the center hole. These washers went everywhere there is friction between two boards.
I also found some proper 2X4 scarps that I could make into a perfect square. Then I drilled a 1-1/8" hole through the block after marking centers. I then chucked these small blocks onto my lathe with a four jaw chuck and rounded the outsides. I didnt bother sanding, my cuts were nice enough :)

Step 7: Add Some Scissor Supports

Picture of Add Some Scissor Supports

I glued and screwed some supports for each set of scissor legs. This is simply a 2X4 between each opposing matched leg clamped and screwed tight. Make sure you have the dowels and round spacer blocks in place and aligned before clamping and gluing the piece. You don’t want any errors.
This was nothing special. I just align all the scissor supports with the lower frame and have the dowels in place as well as washers.Then measure the length you need for each scissor cross support.

Step 8:

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I had to remove the old brackets from the chair frame. I used a reciprocating saw and about 8 blades to cut these pieces out properly. I then used a grinder to grind off any and all sharp edges on the two pieces, drilled a hole in one that needed it. Then cleaned them.

Next I placed the actuator arm and motor in place and plugged it in to test the travel distance. I had to place the brackets somewhere on the lower frame that it wouldn’t bind anything up. After strategically mounting the two brackets I installed the actuator and plugged it all up for a test run

The movement was smooth and nothing bound up or seized anywhere. I still need to mount the power supply. But before I can do that, I need to find the extension cable. Its here some-where, I just gotta find it.

Step 9:

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I found some scrap 3/4" plywood for the top and cut it to fit. Then, I removed all the dowels and sanded all the pieces with 220 grit. This was time consuming but it does make everything look better. With everything sanded smooth, I rubbed on a thick coat of paste wax. The past wax will help with any paint or glue that could drip on it as well as help with any moisture issues.

I'm a big guy and am able to sit on it. It does "pop, crackle and squeak" when raising and lowering with me on it. but it holds me fine. :)

Thanks for looking


almostfinishedprojects (author)2017-06-27

looks great! I've been looking for an idea for a solid, raising shelf in a cut-out in the middle of my work bench so I can use my benchtop planer, jointed, drill press, etc, and raise and lower the shelf so I can use my work bench top as the infeed/outfeed for each tool. Rack and pinion would be nice, but too spendy. I like this idea!

stamatelos (author)2017-05-22

Thanks for sharing your idea like it

ajayt7 (author)2016-04-25

That is a very useful idea, great project to work on, would make you learn many things by the time you complete it. Thanks for sharing

vladivastok (author)2015-01-18


dough51342000 (author)2014-09-10

I love the idea! Do you have measurement on project or is it trial and error. Im sorry for asking these questions. This all new to me!

woodland sprite (author)2014-07-07

I love this build! I've been thinking and planning to build a workbench, of course it needs to be sturdy. The thing that has held me up most is I wanted the height to be adjustable for both standing and sitting down to work. This is definitely doable with a jack and possible pins through the slots to hold commonly used positions. Thanks so much!!

Cueball21 (author)2014-05-06

Great idea and excellent execution!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Some questions and suggestion:

Did you consider using metal in the ways where the rods ride? I always over-engineer things, maybe; but I think I would have put metal strips in those cut outs and used old skate wheels or something with wall bearings. Seems to me that friction will cause damage in that area sooner or later.

You might cover the top with hardboard (eg, Masonite) on the top. This will make it very easy to clean up and could be done so that the top would be replaceable.

I'm not clear on how the actuator mechanism works. Is it a screw or hydraulic? Would a hydraulic jack with pneumatic actuator work, too?

I'd really like to have a table like that. I can think of countless things it would make far easier to do.

Well Done (sounds of loud applause).

SlickSqueegie (author)Cueball212014-05-06

:) Thank you

Yes I did consider using a different material for the travel grooves, and yes, I thought about using bearings or wheels to ride along the track. That was my first idea actually.But I try to live by the K.I.S.S rule. and decided that this was over thinking it a bit.
Friction will deffinitaly cause damage at some point, but everything I use for construction is cheap and easily replaced or repaired. and I did use paste wax to prevent friction..

The MDF idea is fantastic. I think I will cover it with that. and wrap the edges at the same time.

The actuator I used is an electric motor screw type. Its slow, but gets the job done. a hydraulic pump and actuator arm would work too. As someone else has suggested, you could also use a vehicle scissor jack with a drill motor. (I see drill motors at garage sales all the time for 5 bucks.)


jfherring (author)2014-05-05

This is awesome. Scouring Craigslist for a used lift chair now. I'm going to replace the top of my desk with this. Instant sit-stand work station.

SlickSqueegie (author)jfherring2014-05-05

Great Idea. I even think you might find an instructable or two on doing something like this...
Thanks for comenting

industriald (author)2014-05-04

This is great thank you for sharing. I don't know what I will use it for. But I will find something :)

Thank you. Yes, this is going to be very useful for me. I would love to see yours when done.

glostah (author)2014-05-04

I love this. I'm going to try it with a garage door opener to see if
I can make a larger one that lies completely flat when extended.

SlickSqueegie (author)glostah2014-05-04

Fantastic Idea! This is deffinately something I want to see when completed!

Bill WW (author)2014-05-02

Nice work! The 1/8" MDF washers were a great idea.

You said: "I'm a big guy and am able to sit on it. It does "pop, crackle and squeak" when raising and lowering with me on it. but it holds me fine. :)"

Wow, what a test, also a test of confidence in your work.

Also, thanks for reminding us that we can get quality lumber by ripping wider stock.

SlickSqueegie (author)Bill WW2014-05-03

Thanks Bill... It was pretty scary. I don't think it would last too long of my weight was always on it though..

sunshiine (author)2014-04-30

This is such a nice bench! Thanks for sharing. Will vote when I see the button!


SlickSqueegie (author)sunshiine2014-05-01

Its entered... Just waiting for approval...

sunshiine (author)SlickSqueegie2014-05-01

My pleasure.

sunshiine (author)SlickSqueegie2014-05-01

Thanks for letting me know! I just clicked.


SlickSqueegie (author)sunshiine2014-05-01

thanks for the vote

spiderham (author)2014-04-30

This would be ideal for an Adam Savage-esque toolbox.

SlickSqueegie (author)spiderham2014-05-01


billandritsch (author)2014-04-30

Great idea, I've had an old satellite dish drive out in the shed for some time waiting for a use for it, should work great for this. Good instructable.

You must be talking about those huge yard sattelites.. lol

craftclarity (author)2014-04-30

This is really nice.

Thanks so much!

nascat (author)2014-04-30

Great build. I too have one of those lifts laying around from my Late Mother in Laws Chair. I think I know what I'm going to use it for now.

SlickSqueegie (author)nascat2014-05-01

Excellent.. Would love to see what you come up with..

Tarun Upadhyaya (author)2014-05-01

Amazing and as always a great show Bro, glad to see you back in action.

Thanks Tarun... Always an honor...

amulder1 (author)2014-04-30

Great build!

SlickSqueegie (author)amulder12014-04-30


Fikjast Scott (author)2014-04-30

Great job, looks very strong.

Thank you

andrea biffi (author)2014-04-30

really cool!


About This Instructable




Bio: I've built houses, decks, custom cabinets, furniture of all types. Ive done furniture repair and restoration, residential and commercial remodels, restaurant seating and tables ... More »
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