Introduction: Sturdy Workbench
I just started getting serious with my woodworking hobby and decided I needed to upgrade to a real workbench instead of the piece of plywood across two sawhorses that I had been using. I found some plans that were drawn up and available on FineWoodworking.com. I made a couple of minor modifications to their plans.
I went with their plan to use MDF for the benchtop and we'll see how it holds up. If it tears up too quickly I'll redo the top either with plywood or make a laminated top out of 2x4's, but I figure it will be easier to make that top now that I have a workbench to build it on.
I am pleased with the way it worked out.
4 - 2"x4"x8' kiln dried
2 - 4"x4"x8' kiln dried
1 - 4'x8'x3/4" MDF
4 - 6'x3/8" dia. threaded rod
16 - 3/8" washers
16 - 3/8" nuts
1 - box 1-1/4" drywall screws
20 - S-clip tabletop fasteners (Purchased on Amazon.com)
1 - 16oz. bottle wood glue (I used titebond II)
16 - 3/8"x3" long dowels
4 - Floor levelers (Purchased on Amazon.com)
1 - 7" Yost rapid action vise
1 - 3/4"x3"x7-1/2" wood block (rear vise jaw)
1 - 1-1/2"x3"x7-1/2" wood block (front vise jaw)
1 - 4"x6"x3/4" wood block (for mounting vise)
2 - 2" 1/4-20 bolts with nuts and washers (attaching front vise jaw)
2 - 2" x #12 flathead phillips wood screws (attaching rear vise jaw)
4 - 5/16" x 2-1/2" lag screws and washers (attaching vise to benchtop)
Forstner bits and standard drill bits
Small paint roller (for speading glue)
Step 1: Gathering Materials and Cutting
Gather all of your materials and let the wood sit in the area your workbench will be used for a few days.
This is so all the materials will be acclimated to the moisture and temperature range of your shop.
If you weren't able to find kiln dried lumber let it sit for a few weeks to fully dry and shrink so it won't warp or loosen up your bench as it dries.
4 @ 41" (long stretchers)
4 @ 17" (short stretchers)
2 @ 19" (cross pieces for bottom shelf)
4 @ 33-1/2" (Legs)
3/8" thread rod:
4 @ 48"
4 @ 24"
2 @ 62"x24"
1 @ 22"x46"
Most of the materials were purchased from Home Depot and the few things I couldn't find there I purchased on Amazon.com.
I measured and laid out all my cut lines with my carpenters square and cut all the dimensional lumber with my hand saw. The MDF was cut to 62" first with my circular saw then ripped in half with my table saw to get to 24" wide.
The length of the legs were determined by the height that I wanted to make the table. For my height I wanted a table 35" tall. You can adjust the height to fit you better by measuring from the ground to the crease where your wrist meets your hand. The other option is to match the workbench to the height of your table saw if you want to use it as and out feed table.
To calculate the length needed for the legs take the height you want the workbench to be and subtract 1-1/2" for the thickness of the benchtop.
Use the hacksaw to cut down the thread rod to the proper lengths. I threaded the nuts onto the rod to both sides of where I was making the cut so that I could use the nuts to clean up the ends of the cuts. All I did was after I cut the rods I took the nut to the end of the rod and left just the part that was rough sticking past the nut and filed it smooth.
Step 2: Layout Your Holes
Measuring is very important in laying out where you will drill.
Preparing the legs:
Lay out your legs next to each other and clamp them together.
Determine which end will be the top and measure down 2-7/8" and make a line across all 4 legs with your carpenters square.
Next measure 9-5/8" up from the bottom and make a line across all 4 legs again.
Unclamp the 4 legs and clamp them back together 2 at a time.
From the inside seam of the boards measure out 1-3/16" along the lines you made top and bottom.
These marks will be where you drill with the forstner bit. Determine the diameter of the washers you are using and use a bit slightly larger than the washer. Drill as straight as possible until the head of the bit is flush with the surface of the leg. I used my drill press to keep it at 90 degrees and ensure everything stayed square.
After drilling the countersink holes switch to a 3/8" drill bit and drill the rest of the way though the legs. Make sure to line the tip of the drill bit with the dimple left by the forstner bit.
Lay the legs back down and clamp them back together 2 at a time. Make sure that the countersink holes are on the outside and bottom when laid down.
Measure down 3-5/16" from the top and make a line across both sets of legs.
Measure up 9-3/16" up from the bottom and make a line across the legs.
Measure in 1-3/4" from the outside along the lines top and bottom.
Drill with the forstner bit where the marks intersect.
Drill down until the head of the forstner bit is flush with the surface of the legs.
Switch to the 3/8" bit and drill the rest of the way through the legs.
Step 3: Preparing the Stretchers
The stretchers will be held in place by the thread rod in channels and dowels.
You can cut the cannels one of two ways:
Use a router with a 3/8" bit
Cut them using multiple passes with a table saw.
I didn't have a router available so I used my table saw to cut the channels.
We'll start with the long stretchers.
Set the fence on your table saw to 7/16" from the blade and set the blade at 3/8" height.
Make a pass on the table saw. This will be the top of the side.
Turn the board around and make a pass on the same side, but on the bottom of the same side as the other channel.
Do this with all 4 long stretchers.
Set the fence out 1/16" and repeat the passes the same as before.
Keep adjusting fence out and repeating passes until channel is 3/8" wide.
For the short stretchers do the same for the top channel as for the long stretchers.
For the bottom channel set the fence at 9/16" from the blade. Blade height will still be 3/8".
Make a pass on the bottom of the stretcher. Adjust the fence out 1/16" out and repeat pass.
Repeat adjusting and passes until channel is 3/8" wide.
Dowel holes will be drilled into the upper ends of the stretchers.
Measure 1" down from the top and 3/4" in for the outside edge of the stretchers.
Outside edge is the one without the channels.
Drill straight into the end of the stretchers 1-1/2" or half the length of your dowels.
Step 4: Dowels and Short Sides
Thread the rod through the holes in the legs for the short sides of the workbench and put the washers and nuts in place but only thread the nuts about 1/2 way on.
Take the dowel center and insert it into the dowel hole you drilled in the stretcher.
Slide the stretcher onto the thread rod and line it up with the leg.
Tap the end of the stretcher to make a dimple in the leg. This is where you will drill the dowel hole in the leg.
Drill in 1-1/2" and set the dowels in the holes.
Place the short stretchers in place and put the other leg in place and tighten the nuts to lock in place.
Step 5: Long Sides
Lay the short sides down on the floor with the thread rod in the holes.
Set the dowel center in the long stretchers and repeat the process for marking the dowel holes.
Drill the dowel holes to 1-1/2" and set dowels in place.
Set stretchers in place and lock in place with nuts and thread rod.
Step 6: Laminate the Benchtop
Mark out a grid on one of the 24"x62" pieces of MDF.
Mark in 1" from all the sides.
On the long sides mark out every 6 inches starting from the marks made at the ends.
On the short sides mark in 6 inches from the marks.
Drill through all the intersections of the lines with a large enough drill bit so the screws pass through and turn freely.
Use a countersink bit to ensure the screws are flush.
Flip the MDF over and use the countersink bit to clean up the holes so the 2 pieces of MDF will glue together smoothly.
Determine which side of the other piece of MDF will be the top of the bench.
Place this piece face down and spread the glue over the entire surface with the paint roller.
Place the other piece on top, line up the edges and clamp in place.
Once clamped in place, use the screws to attach the 2 pieces together and wipe up any glue that squeezes out.
Let sit for a day or 2 to dry completely.
Step 7: Mounting Block for Vise
Turn the benchtop over and make a line 10" in from the end.
This line is where the legs will go to allow for the vise to be mounted.
Mark the center of the block and 5" in on the benchtop.
Line up the 2 marks and glue down the mounting block and screw in place for added support.
Drill pilot holes for mounting the vise.
Bolt the vise in place.
Step 8: Benchtop
Set the base of the workbench upside down on the benchtop and line up the sides and the end with the mark made in the previous step.
Use the S-clip tabletop fasteners to attach the top to the base.
Flip bench over and you can call it done if you like or add the bottom shelf.
Step 9: Bottom Shelf
Use the 2 19" 2x4's across the bottom stretchers for extra strength and stability.
Cut the Remaining piece of MDF to 22"x46" and measure in 2-1/2" from the edges at the corners and cut out with a jigsaw.
I then placed the shelf in place and used a few clamps to hold it in place while I flipped the bench over and used more of the tabletop fasteners to secure it in place.
I then flipped the bench back over. (For the last time, thank goodness. This thing is heavy.)
Step 10: Levelers
If your workshop is anything like mine it isn't perfectly flat so the workbench may rock a little.
You have a few options.
1. Ignore it
2. put something under the leg to stop the rocking.
3. Flip back over and sand the legs down (Way too much turning over multiple times to get it right for my liking)
4. Buy some floor levelers.
I decided to go with the floor levelers.
They have a piece that hooks under the leg and then screw into the side of the legs.
Easy install that took all of 5 minutes.
Step 11: Vise Jaws and Bench Dog Holes
When installing vice jaws make sure to countersink the screws and bolt heads so it will close all the way and not mar the surface of what you are working on.
I used the dowel centers in the screw holes for the rear vise jaw and set the block for the rear jaw in the vise and tightened it gently the pulled it out and drilled the holes through the dimples. I then drilled the countersink holes and ran the screws through the block to attach it.
For the front jaw I put it in place and tightened the vise down and put a pencil through the bolt holes to mark where to drill.
I then drilled out the holes and countersunk them for the bolt heads.
Bench dog holes:
Start by marking a line on your bench 2" in from the edge of the bench.
Make another line 2-7/8" in from the first line.
Make a third line 2-7/8" from the second line.
Make a line across those 3 lines 2" in from the front of the bench.
Mark out lines across every 5" starting from the line 2" from the front of the bench
When it is all marked out you should have 5 rows of 3.
For the dog holes in the front vise jaw extend your lines from the benchtop onto the vise jaw and make a line across those at 3/4"
Drill these holes out with a 3/4" forstner bit.
The front 3 holes only go down about 2" so you do not hit the vise.
For the rest of the holes drill all the way through the table so you can also use them for a holdfast.
For the front vise jaw drill down 3/4" so you don't hit the bolts holding the jaw in place.
Step 12: Finished.
Here's a shot of it all finished up.
I may sand off the markings and lumber stamps and put a coat of oil on it eventually, but I know it's for work and not show so maybe not.
Either way, hopefully this will be helpful to you, and I hope you enjoyed it.
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