Portable Workstations are useful for many groups of people. For campers, they're called Chuck Boxes. For the military and Ham radio folks, they're called Field Desks. We've taken to calling this one the Ramen Stand. It looks sort of like a ramen stand or hot dog cart when it's folded up.
At the makerspace, these are important because we are able to group different activities by deployable unit, rather than location, so we're able to use and reuse a common workspace for many different activities, just by pulling out a different box and unpacking it. 8 Ramen Stands pack up into about 100 square feet, but can expand to fill almost 2000 square feet, if you pull them all out at once. An army of Ramen Stands will hold ALL OF THE THINGS!
At home, the great part about having this as your portable workstation is that when cleanup time comes, just fold it all up and everything will end up inside the box. When you're back to work, open it all up and you instantly have a workstation. I regularly work on my computer at a Ramen Stand with just one 24" side folded down.
Update: 4/9/12 12:42am
I fixed a few typos and added a few small details I forgot to explain:
The Ark base needs a few extra 21" 2x2s to join to the walls
Added wood screws to the materials list
corrected 24x34 1/4 tabletop should have been 24x34 1/2"
Step 1: Decide
This box is probably the 5th or 6th iteration of Field Desk/Chuck Box/Anvil Case/Truck Box. For the makerspace, we had to decide what it should be able to do, and how we would know we were done.
It must be:
Winning all the things at SpaceGAMBIT's Instructables Contest.
Portable, stowable, foldable, and easily deployable.
Fit through a standard door opening.
Modular so that we can store and use several of them and purpose them for whatever we want.
Be readily adaptable to any sort of task and remain setup for themes, while stored. That way we can deploy any unit for any task on any given day. This means by having multiple deployable work units, we can constantly repurpose a common work area for any purpose, simply by picking which box to bring out. We won't have any problems with sawdust on the fabric table, or solder on the picnic table.
It should be:
Able to be built using simple tools. We could have made all of the cuts on the CNC router, but we didn't. The workbench is typically a person's first project and we're assuming that you have very little space, tools, or work area to build The Ramen Stand.
All parts should be available at the big box store. Whether or not you are for or against the big box, it means the parts to build this are likely available wherever you are.
Controllable through central authentication. We'll soon be converting them to RFID and controlling access to specialty tools housed within based on a central authentication system. For now, to keep it simple, we're using a bulk pack of hardware store padlocks.