Introduction: The Universal Multipurpose Workbench
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On Instructables, more than everywhere else, almost all projects will come out from some kind of workbench. However, and after quite a bit of research, I didn't find any model of workbench actually fitting my expectations. Some looked pretty nice, some other were easy to build, heavy duty, suited for wood working, mechanics or electronics, but none of them seemed to regroup all those characteristics together. This workbench was my attempt to solve this problem.
You are poor? Don't have much tools, space or woodworking experience? You are tired of sitting on the floor while you want to work on something? You are interested in every technological field and often will do electronics, woodworking, mechanic or 3D printing or milling? You want a workbench good for everything?
Then this workbench is for you!
This workbench features, among other things:
-Very sturdy construction, this is a heavy workbench (more than 150kg)
-Plenty of storage
-Multiple tool quick change platform: Table saw, router, downdraft table, jigsaw... Change for any tool in less than 30 seconds.
-Automatic electric height adjustment of the router
-Integrated 5V, 12V and 24V power supplies for all your electronics projects
-A stepper motor quick tester
-Lighting, both fixed and mobile
-Basically everything you could need whenever you start any project...
The little story:
This was my first woodworking project ever, so I can assure you that virtually no woodworking experience whatsoever is needed to do that. BUT: you need to learn first the basics. I've personnally learned them from great Youtubers, like Matthias Wandel, Paul Sellers, Jay Bates, woodworkweb, the wood whisperer, and lots of other great guys, which I thank a lot for their great help, and I recommend you do the same and learn at least the basics prior to start such a project. First, watch as many videos as you can, then enventually you'll realise that this is no rocket science and you'll feel confident enough to do it yourself.
Anyway, I was tired of sitting on the floor anytime I was working on my projects and decided it was about time to build a workbench. My only requirement was that if I had to go through the hassle of building a workbench, it had to be original and if possible, to be as convenient and versatile as possible :D
I wanted a workbench that would allow me to do everything, from woodworking to mechanical work, electronics, sawing, routing, sanding, etc. My workshop is pretty small, so I decided to build one big workbench that would include everything, instead of several small workbenches. Then came one of the main feature of this workbench: the idea of interchangeable tools: my objective was to be able to change from one tool to another in less than 30 seconds.
The workbench can be disassembled in case I have to move out from my house (I don't live in my home country so it is likely to happen at some point), it has tons of space, super strong and heavy as a tank (which is a good thing for a workbench). I planned to make a retractable wheel system to make it mobile, but I did not build it yet.
I've spent around 4-5 months from start to finish, the construction itself took around 2 months. If you have good tooling and woodworking experience, I suppose it can be achieved in one or two weeks of hard work, maybe less.
Also, please forgive my english, It is not my mother tongue so I may do some mistakes. Hope it will be clear enough to be understood by anyone though. I tried to include as many pictures as I could (a little bit less than 300 pics in total) most of them include comments to better describe the steps. This is quite a huge instructable so I suggest you to make yourself some coffee and attach your seatbelts before going further :D
Step 1: What Tools Do You Need?
Actually, you don't need much tools if you want to build this. At first, I only had a few chisels, hand saws, a circular saw and sand paper. I think you can do the whole structure just with the following tools:
-Set of wood chisels and a hammer
-Electric drill, various sizes drill bits
-Screwdrivers and other basic tools
-Lots of clamps
-Belt tighteners, at least 3 or 4
During this project, I've started to purchase some tools that made my life quite easier. You don't absolutely need them to finish the project, they will just save you some time.
-Mini Drill press
-Router planing bit
I just bought the cheapest ones, they are quite crappy but it was enough for this project.
Regarding power tools, I would recommend you to at least purchase a router if you don't have one, it will come very handy for this project. A miter saw would definitely be a great help, as well as a jointer.
Step 2: Materials and Supplies:
If you want to do the workbench exactly same as mine, with all the functions, then the list of materials you need will be pretty long. I will not provide prices estimates or purchase links in this list (since I live in china prices or purchase links won't be relevant to most of the audience), but basically I think that the whole workbench cost me around 150 bucks for the wood (this is very hard to find in China, only very poor quality at a very high price), about 70 dollars for the electrics, a few bucks for the glue, nails, screws, etc, about 20 dollars of polycarbonate, and about 30-40 dollars of other small things, like paint, sandpaper and consummables. So I guess I've spent a total of around 300-400 bucks for this, which is actually very cheap.
In the US or in Europe, I would guess that the cost of wood would be similar if not lower, but you would end up with much better quality materials. The other devices might be much more expensive though. Maybe you could do that work around 500 american pesos in the US, I'm not really sure.
I had no choice but to use pine wood for this, since I was unable to find anything else, I recommend you to use some better wood, like oak. Pine is weaker and softer than most other woods, and is a pain to work with because of its poor surface finish, its softness and tendancy to absorb water. I have no doubt that you will find some better materials where you live. Also, try to purchase some wood with non rounded edges. I had no choice but to purchase rounded ones and this caused me a lot of troubles during the build later, especially for the tabletop.
Anyway, here is the list:
-90x90mm wood posts: you need at least 10 meters
-40x40mm wood beams: at least 8 meters if you purchase your own table top, at least 54 meters if you create your tabletop from scratch the way I did it
-40x80mm wood beams: at least 8 meters
-20mm plywood: at least 3 square meters
-15x80mm wood slats: at least 8 meters
-150mm M10 wood screws: minimum 6 of them
-Carbon vinyl tape: a few square meters
-M10 Threaded inserts
-20mm plywood: about 0.5 sqm
-20mm hardwood: about 0.5 sqm
-5mm plywood: about 2 sqm
-10 Ball sliders, if possible the ones that have a very long travel distance.
-90x90 mm wood beam: 2 meters
-80x15 mm wood slat: 2 meters
-20W LED neon style light
-4 meters of power cable
-12V 30A power supply
-24V 20A power supply
-5V 30A power supply
-Banana female and male connectors
-Basic digital voltmeter
-3 electric plugs for 220V output
Fast swap tools system:
-300x300x20mm polycarbonate transparent sheets
-Hand circular saw
-Cheap electronic caliper
-Nema 24 stepper motor (57BYG250D)
-Stepper motor driver (DM542)
-Some leftovers of 20mm plywood
-A few 40x40mm scraps (about 2 meters)
-Some electric wire
-8 or 10 mm threaded rod (about 20 cm long)
-a 10W (or more) LED spotlight
-A M10 Screws/bolts/washers
-Some leftovers of 20 mm plywood
-about 60 cm of 16 MM threaded rod
-about 8 M16 nuts
-about 0.3 sqm of 5 mm rubber sheet
Step 3: Design and Conception
First, I've made quite a bit of work doing a 3D model of my workbench. I've used Tinkercad, which is pretty easy and convenient for this kind of simple projects. I've included 3 different kind of file extensions (STL, WRL and X3D). Usually STL is good for everything, but I don't know much about what people as a standard since I don't know much about 3D softwares.
With a bit of tinkering, you should be able to modify it to better fit your needs in terms fo size, functions, etc.
I won't go into details about the dimensions of each part in the rest of the build, otherwise it would take years to write everything down, so please refer to the 3D plans, all the dimensions are in there. For that, open the design in tinkercad or any 3D software. Click on any of the parts and you will have its dimensions. You may need to create an account on tinkercad but it takes about 2 minutes and this tool is actually super convenient especially if you are a total noob like I am.
The dimensions are in millimeters in tinkercad, just assume that it is centimeters, otherwise your workbench will end up being 110mm high and 250mm long, which may be a little short, unless you're building it for your doll house. But please, don't do that, no self respecting adult should own a doll house.
Anyway, I've got carried away. Yeah, just assume that it is centimeters in tinkercad instead of mm.
Step 4: Building the Frame
Now it's time to warm up your tools!
First step was to cut all the beams to size. I did all the cuts by hand, following my tinkercad plans, which was fairly easy. Just take care to cut the beams as square as you can, since it will greatly facilitate the assembly later. It is better to use a miter saw to do this, but since most of us don't have one, then just use any regular hand saw and try your best to cut 90 degrees angles.
The structure holds together using the mortise and tenon technique. Basically, you cut a square hole in one beam, and a square tenon in the other. Then you just press the tenon in the hole with a little glue and it should hold forever! This is the best way to build a workbench as steady and strong as a rock. Good luck if you want to destroy one of these joints!
These is a total of 26 mortises and tenon to do. There are several techniques to do a mortise and tenon that you can easily learn on Youtube, or maybe on Instructables. Having absolutely no tool at that point, I made everything by hand using only wood chisels. So, basically, you can do this whole step without having to invest in any expensive tool but a set of basic wood chisels. In the end, I purchased a router and tried a couple of mortises using the router, but using the chisel was actually faster at this point, because set the router to cut at precise dimensions manually was quite a waste of time.
This is quite a time consuming process, especially at first, but once you get experience it gets easier and faster. Really, don't be scared of this. In the beginning it seemed too hard to do for me too, then after a couple of mortises and tenons I found it quite easy. Also, it is extremely rewarding whenever you manage to put a mortise and tenon together, you feel like you could build anything. By the way, pro tip: it will greatly annoy your wife at some point if you proudly show her each tenon/mortise you do every time. Be egoistic and keep this great joy for yourself.
For the dimensions of the tenon and mortises, mine were 30mm deep (check the 3D files for dimensions).
I don't recommend you to glue anything at this point, for me, gluing everything together happened at the very end of this project, when I was satisfied with the results. If you've done a good job with your mortises and tenon, they should hold perfectly even without glue so you can assemble everything, see that all the parts fits like they are intended too, then take everything apart and do the final glue up. At first, I was using my workbench without any glue and it was holding just fine.
Step 5: Build Your Table Top
This was by far the hardest part for me. I chose to create my own tabletop from scratch, using 40x40mm wood beams glued up together.
The most important thing is that you need to use very straight beams if you want to do a good gluing job. I had very poor quality lumber, which was still wet and very warped, so I had to go through the hassle of driying if, squaring it with an electric hand planner and rough sanding it before I could even glue them up. It took me an enormous amount of time. Moreover, the beams were rounded at the corners, so I had to grind them until I got sharp corners.
If you are unlucky enough to get some very wet stock, you can use the technique I've used, which consists in using heat and a deshumidifier to absorb the humidity:
-Put all your stock in a small room
-Seal the doors, windows and everything you can, so that the room is somewhat air tight
-Plug in an electric heater
-Plug in your deshumidifier
I was lucky enough to have a powerful deshumidifier, so the driying process took me around 2 days. After that, the wood was completely dried, even inside after cutting. Unfortunately, it was warped even more after this step, but this was the only way I had to deal with this issue.
I never was able to totally square them, but it worked fairly well in the end. So just do the best you can, if it's not perfect it may still work.
The table top is splitted in two pieces, one long for the main part of the workbench, one smaller with a square hole for the quick tool change part. since my beams were only 2 meters long, I had to do this process two times, one for each top.
After your slats are "squarish", glue a bunch of them together. Make sure that they are as flat as possible and tight them using as many clamps as you can find. Let them dry for 24 hours,
Renew this process until you achieve the correct width of your table.
Finally, glue all the slats together. Always tighten your clamps as hard as you can. I've put some weight on the final glue up in an attempt to keep them flat.
You will hopefully end up with something better than this, which should be fairly easy to achieve if you got some good materials in the first place.
For the little side table top, I've used some leftovers, using the very same method.
At this point, I needed to make my tabletops flat.
I tried with the electric planner, but it was impossible to get it right. so I decided to build a jig, with a router on top of it to surface the whole board the same way a CNC milling machine would do it.
The jig is pretty easy to build and you will easily find some instructables for that so I wont' go into the process of how to make it (I could add this later if it turns out that some people need to know in the comments). The only very important thing s that you need to make sure that you have a flat floor and that the router is perfectly perpendicular to it.
Once this is done, the scary part begins (you really don't want to screw up at this point!). First, I recommend that you mark the whole surface of the table with a pencil, so that you will be able to didentify the low spots after the firts pass. Basically, once you cannot see any marks of pencil on the table it means that it is flat.
Run a first pass, not too deep, slowly and steadily. Take your time to do it well. Once done, check if you need another pass. If not, flip the board on its other side, check squareness and mill the other side.
You should end up with a smooth and beautiful board.
I was extremely pleased with the result, it looks almost professional, the surface finish is near to perfect.
Do the same with the litte additional table top, and then trim the excess of the boards to make them fit your table's dimensions.
Last step is to cut the center hole of the quick tool change table top. I've used a jigsaw to roughly cut the hole (on which I did a pretty poor job unfortunately), and then a router to grind a path for the polycarbonate glass to sit on.
This absolutely needs to be a precision work, if your hole is not square, then your tools will not be perpendicular to the edge of the table, wich will be a huge problem while using your table saw! Measure once, cut twice and you should be fine. Or the opposite, maybe. The groove should be a bit more than 20mm deep, to accomodate with the polycarbonate panel, which will be adjusted later in height by one screw in each corner, allowing to set it flush with the rest of the table, while allowing dust and wood debris to fall under without affecting its position.
Drill on hole in each corner and place some threaded inserts. These will allow you to adjust the height and tilt of the plexiglas panels.
In order to join both tabletops together, I created a 4cm wide notch in each of them, using the router. The little table top is going on top of the big one. I didn't manage to make them flush because I made an error during the planing process, but I was a bit lazy to correct it at this point so I thought I could always fix it later (which I actually didn't do so far...). You may want to do a better job here since it can be quite annoying to use the tablesaw if both tabletops are not well aligned.
Last step is to prepare the table tops to be assembled with the frame. The method I used may not be the best, so you might want to do it another way. I've did it this way only because I wanted to be able to completely disassemble my workbench in case I needed to do so. I'm not the owner of the house I live in, so I always keep in mind that I can be evicted anytime.
To attach the tabletop to the frame, I've drilled some holes on the top, for each corners, then used some 15cm long screws that goes deep inside the table legs. This proved to be very sturdy. You can later create some caps to hide the screws using some wood scraps.
Step 6: Create a Table Saw Tool
The next step of the construction of my workbench was supposed to be the drawers. But I needed to cut plywood sheets for that and the circular saw I had was complete crap. The support was too wobbly, impossible to get straight and clean cuts from it.
So I decided to create the first removable tool of my workbench, in order to make my nex cuts properly.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: I do not consider this tool as safe or reliable. This is a pretty scary device I try to use as little as I can, and, even if I didn't have any trouble with it so far, I recommend you to build one only if you really understand the risks. For instance, one of the risks would be that in case of major screw up, the saw could detach from it's base and go any direction, which of them may have your leg/eye/beloved pet in its path. So you're doing this tool at your own risk, be careful and take your time to do it well. Also make sure that you have a way to unplug it quickly in case there is any issue. Never stand in front of the spinning blade direction.
My first attempt was to use a plywood board as a support, but it would work much better with the polycarbonate. I plan to change my system to polycarbonate as soon as I'll finish my CNC cutting machine.
First, cut a 30x30cm square of the material you chose (plywood or polycarbonate - by the way, don't take acrylic/plexiglas as it can break and is really not as tough as polycarbone).
Then, cut some shapes that will fit the brackets of your particular machine. I'm sorry if I cannot give you any detailed plan of that, first because I haven't done any, and second because your machine is likely to be different than mine, so use thes pictures as an inspiration for your project if you will.
Once your hand saw is securely encapsulated in its wood coffin, and once you're sure that everything is super square, link it wit the base plate. I ve used a door hinge for this, reliable and strong.
Keep in mind that this is a dangerous tool, you really don't want the saw to come out and cut your leg so you need to make sur that your build is reliable here. This is a bit of a "Do as I say, not as I do", because I know my build is not very reliable and I'm always afraid whenever I use it. In my case the issue is not in the design, which is, in my opinion, sturdy enough, but the plywood I have is of very poor quality, so if you do this, please use the best plywood you can afford. Don't use hardwood, plywood is much more resilient here.
The last step was to create a curved rail to adjust the height of the saw with a lever. Most of these cuts have been made with my mini bandsaw, but you could do the same with just hand tools, it would just take a bit more time.
Finally, put the saw on the workbench and cut the saw blade hole.
Your new removable tool is done, congrat's!
Next step was to make an adjustable saw sled. My solution is not the best, but it is effective,
First, drill some holes in your beautiful tabletop, at 20 cm interval. place some threaded inserts
Prepare a sled: just use some leftover plywood and screw them together at a perfect 90 degree angle. You need to select perfectly flat and straight material here. In my case I had a slat of good quality hardwood that I used for the vertical side.
On the horizontal plate, drill some 11cm grooves. These will allow you to ajust your sled distance from the saw blade.
This system is a bit tedious to use because you need to measure precisely the distance from the blade each time you're doing a cut, from both side, but it is effective. It is perfect if, like me, wood working is one of your hobbies among many others and you don't do 10 000 cuts per day who would necessitate a real table saw.
Moreover, it will help you to go through the next step of the build: the drawers and central section.
I originally planned to include a safety feature for this tool, with a switch who could detect if the saw had any problem such as loose connexion to it's support: it would cut the power and instantly stop the blade using a small motorcycle brake, but I did not implement this feature yet. So I cannot show how this would work in this instructable, sorry.
Step 7: Basic Router Table
A router table will greatly help you if you plan to do the drawers, So I recommend you to at least do the basic version of it right now, it takes about 10-15 minutes.
Just cut a square of 20mm plywood of 300x300mm, and round the edges so it fits on the tabletop hole.
Find the center of you plate, then mark the spots you need to drill to attach the router.
Drill your holes, then attach the screws to fit your router.
Voila, you have a router table, and you can use the sled you made earlier for the table saw to set up any distance you want.
Now, you can choose to use it as is, or to add up the following little system which will make your life a bit easier, using a digital caliper:
First, trace the shape of your caliper on a plywood scrap. Cut those shapes, put them around your caliper and glue/nail/screw/whatever them together.
Find a way to attach them on your router (I used wood screws directly through the plastic carter). Create a little retainer and fix it to the support plate of the router.
Basically, you now have a manual router with digital calibration, which is already quite an improvement compared to a basic router table.
It is a simple, but effective setup, but you can improve it later with an electric automated adjustment system, which this instructable will cover too.
Step 8: Central Frame
You need to create some supports for the your drawers and a few shelves.
This step is fairly easy, but if you do it well it will give a really qualitative finish to your workbench, once finished
I just used some plywood that I've cut following the dimensions of my 3D model. The bottom board has been purchased at Ikea a while ago, you can replace it by two plywood boards glued together since it is 40 mm thick.
First, attach your base board (the thick one on the bottom) to the big horizontal beams, making sure that it is square on any direction relatively to the frame.
Then, progressively add the vertical panels, and finally the shelves.
If you want to get this extra quality touch (and by the way protect your wood from water and dirt), you can use the following technique I often use:
Get some 3D carbon vinyl wrap sheet (very inexpensive stuff). Prepare your surface with sandpaper, you want the smoothest finish possible. put wood glue all over your board, then, stick carefully your vinyl sheet, while slowly removing all air bubbles. Trim the excess, etc.
Finally, put the vinyl side of your board agains the flattest surface you can find, and put some weights on it. Let it sit like this until your glue dries.
You end up with a very beautiful and durable carbon finish, which not only makes your workbench look super cool, but also makes it much faster in the curbs and stable at very high speeds if you decide to race it.
Step 9: Central Compartment
I knew I would often need to use all sort of power supplies of different voltages. and that I may need some electronic devices to do experiments ot just to control some tools.
I wanted to integrate as many functions in my workbench as I could, to save space and for better convenience, So I thought that a compartment where I could put all these electrical stuff would be a good idea. I wanted it to be accessible at anytime, yet protected from the oustide, especially for safety concerns (I don't want anyone to touch a 220V wire or to play with my electric setup while I'm not watching).
That's why I decided to create this small box at the middle of the bench. I quite like it because it is not too visible, and it is accessible easily with a removable door panel kept in place by powerful magnets.
This was fairly easy to do:
Cut the door panel, then apply the vinyl wrap. Create a small handle with some leftover plywood and paint it red.
Create some notchs to fit the magnets, screw them in place
Use some wooden slats to seat the panel.
Easy as pie. Or Pi? I don't know which one is the easiest, but it was easy.
Step 10: Drawers
We never have enough drawers, they are never as big as we need them to be and they are always crowded by moody tools who hide from us.
I didn't want to use the whole workbench to put drawers everywhere, because It would be unconfortable to sit in front of it and you sometimes need to put big stuffs that cannot fit in the drawers. So, I went for a compromise, with 4 big drawers on the left side, 2 compartments in the middle, one central pilar in the middle that would hide all my electric/electronic stuff and a large area on the right to put every crap who doesn't fit.
The drawers are pretty huge, because they are very long and can open on almost 90% of their lenght. The big drawer at the bottom is just gigantic, I keep almost all my powertools in there. I'm pretty sure It would be possible to fit more than two hundred cats, if compacting them with enough pressure (relax, no cat has been harmed during this build... yet).
For the drawers, you need some 20mm plywood to do the 4 sides, 5 mm plywood to do the bottom and 20mm hardwood to do the front panels (it is less ugly than plywood).
As usual, cuts the parts to the dimensions on the tinkercad plan (or any dimension you prefer), this time using the beautiful tablesaw you just made.
Once done, you will use your brand new router table to create a 5mm wide groove, about 5mm from the bottom of your future drawers, on the inside. Use wood screws to attach the side panels together (check that you always are square), then slide your 5mm bottom plywood in it, before closing the drawer with the last panel.
Take your hardwood panels and use the router to create a drawer handle, by milling a rectangle through the whole board.
Then attach your panels from the inside of the drawer, so that no screw appears on the outside.
Last step is to attach your drawers to the rails, which is fairly easy. Take care to have all the drawers aligned, better use some precisely cut spacers from wood leftovers to align everything before you put your screws.
Voila, now the basic shape of your workbench is almost completed. At this point, you can completely take it apart and start the last scary step: glue up!
Step 11: Extensions Wings
It is sometimes useful to have lots of work surface. Fortunately, the workbench can accomodate for that very well.
You just need a few square meters of 20mm plywood and a few retractable corner supports.
Screw the corner support on the legs of the table, cut your plywood to the right dimensions and try to make it flush with the top.
You can deploy these extensions whenever you need more work space, which is very convenient, especially if your workbench is mounted on caster wheels. I actually didn't make all the extensions now, since they will not be useful until the table will have wheels, but I've used one before, it was useful when I was assembling the drawers.
This can double your worksurface and it is able to support quite some weight without bending.
Step 12: Final Glue Up
Last but not least of the big work, you can glue up your bench, which will give him all its final strenght.
The process is quite easy and straight forward, but any screw up at that point could make you want to hang yourself. Please not that I'm not responsible if you do so, and even less if you screw up your hanging and end up tetraplegic.
A few tips to avoid hanging yourself:
-Mark your joints, for example, mark a "1" near the tenon and another "1" near the corresponding mortise.
-Place all your beams in a way that you cannot mix them up
-Look very carefully their orientation.
Once you feel like you are ready, pour some glue into the mortise, use a brush to put glue on the tenon, then press fit them together with a hammer. Repeat this process for all joints. you need to go fast, you don't want the glue to be dry before everything is squared, so this is the only step of the build when I recommend you to not open a beer while doing it.
Once everything is glued together, take your tightening belts and start tightening the whole frame. Check squareness while doing so and adjust if necessary.
Once you are satisfied, wait for the glue to cure. I strongly advise that you do get a dozen beers now. Fresh ones. If possible Belgium. Then, send them to me at the adress in the end of this instructable, thanks.
Step 13: "Keep Your D*ck in a Vise"*
A vise is often helpful in the shop. I wanted to add a simple one on my bench, to handle basic tasks.
It is not the most sturdiest vise, neither the most practical, but it is big enough to handle very huge things, so it comes out very handy once in a while. and if needed, you can make it much stronger just by adding other layers of plywood.
To do that, you'll need a few chunks of plywood, 2 steel threaded rods of 16mm diameter, 16mm nuts and some rubber sheets.
Cut your plywood to the size you want your vise to be,
Create some supports for the rods to go through.
Drill holes in your plywood plates, attach one firmly to the bench and make it flush with the tabletop.
Create some lever handles with scrapped plywood.
Cut some rubber sheets to the size of your plates, drill holes to let the rods pass through, then use wood glue to stick them on the plates. Tighten your vise to help the glue bond stronger with the rubber. Wait a few hours for the glue to cure and you're done, the vise is now ready to use.
This is not the best design because the vise will tilt when you tighten it if you don't use any thing to prevent it to do so, but it is effective and very easy to build. I end up using it quite a lot.
*The sentence "Keep your d*ck in a vise" is a registered trademark of Youtube Rockstar "AvE". Check his awesome channel for more information: https://www.youtube.com/user/arduinoversusevil/videos.
Step 14: The Electrics
A few power outlets always come in handy on a workbench.
You never have too much of them. On my bench, I've only added 4 so far, but I will probably add 5 or 6 more soon.
You will need some electric wire (I've used an old 20 meter extension cord*), some wall plugs, if possible heatshrink tube for better insulation. I've added a safety "kill switch" to be able to cut completely all power from my bench in case I have any issue.
Wiring is pretty self exlanatory, anyone who knows a little about electricity should be able to do so. Of course, if you don't understand what you are doing, then don't try it or watch youtube videos first. For example, I don't know how to drive a nuclear submarine, so I do not try to steal one and race it with dolphins in the ocean. I know it's dangerous and dolphins might make friend with me, learn the secrets of nuclear submarines, leading to dolphins building nuclear submarines and destroying the human race. You get the idea, think ahead.
Anyway, The only annoying part here is to cut square holes in your beautiful plywood panels. For that I recommend you to use wood chisels, or a jigsaw.
Try to do a clean job at wiring, you want it to be easy to maintain in case of problem. That is why all the power separation takes place inside my central compartment, where it is both accessible and protected.
You can check the horrible Microsoft Paint wiring diagram for reference.
*It has been brought to me in the comments that using flexible wires is not the best practice for a stationary device like a workbench. So, I recommend you to use solid wires, which are a bit safer.
Step 15: Lighting
Light is a very important thing. Some people say that if there were no light, then you could not see anything, which seems to be true according to the latests scientific discoveries.
So, keeping that in mind, while still having some reasonable doubts, I decided to build a lighting system.
I built it this way for two reasons: first, I didn't want to make holes in the wall, since I'm not the owner of the house. Second, I originally planned to make a system of retractable wheels, so a light that moves with the bench would have been nice. I didn't make the wheels system yet, because I haven't found any technical solution that fully satisfies me so far.. either too weak, or a bit ugly, but I will at some point.
Anyway, to do this, you need a 90x90mm post, about 2 meter high, some long m8 screws, a 10x80mm slats of about 2 meters long, some electric wires, a switch and a LED tube. I recommend those LED tubes because they are awesome, (they light up instantly when you press the switch), and they are light. No heavy ballast or anything, so the small 10mm slat won't bend or wobble too much.
Sorry, I forgot to take pictures of this part. Anyway, if you managed to build the workbench this thing will be a piece of cake. Or a piece of tofu if you are vegan, I don't know what you kids are up too these days.
Step 16: Power Supplies
When you do some serious electronic, you need an oscilloscope and a reliable variable power supply.
I'm just an amateur and oscilloscopes and lab power supplies are quite out of budget for me, so I'm basically satisfied with some standard power supplies that can provide me the usual voltages: 5V, 12V and 24V.
All the power supplies are integrated inside the compartment and the power outlets are accessible through the front panel.
Here again, pretty self explanatory, drill many holes to fit the banana plugs, one switch to activate each power supply, a bit of wiring/soldering and you're done. I have to say that this is super useful, I really recommend you people to do that.
I also have a mobile terminal so I can have better access from the top of the desk, which includes a basic cheap digital DC voltmeter input as well as 5, 12 and 24V outputs. I will also add one quick stepper motor plug tester soon.
You can check the horrible wiring diagram attached for reference. Sorry, the only tool I had available to draw it was Microsoft paint, hence the disgraceful result. The eye bleeding should stop a few hours after viewing the schematic, if not, please consult an ophtalmologist
Step 17: Electric Lift for Router
Sometimes when you use the router table it is quite the hassle to set up the height for every pass.
So, I decided to build a little improvement to my router table, in order to make this adjustment electrically controlled. I also wanted to see the measurements directly, without having to check everytime, so I integrated a digital caliper.
I chose to use a stepper motor, only because I wanted to experiment with steppers at that time. I suppose you could use a DC motor if you prefer, but the Arduino code and wiring would be different. Also, the stepper motor and driver I'm using are a bit overkill for this application, you can use a smaller motor without any problem, the torque needed to lift the router is not huge.
If you want to do the same, you'lle need:
-a 4 wire nema 24 stepper motor,
-a stepper motor driver,
-an Arduino uno,
-2 microswitches for the endstops
-1 small metallic flat plate for the probe
-a 50cm threaded rob (mimimum 8mm diameter)
-50mm of rubber durit
-a threaded insert
-100mm of pvc pipe
-100mm of velcro band
-a bit of leftover plywood, wood screws, etc.
-To understand a little how the Arduino works
Now, to the electric lifting part:
Find a wood plank of approximately 1 meter long, then cut two 90 degree corners. You want it to fit between the two legs.I've used a steel plate of an old CD player to create a bracket for the motor but any other way is fine, be creative! Screw the motor in place on the plank.
Create a support bracket for the router, simply 2 blocks of plywood separated by a PVC tube glued together. Put one side of the velcro band on the top of your bracket, the other side on the bottom of your router.
Connect the treaded rod to your motor using the rubber tube.
You need to create some endstops, to tell the Arduino what is the maximum travel limit of the router on the top and the bottom. You can copy my system, which is very basic but turns out to be pretty reliable, or come up with a better one of your own. Plan to have at least 100mm of travel, this helps to make deep cuts, but also whenever you need to change the cutting tool.
The next step will imply that you know the basics of Arduino. If you don't, you may want to familiarize yourself first.
Wire your stepper driver and the arduino following the schematic.
Use the following code:
Finally, wire your joystick and your probe sensor.
How to use it:
First, you will need to tell your router what at height your table is. So you need to calibrate it, using the probe. Simply put the probe on top of the hole where the drill bit is supposed to come out, then grab the joystick
If you press the joystick button, the router should enter in "calibration mode". This means that the router will move down until it meets the bottom endstop, then will move up until it meets either the probe sensor or the max endstop. Once the router will hit the prove sensor it will automatically stop and hold its position. This is your new 0 position.
You now have two choices, either going manually and set up a manual height by moving the joystick up or down, or going by 1mm increments by moving the joystick left or right. This second function is particularly helpful: You do one pass at 1mm, then move your joystick to the right, then another pass at 2mm, etc. It really helps to fight agains the usual laziness that drives you to do things in a few passes and gives you a poor finish in the end. Instead, you don't hesitate to do many thin passes since the set up part takes almost no time and you end up with a beautiful and super precise finish.
Another great benefit of this router lift device is that this allows you to quickly test any stepper motor you may have. You just have to hook up the stepper you want to test in place of the router stepper (I've made a cable just for that for convenience) and you end up with a quick test bench that allows you to perform basic testing on your stepper motors or mechanisms within seconds, without having to wire anything. This is definitely a great feature for anyone who is doing projects using stepper motors on a regular basis, I've used it to test my CNC milling machine, my robot arm and my 3D printer and it saved me a lot of trouble.
Step 18: Removable Downdraft Tool
When you sand things, you always end up with a lot of fine dust flying everywhere, covering your tools, your floor, your table, the inside of your lungs...
A downdraft table will help you to get rid of a good amount of dust while sanding, you just have to sand your project on top of it after switching on your vacuum cleaner and it will suck the vast majority of the dust and particles. Another benefit is that you can probably use it for some plastic thermoforming, but I never tried this yet.
It was fairly easy to build, just needed a 30x30cm plywood sheet about 20mm thick, and some scraps of 5mm thick plywood to build a box under it. A few PVC pipe couplings complete the BOM.
First, drill a buttload of holes on the top plate.
Then, create some walls for the box using the 5mm plywood.
Close the box with some more 5mm plywood, including a hole to fit the PVC fittings. I suggest you to reinforce the spot were the two parts are linked together to facilitate this process. I'f used some scraps of 20mm plywood.
Last step, use a caulking gun to seal all the holes in the bottom, it needs to be airtight.
To use it, simply connect it to your vacuum system and start sanding stuff.
Step 19: Extensible Light Arm
One last thing I decided to add was an extensible lighting arm that I could put anywhere on my bench.
The big Led tube is quite powerful, but sometimes I need to get a better lighting whenever I'm doing tiny soldering work or when I need to work in the electrical compartment of the bench. This light allows me to see clearly wherever I am around the desk, which is super convenient.
To do that, you'll just need one 4x4cm wood beam of about 2 meters long, a 10 or 20W LED spot light, a switch, some wires, a few screws and about 200mm of threaded rod.
First, cut the wood in three sections, according to the dimensions you want, there is no real rule here. Just keep in mind that if it is too long and if the LED spot is heavy, then you'll have a hard time to keep it in place while fully deployed, because the long lever arm combined with the gravity force will put a lot of stress on the articulations. Just find the sweet spot.
Then, cut notches in the ends, for the articulations to fit between each other. Try to cut them so that you don't have much play, they better be a bit tight (you can always sand them later. Create some knobs to fit on the screws, which will help you to tighten them, then drill holes in the articulations for the screws to go through.
To attach it to the bench, I chose to use the treaded inserts that I have everywhere on my tabletop. So I've simply drilled a hole in the bottom part of the lamp pillar, put a threaded insert inside, and used a long threaded rod. Whenever I need to change the lamps position, I just unscrew the threaded rod and put it in another hole, which takes a few seconds. The advantage of this solution is that it makes a pretty sturdy attachment to the table, and I can lock it firmly in place just by tightening the rod so the lamp won't wander around.
Once you are satisfied with the basic design, you can try to make it a bit less ugly. I've used the bandsaw to make all these cuts, and the drill press to make the holes. The purpose of this is not only aesthetics, it also ligthtens the arm quite a lot, which means that you don't need to tighten the bolts like crazy to set it in place.
Finally, the last touch is to give it a little paint job and to put the wires and the switch. I unfortunately only had an horrible switch around and didn't have much time to do a fine job on the wiring, but it is only a workshop light, not something I'm gonna expose in my living room for other people to masturbate on, so I guess this is no big deal.
Step 20: Wall Panel for Tools
This is a very basic and common thing that all workshops have, so nothing really special except the carbon sheet which makes it less prone to become dirty over time and look a bit cooler. As for any project involving carbon, it is also faster if you race it.
Just take a random sheet of plywood, drill four holes, one in each corner.
Then, sand it to make it perfectly smooth and flat, put some wood glue all over it and apply your carbon vinyl while removing air bubbles. Let it dry under pressure on a flat surface.
Next step is to create some shapes to hang your tools and screwdrivers. I used my bandsaw to do these, but any other method will work fine too.
Finally, put some stickers to show that you are super cool. (Just FYI, the stickers in chinese look pretty cool but they actually say that I'm a d*ckhead and a nerd). Done.
The whole process took about 2 hours, 10 minutes for the board and tool supports, 1:49 minutes to decide which sticker should go where and one minute for various beer openings.
Step 21: Future Improvements
Things I will add soon:
-Lights in the electrical compartment
-Retractable wheel system
-Integrated dust collection
-Drawer organization system
Step 22: Conclusions
I thought I was only doing a workbench. Turns out I was actually making my life to change.
I've always been a tinkerer, but this workbench took it to a whole new level. It is crazy how a good tool like this workbench is can motivate you to do better and better and how much time you can save with it. This workbench improved my productivity by about a gillion percent, if this number even exists (you can see some examples of projects in the pictures here above for which this workbench have been very useful to me). Once you'll do it you won't even want to leave it for more than 10 seconds, which is why I m considering to integrate the only missing options: a bed, a shower and a toilet seat as future improvements.
More seriously, the point of this instructable, aside from (hopefully) give inspiration to some of you, was to demonstrate that this workbench is doable by anyone with enough motivation. I managed to do it even with my poor chinesium tools and with virtually no woodworking experience whatsoever. I'm using it for about a year already on a daily basis and it is still in perfect condition. So I hope that some of you guys (or girls) will build it, that would make me very proud! If you do so, or if my buils inspired you to do yours, please post pictures in the comments it would be awesome!
If I had to change anything about it, I think sincerely that I would change nothing. Except maybe thinking of a nice spot to put my metal vise, I forgot to think this through before.
Also, I would like to protect the wood with some finishing, but I don't know anything on this matter and I have no idea where to find any reliable product here in China. If any of you guys have any good suggestion for how I should protect this wood, I would really appreciate to get your wise advises in the comments!
Finally, If you liked my project and think that this instructable worth it, please vote for me in the Tables contest, would be great if I could win some decent tools to replace my "el cheapo" ones and come back with better quality projects!
Anyway, If you have some questions about the build, materials needed, the tools, the true purpose of life or anything else, feel free to ask in the comments and I'll do my best to reply :)
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