Introduction: The Very Rigid $45 Eight Foot Workbench

Picture of The Very Rigid $45 Eight Foot Workbench

Your shop needs a good workbench. It needs to be rigid so you can trust it to hold any project you are doing. It needs to be big so you have room to work. It needs to be inexpensive so you have more money for tools.

I built this bench for under $45 using all new materials in the spring of 2011. The top is eight feet long and two and a half feet deep. The shelf is full length and one and a half feet deep. The tool ledge is three and a half inches deep.

Note, this Instructable will use the US standards: inches are marked as ", feet are marked as '.

Materials list

Description. Qty
2"x4"x8' (nominal size) 7
1"x6"x8' 1
4'x8'x3/4" particle board 1
Box 2" exterior wood screws 1
Bottle of wood glue. 1

Saw (hand or power)
Measuring tape
6" clamps

Good to have
Post level
Corner clamps
Large square
Drill guide
Countersinking drill bit
Workmate style clamping table
Larger pieces of cardboard
Rubber mallet 

Step 1: Step 1 at the Lumber Yard

The 4'x8' panel can be particle board, MDF, or chip board. I chose particle board as a good compromise of cost and durability. Buy from a lumberyard or big box store that will do free cuts with a panel saw. Have the store cut the panel lengthwise at 30". Panel saws do nice straight cuts if the operator is even minimally competent. Not only will this result in a better cut than you can make with a portable saw, but it will also make the parts lighter to cary and easier to maneuver.

Step 2: Step 2 Cut Legs and Braces

Picture of Step 2 Cut Legs and Braces

Cut the legs and the cross braces. You need to cut four legs. I like the height of my table at four feet. This is the first place where there is a "gotch'a" if you are not use to working with wood. Eight foot 2'by lumber is not eight foot long. It is considered framing lumber and so is cut shorter so that it can be used to frame an eight foot ceiling height with a sill and double top plate. The result is that they are actually 94 5/8" long. Because of this, you can not simply cut the board in half.

Fortunately, you also need to cut four horizontal braces. These braces need to be 22" so you can cut two braces each from two of the scraps left from cutting the legs.

Step 3: Step 3 the Tool Ledge

Picture of Step 3 the Tool Ledge

Next, build the front tool ledge. This ledge serves two purposes. First, it provides a place to put the hand tools you are using where they won't get burried under the pieces of your project. More importantly, the ledge makes the front of the table very stiff.

Start by cutting the 1"x6" to the same length as an 8' 2"x4". Since a 1"x6" is not a framing size, it is really 8' long. By cutting it to the same length as a 2"x4", we can use corner clamps at the ends to make the ledge completely square. This is important to keep your tools from falling off it (and on to your foot).

Brace a full length 2"x4" vertically either in a bench clamp or by clamping it to the legs of another table. If you have corner clamps, position them at the right heights on the ends by using the scrap piece you cut off the 1"x6" as a guide. Remove the scrap by turning the screw on the part of the clamp which was holding it several turns.

Put a wide bead of wood glue on the top edge. Glue is cheap. Glue is strong. Glue can be cleaned up. Don't skimp on the wood glue. Slide the 1"x6" in. Start it at an angle so it doesn't push the glue off. Tighten the corner clamps. Using the measuring tape or the square, mark five locations for screws along the length of the board. The screws should be about 3/4" from the edge (2 by lumber is actually 1 1/2" thick). The screws provide clamping force to allow the glue to spread evenly and provide a good bond.

While the glue is still wet, use a wet towel to remove the excess from both sides. Wood glue is water based, using a wet towel will allow you to clean all of it if you get it before the glue gets too hard.

Step 4: Step 4 the Table Top

Picture of Step 4 the Table Top

Now it is time to frame the table top. Along the back side we are going to place a full 2"x4" board vertically under the table top. The easiest way to do this is to place the 2"x4" on the floor, on top of some large pieces of cardboard (to protect the floor from wood glue), take two of the legs you cut and place them at 45 degree angles to this board, and set the table top on top of them. Move the back 2"x4" so that the edge of the table top is resting on the first quarter of an inch of the board and the board is centered along the length of the table top. You are going to add wood glue to the top of the board and then carefully lift the edge of the table top and slide the board in until it is flush with the edge. Try this BEFORE adding the glue. Watch your fingers and toes since the table top can shift unexpectedly.

While the weight of the table top provides a lot of clamping force, I chose to still run a wood screw in approximately every two feet like we did with the ledge. Wipe off the glue you can reach with a wet towel.

Next we need to put two of the short braces we cut under the sides of the table top. We want the outer edges of the braces to be flush with the outer edges of the back 2"x4" (the last picture is a view from the side of the bench). Use the measuring tape or square to make sure the brace is an even distance from the table edge. Glue and screw it to secure it into place.

Step 5: Step 5 Legs and Braces

Picture of Step 5 Legs and Braces

Turn the table top over. Now we are going to install the tool ledge, the legs, and the remaining side supports. We'll start with the back legs. Place a level on the table top to make sure that it is sitting level on the cardboard you are using to protect your floor. Place cardboard shims as necessary to make it lay solid and level. The rear legs are attached with glue and screws to the 2x4's that stiffen the table. It is more important to have the legs perfectly vertical than it is to have the top of the leg in contact with the table top over it's entire area. Temporarily place the leg in the corner. On my table, I ran the 4" (3 1/2" actually) dimension fore and aft. This will give more contact area for the brace we will be adding later. Mark where the leg edges are on the other 2x4's. Remove the leg and coat the ares you marked as having been covered by the leg with glue. Use two 6" clamps to clamp the leg to the two 2x4's. Think some about where you place the clamps because you are going to be running screws in right next to them. Place a level along the leg, a post level is handy for this. Adjust how the leg is clamped until the level snows the post being completely vertical in both directions. Once it is vertical, drill holes and drive in screws through each of the 2"x4" braces into the leg. Think about where the screws are going inside the leg so the don't hit each other. I run three in a triangle pattern from one side, with the base of the triangle being furthest away from where the other screws enter the leg. I then run four screws in a square pattern in from the other direction. Repeat this on both rear legs.

For the front legs,you only have one 2"x4" to connect the legs to at this time. You want the leg flush with the front of the other brace because you will be attaching the tool ledge to both of them. Glue, level and clamp the leg similar to what you did on the back legs. Use a triangle pattern again for the screws.

Next, attach the remaining side supports between the front and rear legs. These supports will determine where your shelf will be located. I placed them about a foot from the bottom (top, at the moment) of the legs. Mark the distance on both legs, clamp the support to one leg, and use a level to move the other end as necessary to make the support level. I used only screws to secure these braces and not glue. It is better to do both, but it is difficult to do the leveling by yourself quickly so I skipped the glue.

Finally, attach the tool ledge. I put glue on the part of the legs and end of the side supports that will touch the tool ledge, clamped it into place and added screws to finish. Adding glue to the edge that makes contact with the table top is optional. The otherwise unsupported mass of the table will cause it to push down onto the ledge anyway.

You can now turn the table upright. Be careful, it is heavy.

Step 6: Step 6 the Shelf

Picture of Step 6 the Shelf

Finally, we build and install the shelf. Like the table top, the shelf will have a 2"x4" running along it's back edge. However, we will run this one on the top instead of the bottom so that it will also act as a back stop. Install it the same way you did the one on the back of the table top. When. You slide the shelf in, you will find that it doesn't fit if you oriented the legs like I described. That's OK. Slide the shelf in until it is flush with the table top on both sides. Mark the shelf just to each side of each of the front legs. Measure the inside distance between the front and the rear leg. Measure the side of the shelf. The difference between those two measuremets is how deep of a notch you need to make in the shelf to fit around the front legs. If you make the notches tight around the legs, it will help stiffen the table. Cut the notches, put glue on the top of the side supports and push the shelf into place, you might need to use a small mallet if it is a tight fit. Add some wood screws to finish clamping the shelf in place.

That's it. You now have a very solid workbench. If you want, you can add some 1"x4" planks vertically on the back side to hold peg board. Most big box stores carry peg board in 2'x4' cuts so three 1x4's each about 28" long would support two of these panels.


rodneyisom (author)2016-09-04

Did you mean for the short braces to be 24" instead of 22" as you wrote in the instructions? I cut them at 22" and the table seems a bit unstable since the front and back legs are only 22" apart. Also the front edge of the tool shelf is set a couple of inches back from the front edge of the table top (again, because of the 22" front to back braces) not even with it as your picture suggests. Otherwise it's a very good, solid table and easy to build. I didn't have any other problems that I can't blame on my own lack of experience. ;-)

ChetA1 (author)2016-04-18

For a more handsome and durable top at only a slight additional cost, many lumberyards and home improvement places sell very inexpensive butcher block countertops. I think I paid $25 for an 8 foot piece.

PatrickP70 (author)2016-03-09

By the way, you really should be able to get full 8' 2x4s (which are usually about 1/8-1/4" longer than 8'). I've found, at some "home centers," the pre-cut studs (which is what you bought) are easier to find, and frequently the associates don't know any different, or tell you 94-5/8" is 8', and sometimes they are on good sale, but if you do need 8', you should be able to get them.

Jense822 made it! (author)2016-01-03

Awesome instructable! I made a few modifications. first I shortened it to 30" as it will be my fishing rod building bench and I'm in a chair. Second, I made the bottom shelf fit between the legs and put stoppers at the end of the braces. this allows me to slide the shelf in and out. It also allows for some extra leg room when I'm sitting at the table. Very fun and easy project!

JimmyB5 (author)2015-08-15

had to scale it down to 3 feet, otherwise no problems. No truck so had to cut the plywood in two pieces to get in car. Minor changes but it is rocking!

LazyH (author)2015-05-19

I'll be working on a table with 4x4 legs based off of this design, it will only be 31 inches tall and hold a few power tools that need to be anchored to a flat work surface in my shop. I'll post pictures and reference where this instructable gave me some inspiration. Great work.

LazyH (author)LazyH2015-05-20

Alright, I finished the first part of my own workbench, I used all recycled materials so far, so I adapted a few aspects of the design to suit what I had. I also put the tool shelf on the inside of the legs to make it sturdier and put a shelf on both sides since it will be sitting right in the center of my workshop. I haven't built the shelf underneath yet. It will be sitting on a board that I will connect from one end of the table to the other using the 2x4s on the bottom, and I was worried that my table might wobble a little before I installed the board, but that thing stays sturdy even with 165 pounds of knife maker jumping on it.

pawelski (author)LazyH2015-05-20

With the tool shelves on both the front and back making two deep C channels, that bench will easily handle anything up to a smal block Chevy engine. Nice work!

LazyH (author)pawelski2015-05-21

Thanks, I recycled all of the materials so far but I don't have anything else to make the bottom shelf out of, maybe I'll have to cut up some 2x8s to make a platform out of or just buy some plywood sheet. The tool shelf idea from your instructable has been a real help, I was just going to make one with the 4x4 fence posts just screwed to some 2x4s to connect to the recycled door, I did that with a bench out at the farm but that thing rocked worse than a boat in a storm, your design is a HUGE improvement with very little extra work. Thanks for sharing your design.

plshaw made it! (author)2015-03-11

I built 2 of these yesterday. I adjusted it to about 3 1/2 feet, very good workbench and instructions.

pawelski (author)plshaw2015-03-12

Nice job.

EddieZ1 (author)2014-12-01

So far I really like it. I had to make a height adjustment after I realized how tall it would be at 4 feet... otherwise it looks great! thanks for the directions

pawelski (author)EddieZ12015-03-12

after using the bench for a few months, what do you think could be improved?

Alfonso Quintana (author)2014-04-19

Hi. thanks for the instructions, here is mine.

Looks great. Did you run into any problems while building it?

thanks, I live with my parents, so if my mum dosen't like, I'm in trouble XD, no problem everything well explained, de floor isn't level equal so I'm goin to anchored to the wall with screws and is going to be rock solid.

know I have a nice place for works in other projects, thanks

If mum dosen't go for the holes in the wall, look for "leveling feet" in the hardware store or on line. Rockler has several types, other places have smaller selections, but lower prices.

bendy7 made it! (author)2014-04-26

Great design! It looks great in the garage--thanks for the design.

pawelski (author)bendy72014-04-28

You got a good location too with that outlet just above the table. I added a power strip to the front of the ledge on mine.

tim_n (author)2013-03-26

Built this on the weekend.

Spent £46 on materials (in the uk) and about £6 on screws all from B&Q.

Didn't go for particle board but a larger chunkier chipboard.

The only thing we really do need to do is brace the shelf under at the front with an extra 2x4 because it is dipping.

I used kreg screws to make stronger joints on the bench top supports.

The feet do feel a little wobbly and might benefit by being 3x3 or 4x4.

In addition triangular supports on the sides would make a big difference to the rigidity.

Pic: (uploaded from a mobile device)

tim_n (author)tim_n2013-03-27

Similarly we assumed you were putting the 22" supports (all four) on the able top. Particle board tends to sag as it asborbs moisture (especially in damp places like a garage). The extra support will help stop this - as will sealing it with watered down PVA.

pawelski (author)tim_n2013-03-27

All good improvments. I've been "overloading" my lower shelf and seeing the same sag you describe. An additional 2x4 under the front would take care of that and woul add a little extra rigidity in the long direction.

An alternative to going up to 3x3 or 4x4 is to use a second 2x4 on each leg, but instead of placing it "flat to flat" with the existing leg, place it "edge to flat" so it forms a long T or L depending on where you atach the two pieces. This moves more of the fibers further from the centerline and makes it stiffer than the same amount of wood in a square cross section.

Watered down wood glue does make a good sealant. I didn't put it on mine which is setting in a shop in Georgia (southern US) that is only heated or cooled when I am actually in there working. Going through the seasonal changes, I have not noticed any warping of the top.

Somthing I did on my second table is add an L extension on the end. This puts additional legs out of plane with the others which makes it stiffer fore and aft. I use the extension both for a router table and for my main assembly table because I can get to three sides of whatever I am building.

ShaunHill (author)2012-12-18

Could you please post some more photos of the tool ledge as I can't quite imagine it.

pawelski (author)ShaunHill2012-12-18

There isn't much more to see. Look at the fist picture in step 3. The two boards are glued into an L shape. Look at the far right of the first picture in step 6. See the L again? It is just below the table top and in front of the legs. In the front view picture in step 6, you can see the ledge head on. It is wide enought to lay small tools on it like measuring tapes, markers, calipers...

the_howlermonkey (author)2012-03-13

Thanks for this instructable! I used your basic design for my workbench... which is about 3/4s done now... (ran out of screws, of all things) I have spent UNDER $45 in wood though! I bought a big solid core door from the local Habitat for Humanity Restore for ~$20... It isnt as pretty as a clean piece of wood, but it will do the job. The bad part is, I have spent ~$100 on clamps, and assorted bits and pieces to do the job. :) Wife wasnt too happy. I am anxious to see how it turns out. I am very much the amateur, and I cant imagine I have the legs on even... I bought some cheap levelling screws at Lowes to try to offset both my failures with precise measuring/cuts, and my horribly uneven basement floor.

A tip for any others out there who are starting from the ground up, and lack the clamps (as I did).... If you can afford the nice ones at Lowes, more power to you. I was trying to keep costs down, so I went to Harbor Freight. I have had some bad experiences there, but figured how bad could they mess up some C -clamps. So far, I havent been disappointed.

If you sign up for their ads, about every other month, Harbor Freight has their 12" ratcheting clamps on sale for $1.99 in their members only flyer. I have had only one fail. The pivot for the squeeze handle was a plastic cylinder that broke. I replaced it with a 1/4" bolt and put it back to work.

The solid core door is a great idea. 16 years ago, my first two benches were made from the side panels of a trashed bookshelf. Nothing was straight on them either, but they are still standing.

I really like the "shelf", it gives me a whole new place to lose my measuring tape!

The only time I loose mine is when I forget to put it back on the shelf.

Bushie (author)2011-11-10

Neat job, there...

I used the same sort of particleboard for a bench top here, a few years ago now ~ except that after cutting the 8' x 4' board into 30" and 18" widths, I glued, screwed and nailed the narrower piece along the front to give a double thickness top with a 12" wide shallow "tool well" along the back..

The top was then sealed with a few coats of a semi-gloss water-based acrylic clear gloss finish for decks..

I then tacked a 6' sheet of external-grade Masonite along the front half of the benchtop to protect the surface from impact, cutting, etc. If I was doing any serious metalworking, I might consider adding a sheet of steel plate on top, as well..

My bench top has already stood up to a couple of decades of use and abuse - mostly general woodwork, and some household maintenance - and is still going well...

pawelski (author)Bushie2011-11-15

Sounds cool. Post some pics.

dimtick (author)2011-09-21

very nice simple design.
I think the only change I'd make is that I wouldn't glue on the top so that it can be replaced when it gets beat up.

pawelski (author)dimtick2011-09-21

I thought about doing that. While the front ledge is just taking the vertical load, the rear support is also taking any twisting load. Imagine dropping an 80 lb small engine an inch or two onto the middle of the table. The top will try to bow from the impact. The back side has to twist the 2x4 to do that. With just screws, the shock load can rip them out. Not a problem with the whole length glued to the 2x4.

If you don't mind spending an extra $6, I would recommend getting another sheet of particle board to use as a cover. Since it will be fully supported from below by the main top, it can be thinner and only needs to be attached in a few places. I'd either use four bolts near the edges, or wood screws from the bottom so you don't have to make new holes in your main top each time.

If you plan to have storage on you back 6", you can have them cut the sheet exactly in half and have two replacement tops from each sheet. Better still, you can use two of the ready cut 4'x2' "easy sheets" with the screw from the bottom method. Easier to handle and you only have to replace the side that gets damaged.

ksexton1 (author)pawelski2011-10-06

Your comment about $6 for another sheet of particle board is making me want you to give a price breakdown. I only have the 2 big hardware stores around, and I'm seeing OSB, particle board, and plywood as the only options in 4 x 8 sheets. The 3/4" particle board is about $20, even 3/8" for a cover layer is $16+.

pawelski (author)ksexton12011-10-09

This is my third try at posting this:
$6 is for the thinnest OSB.
The 3/4" particle board costs $18.45 down here.
I paid $2.49 for each 2x4
The 6" board was just under $5.

dimtick (author)pawelski2011-09-22

Thats a great idea to do a double layer top. i hadn't thought of that. thank you. for my projects (furniture refinishing), the biggest theat is something nasty getting spilled (like paint stripper). can't have anything like that getting onto the whatever i'm working on. i think a thin sacrificial top, like 1/4", would work well for my needs.

the way you have yours screwed, every 6-8 inch's, you don't need to worry about dropping a small engine block. i don't know the length of screws you used but as long as you have at least 3/4" bite (at least as much bite as the width of the wood going thru ), then you don't need to worry about pull out.

you may want to add another 2x4 along the front edge of the shelf, below the shelf edge. the 2x4 the runs on the back of the shelf adds some stiffness but i'm not sure if it's enough. i can't tell from the pictures but you should screw thru that back shelf 2x4 into the table legs. you have plenty of rigidity in the short direction because of the your framing but i don't think it's enough in the long direction. you may want to add some diagonal braces onto the legs. you can also simply screw it to your wall.

another thought. a simple thing to get some more function out of your bench you can drill a grid of evenly spaced 1" holes that will allow you to use bench dog clamps simpilar to that little folding work table you have.
i love these things

jongscx (author)2011-09-21

Your "This is in US standards" comment made me wonder...

How do they sell wood in countries that use metric standards? Are they still 2x4s?

Anyway, nicely made. Was the bottom shelf a "Measure twice/cut once" scenario or was that on purpose?

jkm (author)jongscx2011-09-24

although in metric, over here in The Netherlands lumber is still measured in multiples of 25 millimeters, i.e. Inches. So a 4x2 would be 50 x 100.
If rough sawn, that would be about the actual dimension. If planed smooth, it would be 44x94. Which would be sold as such, and not as 50x100. Lengthwise, we usually have lumber in multiples of about 30 cm, starting with 180 cm/ 6 feet. For sheets of ply etc, we're just about moving form 4"x 8" (122x244 cm) to 125x250 cm. But you will find both sizes, it's a global market.

pawelski (author)jongscx2011-09-21

Originally, I was going to orient the legs the other direction which would have allowed the shelf in w/o the notches. I accidentally clamped the first leg in the other orientation. I caught it before I glued it, but when I thought about it, I realized using the shelf with a notch around the front legs would make it stiffer. Besides, I had just bought an oscillating cutting tool! :)

Celt (author)pawelski2011-09-21

I got an oscillating tool for my b-day recently. at first I wasnt sure what i would use it on, but i have found it to be the most useful and fast tool in my "shop". Great bench BTW, i think i shall model mine after this one, with a few minor adjustments of course.

vincent7520 (author)2011-09-22

nice !
never saw a tool ledge as is … it's a great idea !…

doctormerlin (author)2011-09-21

Great design: simple, efficient use of materials.
Nicely laid out Instructable!

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