Introduction: Ultimate Workbench

Picture of Ultimate Workbench

The ultimate workbench is your go-to place when you need to get a job done. It's got a solid wood work surface, great lighting, a vice to hold down your work, and of course all the important tools at the ready in drawers underneath. Also, it's on casters. Which is really the best part about this workbench, the mobility it provides.

This customizable workbench is small and mobile, so you can roll it around your shop or even into the back of your truck and take it to the job site. When you're done it neatly tucks away, ready to save the day for your next project.

Ready to make your own ultimate workbench? Let's make!

Step 1: Supplies

Picture of Supplies

The ultimate workbench can be customized to suit your needs. For mine, I knew I wanted bench dogs, a power source, lighting, and a magnetic knife rack and peg board to hold all the irregular shaped tools I have.

Aside from a standard tool chest on casters, here's the shopping list:

Sturdy hardwood top:
I used hard Maple, which is a classic woodworking tabletop choice. For my workbench I used two 10' lengths of hard maple planks (roughly 1"x8") and had some wood left over.

Accessories for the worktop:

Accessories for sides:

Step 2: Work Surface

Picture of Work Surface

I wanted a sturdy work surface that would withstand a lot of abuse, so I chose to make a butcher block work surface. All wood will warp over time, a butcher block surface aims to inhibit as much warping as possible by being dimensioanlly stable. What this means is that by cutting our wood into slats, and aligning the grain of the slats, we can provide stability to each naighbouring piece and attempt to counteract warping.

To start I squared up each piece of wood, chopped them in half to make them more managable, and then cut the planks into 1"x1" strips.

To get the most stability from the work surface each strip was aligned so that the grain was facing vertical. You can see this easily by looking at the ends of each strip.

Step 3: Glue Strips

Picture of Glue Strips

With the grain pattern aligned it was time to glue up the work surface.

I started by putting down a sheet of protective paper under the slats to prevent gluing the wood to the workbench. Then I clamped the pieces together using plenty of clamps to ensure a good bond between each slat. I also used a few clamps on lateral pieces of squared wood to ensure the slats were lying flat on the workbench while the glue was curing, giving me the most level surface to work with after the glue had dried.

Step 4: Remove Clamps, Scrape Dried Glue

Picture of Remove Clamps, Scrape Dried Glue

After letting the glue dry overnight I removed all the clamps, and the paper backing. There was some glue overflow that dried on the surface which can be easily removed with a scraping edge. Removing any dried glue will make sanding and leveling the work surface easier.

Step 5: Trim Ends

Picture of Trim Ends

The work surface is ready to be trimmed to the final length. I used a circular saw and a fence to trim the ends square.

Step 6: Rough Sanding

Picture of Rough Sanding

The belt sander does a great job of smoothing out any rough transitions between the strips.

Go slow and be careful, as the belt sander removes a lot of material and can gouge the surface. Also, make sure to clamp your surface before you start sanding.

Step 7: More Sanding

Picture of More Sanding

After a rough sanding to smooth the transitions between strips you can switch over to an orbital sander. Start with a coarse grit and work your way up to a finer grit to get a nice smooth surface.

Step 8: Chamfer Edges

Picture of Chamfer Edges

To ease the sharp edges of the work surface I chamfered the edges. You can do this easily with a small hand plane, or use the orbital sander.

The hand plane does a great job as it will take off an even shaving over the entire edge, while the orbital sander may have an uneven chamfer along the entire edge. Either way, we're aiming to just knock off the sharp edge on teh work surface.

Step 9: Measure and Mark Dog Openings

Picture of Measure and Mark Dog Openings

This workbench will have bench dog openings. Bench dogs are posts that stick into the work surface, these posts are great for stopping whatever you are working on from sliding around all over the place while you are working on it. You can also get hold down clamps that fit into the dog openings, or make your own dog attachments (as I did).

You can make your dog openings anywhere you like on your workbench, there are no rules. I decided to make my dogs in two parallel rows about 2" from the lengthwise edges, and spaced about 9" apart. With a ruler and square I marked out an array of where I wanted my dog openings.

Step 10: Drill Dog Openings

Picture of Drill Dog Openings

Typically dog openings are 3/4" or 1" in diameter. I chose to make my dogs 3/4" in diameter. Using a drill press so the openings would be squared to the work plane I drilled through the entire surface at each mark with a 3/4" drill bit.

Step 11: Rout Dog Openings

Picture of Rout Dog Openings

I decided to ease the transition for each dog opening with a roundover bit in a hand router. This is optional, but makes the work surface much nicer and reduces potential tearout at each dog opening after use.

After I gave another quick fine grit sanding to the work surface to clear any pencil marks and prepare the surface for sealing.

Step 12: Seal Work Surface

Picture of Seal Work Surface

To protect the work surface I used boiled lindseed oil. Protecting the work surface before I began, I applied a liberal coat of the oil all over the butcherblock surface. After a few minutes of letting the wood soak up the oil I wiped the surface with a clean rag, then applied another coat.

Step 13: Work Top Frame

Picture of Work Top Frame

To attach the work surface to the rolling too cabinet there will need to be a frame. Most rolling tool cabinets have a flange on the top portion, this is if you want to inset a piece of wood there for a work surface. The work surface I made is much larger than the inset of the flange for a larger work area, and also so I can clamp stuff to the lip of the new work surface.

This frame was made with scraps of maple from making the work surface. I measured the interior of the rolling tool chest top and cut strips to match. Each piece was milled to the same height as the flange inset, that way the work surface can rest on top of the flange, level with the wood frame.

The frame will be installed to the underside of the work surface first, then set into the flange and screwed in place.

Step 14: Attach Frame to Worktable Underside

Picture of Attach Frame to Worktable Underside

Maple is a really hard wood, so I had to drill pilot holes of almost the same diameter as the screws I was using. To ensure the screw heads sat flush I countersunk each hole drilled.

The rails were installed on the underside of the work top frame first, then the entire assembly was flipped over and placed into the rolling work cabinet top.

Step 15: Install Work Surface

Picture of Install Work Surface

Carefully align the work surface rails with the inside of the rolling cabinet top, ensuring a tight fit.

Step 16: Attach Work Surface

Picture of Attach Work Surface

Drill into the flange from the outside of the rolling cabinet through the metal and into the maple rail under the work surface, countersink the hole, then install a long screw to secure the rail and work surface in place. Repeat this along the entire perimeter of the flange.

Your work top is now securely installed on top of the rolling tool cabinet.

Step 17: Vise

Picture of Vise

No tool bench is complete without a bench vise.

This inexpensive vice was installed on one end of the work surface and mounted with screws from below. Using wood inside a metal vise is a good method to avoid marring anything you hold in the vise. I used more scrap maple leftover from the table top to make an insert for each side of the vise. I used epoxy to hold them in place, and followed up with beefy screws to ensure the inserts would be firmly installed.

Step 18: Magnetic Tool Rack

Picture of Magnetic Tool Rack

Having drawers for all your tools is great, but what about items you want quick access to? Adding a magnetic tool rack on the side of your tool chest allows you to keep things handy and organized.

The magnetic tool rack I got was 18" and had openings for screws that lined up with the upright structure of my tool chest. Screwing into the hollow upright support allows for a secure connection without interfering with the drawer action.

Step 19: Electrical

Picture of Electrical

What good is having all your power tools in one place if you don't have a way to run them? I installed an electrical powerbar under the work surface on the opposite side from the vise. Almost all powerbars come with slide opening on the back that allow you to install them onto screws.

I measured where these openings were and drilled two holes on the underside of the work surface, then installed screws to hold the powerbar. To ensure a good connection I used epoxy on the backside of the powerbar and then installed it into the screws, making a permanent bond.

Step 20: Peg Board

Picture of Peg Board

For all the other tools you want to keep around, but don't fit into the drawers or on the magnetic rack, there's a peg board to hang things from.

I measured the width of my tool cabinet then scribed the width onto the pegboard, then cut it to size with a circular saw. I used more scrap maple to make standoffs so that the peg board would stick out a little from the tool cabinet, this is so that peg hooks could be inserted. The wood standoffs were again screwed into the hollow upright support and didn't interfere with the drawer action.

Step 21: Modify Bench Dogs

Picture of Modify Bench Dogs

With the vise installed we can start using the tool bench to help us build out the bench dog modifications.

These inexpensive bench dogs are 3/4" and have a rubberized insert in the top which are removable. I wanted to modify these dogs to hold lights, which have a post in the bottom that is a little less than 1/2" in diameter, the articulating lights would then be able to be placed anywhere on the table and serve double-duty as bench dogs.

With the rubberized top removed from the bench dogs I placed the dogs in the bench vise and drilled a 7/16" hole inside the dog about 1/4 of the way into the dog, just enough to securely hold the post of the articulating light. The rubberized insert already had an opening, so no modification was needed there.

Step 22: Looks Good; Now, Get to Work!

Picture of Looks Good; Now, Get to Work!

With the workbench complete you're ready to get started on your next project, big or small. With a rolling tool cabinet combined with a custom top and tool racks you can tackle jobs anywhere without having to make multiple trips back to the shed for tools you forgot.

Of course, what i show here is just a sample of the ways you can customize your ultimate tool bench. Other additions might be a movable fence on one side, small hanging baskets on the work surface end to keep your smaller tools, or even a back guard which can hold even more tools.

What ways will you modify your workbench? Share a picture in the comments below and earn a free Pro Membership!


Dia50 (author)2018-01-10


Need 4 things cleared up. I’m somewhat a beginner.

Beef screws (what size)

Your planks: 1”X1”x5 feet? Is that correct?

Can I use a hand router to Chamfer the edges?

What kind of Expoxy? Is it the Dual tubes?

Thanks for any feedback

mikeasaurus (author)Dia502018-01-10

Beefy screws: The largest diameter screws that would fit into the vise clamp openings. The length was about 1/4" short of where they would protrude out the other side.

Plank size: That's right, but you could use any size that suits your need. Just make sure they are uniform in size.

Hand router to chamfer? Yes, use whatever tool you have on hand. You could even just hand sand off the hard edge if you like.

Epoxy type: I used the 2-part epoxy. Look for a type that can bond between metal and wood (it will say on the back of the epoxy packaging).

Good luck!

Dia50 (author)mikeasaurus2018-01-11

Wow... Thank you.

You are on point with the speed in which you respond.

Also, your answers/explanations are so clear and Understandable.

YaronShemesh (author)2017-12-27
StanB1 (author)2017-04-19

How do you use the vise with the bench dogs when the vise jaws are the same height as the tabletop?

mikeasaurus (author)StanB12017-04-19

Without dog openings in the outside edge of the vise, I can't use the vise with the tabletop dogs. I mostly use the dogs to hold boards from sliding around the table while working, rather than any squeezing work. Since my vise is so small, I just use it to hold onto pieces as I'm working, relying on long clamps to do any squeezing work.

Thanks for the detailed question!

r33tc0w (author)2017-02-27

cool build - shouldn't the bench dogs be in line with the vice?

Mjtrinihobby (author)2016-12-22

Mega awesome!

seanpc (author)2016-06-26

Great ideas! I love the idea for the light and bench dog mod. The first thing I always think about when trying to come up with ideas for a workbench is power. Here's my #1 must have. One on all four corners.

mikeasaurus (author)seanpc2016-06-27

Power was one of those things that I didn't think was necessary, but when it was installed was an absolute must!

jbrizzle (author)2016-06-22

i wanna make this soooo bad!

GabrielM134 (author)2016-06-21

Hey Mike, that was really impressive.

Sorry to be asking this, but as I am a beginner i didn't really understand the angle of the screws in step 16.

Thanks and great work.

mikeasaurus (author)GabrielM1342016-06-21

In Step 13 we assemble a frame on the top of the tool box, inside the flange. This frame is then attached to the underside of the new wood butcher block work surface we made earlier. The entire wood top is then placed into the top of the tool chest with the frame facing down.

Lastly, pilot holes are drilled from the outside of the flange into the frame set inside the top of the tool chest which is attached to the underside of the butcher block work top. The opening is countersunk, and then screwed together with fasteners.

This is Step 13 -16. Does that help?

GabrielM134 (author)mikeasaurus2016-06-21

Thanks mike, for some reason I was in doubt if that was a horizontal hole.

mrandle (author)2016-06-20

I'd maybe mount a cord reel on the side that you can pull out to plug it in easier, maybe even a reel with an air hose so you can use air tools! Maybe add a battery charger for any cordless tools, though with the convenient plug in...

mikeasaurus (author)mrandle2016-06-20

So many options!

Mark 42 (author)2016-06-20

You could even use pneumatic tires if you have a gravel driveway & no concrete to owrk on (like I do).

Yonatan24 (author)2016-06-18

Awesome! Why should you clamp the wood while sanding?

Why buy bench dogs? (I think) You can make something similar with metal rods... :)

mikeasaurus (author)Yonatan242016-06-20

Why buy when you can make?

Bench dogs were the first project I made with my new workbench!

Yonatan24 (author)mikeasaurus2016-06-20

That's exactly what I meant...

JohnS564 (author)Yonatan242016-06-19

You can make them but they are so cheap it doesn't make sense

Yonatan24 (author)JohnS5642016-06-19

If you say so...

$8 for a piece of plastic doesn't sound cheap to me, so I guess there's something that I'm misssing...

fdc313 (author)2016-06-20

Great looking & functional workbench, on my to do list.. Thanks

fdc313 (author)2016-06-20

Great looking & functional workbench, on my to do list.. Thanks

Gearhead_shem_tov (author)2016-06-19

Myself, I would probably supersize this by using a larger top with two rolling toolboxes back-to-back with the drawers facing the ends. I'd also add heavy duty casters that swing up or maybe just use regular machine tool caster platforms.

Another possibility would be to provide hinged plywood panels that swing down flat on the floor; standing on the panels keeps the bench from moving anywhere.

Doubling up the tool chests is a great idea! I'd love to see your version when you build it.

mpaeglow (author)2016-06-20

Very nice build! You mentioned a back/stop- If the back edge of your top is flush with the back of the cabinet, you could add a fold-down version.

robert livingstone (author)2016-06-20

Awesome bit of kit . Well done :)

stiltdancer (author)2016-06-19

This is the exact cabinet I used for a kitchen island. Nice ideas I'm going to use. Thank you.

BurntfoxB (author)2016-06-19

Where did you get the table vise/clamp from. This is a really cool build ... It would make an awesome mobile shop bench if were to be built with two rolling tool chests. Great idea.

KenM93 (author)2016-06-19

Do not use the Freight Co. Tool cabinets they have a tipping hazard full or empty. To tall too narrow. Tipped on me 3x Till I moved wheels out bu 4"

Y-Geo (author)2016-06-19

trouble with a mobile bench is it moves !

no where do i see any mention of locking the bench so that when using a plane or sanding it does not move.

ScottS187 (author)Y-Geo2016-06-19

the toolbox has locking casters....

UncleEd (author)2016-06-19

Nice job--as everybody has said. When I first saw the roll-around toolchest, I thought it was going to be a mechanic's workbench, but that illusion left when you said a maple top. My workbench is quite static and for a mechanic's use, but I really like the holes for the pantograph lamps. I'll be stealing that idea very quickly, as I have been thinkiong about what I was going to do for better light.

bigrod66 (author)2016-06-19

I love this idea and will add a grinder and vise to meet my requirements.

KenM93 (author)2016-06-19

Be careful using the a National freights Company's tool chests. The are dangerously prone to tipping. (filled or empty).

FrankB48 (author)2016-06-19

Very good ! great presentation thanks for posting. hug Frank Barros

globalcop (author)2016-06-17

In a couple steps you mention squaring your wood or using squared wood to ensure level surfaces during gluing. How do you get the wood squared and level to begin with?

mikeasaurus (author)globalcop2016-06-18

Using a jointer to flatten one side of the wood planks, then a table saw with the flatten side face down to rip square strips.

If you don't have a jointer you can usually rely on quality wood to mostly level and just rip on the table saw and refine any height difference after gluing by spending a little time with the belt sander.

Flub-a-dub (author)globalcop2016-06-17

plane the surface or use a joiner before glueing the boards together but once finished you stil might have to hand plane the surface unless you are perfect with the glueing.

GeorgianBay Scott (author)2016-06-17

Nice! I like it. Kinda thing I would make, perhaps as a gift since I already have two work benches. Simple and compact design. Look forward to seeing more of your 'crazy things'.

ksjunto (author)2016-06-17

Incredible design!

audreyobscura (author)2016-06-17

Guh! Workbench envy! This is what my studio NEEDS! I may borrow facets of this build for when I inevitably replace my dinky sewing desk with a proper work table. Great job, as usual!

Packo88 (author)2016-06-17

This is great. Love it!

FPSXGames (author)2016-06-17

No kidding on the title. Great stuff

Buso (author)2016-06-17

Great Instructable!

brushingpav (author)2016-06-16

Extremely good...!!

ZombieWorkshop (author)2016-06-16

Excellent work, maybe add a retractile extension cord

ele421 (author)2016-06-16

Good job.

zencuke (author)2016-06-16

This is serious cool. I currently have stacking tool boxes with a mobile base (which never moves) so I'd have to do something else with the upper boxes. But it would be worth it. There is so much added functionality in this design. Every time I read it I notice something new. The only thing I would be tempted to change is I like torsion box foam core sandwich bench tops. Not as pretty but much lighter in a mobile bench I have to push around. Younger people might appreciate the stability of the heavier bench though and butcher block is always fun to make. Torsion boxes are great to use but so tedious to build. Thanks for this one.

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm Mike and I make crazy things at Instructables HQ in San Francisco. Follow me and try a few of my projects for yourself!
More by mikeasaurus:Router Planer10 MORE Woodworking Tricks the Pros UseSliced Wood Coasters
Add instructable to: