I know there are a bunch of great workbenches here already but they don't quite meet my needs. I want:
>something tough that I can pound a bit without breaking or acting like a trampoline and sending everything on the bench skyward.
>something cheap, and fairly quick to build.
>something ugly. I don't want to be afraid to cut / dent / scratch the beautiful lacquered surface.
jdege did a beautiful job with construction lumber but I just didn't have the time for it and I'd be scared to use it.
jmengel made a built in table that looked quick and cheap but I was worried that the OSB top would be a bit bouncy and may not last many years in a damp environment (and I had no walls to build mine into).
I was thinking of a laminated table top and saw and was inspired by Wholman's Scrap Table which seemed to fit all my requirements (except that his was very pretty... but I knew I could do something about that).
Step 1: Design
I ended up deciding on a laminated top geld together by 3/8" threaded rods with uprights from 2 of the boards used for the top. This design would work with almost any dimensional lumber so I was happy to head down to see what the best deal was (I was originally thinking of using 2x4's).
Step 2: Materials
Sadly I couldn't follow Wholman's example and recycle scrap wood for a number of reasons but mainly a lack of time, and in the small town I live in it may have taken years to collect enough. So I went down the hill to the closest giant orange lumber shop and looked at what they had. 8 foot 2x3's offered the best deal and I decided on 5x 3/8"x36" rods so I needed.... lots of 2x3's (I think I bought 35 but I didn't use them all, or haven't yet).
Next I wanted the threaded rods 18" apart and a foot from the ends so I measured and marked the 22 that I wanted to used for the top (at that time I also decided which side would be the top and drew an arrow at each end). Since I wanted the top sort of flat I made a rough measuring / squaring tool so the holes would be approx centered and vertical. See photo, I squared drill up with the vertical face.
I thought about making the holes larger than requires to make the threading together easier but decided that the overall strength of the bench would be greater with 3/8" holes. It made the assembly process difficult but I think it was worth it.
Step 3: First Attempt
I'm not sure what I was thinking but I started putting the top together with just the end rods. I am sorry to say that I got most of the way through before I realized that there was too much friction to just hammer in the other three rods at the end (and my holes didn't line up perfectly anyway). Since I had a lot of them together I used the opportunity to use the 18" 3/8" drill bit I had to line up some of those holes. I was worried about how hard it might be to get the top apart, so I gave up for the night to build up my stamina. It turned out to be fairly easy so in a short while I was ready for a second go.
Step 4: Assembly
I had very little room where I was putting the bench and, not wanting to cut away any potential work surface, I built it in place on it's side ready to be lifted into position. First I threaded a washer and locknut onto the end of the treaded rod that was to become the front of the bench. I then started working the 2x3's onto all 5 rods at the same time, banging them down tight with a rubber mallet. I noticed that there was so much friction on the threaded rods that this was quite important, if they weren't snug now I probably couldn't have fixed it later. This was the stage that I realized how important earmuffs were, there's a lot of noise banging away inside my little metal shed.
Step 5: Leg Incorporation
I screwed two 2x3's together for the legs and decided that I'd like the top to be about 3 feet high, so I drilled holes at 36 inches.
After two pieces of top (and when 4 pieces from the end) I placed the legs in place on the end rods. then hammered down the next piece of top. The friction held things in place fairly well and after checking that the legs were square I cut the ends off the top so that the legs were held tightly when the top pieces were hammered into place (that description was horrible, look at the photos). That was repeated since the legs were made up of two 2x3's then the rest of the top was completed.
Step 6: Tightening and Lifting Into Place
While it is still on the ground the washers and locknuts can be added and tighened. If you like you can hacksaw off any excess rod. Mine would be against the wall so I left them as they were.
You'll notice that my legs have been left long and braced at the top. I did this because I intend to put a storage platform up there. I would have braced the bottom of the legs in both directions but I was surprised to find that they were relatively rigid so I lifted the bench into place without the extra weight (I later put a shelf down there for bracing and storage). All did not go as planned at this stage... the height of the roof was not included in my calculations and was a bit low. The uprights you see here are, therefore, 6 inches short of 8 feet tall.
Step 7: Finished
You can see that the top is not flat. I thought about routing it flat and sanding it smooth but decided that I was thinking too much about beauty and not enough about function: There's nothing more annoying than pulling apart something small with many parts and having the round parts roll off the bench. Therefore I am hopefully saving myself a lot of frustration by leaving the ridges. I did wipe down the top with linseed oil and added a couple of lower shelves from recycled stuff and will eventually finish the top shelf.