I finally decided to make something nicer that used half lap joinery. I had several requirements apart from improved aesthetics: it had to be tall enough to "park" my lawn mower underneath, and long enough to sit between two brick piers on the back wall of my garage.
8 lengths 19mm DAR pine cut to 1500mm long (long stretchers)
8 lengths 19mm DAR pine cut to 900mm long (legs)
8 lengths 19mm DAR pine cut to 600mm long (short stretchers)
Large sheets of MDF or similar for the worktop and shelf
Dowels/screws and glue
I also used some spare off cuts to make some additional braces to support the shelf and worktop
Circular saw/mitre saw or table saw
Chisel and hammer
Framing or speed square
Lots of clamps
You could easily adapt the dimensions to suit your space and needs.
Step 1: Lamination of Bench Frame Pieces
This was a tricky step as wood glue is not your friend - there is a real tendency for the boards to slip and slide as you apply clamping force. However you must use LOTS of glue to ensure a successful lamination process. The longer boards required about 10 clamps each. I recommend that you use clamps on all sides - some to provide downward pressure on the lamination and some to provide lateral "holding" pressure. Take care during this process as misalignment can't be fixed easily when the glue has dried and will mean a trip to fetch fresh timber and another round of tedious glueing and clamping.
Step 2: Half Lap Joinery
Starting with the leg assembly the aim is to make multiple passes of the saw to create a 38mm wide rebate (at one end of each leg) and 38mm wide dado (lower in the leg to suit the shelf height you need) which will to hold the long stretchers.
Then repeat this process on the long stretchers- except in this case there is no dado - each end will need 38mm rebates.
Don't bother trying to hog out all the material using the saw as this will take forever, create a shed load of dust and probably annoy your neighbours. If you make several narrowly spaced cuts you can then use a hammer to bash out the waste material and use a chisel to cleanup any residual waste that remains.
Step 3: Dry Fit
Step 4: Glue Up
I used wood glue and dowels to hold it all together but regular screws would be fine too
Step 5: Assembly
Only one piece of bracing is shown in these shots but I ended up using six cross braces - 3 to support the shelf and 3 for the worktop