Introduction: Basic Workbench: Made Out of Reclaimed Wood

I am a 43 year-old and this is my first time ever building a wooden project, or any type of project this big for that matter. Honestly, I can count the times I had used a circular or an electric jigsaw to one or two times prior to this experience.

My kid is the builder in the house, and he is the one that inspired me to build this workbench for him. So this Instructable is for all of you that have ever wanted to take on the challenge of tackling a project.

I can tell you that you have the power to undertake this or any other project. Let me start here by outlining the tools and materials I used:

  • Reclaimed wood from old wooden pallets and from an old spaced-picket wooden fence panel
  • Mallet
  • Hammer
  • Work gloves
  • Saw horses
  • Cleaning items including regular dish soap, bleach and a sponge
  • Power drill
  • Circular saw
  • Jig saw
  • Exterior screws (1-5/8" X8)
  • Tan exterior screws (10 x 4")
  • L brackets (the cheapest I could find on the store)
  • Wood Filler
  • Transparent weather proofing paint (I already had the paint but you can use something else such as wood stain or just plain water sealer for wood.)

With that covered, let me move on to tell you how I build the workbench.

Step 1: Dismantle Old Wooden Pallets and the Pre-assembled Fence Wood Panel

Dismantling old wooden pallets is no picnic. I had tons since my wife and kid had collected about 20 or so pallets from friends to build projects that never came to fruition (until now, I guess). So I had all these pallets that had been sitting on my backyard for about two years.

What I learned in the process of dismantling them is that not all pallets are the same. Some can be easy to dismantle; others, not so much. The best ones and easiest to dismantle I found were the four-entry-way pallets (see chart here for the various types of pallets-

I used a mallet and a hammer to dismantle them, but there are different ways to go about this process, depending on the tools you have at your disposable. Here is a link that gives you 8 different methods using various tools:

My take away from this step:

If you have the choice, pick four-entry pallets. Also, don't let your pallets sit and rot as it was they case for me. This limited the amount of wood I had for my project.

Luckily, to make up for the limited wood, I had an old wood fence panel (spaced French Gothic style) that I was going to throw away. Dismantling the fence panel was a piece of cake. Here the mallet and hammer came in handy again.

If you are dismantling pallets or any other wood you reclaim, don't forget to remove any old nails. To do this, I used the hammer, pulling the old nails and hammering the difficult ones. What I did was remove the nails as I dismantled the wooden pallets.

Step 2: Clean Old Wood - Make Sure All Nails Are Removed

If the reclaimed wood you are working on has been sitting outside for a while or if you see that it needs it, clean it. Make sure you remove all nails prior to cleaning it. Also, I recommend you use gloves to protect your hands.

This was kind of a tedious process as some of the wood I reclaimed from the fence was in a desperate state. But the process is easy. I used a pair of folding sawhorses to place the wood, both to clean and dry. Basically, I mixed dish soap and household bleach on water to use as my cleaning detergent. Here all you will need to do is spray the wood with water and them scrub away. Let the wood dry for 2 to 3 hours.

During this step, you can sort out your wood and discard any that will not work for you.

Step 3: Plan Design and Sort Out Wood

I looked at different pictures and designs to get an idea. Once I had a notion of what I wanted, I just went ahead and began planning. What you will need to consider for your design and size is how much wood you have at your disposal.

So I suggest to look at how much wood you have and begin from there. Here are my recommendations for this step:

  • Take stock of how much wood you have for the top - First, the length. I had three 2x4s that measured over 6 feet each. This helped me determined that I wanted a long bench. My next step involved counting how much wood I needed to serve as the actual top. I wanted the length to be 6' but, based on the materials I had available, the length of my table came a tad under, at 5.5' (66 inches).
  • The width - Since I realized early in this process that I did not have enough good wood from the pallets, I knew I was going to use the wood I had reclaimed from the fence for the top surface of the workbench. The shape of this wood helped me determine the width at 30.4 inches.
  • The height. I used my height to determined the height of the table. From my feet up, I measured two to three inches right below my hips. This gave me the general ballpark. Since the workbench is primarily for my kid and he is much taller than I am, I ended up deciding to have the length at 3' feet (36 inches). This worked out perfectly as most of the 2x4s from the pallets were 3' already, minimizing my labor. Not sure if 3' is the standard for the pallets but perhaps you can use the size of the pallets themselves as your guide to help determine the desired height of your table. Here you want to determine if you will be needing four 2x4s for your legs or if you will be needing 8 (two on each side). Since my table is long, I used two on each corner to give it more stability.

My final product is a combinations of what I found in my research of various designs. Even when I was constructing it different ideas came. I say, get a feeling for what you might want and then just dive into the process. Just make sure you have enough wood. Now, if you have more wood that you might need, you can plan to add a shelve to your workbench. That's something I might end up doing for my table in the future.

Step 4: Putting It All Together

Preparing the wood and planning the design were the hardest steps. The building and putting it together, the fun. Here is how it all came together.

  • Cutting - I began by cutting all the wood to my desired specifications alternating between the circular electrical saw and the jigsaw.
  • Creating the top frame - I started by placing the 5.5' 2x4s paralleled to each other (think railroad tracks). Then I began screwing the wood I had from the fence by placing them vertically on top running across the paralleled beams. I used the 1-5/8" X8 exterior screws on each side of the wood to secure. I continued this process until the top was completed.
  • Securing the legs - From my online research, I have seen people use the 4x4 blocks that come in the pallets to secure the legs; that's what I basically followed as the general idea. Before securing the legs - since I was not really sure how I was going to do this - I experimented by placing the blocks on different sides of the corners to see what I liked best until I made up my mind. Using the 10 x 4" exterior screws, I secured the blocks on each corner with two screws on each side. Once I completed this step. I secured one 2x4 on each front of the blocks, and one on each side. At this stage, the workbench came to be. What followed next was all about making it more stable and aesthetically pleasing.
  • Stabilizing the workbench - Basically, I used a 2x4s on each side, and only one on one the fronts as I didn't have a large enough 2x4 beam to use.Otherwise, I would have place one on the other side too. In addition to the wood on the sides, I placed L brackets on each bottom corner.

Step 5: Beautifying

Once the workbench was ready, I decided to fill out any holes and sand it down to smooth all the surfaces. The final step was painting it. Reaching this stage was gratifying in seeing all the hard work - the dismantling process, the hours cleaning the wood, the hammering old nails out, the cutting and drilling - come together at last. Here is a general guide on how I completed this final phase:

  • I began by filling any holes on the top surface. This only took a few minutes. After the filler dried, I used an electric orbital sander with a grit of 60 to sand all surfaces down including all areas facing outwards.
  • I then proceeded by cleaning any dust from the wood using a damp cloth.
  • Checked the surfaced for any missed spots. If I found areas that needed it, I repeated the process of filling holes, sanding down, and cleaning.
  • Finally, after all was ready, I gave the workbench one coat of paint with transparent weather proofing paint.

The last brush of paint culminated my venture of building a workbench for the first time ever. The experience has inspired and given me the confidence to create more projects in the future.

I thank you for following me on this journey. I hope this has helped you in taking on the project either for the first time or giving you and idea to make your own workbench.

Wood Contest 2016

Participated in the
Wood Contest 2016