Introduction: Child's Workbench

This instructable details how to build a sturdy and functional child-sized workbench, but it could be easily scaled to full size. I built this for my 3 year-old son for Christmas, and aside from small projects like picture frames and shelves this is my first "real" woodworking project (and also my first instructable!). If I can build it, you can build it. I've included as many photos as I could of each step, but did neglect to get any shots of the shelf and work surface as they were cut and notched.

Step 1: Draw Plans

Before beginning this build, I spent a lot of time scouring the internet, looking at other workbenches and plans before deciding on the look I wanted. 2x4's seemed too bulky for a small piece like this, and would really have made it far too heavy to be practical. I decided on 1x4's for the legs and cosmetic pieces (hiding the frames in the front/back) and 1x2's for the frame/supports. Ultimately, I decided that I wanted the work surface to be 48" x 18", with a height of about 24", with a framed pegboard (an additional 20" above the work surface). I wanted the top and shelf frames to nest in the legs, and decided to sandwich 1x4's instead of trying to cut dadoes. I also decided to add a strip of quarter round to the work surface and peg board to complete the framed look (you could leave this out, or use 1x2 like the rest of the frame).

Step 2: Materials

Here is the cut list and list of tools used

Cut List:
Support/Shelf Frames:
1x2 @:
16 1/4" - 4
46 1/2" - 4
14 3/4" - 4

1x4 @:
41" - 4

1/2" Plywood @
18" x 48" - 2
(One of these will need to be notched 3 1/2" x 1 3/4" at each corner to accommodate for the legs)

1x4 @:
24" - 4
5" - 4
16" - 4

Pegboard/ Frame
Pegboard @: 24" x 48"
20" - 2
45" - 1

Quarter Round @:
45" - 1

Castors - 4

Tools used:
Compound Miter Saw (No mitered cuts were made, this is just what I used)
Table Saw (A circular saw could also be used)
Band Saw (for cutting notches. could also use a jigsaw)
Brad Nailer (Used for attaching shelves and pegboard. You could also hammer nails, or use screws)
Wood Glue
Clamps(You can never have too many clamps)
#6 2" Drywall Screws
#6 1 1/4" Drywall Screws
3/4" Brads
1 1/2" Brads
Minwax Golden Oak Stain
Minwax Polyurethane Clear Satin
3" Foam Paintbrush (for the stain)
2" Bristled Paintbrush (for the poly)
Sandpaper (multiple grits 100-400. I also used 1000 to lightly sand the dried poly coat)

Step 3: Building Frames

Tips: I won't mention it for every step, but any time two pieces of wood are joined, assume that gluing is also required. Don't forget to clean any drips, as dried glue will not take stain. Check for square/level often through each step. Drill pilot holes for every screw.

Use a butt joint to join the 16 1/4" 1x2's to the 46 1/2" 1x2's (side pieces on the outside) with 2" screws.
16" from each end, attach the 14 3/4" 1x2's for added support.

Step 4: Attaching Legs

Sandwich the 5" 1x4's to the bottom interior end of the 24" 1x4's with 1 1/4" screws. Attach the 16" 1x4's 1 1/2 " above the 5" piece, leaving an additional 1 1/2" space at the top. These gaps are where the frames you just built will nest. I used scrap pieces of 1x2 as spacers to ensure a tight fit. Attach the legs to the front and back of your frames at the corners with 2" screws (into the side rail) and 1 1/4" screws (into the front rail). Repeat the same steps for the top frame. After the legs are secured to the shelf frames, attach the 41" 1x4's to the front and back of the frame, flush at the top. These pieces are cosmetic, to keep consistent with the look of the legs. These also fill a gap under the work surface/shelf on the front and back edges.

Step 5: Install Shelves

Attach the 20" 1x2's to the 45" 1x2 (sides on the outside). These will frame the pegboard, once attached. Before installing the work surface, attach the 3 sided frame you've just made by screwing it to the work surface from the under side of the plywood at the back corners with 2" screws. Normally you would use a lap joint here ( cross piece on top of vertical sides) so that the load is on the piece, and not on the screws. Since there is no load on top of this joint, I opted to use a butt joint to keep the look of the frame consistent with the legs/shelves. (The load on those joints is on the legs and 1x2 frame, not the 41" 1x4's that were attached to the front and back. Those are cosmetic.)

Notch the bottom shelf (3 1/2" x 1 3/4") at the corners to accommodate for the legs. Attach the work surface and shelf in place with 1 1/2" brads about every 6 inches.

Step 6: Final Steps

Sand everything until smooth and clear dust with a clean cloth and/or dry brush (a wet cloth will raise the grain and you'll have to sand again). Apply stain and polyurethane as manufacturer directions indicate. What I have pictured is 2 coats of Minwax Golden Oak, and 1 coat of Clear Satin Poly. At this time, also stain your 45" piece of quarter round. Once everything is dry, add the pegboard by gluing, clamping, and nailing with 3/4" brads. There should be 4" of pegboard attached to the back of the workbench, the rest should fit squarely on the frame. I had to adjust slightly to line up the holes in the pegboard, which had been cut slightly crooked. Next time I will be checking pegboard more carefully at the supply store before selecting a piece.

Attach the quarter round to the work surface and pegboard with wood glue, and 3/8" brads (from the back) to complete frame. I also added castors to the legs to make easier to move around the garage. Since the legs are sandwiched and not a solid piece, I opted for castors that are screwed onto the legs. Make sure to get ones with bases that are narrow enough to fit properly.

Thank you for reading. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

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