Introduction: Custom Wood Workbench

After finally moving out of an apartment and into a house, I found I had space! The previous renters left a 2 1/2ft tall table in the garage, but it was hardly ideal to do any kind of work on. Thus was born the idea for a work bench. I spent about a month designing the bench, trying to fulfill several requirements.

  • Has to be mobile, if we move again I wanted it to be easy to move, and also easy to move around the garage as needed.
  • Be able to support and securely hold a miter saw and a vice
  • Be able to provide power at several points for tools and work lights
  • Optional, have minimal amount of left over wood from the project (i.e. utilize as much of what I buy)

With all this in mind, I have to give credit to KR-S for his instructable which gave be a start for my design.

Step 1: Making the Bottom Frame

The bottom frame is 2'x4's cut at 6', and three 30" pieces. This part was pretty simple, I just had to make sure my box was square. The pieces were screwed together using two 2 1/2" screws at each joint, for a total of 12 screws. This step is then repeated, as the top frame is exactly the same, although later on I decided to move the center support, but more on that later!

Step 2: Legs, Attaching the Bottom to the Top

Now with both frames made, it was time to bring them together. I wanted the total height of the bench to be about 40" tall, so I cut the legs at 36" which with the plywood top and casters gave me 40 1/2", and I could cut my 12' 2"x4"s into fourths to get the legs, no waste!

Once again I used two 2 1/2" screws at each joint. On the corners, I arranged the legs to make a "L" shape for some added support. It probably didn't need two pieces on the corners, but the corner allowed for easier mount of the shelf later on.

Step 3: Adding Utilities...

Using five 1"x6" boards at 6' length made the bottom shelf. This was my main reason for making the frame this way, so that these five boards would easily fit on the bottom. With the bench starting to look like a bench, I figured now was a good time to add some of the utilities. The wheels are 3" casters that swivel 360 degrees and can lock. Four screws and washers hold the casters onto the legs and the very corner of the frame. I had to be careful when adding the casters as I didn't want one of the caster's screws to hit a screw from the bottom frame or the legs.

I also added the main electrical box on the middle support leg. This box is where the power comes in, and also has a switch which will cut off all power on the bench. Just in case you know?

Step 4: Tabletop

Sadly I only took one photo when I did the table top. I cut the 4'x8' oak plywood piece into 3'x6' to fit on top and be flush with the corner and middle legs. Underneath, I used left over triangle pieces of 2"x4" to help hold the bench down. The top is held in all corners on the frame (8 spots) and in the center of all open spots (8 spots, mostly between the corners on the long parts of the frame). I used 1" screws counter sunk so as to avoid puncturing through the table top.

I also added a trim on the bench top, just a simple flat 3/4" trim that I glued and used finishing nails to attach. It really adds to the look of the bench, and wasn't too hard or costly to do.

Step 5: Adding the Storage Shelf

This is where the plans got modified a bit. I didn't have a piece of plywood that was large enough to go from the end to the center support of the frame. I decided then, to move the center support closer to one end of the bench. the support is about 2' from the end of the bench, as I'm using the leftover plywood from the table top for this shelf. In the end, I'm glad I did this, as that big of a shelf wouldn't have been as useful to me (i.e. it would just end up cluttered all the time!).

I also added a basket just underneath the table top to hold pencils and such. It's a small addition, but it's good to have all my pencils in one easy to get to place.

Step 6: Electrical Work

Having accessible power was one of my main goals, so I wired up two outlets and the kill switch. Power runs from a drop cord to the bench, up to the switch. From the switch power goes to the outlet beside the switch, and out to the other outlet in the far corner. The connection where the drop cord plugs in is NOT the best, and I'm not really happy with it. This is something I plan on upgrading/modifying to be safer.

I used 14ga wire held down with the appropriate staples. When I came to a support, I opted to drill a hole through to better hide the wiring. The kill switch works by interrupting the "hot" or "live" wire (the black one) before going to any of the outlets. This way, if anything goes hay-wire (i.e. saws!) I can cut the power to EVERYTHING on the bench.

I also drilled a hole in the table top for the lamp. I found the lamp at a hospice store for $7, and as a bonus it has an outlet on its base. Not only does this give a good bit of light for working in, it gives me an outlet on top of the bench as well.

Step 7: Inspiration Strikes!

By this point I had asked my dad for his opinion of several design choices. He had the brilliant idea to use the 1'x6' piece of plywood left over from the bench top as an expandable table top. Since I didn't have another use for it, this was a great use for it. After a bit of searching, I found marine brackets that could support 200 lbs each and locked into into place. These are the brackets I got, but it took quite a bit of time to find a good price and decent shipping cost. These brackets are tricky to install, as you have to be VERY accurate when you screw them in. After getting the plywood attached, I had to loosen the screws on the brackets and realign them. With the brackets crooked, the board won't fold down all the way. After straightening them, the board folded down much more, making it possible to almost have the bench flush against the wall.

Step 8: Staining and Poly

I do love some stained wood, so I figured why not stain the whole bench! I picked Minwax Gunstock as the stain after trying it out once before on a different project. I tested it one some scrap pieces of wood I had to check the color, then sanded the entire bench. I stopped at three coats of stain as I didn't want to go too dark. I lightly sanded again, and applied a liberal coat of polyurethane on the entire bench. I like poly for its look and the protection it adds to the wood. I did four coats of poly on the bench top, lightly sanding between each coat.

Step 9: Final Touches

The bench was close to being done! I added four handles, two on both ends to make moving the bench easier. These were about $5 on Amazon, but any handle would work. I also installed the vice. I had to add more supporting 2"x4" to mount the vice, which meant my wiring had to be moved slightly. I mean to clean up the wiring a bit, along with adding another outlet.

Overall I'm really pleased with the outcome, I have a very functional work bench that is customized to my needs and can be easily upgraded down the line.

Plywood Contest

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2x4 Contest

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2x4 Contest