Introduction: DIY Workshop Table (From Plywood!)
When we realized that we needed a new workshop table for our CNC machine, we decided to design and build a simple, versatile, and stylish DIY workshop table that was easy to make but also looked great. You can build this table in an afternoon with simple materials like plywood and screws and it's versatile enough to be used for almost anything. You can remove the desk portion, add more to it, add one on the other side, and so on!
We have detailed plans available on our website:
This is a relatively easy DIY woodworking project but we also try to introduce some intermediate woodworking techniques like rabbet joints and edge-banding to challenge you to improve your skills and hone your craft.
The table is made from 3/4" plywood so it's rigid, inexpensive, and the materials are easy to come by.
We recommend watching the video above and following along with the written steps!
- 3/4" Birch Plywood (2 Sheets)
- 1.25" Screws - https://amzn.to/2zn8tZj
- Leveling Feet - https://amzn.to/3fB7tll
- Wood Glue - https://amzn.to/2wDkXLt
- 1/4" Masonite (Optional)
- 1/8" Maple/Edge-Banding (Optional)
Step 1: Breaking Down the Full Sheets of Plywood
When working from full sheets of plywood, our strategy is always to do a series of pre-cuts to break each sheet down into smaller pieces before attempting to cut it down to our final dimensions. This way we when we cut out our pieces, we’re not working with such massive sheets and the whole process is easier to manage and more accurate.
The easiest way to do this is to put some risers underneath the sheet (2x4s work great) and then use a circular saw to cut it into smaller pieces.
This is completely optional but it's something we always do when working from full sheets of plywood. You don't need a large space, even doing it in the driveway works great.
Step 2: Cutting the Legs, Aprons, and Stretchers
To keep things easy, every piece in the entire project is 4” wide. This means you can set up your saw once and cut all these pieces together. The ideal way to rip all the parts to size is on a table saw. However, another great option, if you don’t have that available, is to use a circular saw with a long, straight guide like a 2x4 to keep your cuts straight.
The plans on our website (linked in Step One) contain a useful diagram for how we got every single piece we needed out of just two sheets of plywood with all of the grain running in the same direction for maximum style points.
We opted to rip all the pieces to 4” first, then go back and cross-cut each piece to its final length. It's not important how you crosscut the pieces, since any saw will work fine. We did ours on the table saw.
Legs: 34.375" long
Long Aprons & Stretcher: 50.5" long
Short Aprons: 37.5" long
Short Stretchers: 38.25" long
Step 3: Cutting the Rabbet Joints for the Legs
The legs are made up of two pieces put together to form an “L”. To increase the rigidity of the table, one of the pieces of each leg will have a rabbet joint along one edge that the other piece will sit in. This is explained in great visual detail in the video but essentially a rabbet joint is a groove that goes along the edge of the wood.
We want the rabbet to be the same width as the plywood so it's a perfect fit. For best results, we measure the width of the plywood and then use that measurement to determine how thick to make the rabbet.
As shown in the video, we use a tool called a Dado Stack to cut the rabbet, but there are simpler ways to do it if you don't have access to that tool (which we also demonstrate in the video). You can use a single blade and make many small cuts to achieve the same result, it just takes slightly longer to do.
You'll need to cut four rabbets, one for each leg. The rabbets are 3/8” deep and ~3/4” wide.
Step 4: Assembling the Four Legs
The legs are assembled using wood glue and screws. It’s best to drill pilot holes in the legs prior to assembly so you don't split the wood when driving in the screws. (It also helps keep things aligned as they go together.)
We used five screws in each leg, 2” in from each end and then evenly spaced across. Once you’ve drilled the pilot holes, apply wood glue to the rabbet joint, place the other piece in the joint, and screw the leg in place.
A perfectly viable alternative to using screws here is to use a brad nailer. Due to the angle, it’s difficult to clamp this joint together so either screwing or brad nailing the two pieces together will hold them in place while the glue dries to create an ultra-strong joint.
Step 5: Assembling the Long Sides
The front and back of the table frame are very similar but the back has a stretcher near the bottom for added support. There is no stretcher in the front so that you can easily access the shelf underneath and use the space more easily.
The front has a single Long Apron along the top, aligned with the top of the legs. To attach it, align the pieces as shown, apply wood glue, and screw it in from the back so you don't see any screws in the front. (See video and/or plans for more detail.)
The back goes together in the exact same way but there is also a stretcher along the bottom. The top of the stretcher is 10” from the bottom. You can easily adjust the height here to change how high the bottom shelf is.
Step 6: Finish Assembling the Frame
With both of the long sides assembled, they can now be connected together with the short aprons and stretchers. The method of construction is identical to how you built the Long Sides, with the aprons getting glued and screwed in from the back and aligned along the top edge.
First, we flipped the long sides upside down and then stood them up on end. Next, we positioned the short aprons and attached them the same way we attached the long sides. Then we attached the stretchers the same way.
(The stretchers are slightly longer than the aprons, so make sure not to mix them up!)
We also made sure to use a square on the inside corners when attaching the sides to keep the table squared up as it all went together.
The Center Support
Across the center, we added a single piece to support the middle. This helps to prevent the top from sagging in the middle over time. This is attached with glue and pocket holes. If you don’t have a pocket hole jig, you can screw it in from the outside but you won't be able to hide the screws.
The shelf is attached easily by placing it inside the two rear legs and on top of the stretchers. After cutting it to size, we put a bead of wood glue along the top of the stretchers, placed the shelf down, and then screwed it in place.
We recommend drilling pilot holes before attaching screws so the plywood doesn’t split. We put one screw in each corner and then one in the center in the back.
Step 7: Cutting and Attaching the Top(s)
Next, we cut the top from the remaining 3/4" plywood. To attach it to the frame, we positioned it with the back flush against the back of the legs and with a 1” overhang on the right side and a 12" overhang on the desk side. This is easy to adjust to your needs. If you don't want the desk part, just cut it off so it's overhanging only 1" instead.
Once it was in position, we clamped it in place so it wouldn't move, drilled pilot holes, and screwed it down to the frame from the top. Don’t glue it! This way you can always remove/replace it later, if necessary.
To attach it, we put one screw in each corner and three screws per side. We also put two screws in the center support.
To give our table a more polished look, we decided to put a piece of masonite on the top and cut/trim it to match the same size as the plywood. As seen in the video, you can either cut it to size ahead of time or rough cut it in place and then flush-trim it with a router as we did.
The masonite is totally optional but it's a much smoother and nicer looking work surface than just plywood.
Step 8: Attaching the Edge-Banding (Optional)
We wanted the edges of the table to look nicer so we decided to put on edge-banding. This is totally optional but really helps the look. It hides the end-grain of the plywood and covers up any rough spots. It's also a great opportunity to flex your woodworking skills and try some new techniques!
Store-bought edge-banding is usually 3/4” wide and can be easily ironed on, but if you add masonite to the top as we did, then your top will be too tall. Solution? Make your own! Use some scrap wood and make your own edge-banding of any shape, size, or color. You can then glue/nail/screw it in place and sand it so it’s flush with the top.
We used some scrap pieces of maple we had around and ripped them down to 1/4" thick and attached them with glue and a brad nailer. The white maple is a nice contrast against the dark brown masonite.
Step 9: Attaching the Desk Aprons and Leveling Feet
To prevent the desk overhang from sagging over time, we added a small “mini-frame”. We cut three strips of 1.5” plywood and then attached the two short pieces to the long piece with pocket screws on the inside, and similarly used pocket holes to attach it to the frame of the table. We then put a few screws in from the bottom to secure it to the top.
Depending on what you’re using your table for, you may have a need for it to be level. Since most garage/shop floors aren’t really level, the best way to do this is to add adjustable feet so you can make sure it’s perfectly level. Another benefit of adding the feet is it allows you to adjust the height!
These are simple to attach. Just hold them in place and attach them with the screws that should come with them.
Step 10: The Results!
Thanks for reading and watching! We had a lot of fun building this table and we're excited to have a solid flat and level surface for our CNC and whatever else we might need to use it for in the future. This design is incredibly versatile and easy to adapt to your needs so we're sure you can find many uses for it in the shop.
Let us know if you have any questions about the project. :)
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