Introduction: Less Than $50 Particleboard Workbench
In this Instructable, I’ll show you how I build a workbench for my basement workshop for under $50.
After installing lights, one of the first things I needed in my workshop is a workbench where I can actually start and build things. The goal for the workbench is to provide good support for the projects and be as cheap and easy to build as possible.
The initial consideration for materials was wood but since I’m not a woodworker and I don’t have a lot of woodworking tools, I’ve decided to build the bench out of particleboard. I know that this will not last for very long but should be good enough for at least several years. When I bought the particleboard, I had it pre-cut by the supplier so I only needed to assemble.
Battery Drill - http://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/cmT6XhgM
Drill Bit Set - http://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/ccuczbyM
Speed Square - http://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/bMN6PGi4
Combination Square - http://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/bMN6PGi4
Wood Screws - http://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/bMN6PGi4
Step 1: Plan the Design
To start, I first made a model of the bench in SketchUp and you can find the link to it in the video description. Based on that model, I printed out several views to help me and started organizing the pieces by size.
Download the SketchUp model that I've used to build this workbench:
Step 2: Build the Legs
First for assembly were the legs. They are made out of two pieces mounted 90 degrees to each other so it can have stability in both directions. Since they need to be screwed together close to the edge, I pre-drilled holes in the wider piece at half the material thickness.
By using clamps, I aligned the top and bottom of both pieces and attached them with two of the screws. If one of the sides has a slight bow to it, you can then force it into place when screwing the other two screws in the middle. The same procedure is then repeated for all 4 of the leg assemblies.
Step 3: Add the Side Pieces
To give stability to the sides, I’m using a bigger piece to attach the legs. I laid down two of the leg assemblies and added the side piece in between. With all of their top edges aligned I used several screws on each side to attach them. If you follow the same build, make sure not to repeat my mistake where I placed the larger pieces of the leg assemblies on the sides instead of the front. I had to take everything apart later and install them properly.
Step 4: Connect the Sides Together
When both of the sides were ready I’ve laid the sides on the floor and placed the longer braces in between them. Once they were aligned with the edges I used several screws to attach them with the side assemblies.
To attach the braces on the other side, I had to do a delicate flip to put the table upright. You need to be very careful here as the workbench does not have any stability yet and you can easily break some of the sides. Once it was up, I used clamps to hold the other brace in place while I installed screws.
Step 5: Add Support Pieces
To add rigidity, there are several pieces that connect the long sides. There is one in the middle of the bottom brace and 3 others for the top. To make assembly easier, I’ve pre-drilled these holes and started the screws. Then, using my speed square I’ve aligned the crosspiece and screw it into place. The same was repeated on the upper 3 pieces as well.
Two pieces are then added to the top sides to double up the particleboard and reduce any sagging that might happen over time. These are first aligned with the top edge and clamped into place until I added screws.
Step 6: Add the Lower Shelf
Now that the support structure of the bench was ready, I continued the assembly by installing the lower horizontal surface. This will serve as a shelf for some of my power tools and occasionally for temporary storing of project pieces while I continue working on others on the top surface.
As you can see, because of the size of the piece and the way the table is assembled, I needed to insert this piece before I added any of the top cross support pieces. I tried several ways of getting it in, but none of them worked and I decided to remove one of the leg pieces on the side. Using some offcuts I supported the lower stretcher and installed back the leg piece before I attached the shelf.
If you happen to follow this project and decide to build a bench like this for yourself, make sure to first install this shelf and only then proceed with installing the top support pieces.
Now that the board was in, I’ve marked some locations at half the board thickness along the edge of the shelf and I pre-drilled the holes for the screws. I used 50 mm long screws here so there is plenty of support to keep the shelf flat.
Next, I used my speed square to transfer the height of the shelf on the sides, marked some locations for support screws and used the drill to make some holes. With the same 50 mm screws, I joined the shelf with the sides as well, so it adds rigidity to the entire workbench.
Step 7: Add Moisture Protection
At first, I was not planning to do any finishing on the workbench and I wanted to leave the particleboard exposed just to see how it will behave and how long it will last. However, when I posted the first video about the bench, a lot of you commented that the particleboard will draw humidity from the air and recommended that I add a coat of paint to minimize this.
So, now that I was going to paint the workbench, I also used some wood filler and applied it on all of the exposed edges of the particleboard. Additionally, I applied it on all of the connections, making sure not to leave too much as I didn’t want to sand a lot later.
It is crucial to mention that I did not bother to hide any of the screws I’ve used to assemble the workbench. The reason for it is that they will be painted over later and since this is a workshop piece it does not need to be pretty. Additionally, I have some plans to upgrade it in the future with some extra features so I might need to drill or cut somewhere and I wanted to be able to remove any screw that is in the way.
When the filler was dry I used 120 grit sandpaper on a sanding block to quickly knock off any high spot left from the filler and after wiping the entire table with a cloth, I flipped the table upright and added a layer of white primer paint on the bottom.
I started the painting process with a sponge roller but something was wrong with it and it wasn’t spinning right so I switched to using a brush. I had the primer paint leftover from a previous project and since I did not have much, I only applied a relatively thin coat. If this was to be a furniture piece I would have applied a thicker layer or at least one more layer after the first one was dry.
Instead, the next day with the help of my son, we added a thicker layer of paint around the entire support frame and the lower shelf of the workbench. Again, I did not bother to sand in between the primer and the paint since this is a shop piece and I can live with the way it looks. Also, we did not wear any respirators as my basement is really well ventilated with doors on both sides but you should always wear one or preferably, work outside.
Step 8: Add the Work Surface
With the workbench painted, I placed the work surface piece on top, aligned it with the front of the table and used a measure to center it from the sides. This piece is designed that it has some overhang on the sides and the back, but not at the front as I will be building a vise to use the front for clamping. The side and back overhang will be used for clamping projects to the workbench.
With the top, I decided not to do any finishing as I’m expecting to get beat up quite fast and it will probably be the first thing that fails on this workbench. If that happens I can quickly remove it and replace it either with another piece of particleboard or with something stronger if the frame is still holding up after a while.
Again, to fasten it to the frame, I added screws from the top on all of the sides and support pieces in the middle not bothering to hide any of them.
Step 9: Testing and Further Steps
I did have plans to add some leveling feet to the workbench as my basement floor is not that straight but I checked the top and it was perfectly level where I’ve placed it. As I don’t plan to move this bench anywhere else, I’ve decided not to add them for now.
At first, I was not sure if the particleboard will be strong enough for a workbench but now that the table is assembled I’m confident that it will hold for at least several years. This is perfect for me as I’m not a woodworker and I won’t be handling heavy projects on it but instead, I plan on doing smaller projects and it should be perfect for this.
As I said earlier, I do have some plans for adding extra features to the workbench like storage and a vise so be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel in order to see that. If you want to build a similar bench for yourself, you can download the SketchUp model that I made for mine, let me know what you think and thanks for reading.
3 years ago
Sadly i live in a kinda wet place, but since wood here is very expensive i might try and do that with some better way of sealing it up
Reply 3 years ago
You may also try and get some melamine boards. They are partically the same, only with a thin sheet of plastic on top of the particleboard. The price might be a bit higher but they offer a lot more protection. You will only need to deal with the edges which will require a lot less work.
Question 3 years ago on Step 9
do you have cut list you supplied to your supplier?
Answer 3 years ago
Here it is attached, but I'm not sure how helpfull it will be. A better option is to get the SketchUp model and work with it to make it fit the space you have. From that, you can make your own cut list.
Reply 3 years ago
3 years ago
A nice looking project. Here in Florida the ambient moisture tends to swell particle board. I know you added moisture protection, but, the heat + humidity has a way of working its way in. I have had to toss several laminated particle board items because they swelled up and or split apart around the fasteners. I wonder if a light coat of epoxy might make a difference, it would definitely raise the cost though.
Reply 3 years ago
Yes, in a humid environment and the added cost of epoxy, going with a better material like wood or even steel will be better.
3 years ago
Very nice! Particle board (typically used for flooring subfloor) gets a bad rap. But depending on the climate where you live, and know what to expect it can be a really useful material for projects like this. Nicely done, looks great!
Reply 3 years ago
Thanks. Where I live it is usually quite dry so I think it will last.