Introduction: Parts Workbench

About: Amateur woodworker, professional software developer. Still have much to learn about both pursuits.

I made these parts cabinets for the top of my workbench to get a bit more organized and un-cluttered. The tackle boxes I had been using were getting out of hand so I took the idea from the fishing world and made these cabinets to sit on the back of a workbench. The bench still gets cluttered with junk but at least I know exactly where I can find the 1/4-20 bolts. Here is the basic process to build your own.

Step 1: Start With a Solid Surface

Start with a solid and sturdy workbench. The bench I used could be an instructable itself but it was basically an old door and some framing lumber. I found a solid core fire door at a salvage store for about $80. It was was pretty beat up so I sliced off the edges and added some aspen trim to keep it nice. If you buy a door the edges should be nice already. The table base is made out of some vertical 4x4 posts with some 2x4 and 2x6 braces between them - all credit goes to for that design. The door was very heavy but also very flat so it did not need any leveling. One thing I learned from watching many woodworker videos is to always leave a good ledge around the outside of the top so you can clamp things to the table.

Step 2: Make the Standoffs and Cut Some Dados

The tackle boxes I was using for parts were the standard size found at sporting goods stores, 14" wide by 9" deep by just under 2" tall. Based on my sausage fingers I added enough space around the outside to allow me to grab them and also slip them into the cabinets easily but you can adjust those measurements according to your bins. I have seen other examples of this type of storage made for the harbor freight containers and that works just as well.

Once you figure out the inside dimensions everything else is designed around those numbers. For my bench I could fit four stacks of bins so I made two of these double-stack boxes and one extra at the end that was not wide enough to hold the bins. The boards you use can be anything - plywood works great and here I used some leftover scrap from some unfinished furniture. Make some standoffs to hold the bins as well, a lot of them. I had a bunch of 1/2" ply and ripped it to 1-1/2" wide and eased off the inside corner before sanding them a bit. I made 8 smaller ones at 1-1/8" wide for the bottoms that don't get put into a slot.

I cut some rabbets around the back edges so I could use 1/4" plywood for the backer board. You could also be lazy and just pin the back on but I had the blade on already so why not get fancy. Then with the dado blade set to the same width as 1/2" plywood cut the dados across the boards at 3/8" deep to hold the standoffs. When measuring from the bottom you don't cut a slot for the first one because the edge of the board is too close. Instead you just lay a standoff in the corner after everything is together. But you have to allow for the skipped one when you measure up - basically you want 3/4" for the bottom board then 1/2" for the standoff then 2 1/4" for the bin before you cut the first slot. Then another one at 2-1/4" inch apart and so on until you get the last one that will be the bottom rest for the top bin. That determines the height of your overall cabinet as well. Mirror the two side boards and label them so you keep the matching pairs together. The top and bottom boards only get a rabbet on the ends and a dado in the middle.

Step 3: Assemble the Cabinets

The cabinets go together somewhat easy because the channels are all in the right spots to keep everything square. It also helps to have some right angle clamps to hold them square as you glue the boards into the rabbets. Make sure you keep the slotted boards matched with the same ends across from each other or your bins will go in at full tilt. Glue the standoffs into the dados using an extra piece of plywood laid across them as a caul to hold them down. You can see in the fourth pic here where the smaller standoffs are glued into the corner to complete the set.

After I had my cabinets together I didn't really like the edges so I added some small strips of aspen to the front to match the workbench. If you have pretty boards for the cabinets you may not need them. If you do then cut the trim a bit wide, glue them down, and then run an edge trimming router bit around the outside to make them flush with the cabinet.

You can never have enough clamps.

Step 4: Make the Shelf Support

If you look at industrial assembly benches they all seem to have an overhang on the back so the whole table top can be used. I wanted to copy that design here and elevate the cabinets a few inches so I could use the full top for creating a junk pile - I mean making beautiful projects. Experiment with some scrap boards until you get to a height you like - I settled on 8" but if you have specific things you want to fit under the shelf make them taller. Make the support as long as all of your cabinets put together and the width the same as the cabinet depth. Also choose your 2x4 studs for the support carefully - since it will be holding a lot of weight across the gap you need some good wood. I found boards that were douglas fir which are a bit denser than white pine. Cut 1/4" off either side of the 2x4's to make them 3" wide which takes off the rounded edge. In the first pic you can see there is a rabbet in the top of the end legs so the long boards sit down on the end of the legs. Some pocket hole screws attach them to the brace. Add a few boards in the middle as well to help keep the long boards steady. You can't see them in this pic but I later added two legs under the braces as well that go along the back of the bench to help support the weight.

Step 5: Attach the Support

Mounting the support can vary based on the kind of bench top you are working on. You could add some flat metal straps along the back or just leave it sit there - but in my case I had an overhang on the bench so I used some lag bolts with washers that go up into the bottom of the legs. Once you have the support where you want it then sit your cabinets on top next to each other. Put a few cabinet screws down from the inside down into the support boards to hold them in place and load all your bins into the slots.

Step 6: Finishing Touches

Once I started using the bench I found that parts would go rolling off the back of the bench so I nailed on some scrap 1/4" plywood to keep them on the table. I also went crazy with the label maker so I didn't have to guess what was inside each bin. In this last pic you can see the different sizes of bins that I placed in the first stack. My soldering gun wouldn't fit in the regular bins so I got a few deeper ones and made slots to fit them which ended up working well. Either way, make these cabinets to fit your own bins and your own work style and you will spend less time looking for parts and more time using them.

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