Introduction: The Ramen Stand- a Portable, Modular Workstation

Portable Workstations are useful for many groups of people. For campers, they're called Chuck Boxes. For the military and Ham radio folks, they're called Field Desks. We've taken to calling this one the Ramen Stand. It looks sort of like a ramen stand or hot dog cart when it's folded up. 

At the makerspace, these are important because we are able to group different activities by deployable unit, rather than location, so we're able to use and reuse a common workspace for many different activities, just by pulling out a different box and unpacking it. 8 Ramen Stands pack up into about 100 square feet, but can expand to fill almost 2000 square feet, if you pull them all out at once. An army of Ramen Stands will hold ALL OF THE THINGS!

At home, the great part about having this as your portable workstation is that when cleanup time comes, just fold it all up and everything will end up inside the box. When you're back to work, open it all up and you instantly have a workstation. I regularly work on my computer at a Ramen Stand with just one 24" side folded down.

Update: 4/9/12 12:42am
I fixed a few typos and added a few small details I forgot to explain:
The Ark base needs a few extra 21" 2x2s to join to the walls
Added wood screws to the materials list
corrected 24x34 1/4 tabletop should have been 24x34 1/2"

Step 1: Decide

This box is probably the 5th or 6th iteration of Field Desk/Chuck Box/Anvil Case/Truck Box. For the makerspace, we had to decide what it should be able to do, and how we would know we were done.

It must be:
Winning all the things at SpaceGAMBIT's Instructables Contest.
Portable, stowable, foldable, and easily deployable.
Fit through a standard door opening.
Modular so that we can store and use several of them and purpose them for whatever we want.
Be readily adaptable to any sort of task and remain setup for themes, while stored. That way we can deploy any unit for any task on any given day. This means by having multiple deployable work units, we can constantly repurpose a common work area for any purpose, simply by picking which box to bring out. We won't have any problems with sawdust on the fabric table, or solder on the picnic table.

It should be:
Able to be built using simple tools. We could have made all of the cuts on the CNC router, but we didn't. The workbench is typically a person's first project and we're assuming that you have very little space, tools, or work area to build The Ramen Stand.
All parts should be available at the big box store. Whether or not you are for or against the big box, it means the parts to build this are likely available wherever you are.
Forklift easily
Controllable through central authentication. We'll soon be converting them to RFID and controlling access to specialty tools housed within based on a central authentication system. For now, to keep it simple, we're using a bulk pack of hardware store padlocks.

Step 2: Getting Started

We need:
2- 4x8 sheets 3/4" plywood
16- hinges plus 1/2"  screws for them
6- padlock hasps
1- 8ft 2x4
1- 10ft 2x2
1- 4ft 2x2
16- 2 1/4" deck screws
Wood Glue
4- 5 or 6" Casters
Some 1"-1 1/4" screws for the plywood


A measuring tool
Best: at least 10ft tape measure
OK: Yardstick
Maybe: A ruler

A saw
Best: Table saw
OK: Circular saw
Maybe: Jigsaw
Not recommended, but still possible: Carpenter's hand saw

A Drill
Best: Cordless Drill/Driver
OK: a regular plug-in drill
Maybe: Manual stuff- Yankee Drill, brace and bit, etc

A screwdriver
Best: Cordless Drill/driver and screw bits
OK: A regular plug in drill and screw bits
Also OK: Regular hand screwdriver

A small wood chisel and a hammer

The primary cuts section the boards into approximate pieces of material that we will need. If you don't have a table saw, the folks at the hardware store where you buy the lumber will probably be able to section your boards using their saw. Generally, it's only a few dollars per cut to have the hardware store make these cuts. It will save you a tremendous amount of time, especially if you don't have a table saw.

The pieces we need are designed to be cut on center, rather than accounting for the kerf, since I'm not sure what type of saw you'll be using and it's designed so that it really doesn't matter very much. For a lot of people, this will be the first project. Might as well keep it simple. This box works for a living. It is not, and should never be, fine cabinetry.
In general, we'll need:
4- 18" x 24"
4- 24" x 24"
4- 24" x 36"
1- 24" x 34 1/2"
2- 5 1/4" x 24"
2- 6" x 36"
2- 4ft 2x4s
4- 29 1/4" 2x2s

Here are some helpful resources to get you started ripping sheets, if you don't have a table saw:

Here is a nice instructable about using a chisel:

Step 3: Making the Cuts

This part of the process could be done at the hardware store, or most of the cuts could be done at the hardware store, so that you can fit everything into your car.

The First thing we're going to do is draw out the cuts on the board so that we can see how the board is going to get sectioned. Just cut the boards following the lines on the cut list. If you center your cuts on the lines that you draw, you won't need to worry about the kerf. The cuts will fit each other.

The first board:
Start by ripping the first board in half, lengthwise to get all of the 24" cuts done at once. Don't do this to the second board, it doesn't line up that way. 

Take the first 24 x 96" piece:
Cut 4 of the 18" wide doors. = 4(18x24) + (24x24")
Take the second 24 x 96" piece:
Cut two 36" pieces off: = 2(24x36) + (24x24")

As the pieces get cut, give them numbers or write the dimensions on them so that you know which piece is what, and where it goes.

The second board,
you're going to want to cut in half, the short way, so that you have two 48x48" pieces.
cut one 48x48 in half.
cut one 24 x 48" piece in half. = 2(24x24")
Cut 34 1/2" off the remaining piece = 24x34 1/2"
Cut the two 5 1/4 x 24" pieces from the remaining 13 1/2" piece. = 2(5 1/4 x 24")

The second 48x48" piece, cut a 12" x 48" strip off one side. Now cut 12" off the end of that strip. = 12x36" + 12x12"
Cut the 12 x 36" piece in half lengthwise, and you have your two 6 x 36" pieces. = 2(6x36")
Now cut the remaining 48 x 36" piece in half to get two 24 x 36" pieces. = 2(24x36")

Step 4:

After all of the cuts are done, the first thing to do is to make the removable tabletop. This will provide a good work surface for building the rest of the box on.

For this part, we are going to use:

2- 5 1/4" x 24"
2- 6" x 36"
1- 24" x 36"

4- 29 1/4"

This part is pretty simple to construct, you can either screw straight into the edges or get fancy with a Kreg jig. We built this one using a Kreg jig, but it's not essential to the process.

Step one: Glue and screw all of the plywood together, on edges to form a small tub.

Step two: Glue and screw all four legs into the corners of the tub to form a small table.

That's it! Now you have a one person sized desk/work bench.

Step 5: Build the Ark

Now we're going to use the table we just made as a workbench for its first project- Building its other half!

The first cut to make is a 45* miter on each end of the 4 foot long 2x4. This cut is not even essential and if you don't have a chop saw to do it and aren't comfortable making the cut using your circular saw or table saw, just skip it. It's really not important, it is just slightly decorative and a good way to demonstrate miter cuts using a miter box or chop saw. 

Once the 2x4s are ready, we'll use it as the base for the bottom half of the table box.

Two of the 24x24 plywood pieces will need to have a 1.5 x 2.5" hole clipped off of two of their corners. This is so that the two 2x4 handles have an opening to fit through. These corner cuts can be made with a jigssaw, a sawzall, a hand circular saw, a hand saw, or a table saw. You could even use the hammer and chisel if none of the other options appeal to you. If the cut comes out really ugly or has a big gap at when you're done, just fill it with caulk.

Screw the 2x4s onto the 24 x 34.5" piece of plywood, then screw the two 24 x 24" pieces of plywood to the 2x4s and the plywood base. You should now have most of the ark half done.

Use two 21" 2x2s in the corners of the table-wall edge because the two pieces will meet corner to corner with a very small gap. 

Now screw the bottom 24 x 36 piece of plywood onto the sides.

Now screw the casters onto the bottom. For this one, we used two fixed and two free spinning casters for more stability when pushing the cart all the way across the shop floor. For more maneuverability in parking, you could use four free spinning casters.

Step 6: Hinges!

I used door hinges from Home Depot because they were cheap (12 for $20) but door hinges aren't ideal for this. They work, but gate hinges or strap hinges would work better. However, they worked well enough, that I continued using the same cheap door hinges.

The first thing I did, that is completely optional is countersink the reverse side of the screw holes using a 1/2" bit in a drill press. I did a few with a hand drill and it wasn't bad at all, the drill press was just much quicker. All it takes is a light touch to drill about 1/4 way through the existing hole. This is just so that the screws lie flat after assembling the table leaves. 

Here's where the chisel comes in- If you have a router, that would also work for this, but it honestly does not take very much time to do with a chisel. If you use a piano hinge, you could skip this step. 

Trace out the hinge locations (2 per side) on the leaves. You can put them anywhere, I chose to go around 2" from the corner on each side. Once you know where the hinges will go, chisel out a small pocket on the leaf and the top of the ark so that the hinge can fit into the pocket.

Repeat for each side.

Now put the hinges for the cabinet doors on. It's easiest if you put the hinges on the door first, then screw them into the ark. Another person to help you hold it would help, but I did a few by myself without a problem. The easiest way to do it is to flip the ark on its side and mount two doors, then flip it over again and do the other two. That way gravity works for you, rather than against.

Step 7: Done!

Screw the padlock hasps to the table leafs and the removable small table. That will keep the leaves from flopping down on you while you're working. You're done! I recommend a quick coat of lacquer or cheap house paint. Don't go fancy on the stain or varnish or people will be afraid to dirty the nice table, instead of banging on it and getting some work done. I leave them in the raw plywood and clean them with a sander, occasionally.

First, open both lower cabinet doors. The open cabinet doors provide the support for the 36" wide table leaves. If you drop the leaves without opening the cabinet doors, it will stress the hinges.
Next, chock the cabinet doors with bricks or blocks of wood. This will keep them open and also provide support to extend the footprint of the base of the table. It will make the table rock solid.

Next, open all of the leaves of the table and remove the small table. Put the small table on the ground wherever you want. The small table is light enough that I can just put one hand under it and pick it up like a pizza. One person on each side, lifting the table will work also.

Now enjoy your workstation! You can keep shelves, pegboard, or a machine set up inside of the upper space, so that you're already setup for work. Then, just unpack the rest of your gear from the ark cabinet and you're set.

I have included two sketchup files. One shows multiple possible configurations for the Ramen Stand, including a metal shop, wood working shop, 3d printer, laser cutter, Shapeoko2, and an electronics bench. The other is simply a model of the Ramen Stand and how it opens up.


- Ross, Nathan, and Cal. Oahu Makerspace

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