Introduction: Workbench With Drawers, Power, and Wood Vise

About: I'm an Electrical Engineer by training and profession. I enjoy working on complex problems and processes, and I especially like finding ways to do complex tasks more efficiently. My current interests are wo…

This Instructable shows how I built a workbench for my daughter and her husband that I hope will last several generations. It includes several features that I wish I had had when we were beginning our life as a newly married couple, including:

1) Multiple built-in power outlets (front and back)

2) Built-in wood vise

3) 3/4" inch holes in strategic locations for Gramercy holdfasts to make it very easy to secure work

4) Beautiful hardwood top & oak-veneered cabinet frame

5) Oak-veneered drawer faceplates with drawer pulls

I am about 90% complete with this project (I still need to stain and finish it), and I will post updated pictures once it has been completed. The workbench frame was built out of one 4x8' sheet of 3/4" oak-veneered plywood, and the drawers were built out of 1/2" birch plywood. I am very pleased with how this turned out and hope that my daughter and her husband are able to use this for years to come.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

1. Tools:

a. Portable battery powered drill (two preferred - makes the job go a lot faster)

b. Method to cut large pieces of plywood - Circular saw with guide (Lowes or Home Depot will make cuts for you for at nominal charge)

c. Method to rip lots of small widths of plywood (for the faceplates/drawers/drawer slide supports/center supports) - Table saw

d. Kreg pocket screw jig

e. Self-centering hinge drill bit - for drilling pilot holes for the drawer slides

f. Method to staple the drawer bottoms to the drawer sides - 1/4" narrow crown stapler with 7/8" long staples

g. Method to attach the faceplates to the front of the frame and drawers - Air powered finish nailer

h. Jig saw - to cut holes for electrical outlet boxes

2. Materials:

a. 3/4" oak veneer plywood for the cabinet frame (1 sheet)

b. 1/2" birch veneer plywood for the drawers (1 sheet for the drawers, 1/2 sheet for the faceplates)

c. 1/2" oak veneer plywood for the drawer faceplates (1/2 sheet)

d. 5mm poplar plywood for the drawer bottoms (1 sheet)

e. Kreg screws (1-1/4" for 3/4" plywood - cabinet frame, 1" for 1/2" plywood - drawers)

e. Screws to hold the drawer slides down - 5/8x6 screws from Wurth Baer (WW42300)

f. Drawer slides - 22" drawer slides (EPOXY SLIDE CREAM WHITE 22" - DSPRO50-22) from Wurth Baer

g. Drawer pulls - 3" C/C Oil Rubbed Bronze Finish (SZCL9-ORB) from Wurth Baer

h. Hardwood workbench top - 52" x 28"

i. Gramercy holdfasts (2) -

j. Electrical parts & supplies - Junction boxes, outlets, 14 ga wire, etc.

Step 2: Choose Top & Plan Your Design

I wanted to build a workbench with a nice hardwood top. When I began pricing hardwood bench tops, I found that they are fairly expensive. After looking around my garage, I found a hardwood table top that I could cut to a rectangle. This looked like a nice top to use, so I designed the workbench around the top.

I wanted a lip on all four sides of the workbench, so I designed a workbench with eight drawers that is 48" w x 24-1/4" deep x 36" tall. I also wanted to include a 2" space in the middle so that I could drill 3/4" inch holes in the center of the workbench as well as around the sides and rear of the workbench in order to use Gramercy holdfasts to secure work.

I took the basic design outlined in Tom Clark's Practical Shop Cabinets (excerpt attached, no longer in print), and modified it for my needs. Where Tom used one set of center supports, I used two sets of center supports spaced 2 inches apart.

I also wanted to maximize the use of the "dead" space in the top 4", so I added electrical outlets in the front and back, and added a wood vise to the right side of the bench.

Step 3: Obtain & Prepare Top

I started by cutting the large oak table top to size (52" x 28" x 1-1/8") and then sanding and routing the edges. This made the wood grain really stand out, and helped removed some of the large scratches that were in the top.

I also decided to double the thickness of the top on the edges in order to provide better support for the Gramercy holdfasts that will be inserted into 3/4" holes that will be drilled in the edges at a later stage. In addition, I wanted to make the top of the wood vise flush with the top, so I added shim material as needed for this.

I glued the edge pieces on, added screws, attached the vise, and added wood faceplates to the vise.

Step 4: Cut Sides, Center Supports, Faceplates, and Drawer Slide Supports

Cut the cabinet sides, faceplates, center supports, and drawer slide supports out of the 3/4" oak veneer plywood.

After cutting the faceplates, I also marked where the electrical outlets would go on the top faceplates and then used a jigsaw to cut holes for the outlet boxes.

Note that the vertical front faceplates will be cut to fit at final assembly.

Step 5: Lay Out & Install Center Support & Side Locators

This is critical step.

On the inside of the top and bottom faceplates, I added pieces of scrap wood to locate the two center drawer slide support assemblies and the left and right sides. I glued and nailed the scrap pieces of wood, or used Kreg screws. Since I wanted a two inch space between the center supports, I cut a two inch spacer and temporarily attached it to all four faceplates in order to assist in locating the locator pieces.

Step 6: Lay Out & Install Drawer Slide Supports

This is critical step.

Lay the left and right cabinet sides side by side.

Draw locator lines across both pieces for the bottom of the drawer slide supports.

Note: Make sure the bottom line is at least 3/8" of an inch above the lower faceplate.

Glue and nail drawer slide supports to the cabinet sides.

Using the left and right sides (with drawer slide supports attached) as templates, layout and attach drawer slide supports to the left and right center support sections. Make sure the drawer slide supports are attached to the left side of the left center sections, and the right side of the right centers sections.

Attach drawer slides. See prior Instructables for additional details.

When complete, using a jig saw, cut a space in the rear left and right center supports to accommodate the rear upper and lower faceplates (which will be attached to the inside of the left and right sides).

Drill pocket holes in the front left and right center supports to assist in attaching the center support sections to the front top and bottom faceplates.

Step 7: Assemble Cabinet Frame

Assemble the cabinet frame using glue and pocket screws.

The order of assembly is somewhat arbitrary.

I chose to attach the rear top faceplate first, followed by the rear bottom faceplate.

Then I attached the left and right center supports, and then the front faceplates.

I then added the electrical boxes for the outlets.

I also added a 2" piece of wood in the center gap to provide additional support for the Gramercy holdfasts.

Step 8: Cut Opening for Wood Vise

I then made a template for the outline of the vise, and then cut an opening in the right side of the cabinet to make room for the vise.

Step 9: Add Power Outlets & Wiring

I then added junction boxes and wired the cabinet for the electrical outlets in the front and back, with switched outlets on the right front side.

Step 10: Cut and Assemble Drawers

This is a critical step.

As in my prior Instructable (Mega Desk for 3 People), I made a drawer template using a pair of inner drawer slides and attaching some wood spacers underneath the drawer slides. I then adjusted the slides so that they slid easily, and then used the jig to determine the measurements for the front and back drawer pieces.

Please see my prior Instructables for more detail on how to build the drawers.

I did find out after the fact that a few of the drawers had a tighter fit than I desired, so I removed the drawer slides, and used the table saw to cut the lower section of the left side of the drawers down by 1/16" inch or so and now the drawers slide easily.

Step 11: Layout and Drill 3/4" Holes in Top

The positioning of the 3/4" holes is somewhat arbitrary.

I then very carefully drilled 3/4" holes around the perimeter and center of the top, taking care to make the holes as perpendicular as possible. I also positioned two holes to line up with the wood vise center retractable dog.

Step 12: Add Drawer Faceplates

I decided to add overlapping drawer faceplates in order to minimize the exposure of the drawer contents to moisture and dust.

This involved adding another layer of 1/2" birch plywood as a faceplate to each of the drawer. I left about 1/8" gap between the edges of the faceplates and the drawer frames, and I aligned the bottoms of the faceplates with the bottoms of the drawers. I glued and screwed these faceplates to the drawers using 3/4" wood screws.

I then used 1/2" in oak plywood faceplates to each of the drawers, using approximately a 3/8" overlap to the cabinet frame. I used a nickel as a spacer between the oak drawer faceplates. I attached the 1/2" oak faceplates using 1-1/4" nails on the inside of the drawers.

Step 13: Add Drawer Pulls

I then added 3" c/c drawer pulls in the center of each drawer. The screws that came with the pulls were not long enough so I needed to get longer ones from Lowes.

Step 14: Install Back

I wanted to get maximum utilization from all of the available space on this workbench, so I added black plastic pegboard to cover the openings in the back. I ordered 4 black plastic pegboards from Amazon ($55, more than I wanted to spend on this), and then cut the pegboards to fit the available space, and attached them with 3/4" wood screws. I did have to notch the pegboard at the bottom to allow room for the electrical cord.

Step 15: Stain & Finish

TBD - I am currently in the process of staining and finishing the workbench. I will post details and pics in the near future.