2x4 Mega Bench

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About: My goal with every instructable is to be short & sweet with lots of pictures.

I decided to make this workbench out of 2x4's because I needed something stable and strong enough to take a lot of abuse. Also, for the cost, it's "cheaper" and stronger than just about anything you can buy.

In this instructable I'll direct the reader through a step-by-step process on how to replicate this project and even offer a few tips on how to save you a lot of time!

Step 1: Tool, Supplies, and Costs

Tools:

  • Planer
  • Miter Saw
  • Circular Saw
  • Drill
  • Hand Planer
  • Sander
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Safety Gear


Supplies:

2x4's, 32 @ $2.78 ea.

Carriage Bolts, 8 @ $1.00 ea.

Rod Coupling Nuts, 8 @ $1.30 ea.

Rubber Furniture Cups, 8 @ $3.00

Pack of Hot Glue Sticks, 1 @ $6.00

Box of 2.5" Screws, 1 @ $15.00

Simpson Tie plates, 16 @ $0.60 ea.

Wood Varnish, 1 @ $16.00

Wood Glue, 1/3 gal @ $30.00 gal

Total Costs: $186.96

Time to complete project: about 8 working hours (2 days when accounting for drying time of glue)

***Note: Following a tip later in this instructable would cut this time in half***

Step 2: Safety First!

Whenever working with power tools, safety gear and protocols should always be strictly adhered to. I tend to learn things the hard way, but I'm sure you're smarter than that.

Step 3: Prepping the Wood

Take a little time to square up the sides of each 2x4 to help improve contact area for gluing in the next step. I suggest doing this for all 4 sides of the boards since most lumber has a fair amount of defects.

Step 4: Gluing

  1. Divide your boards in to even number groups.
  2. Each group should have the same crowning (bow in the same direction). Get them to be as uniform as possible.
  3. Once organized, begin applying a liberal amount of glue to the top surface of the first board then stacking the second on top of it. Repeat this process until the last board is stacked (no need for glue on the last board).
  4. Apply pipe clamps approximately every foot, alternating from top to bottom.
  5. Double check to make sure the boards are still aligned before fully tightening the clamps.
  6. Make sure each clamp is very tight by going back and re-tightening them several times following a pattern of starting in the middle and working outward.
  7. Allow 24 hours to dry

Repeat this step for each group

***TIP: Check your local lumber yard. Often times they have an industrial size planer you can use for a nominal fee. In my case, the local lumber store would run my boards through their 35" planer for only $15. I discovered this after the fact, but doing this would have saved a lot of time. I could have cut out the next 3 steps and had it all done in 1 with a perfect finish!!***

Step 5: Plane Each Section

Once the the glue has dried, run each section through the planer, both top and bottom.

Keep track of the final thickness of each section. They need to match each other by the end.

Note: You'll notice in my pictures that one section is shorter than the others. This was by accident from making 2 trips to home depot and not paying attention. I only realized my mistake after standing them next to each other in this picture.

Step 6: Glue the Sections Together

  1. Align the sections together in a way they fit best. Even after all the prep work there will likely be some bowing in each section. Match these as best as you can.
  2. Stand them on the side and apply glue to the surfaces that will connect. Glue only needs to be applied to one of the surfaces that connect together. Most of the glue gets squeezed out so there's no need to waste it.
  3. Secure good alignment between sections and apply the clamps in alternating top and bottom positions.
  4. Allow 24 hours to dry.

Step 7: Hand Plane the Imperfections

In the pictures you can see that, despite my best efforts, one section was still 1/8th of an inch off on each end.

A little love from a hand planer will smooth out these joints.

Do this for both sides.

Step 8: Sanding

The love from the planer is a little rough and tends to leave small grooves after each pass. Sanding with progressively finer grits starting with 80 and ending with 250 or so will clean these up nicely.

3 steps in sanding should be plenty and will produce a nice result.

Step 9: Trimming the Ends

Use a straight edge (level) and square to get a nice line to even out the ends of your bench top.

With a circular saw cut along the line.

Because my blade didn't have the depth needed, I had to repeat this process after flipping the table over.

Step 10: Building Support

I fastened a couple 2x4's together to make a base support to attach legs.

On the underside of the table align these supports and secure them down with some wood glue and a couple of wood clamps.

I used a Kregg jig to help seat in a few screws.

Step 11: Making Legs

By gluing together a couple of boards and securing them with some screws, I was able to build a few legs.

Note: The supports in the previous step was made this same way.

Step 12: Leg Footings

A board was placed on top of the supports and marked underneath to easily assure proper distances between legs.

The legs were then attached to the table using the Simpson Tie Plates. I found these to be very stable in holding the legs in position.

A 1.5" gap was left on the backside of the table to allow space for an additional support (shown in a later step).

Step 13: Cross Supports

Additional supports were added to give rigidity to the legs, front to back.

Step 14: Cross Beams

These supports were added to the back side of the legs to resist side-to-side motion.

I positioned the boards using clamps and marked off where the cuts needed to be made. It's a little faster and easier than measuring.

Step 15: Foot Holds

Under each leg was drilled a hole using a spade bit.

The proper depth needed can be marked off using a piece of tape on the bit.

The rod coupling nuts were then pushed into the holes. These will hold the feet.

Step 16: Make a Few Feet

With the bolts, furniture cups, and hot glue you'll make some leveling feet for the bench.

Follow this instructable HERE

I was surprised at how well these work. Hot glue doesn't seem strong enough but I'm very happy with the results.

Step 17: A Finished Look

I added a soft edge to the table using a palm router just for a little aesthetics.

Step 18: Varnish

I applied a couple coats of varnish to limit the amount of staining and help preserve the natural colors in the wood.

Let dry overnight and it'll be ready to go!

Step 19: Thanks for Reading!

I hope you enjoyed this project. I've put this workbench through a lot of abuse since then so it was worth it! Please feel free to comment and add suggestions for improvements, if needed.

I have many more projects on the way so please follow me if you want to see more. Thanks again!

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    51 Discussions

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    theatre_tech_guru

    1 year ago

    This is awesome I got to call my lumber yards to see if they have a plainer!

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    mr_marte

    1 year ago

    Wow, what a beautiful bench! Thanks for all the geat pictures :-)

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    mb220s

    1 year ago

    I built a bench when I was 25 from a Better Homes & Gardens Handyman's Book. It probably isn't as rugged as yours but it's served me 54 years. One thing they suggested was to overlay a 1/4" piece of plywood with counter sunk screw holes. Over the years your bench will accumulate gouges, paint, spills, etc. The nice thing about the plywood is that it can be reversed and used over. Nice post!

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    AllenInksmb220s

    Reply 1 year ago

    or hardboard (Masonite), which doesn't splinter when gouged.

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    uncle frogy

    2 years ago

    I have seen benches use hardboard (Masonite) glued to the top to give a good flat hard waring easily replaced surface when using softwood lumber for benchtops.

    with a little planing it might even be possible to laminate mortice's for the legs.

    great work!

    uncle frogy

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    AllenInksuncle frogy

    Reply 1 year ago

    I have Masonite tops, but they are screwed on using countersunk flat top screws. Never had a problem hitting a screw with a plane or other tool. And this arrangement makes it easier to flip over the Masonite when the first upward facing surface gets all buggered up, and then use the other surface for a few years. Not sure you could do that if the Masonite is glued down.

    The only problem is ... it doesn't look as nice as the varnished 2x4s.

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    AlM6uncle frogy

    Reply 2 years ago

    If you shellac the masonite it makes it impervious to most liquids.

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    MathewO

    2 years ago

    tlp801,

    Thank you for posting this. I enjoy seeing people making things like this. You were right to build it heavy and tough.

    It looks like you used douglas fir, which is a great choice for workbenches. It's harder and tougher than pine, spruce or hemlock. Of the softwood available in dimensional lumber, it'a the superior wood. I assume you're west of the mississippi. If east, the best choice is southern yellow pine.

    It's not really possible to over-build a bench. They take a lot of abuse. One tip I recommend is to always hammer over one of you legs. It doesn't matter how burly the bench.

    You did well to have open access to the bottom of the benchtop. This will make clamping much easier. Have you considered dog holes? 3/4" holes run perpendicular through the top. This will allow you to use bench dogs and holdfasts. You can find these in any woodworking catalog, or in specialized woodworking stores. You won't find them in the box stores.

    Enjoy.

    4 replies
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    NinzerbeanMathewO

    Reply 1 year ago

    What do you mean by "hammer over one of your legs"?

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    tlp801MathewO

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you! I do live in the West. I've considered putting in dog holes but I've never really used them before so I'm not very familiar of how useful it would be. I'll definitely look further into it. I left the bottom open to put in a few drawers... maybe for my next project. :)

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    HeatherT4tlp801

    Reply 2 years ago

    I'd love to see how you add drawers!

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    MathewOtlp801

    Reply 2 years ago

    drawers are good. But leave some space between the top and the drawers. Say, 12" or so. Also, if plan to attach a face vise, you'll need space for that. I don't know, but you look like a woodworker. We woodies have some strong opinions on workbenches. Look up Chris Schwarz. He's written two books on the subject. And has singlehandedly revived interest in old school bench designs from like the 1700s. Just a word of caution, it's a big subject and full of controversy. You've got a great bench. it will serve you well.

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    MartinG111

    1 year ago

    Work bench top

    I went to a arcade shop (older ) place... they had a old used shuffle board plank. it came as 16 feet long and was a bank board. meaning the middle 3 feet have a bolge out. I simply cut the plank in half. voola 8 foot bench top..no glue or bolts required. certainly heavy enough. needs reinforced legs but those are the only cost. plank was 0 dollars . they were glad to get rid of it. that wood is HARD!!!.

    my solution

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    Waste Of Space

    1 year ago

    Good 'ible.

    In step (9) Why did you not use the edge of the level to run the saw against?

    1 reply
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    tlp801Waste Of Space

    Reply 1 year ago

    Good question. I completed this project back in January of this year (2016) but I believe I used the line for reference then positioned the level as a rail guide for my saw. I'll go back and edit that section to clarify this point. Thank you for the feedback.

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    ErnestiK1

    1 year ago

    I am scratching my head while reading your advice about the crowning direction. I know three professional joiners (including my brother) and they have all use alternative crowning direction. This is to make sure the laminated board will work as it should without minimal twisting while drying. Also, a friend working in a laminated board factory told me that the best class boards were glued with alternating crowning direction and the B class products in what order the happen to land on the base. Being a joiner as well he found the latter very frustrating, of course.

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    tlp801ErnestiK1

    Reply 1 year ago

    I think you make a very good point. This is only my second project of this type and it looks like I may have made some erroneous assumptions. Thanks for the heads up!!

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    Dennis Paugh

    1 year ago

    Real nice ! If you would like tomake it stronger on one of the 2x4 on the leg's cut the with of the 2x4 for your cross over like a jack for a header. Thank you for the poast think I will make one .

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    Dwargh

    2 years ago

    A-Ma-Zing, sir! Well planned i'ble! I'll vote for ya!