Apartment Workbench




A DIY type person without a workbench is like a chipmunk without pouch cheeks. It just doesn't work and can have fatal results (can't collect the nuts eventually starving in the winter). The simple solution is to get a workbench, but to have workbench in an apartment posses some challenges.

1. There is no space. All space in an apartment is valuable real-estate, i.e. sacred and should not be soiled.
2. Workbenches tend to be unsightly and may have odours from time to time. Thus it will have to be beautiful and capable of combating anything but rose smells. All in all visitors should not be able to know it is a workbench (it's a secret).
3. Noise. Time hammering to the beat of some loud music or action movie. The neighbours will never know.

My solution was a cedar workbench with modular parts that act as storage and expandable work surface.

Step 1: Plan

My plan.
To be honest I did not have much of a plan, except for a high detail chalkboard image that I spent too much time on.

I did know I wanted to use cedar lumber because:
- it has a nice smell that may mask some of the odours that may come up from time to time.
- the look of finished or unfinished cedar is just beautiful (I have no intention of putting a finish on a work bench; that would be a waste of time and effort).
- While there are probably better choices on the strength front, the cedar should be reasonably durable for what I intend on using it for.
- Cedar is readily available, although unfortunately more pricey.

Step 2: The Table

The main part of this workbench is the table. The frame of which was built out of square cedar posts and thick boards.

Since I was making the workbench, I had the problem of no workbench to work on. So I made a saw horse using two items of the same height such as bar stools, which just happen to be at the right height. I found that the sawing action of my high strength man power saw would transfer too much vibration to the ground, making a loud noise that may prematurely end my project via an eviction. A quick solution was to put tea towels between the lumber and "saw horse" to absorb most of the vibrations.

Assembling the pieces as given in the pictures.
- Left side assembly,
- Right side assembly.
- Boards across the top to to make the main working surface. Top boards should allow for an overhang, so camps can be used on future projects.
- Screw everything together. Used at least two screws at each connection/joint to ensure some sort of strength.
- Beers on hand
- ** a cross bar along the back is not shown... you should see it in later pictures.

Step 3: Modular Sections

The modular workbench sections were built out of smaller pieces of cedar to help save on costs.
- At this point in time I forgot to take intermediate pictures, so all I have to show are the final views. There should be enough in these pictures to depict how it was put together with some legitimate guessing.

More bells and whistles:
- Modular section is on caster wheels so the sections can be mobile. Chose what I hope are non-marking wheels.
- some random screws jutting out act as fancy tool hangers
- left over lumber makes a shelf.
- Modular work surface is not attached, but is more of a lid so that I can see and find the stored items easily.
- Jars lids screwed to bottom of modular working surface to act as some sort of compartmentalized storage (mostly screws/nails)
- Magnetic tool hanger. Made of a flat metal bar screwed to the wood. Bar magnets lined up in a row on the metal bar. Tool were hung by the tips (except the heavy ones which hang on the ground). This system will probably cause your tools to become magnetized, which can be helpful.

Step 4: Done

Final assembly
- make sure the modular work sections fit under main work table. Should have mentioned that earlier.
- put modular sections under the main work bench = Done

- The modular sections can be pulled out as required for quick easy access to tools/supplies.
- Additionally the modular section can be pulled out to make several fun arrangements to suit and extend your work area as required.
- A modular section(s) can be wheeled around your apartment to different rooms, like the your bedroom, so you can also have fun in bed.
- Put it all way so everything is out of sight when people come over.

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Participated in the
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26 Discussions


3 years ago

Nice! I'm in the process of downsizing from a 2000 sq ft home with a two car garage (Half used for tool storage and projects) to possibly someplace as small as a 2 bedroom apartment. My plan right now is to have all my tools fit into an Ethan Allen tv cabinet! (the tv will go into another unit) I'll want to continue having things look nice when all is clean and closed up, that's why I'll repurpose the this piece. Right now, my problem is deciding what are the most essential tools to keep and what can I part with.


4 years ago

So in step 2, the beers are a necessary part right?

1 reply

4 years ago

What are the measurements on this. I have a pretty small room


4 years ago

looks pretty cool. I plan on giving this a go. I'm going to put in my model train room as the layout takes up most of the space but I need something I can move around to work on pieces at different locations. very awesome


5 years ago on Step 2

Beautiful and functional. This would also work great in a small kitchen as a prep table, storing pans, pots, supplies, etc. in the rollouts. One suggestion to make it even less expensive (cheaper in a monetary way) is to get cedar fence boards. The used ones you may want to plane to bring the bright cedar color back. And you may need to have two layers on the top. Then just glued, clamp, nail, whatever to keep them together. Measurements for the rollouts might also have to be adjusted if you only used them single ply.


5 years ago on Introduction

Excellent project and Instructable. Love the tongue-in-cheek commentary.

Duly voted for.


5 years ago on Introduction

Brilliant. I live in a small apartment and I want to set up a workbench in the bedroom, but I was vexed as how to get it to look pretty for my companion's decorative sense. This is a great solution, but I have a lot of tools and electronic parts that I have in a stack of bins that are difficult for me to access. Problem is I have nowhere else to put those things.

@Blair0, any suggestions? I think you might have run into a similar challenge.

1 reply

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

Extra storage --> I would hang some tool on the wall and then put a picture frame around it. If there is a frame around it, it is called art (that also just happens to be useful).

Excellent work... had similar issues when living in downtown Amsterdam with zero room and nosey neighbours on three sides.

Might suggest hinges on the pull-out cabinets with a cheap pneumatic strut to hold the tops open. You can buy them from Ikea, the kitchen section of any DIY shop or eBay.

Also, if you glue hardboard on top of foam padding (the kind used on the floor of aerobics classes), you can hammer all day on it with little or no sound.

Thanks, Jim

Tex Arcana

5 years ago

great Instructable!! voted on both contests! Suggestions: 1) home improvement stores sell thick rubber pads to put under the legs of a clothes washer, to absorb vibration and prevent "walking": these can be used under your bench and the casters of the modular sections to absorb vibration and noise, preventing eviction. 2) forget MDF, it'll disintegrate into oatmeal under mild usage or fluid spills. instead, get hardboard and fasten it to your top, it's more durable and dent-resistant, more fluid-resistant, cheaper, and easier to handle (lighter). 3) future mod: pegboard in the modules and at the back under the top.


5 years ago on Step 3

That's a pretty clever solution, and well worked out. My only concern is that the modular units may rack as they are pushed around. A little bracing in the horizontal direction would help.


5 years ago on Introduction

This instructable is so full of win! Awesome!

You may want to consider keeping a chunk of MDF around if you're doing any/much hammering: it has the handy property of being extremely durable (and easy to replace) against strikes. It would help protect your cedar against such violence.


5 years ago on Introduction

Brilliantly done, and nice looking too! I like how the modular pieces just roll out. I was expecting a much more difficult build where they would swivel out on pins, etc. I'm going to try a magnetic tool holder.


5 years ago on Introduction

Congratulations!, you have a excellent idea for a workbench for small places.