Intro: Build an Adjustable Stand Up Workbench
Searching around the internet, I quickly found that there are zero workbench size stand up tables. Stand up desks have been sweeping the business world and businesses like Google and Amazon are ordering more of these desks every week. That is good for the business world but what if I wanted to bring this type of desk into my workshop? I tried searching for these type of workbenches on Google and no luck. So I set out to build my own.
Standing desks are really just regular desks, except that they have longer legs to allow the user to not have to bend down to write, type, etc.
Key features that I wanted:
- Needs to be height adjustable
- Needs to be workbench size (8 foot) in length.
- Around or under $100 to build.
- Needs to be mobile.
With these goals set, I start designing. First thing that I found is that their are zero adjustable workbench size tables out in the market right now. So I could not base my designs off of any market item. I did not have the capital to install linear actuators to power the adjustable part, so I had to think of something new.
Step 1: The Journey Begins
All of the materials for this table came from our local Home Depot and Harbor Freight, and I spent a little under $120 total. After getting everything to the shop, it took about three hours to cut the wood and assemble the parts.
Design Overview: The general plan for this workbench is to create a reinforced frame of 2×4’s with a lower section that guides the sliding top section. This design probably could have been better, but I am working with what I got. The directions I provide build a workbench measuring 2′ wide x 8′ long and can adjust from 36″ to 56″ in height. I strongly suggest keeping the width and length the same, because then you’ll need only one sheet of plywood, and you’ll minimize the number of cuts. I ended up building two workbenches and I plan on adding a bottom shelf to this design in the future.
Here’s the shopping list. All the materials can be found at your local home improvement center.
- (1) sheet of 3/4″ premium MDF
- (10) 2×4’s(4) 5/16 5″ bolts
- (8) Simpson rigid tie connectors (see below)
- (200 count) #8 x 1-1/4″ screws
- (4 count) 3″ screws (see below)
- (4) 3″ locking casters (Harbor Freight)
Plywood: I chose premium MDF 3/4″ plywood for the surface. This type of plywood provides a relatively smooth surface that will be free of splinters. Look for a sheet of plywood with no damage or marring.
I also decided to let Home Depot rip the sheet using their panel saw rather than cutting it myself. In my area, both Lowe’s and Home Depot will cut a sheet of plywood twice per sheet, free of charge.
Simpson Ties: Simpson ties are usually found in the metal building brackets rack. These rigid tie connectors are used to secure two wood members (forming a 90° corner) to a vertical post. If that sounds confusing, just imagine three 2×4’s intersecting to form a corner.
Screws: Make sure the screws you select have a large, flat head that will sit tightly against the Simpson ties without going through the pre-drilled holes. These Simpson ties are designed for #8 screws, which were sold in a rack right next to the ties.
- Miter Saw (preferable for cutting 2x4s, although a hand saw or circular saw would also work)
Step 2: Cut the Lumber to Length
Like I mentioned, I had a Home Depot associate rip the plywood sheet in half lengthwise, creating two 2′ x 8′ pieces. Almost all of the remaining cuts involve trimming 2×4’s to the appropriate length.
Here are the 2×4 lengths you’ll need:
- (2) 97″ for the bottom length-wise supports
- (3) 94″ for the length-wise supports
- (4) 32″ for the bottom section legs with casters
- (4) 26.5″ for the top section legs
- (4) 22 7/8″ for inside top slide supports
- (4) 17″ for the width-wise supports
- (20) 4.5″ for the bottom middle supports / caster supports
Step 3: Build the Workbench Frame
It’s time to start assembling the frame, and I began with the workbench top section (rather than the bottom). Placing a Simpson tie at each corner, I used a screwdriver to put in the screws. If you find the 2×4’s are bowed, put them in crown-side up (meaning, arched down). It’s helpful to use a scrap piece of 2×4 to ensure that adjacent pieces line up at the same height.
You can see in the picture above that the table legs come all the way up even with the top of the adjacent 2×4 supports. This is important. If they are not aligned, your dimensions will be wrong, and the corners will be weaker.
I secured another lengthwise support down the middle of the workbench (12″ on center). I put two 3″ screws on each end to hold it in place. (I forgot to take a picture during this step so the picture is from the finished table.
Step 4: Build the Bottom Frame
I constructed the shelf in a very similar fashion using Simpson ties at all four corners. I started with the 32″ legs then positioned the Simpson ties 7″ up the leg. The location is flexible, but they all should be kept consistent.
Use the 97″ lengthwise and 17″ width-wise supports to build the bottom frame.
I now dry fit both the top and bottom sections together to check the dimensions.
Step 5: Creating the Slide
Now onto the part that allows the top section to slide to your desired height. For the bottom support, I cut two 4″ 2X4’s and then cut them in half to form 2X2 blocks. This is your bottom resting supports that will screw down to the inside, bottom support. Repeat for all legs.
This will be the lowest our workbench will go as sit sits on the bottom supports, 36″.
To keep the top section lined up as you move it up and down we will add four 4.5″ 2X4’s connecting both the bottom leg support and the 22 7/8″ middle slide support that will rest on the inside bottom rest. It is important that you keep the middle slide support and the bottom leg supports parallel to make the slide as easy as possible. The middle slide support is held up by the bottom rest and the four 4.5″ supports so I placed two lined up at the top and two 7″ down from the top. This measurement is flexible as it’s purpose is to hold the middle slide support and provide a slide guide for the top section.
This is what it should look like with all the supports in place. Notice the middle piece is from the top support and at the very bottom it rests on the bottom support piece. Now we can move on to set up our adjustable heights.
With the top section inserted into the slide guides, measure 2″ down from the bottom support and drill a 5/16 hole and make sure to have a long enough bit to go through the three 2X4’s. This hole is where your 5/16 bolt/pin will go.
The different heights now are up to you on how many height levels you want your table to have. I found that scrap 2X4’s provided me with enough height adjustments I needed. So what I did was prop the top section up onto these scrap 2X4’s this used the original hole that I just drilled as a guide. Make sure your drill is level and drill through the middle section, setting the level you want that section to be.
Rinse and repeat by adding more scrap 2X4’s each level you want to go. I did four levels to get me a 56″ tall workbench. Double check that your holes are wide enough for your bolts/pins before moving on. The bolts should be pushed in fairly easy. Because I used bolts and not actual pins, the bolts will not be able to be pulled out by hand. So I always have a pair of pliers laying around to pull out the pins.
The pins allow for the workbench to be strong and secure on any level. I would not recommending anything less than 5/16 size bolts/pins.
Step 6: Add Casters
The last thing I put on was the casters, but needs to have a wider base to place them on so I used the last four 4.5″ pieces and screwed them down flush with the bottom legs. Adding the 3″ casters actually raised my overall workbench height by 4″ so keep that in mind when you build.
Step 7: Extras and Future Upgrades
Added a magnetic tool bar to the middle of the workbench since we use this workbench a lot in my robotics class.
I am in no way a skilled carpenter so I hope that my plans were easy to follow and easy to replicate. I probably could have done this a different way to achieve that same effect, but I am really happy with my results. My students are able to adjust them by pulling out the bolts and raising or lowering to the next level. Sometimes it gets a little difficult putting the bolts back in since we can’t not see the levels, but it is fine with us.
A future upgrade I would like to add is another MDF or plywood sheet to the bottom supports to add storage space. If you like my design and are building or built your own please share it with me as I would love to see other people’s finished work.
Do you have any questions or comments about this project? Add them below in the comments section.
If you an educator or enjoy my diy builds then follow me on my website: http://marcusgollahon.com/