First Workbench

About: IT professional by profession, Electronics Engineer by education, Inventor by birth.

Eversince I can remember I have been making stuff and it has always been a dream of mine to have my very own workshop where I can let loose my creativity with great precision and style. Towards that end I have collected several tools over the years but have always felt the need for a place to call my own. My happy place :-)

Since I live in an apartment with ceramic tile floors it has become impossible for me to work on the floor for fear of cracking the tiles, so I finally decided to make my very own workbench.

Some of the design criteria or constraints I had in mind when I started with this were:
1. Workbench should be sturdy.
2. Can be used for a variety of things.
3. Flexible storage space
4. Minimum cost.
5. Minimum wastage of materials.
6. Require least variety of tools to make

Raw materials:
1. For legs I used 3" x 3" x 30" solid wood legs. Unfortunately I do not know what kind of wood it is, I just asked the timber merchant to give me the cheapest he had.
2. For the remaining parts I used one full sheet of 18mm thick plywood, 4' x 6'.
3. 6 dozen 1.5" Screws/nails
4. Tools, the more the merrier.

I had gone to the timber shop a day before to find out what were the standard sizes of ply that were available (4'x6', 4'x7', 4'x8', 3'x6', 3'x7', 3'x8') then came back and made the cutting plan on Google Sketchup so that the least amout of wood would be left over.

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Step 1: Gathering the Materials

One of the tools I don't have is a saw for cutting large pieces of wood, and even if I did have one it would be virtually impossible to cut the plywood into the strips I need without a worbench and a powertool.

So to make my life easier I got the timber shop to cut up the entire plywood as per my cut-out plan using their circular saw.

You should now have the following materials
1. 4' x 3' ply for the work top
2. 3' x 2' ply for the storage/shelf top
3. 3" x 36" strips (4x)
4. 3" x 24" strips (4x)
5. 3" x 3" x 30" solid wood legs (4x)

You can go for thicker or thinner plywood depending on your usage, I though 18mm thick would be best value for money for me. A pouch of glue and about 6 dozen 1.5" screws are all that is left to be added to the materials list.

All the above raw materials cost me Rs.1500/- thats about 30$ (USD)

It is very important to have strong and sturdy legs (applies to you as well) as these are what will take the entire load of all the work that you will be doing on the workbench.

First step is to stand the legs on a flat surface and make sure they stand vertically and the cut ends are absolutely flat and square. Mark and cut the legs into equal lengths. My workbench legs are 30" long.

Step 2: Frame It Right

Next step is to make the frames that will brace the legs. Mark the legs to the height that you want the shelf to be at. Carefully drill pilot holes, glue the wood contact surfaces and then screw them together. I used 3 screws for each side of the joint. Remember to make pilot holes for the screws and the counter sink for the screw heads first, before screwing them in.

Take measurements at every step to make sure the legs are always parallel and the frame corners are at right angles.

At the end of this step you are left with 2 frames of 3' x 2' around the legs.
Before starting with the top frame I suggest you mount the shelf first so that it is easier to mount it between the 4 legs. The shelf will rest on the bottom frame and the 3" x 3" pieces cutout at the 4 corners of the shelf top, for the legs.

Step 3: Attach the Top

Once the frame is ready and the glue has dried, check to make sure all the legs are even and that the finished frame does not wobble. Next we need to attach the work top.

Now here is where I have a dilema and I am counting on someone experienced to help me out. The easiest thing to do would be to just screw the top onto the frame below, however, the table top is 4' x 3' and the rooms in my apartment have doors that are about 2.5ft wide, as a result if I need to move the table I will have to unscrew the top everytime.

I need an idea so that the top can be detached easily and yet provide stability when being worked upon. One of the ideas I have is to use some sort of nut and bolt arrangement, but I am open to ideas.

P.S: I found these L brackets which I have used to attach the top since I first posted the instructable. There are 4 of them, one in each corner.

Step 4: Finished

And last but not the least is to paint all the wooden surfaces to increase their durability and protect them from scratches and liquid spills etc. Sandpaper all the paint surfaces with a coarse sandpaper, then with a fine one. Be careful of the splinters from the plywood, you don't want those under your skin.

I am very new to woodworking but I am quite pleased with the way this turned out. Nothing is more satisfying that buying it with your own money and making it yourself.

I plan to install a bench vice and later maybe a drill press. Oh, and the 30" x 30" ply that got left over can be used for a bench hook or something so that nothing gets wasted. I have kept the space under the table open for now as I have not yet decided how much storage I need, I can always install drawers when needed to keep the tools.

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    22 Discussions


    6 years ago on Step 4

    Excellent. You are a natural - wont take long before you become a pro!


    8 years ago on Step 3

    You can use hinges on one side. That way you could just swing it up and it would slide too. Throw some wheels that lock on the bottom and you'll really be in business.

    this gives me some inspiration to make a new kind of workbench! now if i only had some money to buy lumber.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I decided I don't need the overhang on all 4 sides, so I cut off about 5" wide strips from two opposite sides and cut them in half so I have 4 pieces. i.e. 5" x 18" x 4 pieces. I then nailed the pieces together to have myself a drawer to keep the tools. The bottom of the drawer is a sheet of particle board I had lying around.

    I still have the option of cutting the remaining two sides and making an additional drawer if required in the future.

    The handle for the drawer is an aluminium heatsink from the burnt regulator of my motorcycle which I knew would come handy one day. My wife keeps saying I collect junk and I am always trying to prove to her how useful the "junk"'s never ending :-)


    9 years ago on Step 3

    i'll third the cleats! that was the first thing that popped into my head!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Nice instructables !

    Would you mind uploading your blueprint ?

    I really like the simple and small design!

    5 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Sorry I forgot, I meant to upload the Google Sketchup file earlier along with the pics but forgot. I have done it now, hope it is what you are looking for.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Here it is! Finaly! I've built my own workbench based on your design (thanks!) It's 48"x28" and 3 feet high. I used 1 piece of plywood 4'x8' that was cut at home depot (quite well actualy!) The feet are made from 2"x3". In the secound picture you can see I'm used the alsmot completed bench to cute holes for the bottom panel. I've added a piece of left over in the middle for added stability. (3rd picture)


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    This just made my day :-) the next best thing to completing your own instructable is to see someone else benefit from it. What is the thickness of the plywood you used? If I am not wrong you have simply screwed the top surface from the top to the frame underneath? The piece in the middle is a good idea. Hope to see more instructables come off of this workbench :-)


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I used 3/4 plywood as I tough that less than this would be too flimsy I used only 6 screw on the top surface for now. I'm living in an apartment too and I found out it didn't fit in a sharp corner to make it out... duh! I'll have to take it apart when I move (in a proper house!). It's a shame as I calculated the deepness based on the door width... it fit well in a door -_-


    9 years ago on Step 3

    I'll second the cleats... that's what I did for the take down workbench that I made to go next to my desk in my office...


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I hadn't noticed your request for help, the first time through.  Are you still looking for a way of fastening the top to the base?

    You could just screw it down.  But if you do, make sure you make the holes over-size.  The boards will expand and contract, as the humidity changes, but the plywood will not.  If you bolt them together without leaving room for expansion, you could get serious warping or buckling.  The workbench in my instructable expanded by about 3/8" over its first year.

    I used s-clips to fasten the top.  These are pretty easy to use, if you have a router.  See step #27:

    Or you could just grab some 4-6" lengths of 2x2.  Drill some over-sized holes from front-to-back and bottom-to-top.  Then screw them into the inside of your top stretchers, and into the bottom of your top.

    2 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I already went ahead and fastened the top using bolts before I saw your reply, thanks for the tips though.

    I did not get which boards you are refering to that would expand/contract, except for the legs everything else is plywood which I hope won't deform. It gets pretty humid during the monsoons here in India so it could be something I need to consider.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    If you made your stretchers out of plywood, you'll be fine.  Plywood is dimensionally stable, it hardly moves at all.

    But you will want to be aware of how wood expands and contracts, in future projects.  I've seen some very nice-looking projects ruined, because the builder tightly fastened two pieces of wood that were bound-and-determined to move in different directions. You can get cracking, warping, various sorts of problems.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I usually reserve the word "workbench" for a proper woodworker's workbench, with integrated woodworking vices, etc.  What you have I'd call a craft table or an assembly table.  It's something designed for you to set things on while you work.

    That said, what you have looks like a very simple, solid, and effective design for an assembly table.  You should get years of solid service out of it.

    3 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I took workbench to mean a bench to work on and did not think it was used specifically for wood working :-)

    I have practically no experience with woodworking and thought this would be a good learning exercise. I am extremely pleased that you think my design will work well for me, I was afraid I might have not made the best design choices and end up with something horribly wrong. Thanks for the encouragement !!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    It's only the woodworkers who get hung up on the difference between a workbench and a work table.

    As for your design choices, you made the best possible choice for someone who is just starting out, you built something. It's easy to make the fear of doing something wrong to prevent you from doing anything, or to spend so much time trying to create the perfect design for a bench that you never actually build it.

    Truth is, I've never finished a project without having something about it I would have done differently, if I'd known when I started what I'd learned while doing it. But if I'd never started to do it, I'd have never learned at all.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    If you don't need a perfect surface you could just use screws or a bolt (make a pilot hole a bit smaller and have the bolt thread it). You could make a bigger hole a little bit larger at the top part so the screw/bolt is not on the surface and its easier to get to. You might want to look at some other workbenches for ideas since there are a lot of solutions to this problem up to some fairly complex ones that involve putting a slot inside the leg to have access to attach a nut to a bolt.

    Jdege - What you said would probably be called a "woodworkers workbench" or a "classic woodworkers workbench" of which there are still many different styles,  different cultures even have many different ideas on woodworking benchs. You could have a "Computer Workbench" and it would still be a workbench.