How to Make Cheap Wood Workbenches UK Style




I read quite a few instructables and found many online tutorials about how to go about making a workbench. Quite a lot of instructions are American so dimensions are in inches, prices are in dollars and they lose something in translation. If you head to the nearest wood merchant in the UK and ask for sections of 2x4 be prepared to get your wallet out. Our American buddies have it lucky, they seem to think this wood stuff grows on trees.

With that in mind I have priced and sourced everything required for cheap work benches in the UK. Wickes is the real key, everything under one roof so you can pick it all up at once. With this design I was able to make 5 benches, 12m of workbench for £100. These 5 benches were built for the newly created Leicester Hackspace. If you're in Leicester on the 1st of March, why not drop by for the grand opening.

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Step 1: Gathering the Materials

As mentioned before everything comes from Wickes and 5 benches can be made for £100. That's a bit of a price break so 1 bench will cost a little more than £20. These are 5 functional medium weight benches, there is also a sturdier bench option shown below.

20x Studwork timber 38x 63x 2440mm @ £2.38     
3x MDF Sheet 12x 1220x 2440mm @ £13.83                 

3x 5.0x80mm screws @ £2.30
1x 4.0x30mm screws @ £1.89

Total = £97.88

If you want a slightly sturdier bench I would recommend moving to the slightly larger studwork
20x Studwork timber 38x 89x 2440mm @ £3.50
3x MDF Sheet 18x 1220x 2440mm @ £16.06

If you want a slightly easier assembly job switch up to Wickes Easy drive screws (these come with a bit so you know you have exactly the right size bit for the screws)
2x 5.0x80mm screws @ £6.98
1x 4.0x30mm screws @ £3.50

Possible upgrades = £135.64

Step 2: Bench Design

The bench construction is relatively straight forward. Each bench is made from 4 lengths of timber. Two lengths run along the underside of the surface providing strength, two other timbers are cut down to form legs.

To form the leg frame, cut the timber into 4 parts, 2440 splits into 2x 800mm and 2x 400mm parts, two verticals and 2 cross bracers. The cross bracers should be fixed between the verticals to form a leg frame. 

The leg frame should be fixed to the horizontal beams, 500mm from each end of the bench. Bringing the legs in from the ends a little limits the bow from spanning the large distance, but the bench will tilt if someone sits on one end of it. The leg screws should be placed diagonally across the joint, this avoids the frame screw positions but also provides maximum strength against the leg rotation.

When screwing the legs down screw 1 screw in first, then use a set square to make sure the leg is vertical before putting in the remaining three screws.

The mdf sheet needs to be cut in half length ways and it will form the surface for 2 benches. Screw the mdf down to the frame using a generous number the 30mm screws spaced around the top. Don't forget to screw right up to the ends of the sheet and also to get some screws into the cross braces of the frame.

Hopefully that about covers it, the pictures make it much clearer.

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    7 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    This bench at 812mm high is in between the standard height here in the U.S. for desks (30 in. or 762mm) and kitchen counters (36 in. or 914mm). Computer desks are usually a bit lower (26 in. or 660mm). If the bench is for your personal use, it's good to give some thought to whether you prefer to do the kinds of tasks for which the bench is intended in a standing position or a sitting position, and whether you've found the standard heights for counters, desks, etc. a bit higher or lower than you'd prefer, and make adjustments accordingly.
    -- For a sturdier version, I don't think beefing up the lumber used for the legs makes as much difference as adding diagonal bracing and a thicker top. As Mr_Liss mentioned below, a couple of 45-degree cuts are all that's necessary to make some struts. If you don't have a square with a 45-degree angle, just fold a piece of paper diagonally from the corner and use that as your template. Use a book or something flat standing up against the edge of the board to help position it precisely parallel with the edge of the board. Precise length isn't critical, but it would be nice to have a couple of diagonals about 800 mm long running down from the center of the long horizontal to wherever they hit the rear legs. With this bench, placing the cut face of the strut against the inner edge of the rear leg will place the wide rear side of the strut against the inner wide side of the long horizontals, and make for easy attachment with screws. (Pre-drilling through the strut for the lower attachments wouldn't hurt.)
    -- A couple of 550 mm pieces from the front of the upper short horizontals down to the rear legs would be good, too.

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    You can lower the height to anything you want but you can't make it any taller without buying additional planks of wood. I find these benches very comfortable to work on especially with an office chair that has all the height adjustments anyway.

    Using the thicker timber does make a sturdier bench or I wouldn't have mentioned it. The thicker horizontal beams bow less when 1 or more persons sit/stand on the bench. Because you have more width to screw the verticals the legs can withstand more rotational torque before they move, I can show you the maths if you like.

    A much easier way to strengthen the legs without 45 degree struts would be to put some long screws through the worktop into the verticals.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    It didn't occur to me before, but some subfloor adhesive (Loctite PL-400) would stiffen the whole thing up more than adding more screws. Liquid Nails makes similar adhesives. They're beige in color, most often come in tubes for caulking guns, but sometimes in small squeeze-tubes like toothpaste. These are a lot stronger than regular wood glue, and bridge gaps better. I worked for about 20 years as a carpenter, and we used to use this stuff when we built saw horses. I remember one time when a piece of heavy equipment ran over one of them-- the leg snapped, but the joint held firm. These adhesives smell bad, and should be used with adequate ventilation, but if you're not going to use angle braces, this kind of adhesive is the easiest way to add strength to the joints. (I looked at the Wickes UK website, and they don't carry this kind of adhesive. They do have Ultimate Instant Grab Adhesive, which should be close enough.)

    I had to chuckle at the thought of projects that involve having two people on the bench. (Is this a sex-education workshop, or what?) Seriously, though, most of the projects people use benches for weigh less than 50 lbs. (23 kg.), and as long as you're using standard lumber, the weight that the bench supports isn't usually as important as the ability of the bench to remain stationary when one pushes and pulls on the project sideways, and to resist flexing at the leg joints. Joint flexing is a progressive disease-- once it starts, it only gets worse.

    One thing I didn't mention above is that diagonal braces like the ones I suggested don't have to be cut accurately, because only one of the angle cuts would have to be placed face-to-face with another surface. The other angle cut is more incidental, because the other end is fastened through the sides of the pieces, not through the angle cut. The two angle cuts don't have to be precisely perpendicular to one another, so they can be made without fussing too much. Diagonal bracing may be a bit inconvenient, but there are good reasons that all building codes require it in wood buildings, by means of either sheathing or actual diagonal braces. The one downside of diagonal braces is that they're "too" sturdy-- they won't flex enough to allow your bench to adapt to irregular floors or for any inaccuracy in the squareness of the bench. Once they're attached, any rocking of the bench has to be dealt with by shimming or trimming the bottoms of the legs.

    If you must forego diagonal braces, then some strong adhesive added to the joint is the next best alternative. Another alternative would be to attach the benches to the walls, but it looks like the setting they're in would make that even more of a hassle than diagonal bracing.


    5 years ago

    Ive been trying to find something simple sturdy and cheap for my first workspace and thanks to this post ive found it, and in metric measurements and a bonus that I don't have to convert it being in Australia. Thanks for sharing!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    These look fabulous. If you have any leftover scrap and a way to make mitred 45 degree cuts, you can use small triangular pieces to brace the uprights against the horizontals. This will make these stronger at minimal cost. I ran into the same problem as you, not finding lumber dimensions according to the plan on account of being on the wrong side of the pond. The design for my nephew's rabbit cage used English (EU?) metric dimension lumber, which is not available here at any price, so I had to improvise. The rabbit doesn't seem to mind.


    5 years ago

    these will work great for my first real work bench! thanks so much!


    5 years ago

    awesome design it's simple n sturdy I'll be making a few of these