Portable Workbench




Introduction: Portable Workbench

About: Maker on YouTube. Helping others break barriers to making by inspiring and informing.

Need an inexpensive bench that is rock-solid sturdy but can be taken apart and moved in minutes? Then check this out, I'm confident it will work for you and I have detailed plans available for it at my website ycmt2.com/portable-workbench.

Step 1: Gather Materials

I was able to get all the material from my local home supply warehouse for less than $50. This project can be made with just:

  • (4) 2"x8"x10'
  • (1) 2"x8"x8'
  • (1) 2"x6"x8'
  • (16) 1/4" x 2 1/2" lag screws
  • (16) 1/4" washers
  • Your choice: wood glue, screws, or nails

The plans include a detailed cutlist for all the pieces ycmt2.com/portable-workbench/.

Step 2: Cut Lumber to Size

The first thing I like to do on a build like this is cut all the pieces down to length first, that makes ripping a lot more manageable. The stop block on my miter station makes this really easy.

This could have been built mostly with 2×4’s but I went with 2×8’s because they tend to come from larger trees and have less knots and such. Also, I like to cut off the rounded corners so starting with wider stock I only have to make three rip cuts to get two boards at the right width instead of four cuts if I used narrow stock. I just set my fence to take a narrow cut that just removes the round over and then move the fence to the width of the board I want and take two more passes.

The plans available at my website include a cultist with the dimensions for every piece.

Step 3: Assemble the Legs

It's easiest to get a feel for the order I did this in by watching the video. I did a rough layout to get the dimension for last leg piece that I needed to make sure everything would fit perfectly.

Then it was time to start gluing. I used 2 1/2” 16 gauge finish nails to hold everything together until I could get some clamps on it. But this part could be done many other ways. You could just use glue and clamps, screws with or without glue, whatever you prefer.

Step 4: Notch the Bottom Stretchers to Fit in the Legs

This was actually a design change because some things went wrong while I was building it. The video covers that. But because it was a change I don't have any photos of this process. But just by looking at the piece you'll see it's a simple cut you can make with a bandsaw, jigsaw, hand saw, coping saw.. almost any saw, really.

Step 5: Attach the Stretchers to the Legs

I drill a countersink hole for the lag screw head first with a forstner bit, and used the hole made by the center cutter of the forstner bit to register a pilot bit. It's good practice to keep your speed square handy while drilling these holes to make sure everything will go together tight and square.

Then it was time to add the side aprons or stretchers, which provide a significant amount of racking resistance. I pre-drill the counter sink hole the same way I did on the bottom stretchers. Then I used some screw clamps to help me hold the board in place and then lag screwed both aprons to the legs. The base is now complete.

Step 6: Attach the Top

Next was getting the top together. To get this build done quickly, I decided to use cleats to hold the top together. First, I clamped the cleats against the legs and lag screwed them in place.

Then drilled pocket holes to screw the top boards to the cleats. This order made things a bit awkward, but working in a field it seemed like the best way to do it and make sure everything stayed tight and square.

Other ways to do the top would have been screwing it down from above, but I did not want exposed screw heads. Or gluing the top together into a panel, that would keep the top tight but you would need to account for wood movement in how you attach to the base. Those issues could be avoid by using a plywood top, doubled up 3/4” plywood would be nearly as thick as this top. It is really whatever you want.

Step 7: Build Something Awesome on It!

I built this bench so I could work on a Walnut Slab Table while at a woodworking event in Skiatook, Oklahoma. I actually raffled off the bench at the end of the event. I'll definitely be building another one later though!

Step 8: Take It Apart for Storage or Transport

All it takes to move this thing easily is to remove the lag screws and it breaks down into essentially a flat pack workbench! The gentleman that won this bench in the raffle actually came to the event in a tiny hatch back car but we were able to get it packed in there without a problem.

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    19 Discussions

    I have always thought that a portable workbench can never be sturdy enough since it has to be lightweight to be moved around. However, all it needs is an experiment with various other materials to make it work.

    1 reply

    That's definitely true if the concept of portable means you can easily pick it up. I went a different way with this one... the portability hear comes from the ability to quickly take it down to major components, move it compactly, and reassemble fast enough that the time taken to breakdown and assemble is made by the extra weight and sturdiness. I wouldn't use this as a daily bench in a shop. For me it's an event bench. Something I can easily store, transport, and set up on site. Yet it's sturdy enough I can do pretty aggressive work on it for hours.

    Great project, and great write up of it. Look forward to seeing more!

    2 replies

    Many thanks! I'll definitely be doing more on my upcoming project and might do some of my old projects too!

    This is excellent!

    Welcome to Instructables, can't wait to see what you make next :)

    1 reply

    Thanks! I think you'll be pleased with some of the stuff I have coming up next, but then again I am pretty biased about my projects! Haha.

    I might have made the legs one more layer thick, on the outside face. This would give the aprons additional support to further prevent wracking and add additional weight to the base, otherwise great design. I have watched quite a few of your YouTube videos welcome to Instructables.

    1 reply

    That's a good idea, but I don't think it is necessary to prevent racking. In the video you can see the bench move some while planing, but that was actually just the feet wobbling on the uneven ground, the bench itself never racked. I actually kicked and pushed the crap out of it trying to see if it would rack. As far as adding weight to the base... for sure, just depends on how you plan to use it. Weight is a trade off with anything you want to be mobile. It makes it steadier when set up, but is that much more weight to sling around when you're moving it. That said, if I was building this to be my primary bench and not an occasional use, I would beef up the base like you mentioned.

    Thanks for watching the videos and the warm welcome!

    That is a really awesome piece of work and it looks like it would work on my apartment balcony. I'm going to try this out this weekend. Very smart work. Thanks for the post!

    1 reply

    Great! I'm glad it'll work well for you. Please share photos after you finish!

    Excellent job on both the project and your first Instructable.

    Keep up the great work!

    1 reply

    This is awesome! Reminds me a little of my workbench I made almost two years ago. I can't wait to see what other projects you share. Welcome to the community!

    1 reply

    Thanks! Took me a while to finally commit to finishing this Instructable. It was a lot easier than I thought! I'll definitely be sharing a lot more here, thanks for the warm welcome to the community. :)