After doing a couple of DIY reclaimed wood projects, I realized I could do with a bigger workbench. Something sturdier, with room for tools and a bigger work surface.
So I set out to design one. This is going to be a big one. I made this over a month ago, have been thinking about and designing it for a lot longer. I've already had questions from people if I could make one for them, or where people can buy the plans. So besides putting it on my blog I also made a small web store where you can buy the plans if you like this project. I hope it's okay to mention that here. EDIT: because of an argument with Ron, I took the plans down for now. They may be back later.
We're renovating a home at the moment with some family and I've put this workbench to good use there. Initially, my parents/siblings/others thought it would be too big and clumsy to put indoors (small house) but between a pair of wobbly saw horses, a door that was being repaired on a workmate and became a table instead, and tools littered al over the floor, I got frustrated enough to just ignore everyone and bring the darn thing upstairs. Everybody loved it. No more tools littered on the floor, wobbly saw horses that never get put aside cause you always need to saw something, finding good ways to hold or clamp stuff down... I should have brought this up on day 1. Would have saved us a lot of time.
So let's have an instructable on how I built it. You can read more on my blog at thelowlander.org. Happy building!
Step 1: A Single Sheet of Plywood.
So: specs... This entire workbench has a worktop of 120*80 cm. Also known as the dimensions of the surface area of a EUR size pallet.
The reason I went with this size is because I love working with pallets since I was small (my dad and I used to work with them a lot) Pile a few up and you have a makeshift workbench. There's a whole story behind it that would make this instructable waaay too huge, so I left that for the blog :) Trust me, it's a cool read.
- This workbench has a working area like an EUR pallet, 120*80 cm.
- It can be made from a single sheet of 2440*1220*18 mm plywood.
- It has bench dog holes which can be used to clamp a lot of stuff down.
- It has a modular slot where you can put different modules. For instance, I made a module for my miter saw from some other plywood scraps I had.
- It has a good amount of storage for tools.
- It's lightweight. Pack up and carry.
- It's very sturdy.
- All you need to set it up for work are a pair of saw horses or a pile of pallets.
I started by putting the 3D design into a 2D plan. Then I printed the plan and bought a sheet of plywood. I cut the plywood into 3 main pieces first: the top, the bottom, and the leftover where all the rest of the pieces would be cut from. Let's call the vertical pieces "girders".
Step 2: Cutting All the Pieces
To cut all the girders I worked from one side of the leftover piece towards the other end. By that I mean I measured one girder, drilled all the holes, rounded the inside edges, THEN cut the girder apart from the main piece, and ONLY then did I measure again for the next piece (keeping measurements that don't change to save time obviously).
The reason I worked this way was that I could never have a nasty surprise if my saw blade cut away a bit too much material. I left a large margin in the plans to account for whatever thickness of saw blade, but I think it's still good practice to work from one piece to the next, so that's how I do it. I didn't do the first girder this way though, and I was lucky it was wide enough... again: safe margins.
After all the girders were cut I stored everything in my tiny tool shed to continue the next day.
Step 3: Drilling the Bench Dog Holes.
This was not really difficult (except if you want it really, REALLY tight and straight), but it was very tedious.
The top of the workbench needed bench dog holes, so here I had to measure and drill them. Spend as much time measuring as you can spare. The better your measurements, the better your holes will be aligned.
I didn't have any fancy tools or method to drill holes. I had to do it manually. I was lucky enough that I could borrow my dad's drill press. I tried to get the holes as straight as I could, and this went fairly well. I put a big piece of thick cardboard underneath to prevent tear out on the other side of the board.
I also measured the area that would be cut our for the modular space, and drilled holes there. Once I drilled all the holes, I cut out this area, and used it later as a separate module.
Step 4: Assembling All the Pieces
Time to add everything together: I started by turning the top around so I could align the center girders more easily (didn't have to measure carefully anymore). Then I laid out the outer frame, clamped it, and laid in the rest of the internal frame and clamped what I could.
Then I drilled pilot holes, added glue, and screwed the outer frame together. Afterwards I did the same for the inner frame. The short, open girders inside were the last ones to be screwed in place, and they were a bit trickier because I couldn't drill through from the other side. So Instead I drilled and screwed from the side of the girder itself. Countersink the screw and you're good to go.
After that I put glue on top of the frame and put the bottom on. I drilled pilot holes and screwed the bottom on tight.
I then flipped the workbench over and repeated those steps for the top of the workbench. My work-flow for anything that needs to connect is basically:
- Clamp workpieces together
- Drill pilot holes
- Drill screws just enough so they protrude enough to “slot” in the pilot hole on the other workpiece
- Remove clamps
- Add glue to connected surfaces
- Connect workpieces again (screws “slot” in pilot holes)
- Clamp and tighten screws
- Let glue dry
- Sand and finish
So after everything was connected, I sanded it some and then put an oil based finish on it.
Step 5: Finished MTI-workbench
The fully assembled workbench and putting it to use: I made some bench dogs, and afterwards I made another toolbox for my neighbour like the smaller one I made for my dad a while ago. This one went a lot faster now that I could properly clamp stuff.
I've been using this workbench for slightly over a month now. I'm loving how convenient it's proven to be during the renovation. Especially how my family changed their mind so radically about how very useful it turned out to be.
I hope you enjoyed this instructable, and if you want the measurements that I used, you can find them at my website/store.
Step 6: BONUS: First Project on MTI-workbench
Just for the heck of it, because I'm not sure it deserves another instructable: here is a mini instructable on the first project on my MTI-workbench: A new toolbox for my neighbour.
Like the previous one, I used rough pallet wood for the toolbox. Being able to clamp it down better made it easier to plane and sand stuff, made it easier to cut (although I didn't use the router properly... I got somewhat impatient).
The cool part is that I actually started with much rougher pallet wood, and ended up with a really smooth toolbox.
- Find nice boards.
- Cut boards to size
- Clamp and plane/sand
- Cut round corners
- Clamp the whole thing together for a dry fit
- Drill holes for handle
- Round off handle and put into place.
- Drill pilot holes
- Add glue
- Screw together
- Sand down (and remove excess wood from handle)
Fun stuff :)