Make a Portable Workstation




About: Mechanical Engineering student that likes robots, CNC, 3D printing and more.

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After having finished my CNC router (see my other Instructable), my workshop (a small shed in my backyard 3 x 6 m), became pretty full. The only other tools that I can fit in there are a small table saw, a drill press and some small powertools and handtools. So most of my woodworking happens outside. Next to woodworking and CNC stuff, I also like to work on smaller projects with electronics, which requires soldering etc. Since my 'workshop' is pretty full, I didn't have a proper place to work on these smaller projects. So I just moved some of my smaller tools (screwdrivers, soldering iron, pliers etc.) into my bedroom and worked on my electonics projects there. My parents were ok with the fact that I did some soldering in my bedroom, (better than in the kitchen or the living room), but didn't like the fact that my tools were laying all over the place. The table I was doing my work on also became pretty dented and full of glue and solder blobs. That's why I came up with this portable workstation. It has plenty of storage for all the tools I need, it also has some drawers where I keep solder, heat shrink tubing, wires etc. The lid forms a worksurface, so my parents don't have to worry about the table. I made it in the form of a suitcase, so that it would be very portable.

Ben Heck, from the Ben Heck show had a similar idea a couple of years ago for his portable workbench. I really liked his design, but it was quite complicated to build and it required the use of a CNC machine. For this build I decided to simplify the design quite a bit, so that it would be easier to replicate by people without fancy tools. It also has a bit more storage capabilities and you can customize it any way you want.

Step 1: Tools + Materials


- Table saw (a circular saw or handsaw works as well)
- Router table or handheld router
- Drill
- Screwdriver
- Hand sander
- Tape measure
- Chisel
- Clamps
- A band clamp makes your live a whole lot easier when glueing.


- CNC router


Always wear safety glasses, hearing protection and a dust mask while working with powertools!


- 1 sheet of 9mm birch plywood (2440x1220x12mm, you won't need the whole sheet, but it's nice to have some extra. Any 9mm plywood will work).
- 10 hinges (I used 6 40x20mm and 4 15x25mm)
- handle (I made mine out of some scrap wood)
- wood glue
- screws (+/- 3x12mm for the hinges)
- For the tool holders, I used scrap pieces of wood
- Elastic band
- Self adhesive velcro

- powerstrip

Step 2: Design

I used the free CAD program Sketchup, to make a basic design of the portable workstation I wanted to build. This went pretty fast, and by making a CAD drawing first, the rest of the project went a lot faster. Sketchup allows you to quickly and easily experiment with different designs and looks.
The joinery isn't very complex, just a lot of rabbets (grooves). You can see that the two doors also have a place to store tools. The worksuface consists of three pieces of wood, which are hinged together. Everything folds up nicely and you can carry the workstation around as a suitcase.

Step 3: Cutlist

Now that I had my design completed, I created a cutlist for all of the pieces (see image above). This was very convenient for the next step: cutting everything out.

Step 4: Layout, Measure and Cut

Using a piece of chalk and my cutlist, I laid out all the pieces on the sheet of plywood. Try to order them so that you have the least amount of waist. I only needed about 3/5 of the sheet, so I saved the rest for a future project.

Next I used a handsaw to cut the sheet down into more manageable pieces.

I used the table saw to cut the pieces to their final dimensions. Make sure you set up your tablesaw correctly: all pieces should be square and cut to size as good as possible.

Step 5: Making Grooves

To make the grooves in all of the pieces, I set up my handheld router inside of a router table. You can also use a dado blade in your tablesaw. All grooves/rabbets are 9mm wide and 3mm deep. Always try out your setup on a test piece first!

I also created the grooves in the back and bottom/top pieces of the main body. This is where the divider will go. For this I used the handheld router and clamped down another piece of wood as a guide. I used a chisel to clean up the ends.

I also cut a notch in the top and bottom of the main body (see pictures).

Note: If you don't have a router or a router table, you can just butt join the pieces together. The grooves mainly help to align the pieces and also make the project a bit stronger. However if you can't cut the grooves the dimensions of your pieces will be different.

Step 6: Sanding

It is a good idea to sand the inside faces of all the pieces before you glue everything together. This will be a lot more difficult when everything is assembled.

The last few images show all of the pieces.

Step 7: Glue It All Up

The glue up is pretty straight forward. I used a band clamp and some other clamps to hold everything together while the glue dried. Make sure that everything ends up nice and square!

Step 8: More Sanding...

Now that everything is glued together, it's time to do the final sanding on the main body the doors and the worksurface. Also round over all of the sharp edges. I also rounded the corners of the outside worksurfaces with my homemade disc sander.

Step 9: Wooden Handle

I went to the hardware store to look for a nice sturdy handle, but I couldn't find anything I liked. So I decided to make my own wooden handle. It's made from an old table leg (beech wood). I first made a pattern out of a piece of MDF. I used it to trace out the shape onto the piece of wood. Using the jig saw, I cut it to rough shape. Than I stuck the pattern on the rough cut blank with double sided tape. I used a pattern bit in my router table (I just used my cnc :) ) and a roundover bit to get it to its final shape and make it feel nice. I used glue and screws, to mount it to the main body. It's very strong and I think it looks really nice.

Step 10: Installing the Hardware

Installing the hardware was very easy. Just mark where you want the hinges to go, mark the hole locations, predrill and drive the screws. I wasn't sure how I would keep the lid closed. I decided that a simple pin would be the easiest option (see pictures).

Step 11: Tool Holders

I haven't made any plans for this step, because this really depends on what tools you want to put in. I used nails, screws,  hooks, velcro, elastic band and some leftover pieces of plywood. I used a staple gun to create some loops that hold the pliers. I added a piece of plywood with a lot of holes drilled into it for the screwdrivers. I also added a power strip.
I made two very simple drawers to hold things like solder, wires, connectors etc. Most other tools hang on hooks or screws. The bit set is held in place by self adhesive velcro.
I made some 'straps' to hold the soldering iron in place by sticking the self adhesive backs of the velcro together. The pictures from this step and the folowing step should give you some good ideas for making you own tool holders.

Step 12: Fill It Up

Well this is the easy part. Now it's time to fill the portable workstation with your favorite tools and all the other things you use most frequently.

Step 13: Make It Fancy

Your portable workstation is never complete without some cool instructables stickers :).

Step 14: Conclusion

So that's it. Now I have a nice portable workspace, I can take anywhere. It has lot's of storage for all of my favorite tools and a nice worksurface where I can work on future projects. Total cost for this project was less than 50 dollars. It took me around 3 weekends to complete. There is still some room for more tools and I might add a small lamp in the near future, but I am very happy with the way it turned out. If you decide to build your own, please post a picture in the comment section and I will add it to this Instructable.

If you have any questions about this instructable, please feel free to leave a comment. And if you also like CNC machines, have a look at my other instructable.

Benne is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon(.com,, .ca etc) and any other website that may be affiliated with Amazon Service LLC Associates Program.

Portable Workstations Contest

First Prize in the
Portable Workstations Contest

2 People Made This Project!


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64 Discussions


5 years ago on Introduction

Great job! I'm very happy to see you won the Judge's Prize for this. I voted for you :-)

1 reply

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

Thanks! I'm really happy as well :). Thank you all very much for the votes and the great comments and support I really appreciate it!!! And thank you SpaceGambit for this awesome prize!


5 months ago

Now this is cool. Maybe you could add legs and make it so it could stand up on it's own?.....


2 years ago

Hello, can I just clarify the thickness of the wood. Is it 9mm or 12 mm?


3 years ago

Awesome build! You should do a instructable for your disk sander.


4 years ago on Introduction

Nice work! Is there anything like this available commercially? I don't have the tools to make one but I would buy it in a heartbeat!


4 years ago on Introduction

NICELY finished project there, Benne...

AND I notice that you still have plenty of space/room around your workstation there, that you could both store a lot more tools and supplies in there yet..

AND there's plenty of scope for further modifications and adaptations to your design to suit other people's needs. Good job..


4 years ago

Could you add a fire/heat resistant material to one of the fold down surfaces to allow for soldering? I'm a girl and don't know much about some of this stuff. This was just a thought.

1 reply

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

Sure, you could simply add a piece of sheet metal or a thin aluminum plate to make the surface fire/heat resistant. But if you are careful you can just leave the wooden surface. If you want to put your soldering iron down just set it in a stand (which you can store inside the workstation) and dont lay it onto the wooden surface. Example of a stand:

john mosier

5 years ago on Introduction

super cool, you should show a version with measurements of each board that is a net picture, you could also add to the work station sockets and a soldering station

thanks for sharing you awesome instructable

Akin Yildiz

5 years ago on Step 4

how cool is this man?! wow, very nice, i 100% need to make one, i dont' even have a shed anymore :( just a 1 bedroom apartment, I have to put away my tools after each use....!

Dave A

5 years ago on Introduction

gefeliciteerd Benne, met het winnen van de Jury prijs! (Een tweede cnc in je kleine werkplaats, dat wordt passen en meten ;-) ) Nederland is goed vertegenwoordigd in deze contest.

1 reply
BenneDave A

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

Dankjewel! U ook gefeliciteerd! Na mijn eindexamens zal ik eens kijken wat voor leuks we er allemaal mee kunnen doen. Ik denk dat ik er een laser module op ga zetten, om hem als laser graveerder te kunnen gebruiken. Het wordt inderdaad lastig om er nog een plekje voor te vinden :). Op mijn middelbare school worden nu ook Science+ lessen gegeven. Misschien kunnen er volgend jaar wel een aantal lessen over CNC toepassingen gegeven worden, dan kan de machine ook een tijdje op school staan.

Het is inderdaad erg leuk om te zien dat steeds meer Nederlanders op Instructables actief zijn, maar het is natuurlijk ook een fantastische website!

Eh Lie Us!

5 years ago on Introduction

Nice. At first glance my thoughts went to "wow, a mortal's version of the Studley's tool chest!"


5 years ago on Introduction


I'm sure zillions of Instructables viewers already voted for this project.

I join them right away !…

The Wapusk

5 years ago on Introduction

This looks excellent though I might suggest some sort of flat fold or mortised hinge, such as those used in fine carpentry. I can see it might not work with the thickness of wood you're using, but ultimately it could create an uninterrupted work surface.


5 years ago on Step 14

What a fantastic idea and execution. The idea of a "tool box" combined with a "workstation" is brilliant. There are only 2 small suggestions I could make.

1... Install 2 small chains (or rope/wire) from the top of the main section, to the sides of the main piece of the work surface. This is to not let it pivot forward more than 90 degrees in case there is not enough support for the work station.

2... Tools can be heavy. adding small wheels and a telescoping handle (like a suitcase) for us people that are getting older.

I needed to replace my portable tool case, and this Instructable will provide me with ideas and modivation to start my own project. Thank you.

1 reply

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

Great suggestions! I really like the idea of adding small wheels, which would definitely make it even more portable.