Maximize Your Workbench




While my old workbench's used to be setup to my liking, as most garage enthusiast knows there is always room for improvement. My current setup was not efficient and wasted much needed space. Which is why I decided to remodel my workbench to maximize my space hopefully this can give some insight and ideas for your own workbench.

Step 1: Design/Things to Consider

Being only 18 I don't have alot of money so that played a big roll on how I designed my new workbench you could always go cheaper or more elaborate depending on your budget.
Being as I do a mixture of things in my workshop primarily woodworking/engine work I need to design my workbench to accommodate those needs. By following these simple steps you will be able to make a workbench devoted to your needs.
1.Know what works and what dosent.
2.What can be improved i.e Storage etc.
3.What type of projects do I do on my workbench.
4.How big/small do you need it.
5.Special features you want.

By asking my self these questions I came up with this.
1.My height of the left bench was perfect seeing as im 6'3. I need my toolbox close to the workbench. What didn't work was having the two workbenches split and having a bench top drill press taking up space.
2.I needed more worktop space and tons more storage. By separating my tool chest in two sections I can have one solid workbench.
3.I mainly do engine work/electronics on my workbench so I had no need for a woodworking vise etc
4.I wanted the whole wall one solid workbench and a taller then a average workbench.
5.Pegboard above one side and shelves below for storing parts during tear downs.

Step 2: Materials/Tools Needed

While I tried to reuse as much as I could I still needed to buy some things here is the list of what I used.
-Tape measure
-Miter saw(could use hand saw)
-Impact driver(drill will do just fine)
-Circular saw
-1 full sheet of plywood for the bench top I made my width 2ft so I could rip one piece down the center for both sides.
-1 full sheet of OSB for shelves ( I used my old bench tops)
-Lag screws for hanging ledgers
-1lb box of 3 inch screws
-1lb box of 1 1/4 inch screws
-4x4 post's for the legs
-2x4's for supports
-1x1 strips for pegboard backing(can be done different)
-Wall anchors for shelf
-Shelf brackets
-Polyurethane for the bench top (optional)
-Wood filler

Step 3: Deconstruction

This was fairly straightforward I was going to try and reuse as much wood from my old workbenches as I could to keep cost down and to stay green. Keep in mind you may have to work around things such as vents,dust collection, etc. My cats use a vent we cut out to go in and out of the house so I have to keep that in mind.

Step 4: Hanging the Ledgers

First step here is deciding your overall height you want your new workbench to be I wanted mine to be around 40" so I hung my ledgers at 39 1/2" yours may differ.

Next you need to find and mark your studs, they should be every 16" on center but if you have bump outs in the wall like I did they maybe be a little different around the bump .
You do not have to put shelves in like I did but space them according to your needs I made mine just a tad under half the height of the whole workbench
I drove a lag screw into every stud for both the top and bottom ledgers,unfortunately I forgot to take pictures during this step but you can still see the ledgers in these photos.

Step 5: Legs and Shelf Support

I decided to use 4x4's for my legs because I had enough of them left over from my old workbench and the extra strength couldn't hurt but you could easily get by with using 2x4's.

After having all the ledgers hung its time to brace the legs I used 2x4's for this.
I wanted my overall width to be 2ft so I measured accordingly and secured all the braces to the legs using 3" screws which was plenty strong. Depending on how much weight your shelves will be holding will determine your amount of bracing. Mine will hardly ever see significantly heavy weight so I only used one cross brace in the center.
For the shelf top I reused my old bench top which fit almost perfectly.

Step 6: Bracing the Top

Bracing the underside of your workbench will make it more strong and will help it from warping/bowing over time.
After I lucked out and found a 2x4 in my backyard that could span the length of my workbench I secured it with more 3" screws and was then ready for bracing the center.
For bracing I used 2x4's cut at 45 degrees as well as a straight piece for the center.
To secure them I screwed from the front and toe nailed the back braces making sure they stayed level with the top.

Where the two sheets of plywood where going to meet i added in a scrap 4x4 to give me ample room to screw them down to so the seam wouldn't be two noticeable.

Step 7: Laying Down the Bench Top

At this step your workbench is almost complete but its missing one vital part, the bench top. This step is pretty simple if you make your width 2ft.
All I had to do was mark a line dead center of the sheet and cut in the CENTER of the line being in the  center of the line will make the sheets the same size.
If you have things to work around measure twice and cut once. I had two obstacles in my way the first was the bump out in the wall, the second was a notch for the garage door to close without hitting anything but neither of these where hard at all to work around.

Step 8: Adding "extras"

Three things I wanted on my new workbench was a coat of polyurethane, pegboard, and a long shelf.
First we will start with polyurethane, this step is totally up to you and its certainly not needed however after a couple years of abuse my old workbench was starting to flake apart. That is partly due to the top being OSB but nonetheless a couple coats of polyurethane couldn't hurt.
After filling any voids with wood filler I applied about 4 coats with a brush and built up a nice smooth layer which makes cleaning up oil etc a breeze as it dosent soak into the wood.

The second thing I wanted was pegboard, I don't have any photos of how I assembled it unfortunately but I can tell you how I did it. I had a couple spare pieces of pine left over from a project so I ripped them down to about the same thickness as a 1x1 strip from a home improvement store. I then in essence made a picture frame for the back of the pegboard with a extra strip in the center for support. Then found studs and secured it using 3" screws.

The last thing I wanted was a shelf for spray paint,stain,oil,etc.
This was very simple to do I just used wall anchors made sure it was level and mounted the brackets and put the shelf on.

Step 9: Organize Your Workspace

The Last step is to find a place for all your tools,parts,etc

After cleaning out my tool box of unneeded things its much more organized and dosent take up much bench space.
Having the pegboard to hang things from made staying organized a easy task. As well as having the blue tool holder makes keeping my tools at arms reach and organized during projects a breeze.
Lastly having the shelf to keep all my paint,stain etc in one place instead of spread out over the shop makes finding the right can simple and fast.

Step 10: Conclusion

After finding all the flaws in my old workbenches and rebuilding them into what I have now is a night and day difference in organization, efficiency  and storage.
There still is a couple things I have to add such as another florescent light over the right side of the bench, fire extinguisher and maybe another piece of pegboard to hang parts on.

Overall time it took me was about a week and that was mainly due too laying down polyurethane on the top. Overall difficultly wasn't bad at all and is something your average handyman should be able to complete with basic tools.

But overall I am very satisfied with my new workbench and would like to see any pictures if anyone makes their own workbench's.

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    18 Discussions


    7 years ago on Step 8

    I used to use pegboard but got fed up with the hooks coming out. Now I use a sheet of cheap flooring plywood.
    Instead of hooks I use 3" nails driven in to custom fit where I want.
    Screwdrivers go into a 2x4 screwed to the base of the plywood with 3/4" holes spaced along the center of the 4" side.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice solid bench there. There's plenty of space, the tools are nicely placed for quick access and the red cabinet of tools is beautifully placed right in the centre to get it out and close to the job (in the other part of the shop).

    And, there's even workshop-art !!


    This is exactly what I want to do! I have a couple questions for you on the install.
    I don't know all the proper terms because I've never done this before so I will try to describe it as best as I see it.

    When you did the ledgers on the wall first (back pieces of wood) You said you secured them using lag bolts INTO the studs in the wall? Is that correct?

    Once you hung the back part of the ledgers did you then build off of those via in the air? Or did you cut everything and build it on the floor so to speak and then bolt it onto the rear ledgers?

    In a couple pictures below the ledger's on the wall it looks like it's one continious piece for the front of the work bench... is that one long piece of wood or is it mulitple pieces? Mainly Picture 7 is what I am looking at but not the top of the work bench the 4x4 that is facing us that goes the entire lenght just like the top of the work bench.

    In step 5 when you create the shelf, I can see you cut out the corners but in doing so how does one fit the shelf into the opening since it looks like it would not fit in through the top how do you fit the shelf in so that you can bolt it in?

    Sorry for all the questions, but your work bench looks robust and has storage underneith which is exactly what I am looking to do!


    3 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Im glad I gave you a plan for what you want to do!

    I used 5 inch lag bolts into each stud of my wall for all the ledgers.

    Once I hung the ledgers I made the basic frame for the bottom and secured it to the legs before doing the top, building it all off the ledgers in the air.

    The front piece is a solid 2x4 all one piece its about 16 ft long.

    When you put the ply in for the shelves simply just put one corner of it on the bottom of the shelf and the other corner in the top corner and it will allow it to slide in at a angle and drop down.

    Ask all the questions you need to Im glad my design could help you you I would love to see pictures of it when you are done!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Great! Thank you.

    In step 4 for the lower part of the shelves. I can see you have the piece of wood that is directly in the middle which looks like a brace for the lower shelf. How did you bolt that into the back of the ledger? Did you get a bolt and run it the entire length of the board if so where do you get a bolt that long???
    On the same piece of wood I don't see how you secured it to the lower horizontal piece of wood that is attached the two legs. IE: I don' t see any holes or screws in the horizontal piece of wood that is attached to the center.

    Sorry if those questions sound silly, I'm just trying to visualize this whole thing... I am probably making it much harder than what it

    Thanks again,


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    To secure the middle brace to the ledger i just used 3" decking screws and toe-nailed them to the ledger the lower piece is secured with 3" decking screws as well they just didn't show up in the picture.

    And your questions are fine that's what instructables is for to help learn and make new things so ask away!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Workbenches against walls are heavy duty junk collecting shelves in my experience with them. I have one. I've a free standing bench that I actually expect to work on though.

    Electronics doesn't mix very well with anything else. It pretty much needs its own dedicated area. I tried to go convertible here it sucked. I setup a spot for it and I'm happy.

    My electronics pit:

    Woodworking can be helpful with just about every activity if you use your imagination. I've made a few wooden cases for some of my electronics projects. Sometimes being able to make a needed box is handy. Even for things like mechanical tear downs. My shop boxes aren't fancy but they are always just the size I want.

    More of my garage workshop can be seen here:

    5 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Wow, and I thought my shop/work-area/garage was cluttered. Envious to be sure. :)


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Well lets see your shop/work-area/garage. I like checking out shop pictures. My biggest challenge is I try to do a bit more than most in my workshop. I have metal, wood, and electronics sections in it. If my workshop was bigger I could get a few things out from on top of each other.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Well I have done what I can to accommodate you sir. Please use the link. This is the most recent work. Built the wall in place, (original opening 24' 7/8" x 7' 11" +/-) Unfortunately my original idea of building the frames and fitting them in did not work very well as the opening was far from square, so being on a budget, I fudged the measuring and just cut each beam to fit. Let me know what you think


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I think you need bigger shelves. If it was me I'd clear out to the right of the window in this picture:

    and build shelves big enough I could get the big plastic tubs etc. you have onto them. I'd take the shelves you have and probably put them right onto your workbench. I think they'd be more useful there. Then I'd make a utility cart with lots of tools on it so I could stay on a roll so to speak. You know, moving around on all that nice clear floorspace?

    I think what I'm trying to say here is you need to go vertical in your shop. Onward and upward! A little consolidation wouldn't hurt either.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for the suggestions, I still have a few other ideas floating about, I do like the vertical approach. Consolidation is a work in progress unto itself, I also still have a 10x10 storage unit that eventually needs to relocate here. Also all work that is done, is all temporary and can be completely dismantled with a good power-drill, including the enclosing wall. That was step one in getting this area um, workable instead of clutter-able. lol.


    8 years ago on Step 10

    Very nicely done. You've hit on a problem that a lot of folks face with regard to trying to create a space that accommodates a variety of creative interests. 30 plus years and I haven't gotten it right yet but you seem to be headed in the right direction.

    One thing that I have adopted is a two piece bench top. Not necessarily for everybody but since I do everything from soldering and carb rebuilds to modeling and metal fabricating I need something tough but smooth and replaceable.

    I use a 3/4" OSB base layer with an extra 4" layer around the perimeter and then screw a layer of 3/4" Melamine on top from underneath. I have a 1 1/4"x2 1/4" front lip that's made of white oak that was salvaged from a double sized pallet stringer and planed smooth. The front lip is mounted to the Melamine / OSB sandwich with countersunk barrel bolts so that it can be replaced without destroying everything else.

    The Melamine isn't well suited to blacksmithing work but it is a nice smooth surface to work off of, dimensionally stable, cheap and easy to clean. Sealing the edges is important because it will expand and distort pretty horribly at the first sign of moisture intrusion.

    Another help has been arranging bench tops so that they are at the same level as other work and tool surfaces. This allows over-sized projects and components to be supported without having to rearrange the entire shop or come up with auxillary supports or feed tables.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 10

    Thank you for the idea of having a replaceable top and its a really good idea if you beat your bench tops up. I also like you said have every tool/bench in my shop at 40" and I have used the oversize project support on many occasions and is a good thing to keep in mind if you work with big materials.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    How did you finish the top to make it durable? I like the layout with the one long workbench design - how long is the top piece?

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I finished the top with 4 coats of polyurethane. And the top piece it 13 1/2 feet long.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Sweet. Practical. Gives me inspiration to start on my own work space. I will need more storage though.

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    After working with it for a little bit I also need a tad bit more storage but im glad this helped inspire you