Portable Work Benches




Introduction: Portable Work Benches

About: I classify myself as an enthusiastic amateur wood worker, hoping to improve my skills over time... with practice.

There comes a time in everybody's life where they just want to build or destroy something. It happens to all of us, or at least all the folks who visit this site. Alas, there is one small glitch in my "BUILD AWESOME THINGS" plan. I live in a rental property.

I have fed my addiction (yes, I have an issue) by working on other people's projects, including a pergola for Spa, renovating a garage to a home office, to name a few. Until I had a brainwave. A portable work bench.

So I sat a did some VERY rough sketches to flesh out my idea and to see roughly what I would need.

I then jumped onto my computer, and sparked up a good program called "Sketch Up" - free from google. The program was recommended to me by a designer friend, and after a few hours (or 10) I had a rather pleasing blueprint for what I was going to create.

And here is the finished product!

Wait... I'm getting ahead of myself here. First I realised the very first thing I would need. A VERY NICE SAW! So I tripped to my local hardware store for a shopping spree.

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Step 1: Shopping Spree

And here is my new toy.

A slide miter Saw with a laser sight. That's right, a laser sight. Very James Bond.

While I was drooling over my new saw, I also talked with the Timber Expert, and the Hardware specialist, and purchased:
- 42mm x 42mm pre-primed Pine for the main bones of my Tables,
- 25mm dowel for the railings/shelves,
- a 25mm Router drill bit
- a Countersinking bit (for countersinking, obviously)
- 75mm Brass screws (for securing my pine together)
- 35mm Brass screws (for securing dowel shelves)
- 8 rotating, lockable wheels (and a few more screws for good measure)

With these tools in hand, I set to work.

The Dimensions I've decided to go with is 108.4cm Wide (100cm plus 2 x 42mm thicknesses, one on each end), 88.4cm Tall (80cm plus the dual thicknesses once again) and 60cm Deep. These dimensions to not include the wheels yet. they are just for the skeleton frame, and will be the same for both benches.

I decided to tackle my dowel shelved bench first, mainly because at this point in construction, I am still trying to figure out exactly how I'm going to construct the drawers.

I spent a little time pre-planning how I was going to assemble the finished product, and went against my first idea to dovetail the joins on the ends of the benches, purely for structural strength. I ended up bringing my vertical posts in by a single thickness (42mm). Knowing that I was going to put a dowel level in the sides, I drilled a hole with my 25mm router bit half way down the 2 side pieces. I also pre-drilled my holes, and countersunk my screw heads. I also measured the holes made by the router bit, and the distance between the two vertical poles, to get the distance I needed for my dowel. I had to measure both sides and they were out by 5mm, so that's something I recommend should you decide to follow in my footsteps. As my father always says, "When building, remember the 6 P's".

They are: Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance

I also made the mistake of thinking that a 25mm dowel piece would easily fit into a 25mm drilled hole. Again, should you attempt to follow in my footsteps, I recommend making the holes just a little bigger than what you need.

Once all my parts were cut, and pre-drilled. I put both end together, then got to work on my widths. Working with 100cm lengths, made my choice on distance of dowel rods very easy. I spaced them at 10cm intervals as you can see in the photos. And, with sunset chasing me inside, I had time to secure one of the bottom rails with dowel notches and a top rail without for strength and security.

Step 2: Time Progresses

I quickly set to work securing the bottom set of dowel rails and it's support, and hit a small snag. As I mentioned earlier, I drilled a 25mm hole, for a 25mm piece; and it just didn't fit.

As I didn't have much left in the budget for this, I decided to taper the end of the dowel slightly, so that it would fit into the hole drilled, and then screw them from the outside for extra security.

Once the bottom section was in place, I put the wheels on so that my project wouldn't be sitting on the damp grass or the harsh concrete. They are fairly simple locking wheels, affixed with brass screws as the photo shows.

With this stage complete, I thought assembling the middle shelf would have been childs play; having already completed a similar segment only hours ago. I was very wrong. 

The first set of dowel rods, after a little shaving, went in without a problem. The second set however held yet another surprise for me. They were not 25mm. Some larger ones must have been put onto the shelf in the wrong place (I don't blame the hardware store, I should have checked before leaving). This meant far more time scraping the ends (literally hours) before I got something that was workable. All was not lost though, I decided to use the extra large pieces roughly one third in from each end, to give support to shelf, meaning it could carry more weight.

By the end of today, as the picture shows, I had what could be called a work cart, loaded up with all my tools of the days affair.

Step 3: The Second Bench

So before I start my second bench, I knock up a skeleton frame for the removable lid I want my dowel shelf bench to have. I wanted to be able to have a space I can clamp something, without worrying about the finish on top of the bench.

The second bench wasn't too hard to construct, because I'd done it before. I knocked up the basic skeleton in no time, and as you can see, simply added a few horizontal supports to keep the whole thing together. Since the idea of this bench was to have drawers, I decided to have flat shelves on it.

I was then caught in a dilemma, what to use for the top.

I had been thinking about getting some hardwood from the local hardware store, and was sold on that idea, when I was wandering round and discovered:

Engineered Timber Floorboards

They come pre-finished out of the box, can click into each other, meaning a lot less need for nails/screws, and a few quick cuts with the saw and all will be fine. I talked to a customer service person at the store and they had some cartons with minor damages (some of the click parts were smashed, but not badly, and a few boards were scratched, but again not badly) The damage would be bad enough so that you didn't use them on your floor, but I didn't want to use them for a floor, so it was a win for me. I got 3 boxes, which is going to be enough to cover the 4 platforms I need to create. You can see the nice top on the Bench 2 at the end of today's work.

Step 4: The Final Countdown

As my final time on this build approaches, I'm starting to get excited!

I fit the removable top to it's skeleton with ease, screwing from the bottom to avoid screw holes in my nice bench top.

Then I installed a 4 socket power point to my other bench, and attached a 15m extention cord to it. (I have been told this isn't exactly electrically safe, I have since filled the hole with silicon, and made it reasonably electrically safe; happy) 

I then cut up my floor boards and jigsawed some holes for the upright posts, and clicked it all together.

And here they stand. Complete (almost... I intent to paint the exposed wood with Solarguard, and at this stage still have to secure the bench top with screws on Bench 2. But this has been a massive build, and I need some rest.)

If you have any queries or questions, please feel free to ask. I'm not a professional, just an enthusiastic amateur. 

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    2 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice benches, and very nice looking! I have been pondering ways of doing essentially the same thing myself; I like your approach. Thanks!