Simple Wooden Workbench




Introduction: Simple Wooden Workbench

The plans for this workbench came from Family Handyman. I'm not sure how long ago this article came out, but it cost me $100 in supplies as opposed to the $50 it says. The instructions at that website aren't very clear so hopefully I can provide some insight into some areas while you are building it. Between the photos on the Family Handyman website and the one's here I think it'll provide a better understanding of what to do.

This project is a good starting in construction project. While this is my first solo, other than my son, wood working build I've worked some construction in the past so I have some knowledge in tools and construction techniques.


8 Hours


  • 15 - 2x4
  • 1 - 4x8 1/2 inch plywood
  • 2 - 1lb box 3 inch drywall screws
  • 1 - 1lb box 1 5/8 inch drywall screws

Tools Used

  • Power Screwdriver (Required)
  • Hammer (Required)
  • Protective Eyewear (Required)
  • Pencil (Required)
  • Miter Saw (Optional)
  • Circular Saw (Optional)
  • Skill Saw (Optional, used to cut off any of the plywood that went over the edge)
  • Square (Optional)
  • 4 paint Cans (Optional)
  • Gloves (Optional)

Step 1: Make Your 2x4 Cuts

First thing we'll do is cut all of our wood. You can get away with just having a circular saw, but having a miter saw for the 2x4's will be easier. If you don't have either Most lumber stores will be able to make the cuts for you if you ask.

Here are some generic steps that you can see in the pictures.

1. Measure out the length you need.
2. Use a square to draw the line for your cut.
3. Label the side of the length you want to use so you can find it later.
4. Line up your blade with the line and make your cut.

Let's Cut

We'll be using the lettering system that was used on the other website. Write the letter on the board before you cut so you can reference it later. I didn't take pictures of the cuts, sorry about that, but there is good pictures with labels on the website I mentioned in the intro.

x = cut

[How many 2x4's to cut]: [Letter To Assign] - [Length in inches] x [Letter To Assign] - [Length in inches]

ex. 1: C-35 1/2 x C-35 1/2 x F-15 x G-9 x throw away

5: A-71 7/8 x E-24

4: A-71 7/8 x F-15 x G-9

4: B-68 7/8 x D-27

1: C-35 1/2 x C-35 1/2 x F-15 x G-9 x throw away

1: C-35 1/2 x C-35 1/2 x G-9 x G-9 x throw away

Step 2: Cut the Plywood

If you don't have a table saw I would suggest having the store cut the plywood as one can easily break off a corner if you don't have extra people to hold it. When measuring out your lengths if you don't have a long enough straight edge to draw your cut line you can always use one of your 2x4's. It's close enough. Make sure you measure on each side of the board so you have two marks in which you can connect to make a straight line. Wish I had gotten a picture of this.

1. Measure out 72" and cut your plywood across the short side. You can see it in the picture. Set the smaller piece aside for now and we will use it later.
2. From the 48" width measure out 18". Make your cut. You should now have 2 pieces one 72" x 18" and one 72" x 30". Set these aside.
3. Grab the first piece you set aside and cut the 24" portion of it in half so you have 2-48" x 12" pieces. Put one of those in your cut pile.
4. Now take the other 48" x 12" piece and cut it in half so you have 2-24" x 12" pieces. Save one of those and the rest is throw away.

Again sorry about not having pictures of this. The family handyman website does have a good picture of this, but the measurements are hard to read.

Step 3: Make Bottom Shelf Frame


• 2 - B 2x4
• 2 - D 2x4
• 5 - F 2x4
• 3" Screws


1. Grab one of the B boards and 2 of the D boards.
2. Make only 3 sides of the frame using the 3" screws. Put the D boards on the outside and the B board on the inside.
3. Measure down each side of the D boards and make a mark at 16 1/2" and 18". This is where the other B board will go.
4. Screw in the other B board using the 3" screws.
5. On the long side measure out where we will put the joists. They should be evenly spaced at 10 1/4". make sure to account for the 1 1/2" width of the 2x4 before measuring your next 10 1/4". Do this on both long sides. This doesn't have to be perfectly even, but try to make them close.
6. Screw in the F boards into the frame at the markings. I attached them on one side and then the other working my way towards the middle. If it's a tight fit use a hammer to get the block in.

Set this aside. My finished picture for this didn't come out, but you can see it in the background of this in the last image.

Step 4: Build the Table Top Frame


• 2 - B 2x4
• 2 - D 2x4
• 5 - E 2x4
• 3" Screws


1. Grab 2 of the B boards and 2 of the D boards and screw them together using the 3" screws to make a rectangle. The D boards go on the outside and the B boards go on the inside.
2. On the long side measure out where we will put the joists. They should be evenly spaced at 10 1/4". Make sure to account for the 1 1/2" width of the 2x4 before measuring your next 10 1/4". Do this on both long sides.
3. Screw in the E boards into the frame at the marking. Use the same technique as before.

Step 5: Attach Legs to Table Top


• 4 - C 2x4
• 3" Screws


1. Line up leg (C) where the long side and short side meet. Make sure it is flush to the top of the table and the side.
2. Screw in all 4 legs.

Step 6: Attach Bottom Shelf to Table Top Legs


• 3" screws
• Paint cans


1. Flip over the top with the legs and stand it up.
2. Use paint cans on each corner to hold up the bottom shelf in place. This is a great trick given by Family Handyman.
3. Use the 3" screws to screw the bottom shelf in place.

Step 7: Screw on the Tops.


• 1 - 72"x30" plywood
• 1 - 72"x18" plywood
• 1 5/8" screws


1. Put the 72" x 18" plywood on the bottom shelf.
2. Line up the corners and put one screw on each corner.
3. Then put screws around the outside. I put one in the middle of each short side and 4 on each of the long sides in between each joist.
4. Put the 72" x 30" plywood on the table top.
5. Screw in the top the same way as above.

Step 8: Build the Top Shelf


• 7 - G 2x4
• 2 - A 2x4
• 1 - 48" x 12" plywood
• 1 - 24" x 12" plywood
• 3" Screws
• 1 5/8" Screws


1. Build the frame. This is done the same as the other frames with one exception. Instead of the outer short boards going on the outside of the longer 2x4's they go on the inside. Take a good look at the photo to see what I mean. The spaces in between for each joist is 10". Remember to leave 1 1/2" space for the joist when measuring. If this is not perfect it's not a big deal. Just try to space them as even as possible. Use the 3" screws to screw them in.
2. Take the 48" x 12" plywood and put it on top. This will be 2/3 of the top. Screw it in using the 1 5/8" screws as you've done before.
3. Take the 24" x 12" plywood and line it up and attach it to the top.

Step 9: Attach the Legs


• 4 - A 2x4
• 3" Screws


1. Set the shelf face down on 2 of your remaining 2x4's. This is because the legs are really tall and it'll be easier for someone to hold the legs up for you while you are screwing it in, but it's higher than directly on the floor.
2. Place place on of the legs (A) flush on the short side corner on the top. Let it rest on half of the 2x4 the shelf is resting on so it'll be flush to the top.
3. Screw it in using the 3" screws.
4. Do the same thing to the other 3 legs.

Step 10: Attach the Tall Shelf to the Rest of the Workbench


• 3 - A 2x4
• 3" screws
• Paint cans


The picture of screwing most of the top in isn't shown, because I had to screw it in once I put it in the room it was going in. But once lined up you can just screw it in so it's attached.

1. Line up the top shelf so it lines up with the legs of the back of the workbench.
2. Screw them into place using the 3" screws.
3. Screw in one of the A boards right below the top shelf. The 4" side of the 2x4 should be flush with the bottom of the top shelf. Have someone help you hold this up or get some clamps. Make sure you screw it into the legs of the top shelf and the bottom.
4. Stack 2 paint cans to hold up the middle board (A) and screw it in.
5. Lay the last A board on top of the workbench and screw it in as the ones before it. I didn't screw it into the top of the workbench just the legs of the top shelf.

These boards are used as backers so you can put something like peg board up so you can hang tools off of it.

Step 11: Done!

Now you can move it into place. Get someone to help you with this because it's certainly not light. One of the coolest things about this project is the lack of wasted wood. You can see in one of the pictures how much waste was left.

3 People Made This Project!


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16 Discussions

Did I get the cut list correct? I just rewrote it into a different format:

A - 9(Qty) @ 71 7/8”

B: - 4(Qty) @ 68 7/8”

C: - 4(Qty) @ 35 ½”

D: - 4(Qty) @ 27”

E: - 5(Qty) @ 27”

F: - 4(Qty) @ 15”

G: - 4(Qty) @ 9”


1 reply

Not quite. E, F, G were off.

A - 9(Qty) @ 71 7/8”

B: - 4(Qty) @ 68 7/8”

C: - 4(Qty) @ 35 ½”

D: - 4(Qty) @ 27”

E: - 5(Qty) @ 24"

F: - 5(Qty) @ 15"

G: - 7(Qty) @ 9"


1 year ago

I've taken inspiration from this for a work bench ible' I'm working on at the mo. This is a great article and I'll be sure to credit it when I do! :-)

Thank you for this! I have actually been looking at this on the FH website for a while but I'm a novice and the cut list made me uncomfortable. Then I came across your instructable and saw the cut list code system you used and all the planets aligned for me. I'm even making an added feature (a set of drawers) because of my comfort level and using an old countertop on top of the plywood bench top.

I just finished cutting 63 year old 2x4s from my house. I've never seen 2x4s this heavy and solid! When all is said and done, I will only need to buy the screws. everything else is from the gutting of my house. I'll post picks when I'm done!

Looks great, I was just looking into making a workbench for my shed. Thanks for the detailed plans...

I made this also, but I used free pallets for some of the 2x4s to cut down the cost

Well executed!

I do have some concerns with the original design.

Shame on Family Handyman! They should know better!

Using trumpeted headed screws (i.e. drywall) and relying on end
grain for grip is unreliable even with a lightly moderate load (+150lbs, +68kg)
combined with expansion contraction and lateral forces.

The only thing that really stabilizes the unit from lateral
forces is the plywood benchtop. If you find
this unit wobbly, cut some gussets from the scrap plywood to use on the top
rear of the top and bottom tiers.

I’d suggest pre-drilling using appropriate length #10 &
#14 deck, flat head wood or even sheet metal screws; especially with pocket joinery.

If you don’t live in an area of high humidity, go with a
sheet of ¾ OSB in place of ½ plywood. In
my area the OSB is actually cheaper.

I made this as my first project. adding a peg board and a light this week

2 replies

dont forget to take a pic of the finished product. great build.

Awesome! It looks like you did a great job.

I dont know what you plan on using this bench for, but my suggestion for others would be to use fewer support boards. 1 in the center 3 supports on the main work area and 1 on the shelves should be plenty for all but the heaviest of stuff.

1 reply

The reason so many joists were used was because the wood was there. One of the interests for me was the amount of wasted wood. It would be awesome to hear a creative solution for that wood on this project other than throwing it in your scraps pile.

great build!!!!! I'm going to make this one day. is there anything that you would change about it or things you added that would help. and how tall did you make the sides for the top shelf thanks nick

1 reply

Sorry for the late reply. I went down sick for a while when you commented and am just getting back in the swing of things.

I am using mine for an electronics workbench. It's a little high for that purpose so I would probably shorten it to 29" so a normal chair would fit.

The shelf legs are the A's so they are 71 7/8". Which feels a little tall so not where you would place something you grab often.