I have been slowly collecting stuff to build what I feel will be the ultimate mobile workbench. Now that I have most of the materials it's time to build it, share the experience, and see if it actually looks and works the way I had it in my mind. I will also be working on this instructable as I build it. Let me start with the materials I've been collecting. Workbench top is going to be made from bowling alley lane. This stuff is heavy big and bulky I thought it was going to be like a nice flat giant butcher block, it's not. The way it's built it has a tongue and groove that is nailed together so it's FULL of nails, no glue, it's also finished on the top but rough and uneven on the bottom. There are support boards the keep it from buckling in the center. Hopefully when I remove them it will hold just long enough. Every workbench needs a good vice and I planned on getting something good when my father in law said he had something he bought at a garage sale 15 years ago. When I reached down to pull the box and saw it said Wilton on it I couldn't believe it! This was the vice I wanted but they are costly, big hug and thanks to father in law. Next was a bench of some sort at the local county sale they looked perfect but where sold. After 6 weeks of going to the sale and seeing those things I had to ask again about buying them. They said since the guy has not picked them up I could but them at $5 a piece!!!! Ends up these are old prisoner beds. I ordered all swivel locking casters since it's going to be heavy I want to move it around and lock it in place. Last thing I want is to see it rolling down the driveway. Also ordered metal from BBmetals, I mention them because they are great to deal with compared to the other two metal shops in my town. The metal is always clean and rust free plus they will cut it into manageable pieces for a fair price or free, did I mention they are delivering to my residential house. I almost forgot the 2 drawer tool chest this will be handy.
I'm going to build 3 benches total (I think) here is what I have into the best one. This is a frugal build but it can be done if you have some patience.
1) prison bed $5
1) piece of bowling alley $33 (got all pieces for $100)
1) Wilton vice FREE!!! Thanks again Rod
1) tool chest $75
4) 5" swivel locking castor $60 total
Total so far $250
Step 1: Cutting the Bowling Lane
Cutting the wood to size. I am stressing about this because of the nails. My solution is to cut it with a sawzall those things can go through just about anything. I clamp a metal bar across the wood as a guide and start test cutting. It's going right thru it no problems. As I blow the saw dust away I can see that the cut is terrible crooked and at an angle. Belt sanding it straight is not a good option I need a new plan. I buy a demo blade for my circular saw, measure and set up my metal bar guide. I'm going to try it in 3 passes each cut a little deeper. I'm wearing safety glasses, gloves, thick shirt and pants. I'm worried about flying nails or flying saw teeth but start cutting. It's working great the cuts are straight it's going better than I thought. A few light passes with the belt sander and It's starting to look like something. I'm leaving the support on the bottom for now. I'm sure it will need a little tweaking later on when I fit and glue it in FOREVER!
Step 2: Metal Work, Welding
The metal came today, when a giant truck delivers to your house it has the same effect as a fire truck in the area, some of the neighbors come out and stare. One of the main reasons I was excited about the old prisoner beds was that they are square. If I cut the tip of the leg off I can use the rest of the leg as a guide and it should end up pretty square. After grinding down the inside welds of the legs the new new legs which are 4x4X.120 wall are clamped in and spot welded. It's working as is only 1/4 off square, I can live with that. I'm going to add bottom rails for support and and I'll also get a nice shelve. The bottom rails are 3x2x.083 wall.
The wheels are 5x2 inch this should be a little overkill but there is a hump from my garage to the driveway that I want it roll over smoothly. They fit perfectly on one side but where a little long on the other side, so I just split it. Ground off the galvanizing where I was going to weld and tacked them in place. I did a 1inchish weld then moved on to the next wheel and so on. This would help them from getting extremely hot and melting all the grease out.
Step 3: Accessories
I wanted to have some medium sized storage for underneath for hammers, pliers, drill bits, sharpies, ect. I found a great two drawer tool box just the size I wanted. I took the drawers out so I can paint them later. To mount it I'm just going to weld it on nothing fancy. I did sand it for painting before I welded it. I was also thinking about another shelve since there is room. After thinking about asking a friend to break some metal for the shelve I stumbled upon this ammo case that's been lying around. It will work just fine and look great with the cover on. I needed to raise it a little so the lid would go on and off and had some 3/4" scrap steel. Just welded it on too. I'm keeping the boxes and eventually the vice all on one side this will give me plenty of room on the other side for C clamps.
I believe the vice is new since it was in it's original box I know it's at least 15 years old. It has some rust so I started with penetrating oil and some steel wool. After lots of scrubbing a lot of the rust has come off but it's not shiny. I try vinegar and a scotchbrite, looking better. Nothing on the vice is smooth operating so I unscrew the bottom swivel base and unscrew the front of the vice off. Start putting heavy grease all over it then wipe it clean and reassemble. Sorry no pics my hands are so dirty I don't want to get near my camera. It's working very smooth and looking almost new. To mount the vice I just set on the corner making sure it had clearance on both sides and marked it. Started with a 1/4" drill bit, 3/8th, 7/16, and finished with 1/2 inch. If you are going to drill a big hole in something just do it in steps it's much easier.
It's starting to take shape.
Step 4: Paint
I was going back and forth between rolling the paint and spray paint. I chose spray paint it will make a bigger mess but I will put some drop cloths down and hope for little over spray. I knew I wanted a dark color so I picked up some Duo Krylon hunter green. I like Krylon it has an easy to push spray top and I've had good results in the past. I sanded the original prison bed with 100 grit and went after the rest with an abrasive pad. Wiped it down with paint thinner and blew it off. Most of what I'm painting will not be seen since it's the bottom. I will save the painting for the next day and hopefully be smart enough to leave it alone for a day while it dries.
Started painting this morning, weather calling for light showers........ughhh. Well I have it on rollers so I can put it under my trailer awning if it does start to rain. Went through 4 cans. I'm about 3/4's done with last coat and it starts to lightly sprinkle, roll it under awning and finish. It's nice to see it painted, the color is ok I think it will look much better with the wood. Glad I went with a satin finish this is too big for my skills to go glossy.
Step 5: Wood Install
I have already cut the wood but now it's time to fit the top. There are two support rails under the bowling alley with a crazy amount of nails. I'm concerned that the wood strips will have no support and buckle if I get too aggressive with it so I set it in the table and slide one end over the edge while the other end is still supported. Wow did I mention nails I'm getting tired of fighting this board, might as well take a break and some pictures. The first one was tough took me 10-15 minutes to pry it off the other side went much smoother. With the bottom supports off it wants to come apart and is separating a little. The fit is a hair too long so I take the belt sander to it for some fine tuning. Eureka it fits and looks like a work bench! The varnish has cracks all over it, I was going refinish it but why? It's a work bench I'm going to do bad things on top of it so I'm going to sand it and oil it.
Picked up 5 2x6x8' boards and will make them the bottom shelve. Pretty straight forward. I did know they would hang over some in the front and back. I was not sure if I would like it or need to rip them flush. I started in the middle clamping the center board in place and building out. notched ends and lighlty stomped them into place. The overhang is fine for me. I do not want to bolt them down the fit is snug the only thing is that they may slide out of place. I screwed a board to the underside to prevent this.
You may not be able to tell from the pictures but the shiny top is a mess. Whatever thick coating it had has cracked and separated, sliding your hand across results in multiple snags. I'm going to sand it off with.....................if you love fine woodworking stop reading.................my belt sander! I went 60, 80 120 grit and had a pile of dust. I have a fair amount of tools, I have bought what I could afford or gotten deals on, most of them are made for a homeowner but my belt sander is high end awesomeness. It is making short work of this big slab and not getting hot or bogging down.
Ok top and bottom sanded and it's time to try something new to me Danish oil. This stuff goes on really easy just slop it on with a brush wait 30 minutes, do it again in wait another 15 minutes and wipe it off. Let it cure overnight and it should be sealed. I've done this and will wait til morning. It's pretty dull I don't need it to be perfect for this project but a little more shine would be nice. The next day the top is dry and feels very smooth. I will use Danish oil for other projects I like it.
Step 6: Finished
Well it has taken about a week from start to finish. Overall I'm happy with the results it works good and it's so nice that it rolls and I can move it easily by myself. I have added about $100 more to the bench with new wood, stain, paint, and sanding belts so the total cost would be $350. It all adds up but this will last me a lifetime. It was so much fun to build then write a little piece of this instructable every night I hope you enjoyed it too.
Just adding this tip. The oily rags can catch fire thing is true. Just happened to walk into the garage to get a smell of something terrible and uncommon. Had a rag with some oil on it that caught some sun rays through the blinds and it was a hot smoke ball.
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