Tough Cheap Work Bench (My Bowling Alley)




I noticed some discountinued flooring at my local big box store and saw the opportunity for a new bench in my future. It was relatively inexpensive and easy to do. Plus it looks like a bowling alley, how cool is that???

Step 1: What You Need...

Cheap Flooring:
  • Look for the solid or real engineered version. In my opinion it will give you the best work surface and will last the longest of the options I found. For the small area of a work bench it really does not take that much material.
  • I opted to go the cheap skate route; my usual modus operandi... I looked that the local flooring stores for close outs. They had the best price per foot but wanted me to buy whatever they had left, which was usually 2 or more boxes more material than I needed. So I started looking at the home stores and big box retailers. Eventually I found some on clearance. It was solid bamboo for about $15 a box. I bought three but could have gotten by with 2. Yours will vary. My bench is 2' by 22'.
Base wood:
  • You can use what ever wood you have laying around. I did not have enough of any one type to get it done so I bought some 19/32" sheathing plywood. I think it was about $17 per sheet. I needed a little more than 2 sheet so had to buy 3.
  • I put a cleat around the edges to use as a ledger. I used a combination of  2"x2" left over from another project and I ripped some 2"x4" lengthwise for the rest.
  • I used a combination of deck screws and misc screws from my misc. screw box to mount the ledger and attach the base to the edges.
  • For attaching the flooring to the top I used construction adhesive and a brad nailer.

Step 2: Prep and Ledger

First things first, I had to clear 17 years worth of junk off the wall of the garage. No small feat as you will see in the before and after pictures.

Dimensions and planning:
  • Since I had to buy a full 3 sheets of plywood to complete the job, I decided to follow all of the contours of my wall. Since the peg board has evolved from dumpster dive parts and misc. installation over the years; it has several dimensional differences off the wall. Your build will go MUCH faster if you just stick to a straight bench.
  • Next I set my height on the tallest tool box I was going to use underneath as the base for the bench. I used a combination of tape measure, laser level, and 4' construction level to lay out my line on the wall.
  • NOTE: Very important! Your garage will no doubt have a gradual slope away from the house. Take this into account as you lay out your dimensions. I knew this, but did not really notice how significant it was until I was trying to squeeze my last tool box under and it barely fit.
  • Pretty straight forward: Start with one end and keep laying in the boards along the edge. Keeping a close eye for level.

Step 3: Top It (Gorilla Glue and Nail It)

Bench top:
  • I cut the plywood to size and screwed it to the ledger about every 1'-2'. I used an assortment of deck screws and what ever was in my junk screw box.
  • The flooring is tongue and groove so I started at the wall and worked my way to the edge. I used the recommended stagger from the flooring instructions just as if it was a floor. I dry fit the whole thing before I attached any of it to the plywood.
  • Once all the cuts were done and I was satisfied with how it fit, I started attaching it. First with glue, then nails. I used liquid nails construction adhesive in a caulk gun, Gorilla glue would work great too but I was all out. I do not have a flooring nailer and my brad nailer made it tough to get precise nail placement on the tongue. I quickly gave up and used my brad nailer to nail from below into the planks (bamboo is wicked hard wood!!!)
  • Note: The glue and nails was probably over kill, but I over engineer everything and never have anything fail.
  • When all is said and done the bench is about 1 3/4" thick which is nice and solid.
  • In my case, I have the bench supported by 2 tool boxes, 2 sets of drawers, and a fridge. If you do not have anything to put under you will need to build legs or corbels. There are some great bench designs on instructables you could use.

Step 4: Before and After

Here is the final product. I still need to put a permanent edge on it. I used a router with a flush bit to get the edge nice and crisp. I am undecided if I want to put a hard plastic trim like ABS or a hardwood edge. Until I decide it is "finished". I am almost good leaving it as is, but my obsessive compulsive nature will force me at some point to finish it.

  • You will notice the far corner was haven for junk. Usually a stack of storage boxes for a later Ebay adventure, or left over parts from another project.
  • The work surface was a mix of 2 roll away tool boxes and a make shift kitchen counter on top of 2 stack of drawers. It worked but was a pain when I had to work with long pieces of material. Also had no real desk space. Not to mention the small bits that would fall between or off the back.
  • End to end worktop bliss.
  • I now have a proper desk area, with proper seating (see my instructable for the chair).
  • It even feels bigger since the work surface is all one height, all one color, all one material...

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    19 Discussions


    6 years ago on Step 4

    That's a slick job, well done. I lucked into a pile of laminate flooring that a neighbor was replacing. I am building a work bench and will use it on the top and I have enough so that when the top is all scuffed up I can just dig out the rest of the scrap. I am working on sawhorses and plywood and can't wait to get a real workbench built. Yours looks great.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Very, very nice bench. There's loads of space for ANYTHING.

    You could nearly mend an aircraft carrier on that bench! Well, a little one, maybe one of those British aircraft carriers.

    It even looks good and your tools are all readily available.

    I am ENVIOUS. And it was only a pathetic $96 for the whole lot, how good is that!

    OK, so now we all wanna see some serious building on that bench.

    Thanks for showing us.

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Introduction

    That workbench really shows off your impressive screw driver collection. ;) It is a good looking top. Well done.

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Hi, Great minds do think alike. I have a 16' work bench and when I re-did my garage, I had two boxes of left over click flooring from my home reno, and used them for my workbench top. Worked out great. Check it out on my Instructables. Yours looks great. Good job.

    1 reply

    Funny, we have some things in common. I looked at your bio. We have some same hobbies, I am the neighborhood bike guy and am regularly fixing a bike for somebody. I have 7 currently and ride as much as I can. I also like to putter in my garage. From the looks of it we have similar garage tending habits. We like to build stuff here and there to make our garage better. I have about 4 more instructables to get published when I get a chance. One is a cool tall bike and one is some garage stuff. Keep an eye out for my builds.

    PS good job on your instructables I like them all.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    great long table, i do have a long work table too, but eventually it gets crowded with lots of stuff.

    1 reply

    The opposite side of my garage has another 18 feet of similar bench top. That side gets to have stuff sit on it once in a while. This is the side where I try to get stuff done so I usually try to keep it clutter free (I am moderately successful).


    7 years ago on Introduction

    hey, nice job!
    does the work surface have intermediate supports or is it supported by the tool chests? how did you attach the 2x cleats to the walls?
    the flooring really gives it a nice look.

    3 replies

    Thanks for the props,

    Yes, it is entirely supported by the cleats and tool boxes. I tried to show the cleat attachment as best I could in the pictures. I used deck screw to attach to the wall at the studs and other places where I had wood runners under the peg board. I then screwed down through the plywood into the cleat from above as well. Hope that explains it well enough. If not I can get some more pictures for you.

    Thanks for the reply.
    I think that some intermediate countertop supports may be helpful. that way your not dependent on the toolchests for support since they're on wheels.
    something like this would work well.
    just a thought.
    anyway, nice job.
    I'll hopefully be building one soon. my garage is totally disorganized and my wife is sick of me doing projects on the dining room table. can't imagine why.

    There is a method to my madness. The stainless drawers are bolted in as well as some other attachment points. My thinking is to hopefully make it difficult if anyone ever decided to break into my garage and try to make off with them. If they get past the security system and the dog.