Workbench With Drawers in 5 Days




Introduction: Workbench With Drawers in 5 Days

About: I'm an Electrical Engineer by training and profession. I enjoy working on complex problems and processes, and I especially like finding ways to do complex tasks more efficiently. My current interests are ...

This Instructable describes how I built a 5' workbench with drawers for my son in 5 construction days.

My previous experience in building shop cabinets with drawers was limited to building the two shop cabinets described in this Instructable:

I followed the basic shop cabinet design and assembly approach described in Tom Clark's "Practical Shop Cabinets" (see his 30" x 60" workbench plans on page 16).

Note: I am not affiliated with Tom Clark in any way.

For this Instructable, I've decided to show you the steps that I took to build this workbench over a period of 5 work days. My desire is to eventually build something like this in 3 days, as Tom Clark states that he does, but I'm not there yet. After building my first set of drawers, I acquired a used table saw, and built a kit panel saw (Swap Saw), which greatly speeds up the process of cutting the sheet plywood to size.

If you have any questions about how I built this, please comment or message me.

Step 1: Day 1: Cut the Sides, Center Pieces, Face Frames, Rear Supports, & Drawer Slide Supports

I followed the workbench design shown on pg 16 of Tom Clark's book, except that I lengthened the cabinet base to 60" (vs 54").

I laid out the major parts using CutList Plus Express.

I purchased some nice 3/4" & 1/4" birch veneer plywood from Lowe's.

Then I used the Swap Saw and the table saw to cut the large pieces, face frames, rear supports, and the slide supports.

Then I marked the exact center of the "inside" portion of the top and bottom face frames and rear supports and added small pieces of plywood to help locate the center support pieces in a later step.

See the pics for more info.

Step 2: Day 2: Layout the Locations of Drawer Slide Supports, Attach Slides, Build Frame

I then carefully laid out the location of the drawer slide supports, taking care to make sure that they were all the same height above the base and as level as possible. I attached the drawer slide supports with glue and nails from an air nail gun.

I then attached the appropriate drawer slides to each drawer slide support.

Then I assembled the pieces to make the frame of the cabinet.

Step 3: Day 3: Make the Drawer Frames

I had several pieces of oak veneer plywood that I purchased off of Craigs List to use to make the drawers.

It is critical at this point to build a "test" drawer to confirm the dimensions. The length of the drawers was the depth of the cabinet minus 1/2". The width of the drawers is approximately 1" less than the width of the opening. The height of the drawers is approximately 1" less than the total opening height to allow for easy insertion and removal of the drawers.

It is critical that you do not make the drawers too wide (they will bind) or too narrow (they will fall out).

After making and scrapping one drawer (too narrow), I determined the correct dimensions and then made all of the drawers to those dimensions and adjusted the drawer heights accordingly.

I used butt joints with pocket screws to hold the drawer pieces together.

I managed to make all 8 of the drawers (no bottoms) in one evening.

Step 4: Day 4: Add the Bottoms to the Drawers

On the next day, I cut the 1/4" inch plywood to fit the bottoms of the drawers, and then glued and stapled the drawer bottoms on.

See my prior Instructable for more information about adding the drawer bottoms.

After adding the bottoms, I added the associated drawer slides, and then inserted the drawers into the cabinets as I made them.

Fortunately, I had done a pretty good job of centering the center supports so that the two sides of the cabinet were virtually identical in width. This allowed me to put the drawers into either side without a problem.

Step 5: Day 5: Add Stiffeners and Top

I added stiffeners with pocketholes to the top of the cabinet and then cut a plywood top for the cabinet.

I followed Tom's basic design and made the top 3" wider on all sides than the base.

I attached the top using the pocketholes in the stiffeners.

The cabinet was then ready for shipment to my son.



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    14 Discussions


    2 years ago

    What was the spacing that you used for the drawer supports?

    1 reply

    LivarC - I think the two bottom drawers were spaced 5" apart and the two upper drawers were spaced 3" apart. The exact spacing dimensions are not that critical - you decide what dimensions you want to build the drawers. It is important that the bottom drawer slide support be at least 3/16" above the bottom faceplate. This ensures that the bottom drawer will clear the faceplace (even when loaded). The remaining drawer slide supports were then located according to the space available between the upper and lower faceplates - so that the bottom two drawers were equally spaced and approx. 2" taller than the two upper drawers. Whatever spacing you use, you will want to make the actual drawer heights are approx. 3/4" shorter than the support spacing in order to make sure that you can insert and remove the drawers.


    2 years ago

    you should do an ible on your panel saw please

    1 reply

    Can you cut your parts directly with your panel saw? ie Is precision good enough so you don't have to recut them with your table saw?

    1 reply

    I think you *could* cut all of the parts directly with the panel saw - but I prefer to use the table saw for the smaller cuts. According to the maker of the panel saw, it is accurate to within 1/32" of an inch over 4 feet, and I've found that to be pretty much to be the case. I've added a measurement guide with stop to the bottom section of the panel saw to make accurate & repeatable cuts - and that's been a big help. You can read more about the measurement guide and some other improvements to the panel saw on some of my posts here:

    I have found, though, that when I have both the panel saw and table saw set up, things go much faster. I can set the panel saw for one dimension, and the table saw for another dimension, and cut several parts to those dimensions very quickly. The panel saw is a real time saver making single or multiple cuts for wide parts (>28" or so). I can't really make those cuts on my table saw, so I would need to set up a guide on my workbench and make the cuts with a circular saw, which takes a lot more time.

    On your Cutlist, I see 4 center supports, but seems like you only used two. Do you have an updated cutlist or is there another page? I love seeing the dimensions of each piece, really helps!!

    I'm planning a cabinet for keyboards (music) with one column of 5 sliding shelves (instead of 2 columns of drawers) and this has been a great help. I did see this wood at my local Lowe's and the quality wasn't all that great on the pieces they had in stock, so I'm thinking about just using MDF (I know I know, but I'll be painting it).

    Thanks again!!

    1 reply

    I used only two center supports. I originally planned on making the workbench longer, with three sections (requiring 4 center supports). I changed my mind shortly after starting the workbench and decided on two sections (with longer drawers). The cutlist shows most of the major parts (but does not include drawer slide supports, the top stiffeners, or the top). I encourage you to check out Tom Clark's book as he goes into a lot more detail in how to design and build these type of cabinets.

    This is really nice and you sold me on getting Tom's book. Unfortunately, when I tried, the PayPal link no longer works. I called PayPal in desperation and was told that Tom needed to update or clarify the price. I went on to one of the woodworking forums and found him and send him a note (can you tell, I really want this book) and told him about the issue. Hopefully, he'll respond because I would sure like to be able to make cabinets and drawers like what I see in you pictures - GREAT, GREAT JOB!

    3 replies

    I had trouble with the PayPal link too. I just sent Tom a check by regular mail and he sent the book out right away. I have since ordered extra copies of the book (also by regular mail) to give away to friends.

    Nevermind, I just noticed it.

    Can you provide Tom's mailing address and the total price of the book?

    WoW that's one very nice Cabinet, you must be really pleased with the finished result. Well done, I bet your son was made up with it as well.

    Barry (from England)

    1 reply

    Barry - Thanks for your kind comments. The workbench is currently in storage while my son looks for a house, so he hasn't had a chance to use it yet. There are also no faceplates or drawer handles on the drawers - I figured that could be one of the first projects he works on. I have to say, though, that the oak veneer plywood drawers look pretty nice even without drawer faceplates.