Build Tim’s Simple, Safe & Sturdy Workbench
Clamps, tools, paint cans, nails, etc. all seem to gravitate towards my workbench. Possibly yours is the same - or soon will be! An inferior workbench or one that wobbles is useless and can be dangerous. A fully loaded workbench with supplies, its own components, tools, etc. can easily weigh in at over 500 lbs. You don't want something like that collapsing on you or your kids! If you follow the plans I have developed, your workbench will not collapse - that I can assure you!
A Simple Job
Building this workbench is really quite simple. The cut sheet of materials is very straightforward. The biggest challenge is cutting the plywood straight. You can achieve straight cuts if you use the factory edge of a new piece of plywood as a guide. Simply calculate where the edge of the saw base stops in relation to the actual saw blade cut. Draw this line, clamp the edge of the new piece of plywood to the pencil line and cut away. The result is a perfect cut each time. You should actually keep a six inch wide piece of plywood around for this purpose. It will come in handy on other projects.
The cut list that follows tells you exactly how long to make each piece of wood for the work bench. The 3-D drawings show you the order of assembly. The only place you can make a mistake is when you pre-assemble the frames. Be sure that the 54" pieces overlap the 20" pieces. This way each completed frame will be 54 inches long and 23 inches wide. Everything else from that point is very cut and dried.
The Bottom Shelf
The bottom shelf goes in much easier if you cut it out and make a notch for the legs before you install the second frame. You must make both frames identical. Once all four legs are attached to the first frame, you can then cut out of the bottom shelf and lay it in between the legs and on top of the first frame. You then slide the bottom frame down the legs 11 and 1/4 inches. Bolt the frame to the legs and flip the workbench base over. The shelf will drop down to the top of the bottom frame and be in position! If you try to install the shelf after both frames are in place, you may get into a bind!
The Hardwood Top
The hardwood top of my workbench sets it apart from all others I have seen. Oak is a super durable wood. It can take all you can dish out. Once completed and urethaned, it makes for an attractive and easy to care for surface. Oil, dirt and paint wipe right off if you attend to spills immediately.
You start the top by laying the hardwood pieces carefully to the edges. It is important that they are flush with the edge of the plywood so that the final hardwood edge band fits well. If you do anything, be a sixteenth of an inch short from the edge! You can always fill the tiny crack with wood filler and sand it before you urethane.
When you sand the hardwood after it is installed, just use a simple belt sander. The top doesn't have to be as smooth as a hardwood floor. Take the sander along the corner of the hardwood edge band and slightly "ease" it or bevel it. The sharp 90 degree corner can damage you or items as you work on them.
Do NOT screw the plywood top through the top into the top frame and the legs. If you do this, it will be nearly impossible to remove the top from the frame at a later date. I actually got this idea from a workbench that I received as a gift. An old neighbor was moving and offered his basement workbench. I knew it wouldn't fit up the steps. He said, "Yes it will. I built it so it can be taken apart!" Sure enough, we had the top off the workbench outside in about 10 minutes! A future granddaughter/grandson will appreciate it when you take the time to install the L brackets in your workbench. Be sure you square up the top to the frame with consistent overhangs before you attach the L brackets.
Workbench Magazine had a great plan for a workbench in the October 1997 issue of their magazine. It is similar to my workbench but offers the option of some drawers. Their plan is not for a beginner! The designer wants you to use mortise and tenon joints at the legs to make the base rock solid. My design achieves the same goal.
If you want a super attractive workbench you might want to blend their plan with mine. I am thinking of doing it myself one day. Check out this and other workbench plans offered by the magazine.