A custom designed workbench. Made from simple pine and ply, with some basic tools and techniques. This didn’t cost the earth but has made a world of difference for my little workshop.
This project came about as I had become sick to death of my old workbench, which was a re-purposed old dining table. It did the job at the time, but it wasn’t flat or square, was too low, and too large for the small work area I have.
This project was the first time I really had a good look online for tips and advice, as I really had no idea where to start. The trouble is I found that most people seem to fall into two camps. The “traditionalist” who wants to make things like they did back in the day, and the “rough and ready” who wants to slap together some 2×4’s with screws and call it good enough. And as much I tried to follow the “don’t reinvent the wheel” philosophy, I found I just couldn’t help myself and design something from scratch.
So after more time that I’d care to admit, I came up with this design. Yes There are plenty of elements borrowed from other people, but more or less this is my baby.
Key design elements where:
- Enclosed storage space below to keep dust out and various bits and bobs in.
- Open shelf directly below the work space to store tools and materials for current projects.
- Incorporated two old vices I’d picked up a while ago.
- “Small enough” for my space, 1.5mx.6m
- Made of pre dress pine (I don’t have a thicknesser, jointer etc).
- No fancy joints; something I could use my biscuit joiner to make things simple.
- 90 x 90mm dressed pine for the legs
- 90 x 45mm dressed pine for bench top & aprons
- 70 x 30mm dressed pine for rails
- Biscuits, glue, and a handful of wood screws
- Second hand 150mm bench vices
I went for pine in this project largely because it would be so easy to work with, but also the cost. While a hardwood might have been nice, I’m not convinced it would have been work the effort and cost. A hardwood bench probably would have cost me 3 times what I spent.
- Mitre saw
- Biscuit joiner
- Orbital sander
I first cut up every length of timber I needed to final size. As I planned to use biscuit joints, I could do all this with just my mitre saw, to a good level of accuracy. About the most complicated joint was the tops of my 90x90mm legs, which just involved running them over my table saw a few times to create the shape.
Assembly of the Frame
The frame went together with No.20 biscuit joints for pretty much every joint. Roughly marking out positions with a rule was all that was really needed, then the assembly was a breeze using those biscuits and a set square to get everything lined up. As my stock was quite thick, I had no problem keeping things square when clamping and gluing up.
For the rails, I used double No. 20 biscuit joins, re-enforced with a small triangular block screwed into place. Not the most ideal use of a biscuit, but it worked fine as was easy to assembly. By itself probably not strong enough, but with the ply enclosure to give extra rigidity, I took the gamble that this would do the job.
I also installed some “shoes” under each leg, there to help prevent split out of the legs in the future if the table is dragged around. Simply screwed on so if I even want to tweak the hight of the table I can swap these things out with different thickness blocks.
After assembling all of the frame, I checked square by measuring the diagonal distances across the frame. I got at most 2mm length difference corner to corner, which I think proves how well this method of construction worked
Assembly of the bench top
I constructed the bench directly on the table frame, piece by piece. This was made pretty easy by using biscuit joins once again, spaced about 15cm apart; and gluing up 1-2 boards in each set up. This plus the thick (45mm) stock I was using, meant I didn’t have to worry about keeping things flat as I clamped up, so I only needed the 4 clamps.
The aprons fitted almost perfectly around the legs, which held the table top on snugly, although I did still secure it to the legs with a few screws.
Once glued up and dry, I used a large hand plane (No 6) to level out the boards to within about 1/2mm surface variation. This took a bit of time but was by far the simplest way to do it in my opinion.
I had two old vices I’d picked up some time ago that I then installed. These were probably a little small (150mm) but waste not want not! I tried unsuccessfully to use my plunge router to cut out the slots, but ended up just using good old chisel, which worked much better. The whole workbench you’ll notice is flush to the clamping face, so I’ll be able to use the apron and legs themselves to clamp up projects while keeping things square and flat.
So there you have it, basically finished. A few coats of linseed oil was all I used and it’s now happily in service. I’m not convinced on my placement of the vices as yet, but time will tell. I also still plan to drill in some dog holes, but need to come up with a more accurate way to do this than with my hand drill!