In another addition of Weekend Builds™ , I have made myself a new workbench/assembly table. (If you’re confused by Weekend Builds™ it’s because I just made it up). In general, I have been trying to finish my workshop completely before moving on to other projects. However, this has proven to be relatively difficult as other projects have come up. These other projects would be much easier if I could build them on a table, rather than on the ground, so I designed and built a simple workbench last weekend.
To begin, I first had to decide what my main goal was for the workbench. While I would love to have an amazing woodworking bench with all of the clamps, bench dogs, and various contraptions I could ever want, I needed something simple and quick to get started. I wanted something sturdy, but I’ll be using it mostly for assembly, so it didn’t need to be a 500lb solid oak table. It needed to be mobile, since I have a very small shop (10’ x 12’), and I wanted it to be the same height as my table saw so I could use it as an outfeed table if necessary.
After deciding on the intended use of the table and some of the general size requirements, I designed it in SketchUp. Within SketchUp, I built a simple model of my workshop so that I could easily play around with the dimensions of the new bench to find the best fit. In this case it really helped me nail down the best width and length for the top.
Once I had the design in SketchUp I could pull together a material list and a cut plan and purchase all of my supplies. I began the build by making all of the lumber cuts first.
In the photo with all of the lumber cut, I highlighted the modified half lap joint that I cut for the legs. I did this using the miter saw by setting it to only cut 1.5” deep and then making numerous passes until I cut away the 3.5” section that I needed (I cleaned it up with a chisel). You could also do this using a table saw or radial arm saw if you have one. My goal with that joint was to provide a stronger joint for the top and bottom cross beams than simply screwing them together.
After my cuts were made the assembly process went relatively smoothly. The most difficult part was when my glue bottle burst open as I was glueing the legs to the cross beams. I attached the inner support beams using pocket holes, 2 on each side.
Now it was time to cut the bottom shelf and the table top. For the bottom shelf, I used ~½” sanded plywood for a smooth finish. I wanted the top to last for a long time, so I made it out of two different components. The main support is provided by ~¾” sheathing plywood. On top of the plywood, I cut and installed a 3/16” hardboard tempered panel. This panel is smooth and flat, which makes for a perfectly finished top. It’s more resistant to water than MDF, which many people also use as a finished workbench top. The best part is that it is less than $15, so when it gets worn and ready for replacement, I can simply unscrew it and install another piece on top of the plywood sheathing.
After about 5 hours of actual work time, I had a new workbench! I’ve already started putting it to good use, and my back could not be happier! Let me know what you think in the comments.