workbench plans


Easy Workbench Plans - 3 Designs

A workbench is the perfect starter project for anyone just getting into DIY. Most instructions are simple enough that you can design your own bench - once you understand the basic joinery and construction.

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Building a workbench from scratch might seem a little scary - especially for the DIY newbie, but the workbench designs I've put together here are easy enough for anyone who has a couple power tools and a way to get some 2x4s home.

The most important issue in a workbench design is:

  1. Solid Construction. Good news is that 2x4 lumber is just the ticket for making a bench strong enough to withstand lots of punishment in your workshop.
  2. Custom Fit to You. A good workbench design should take into consideration not only the work to be performed, but the person doing the work. The right bench should be designed to match your particular body frame size.
  3. Cost. You can easily spends hundreds of dollars on a fancy woodworking bench, but if you'll mostly be doing things like building a planter box or working on a lawnmower, you can skip the more complicated plans go with a simple 2x4 bench.
  4. 3 Workbench Plans in One

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    Knock-Down Workstation - For those of us who just don't have the space to set up a large workbench in the corner and leave it there, there are some other options that work surprisingly well for completing a project. This knock-down workstation provides a solid bench top for assembling just about any type of woodworking project - yet, when the work is done, you can easily take it apart and store it out of the way.

    I also like the way you can set it up at two different heights. Just flip the legs on their sides, put the bench back together, and you'll have a different workbench height. This is a nice feature if you do a lot different types of woodworking. For example, on some projects, I need to be a little above my work pieces (for assembly, finishing, and cutting plywood with my circular saw) and for others, I like to be straight on (drilling and clamping). And if you want to use workstation as a stand for your power tools, you'll appreciate the higher setting for tools like your miter saw.



    Best part about this project is that you'll only need to buy one 4 x 8 sheet of plywood. You can use a circular saw or table saw to cut the plywood pieces to size. PlansNOW suggests a using a router to shape the legs and make the rounded notches in the legs, although you could probably get by cutting the holes with a simple jigsaw and perhaps rounding off the edges with a file.


    The bulk (and strength) of this workstation comes from two features: 1) legs that made from two pieces of 3/4" plywood sandwiched and glued together, and 2) a reasonably heavy-duty pair of rails. Notice that the design of the rail resembles an I-beam, which is largely responsible for the sturdiness of what would otherwise be a flimsy workbench. Once you have the basic structure put together, you'll want to go ahead and add a few features to make the project more versatile.

    For starters, you'll probably want a basic bench top - something that you'll also be able to tuck away when not in use. Plansnow suggests using a simple piece of plywood with some added cleats to hold it in place on the rails. Of course, you can make the bench top as sturdy (and heavy) as you want, since the double-thickness legs and I-Beam rails provide more than enough support for just about any kind of material you want to plop down on it.


    For the most part, I think this plan design is most useful for cutting down plywood panels. I certainly don't need (or want) a large, permanent table in my shop for cutting plywood, but I do need something that I can set up temporarily to get the job done...and spare me the pain of getting down on my hands and knees to cut plywood on the floor. With this workstation, I set down a few pieces of scrap 2x4s across the rails, lay my plywood sheet on top, and easily cut it to size without straining my back. That's the real advantage in this design.


    The plan also includes some ideas for mounting power tools, like a miter saw, bench planer, table saw, router table, etc. I suppose if you do a lot of work on a jobsite, this could come in handy. Probably doesn't make that much sense, though, to use this design for tools that stay in your workshop. There are plenty of other workbench plans available for more stationery tools that you keep in your shop.


    Portable Bench - The title of this workbench plan from PlansNOW implies that you'll be taking it apart and putting back together as you move it from one job site to another. This says a lot about how old the original design of this plan is. With today's large selection of lightweight, portable work stations made specifically for on-jobsite projects, not many people would be willing to drag around all the pieces that make up this wood workbench, much less take the time to assemble everything once you get to where you're going.


    That said, it doesn't mean this is a bad workbench design. On the contrary. In fact, it's a rather beautiful example of woodworking craftsmanship. The simplicity and function of half-lap joinery throughput this project almost reminds me of a well-designed lego puzzle. And when everything is assembled, and the careful joinery all exposed along the edges, it probably won't be something you want to ever take apart.


    Of course, to make workbench this attractive, you'll need to put in some extra work. Like a lot plans out there targeted to more advanced woodworkers, this design suggests taking rough, construction grade lumber and fine tuning first (in a well-equipped wood shop) before you start cutting it up. In this case, that means running everything over a jointer to produce an exact width and thickness for every board. Once that's done, it's on to the table saw and dado blade to start cutting the half laps.


    Half-laps are a fairly simple joint to make, and when you combine them with glue and/or screws, they'll hold up to just about anything. Just as the name implies, the depth of a half-lap should be equal to one- half the thickness of each joining board. Half-laps are are usually wider than the cutting path of most dado blade, so you'll have to make multiple passes. This plan suggests you make some test cuts on scrap stock first to find the exact blade height you'll need for the joints.

    There are a few drawbacks using this type of joinery with construction grade pine, and the designer of this plan shares a couple of mistakes he made with an earlier design. Apparently 2x4 construction pine is not strong enough to support the half laps you'll cut at the ends of the rails. When you start tightening down the bolts, the soft grain has a tendency to split. I can understand how this might be a common oversight among woodworkers who are used to working with dense hardwoods. This large of a half lap would never be a problem with oak or cherry.


    So to stay with the more economical pine, the designer suggests you sandwich the 2×4s between pieces of 1/8" hardboard for reinforcement. This will add some rigidity to the half laps, as well as beef up the strength of the rails.


    If you have a limited number of clamps (like most people), you can group all three assemblies into one large sandwich and clamp them all at the same time. You'll probably want to use some scrap 2×4s to pad the outside of the assembly and help distribute the pressure more evenly. The plan also suggests using waxed paper between each stretcher to keep them from bonding to each other. After everything is tightened down, clean off excess glue when it has dried to a rubbery consistency. A putty knife works fine for this.


    One of my favorite things about this workbench plan is the provision for a bench vise. It's not made for a heavy-duty vise, but this type is fine for most projects around the house.


    Plank Top Bench

    If you like the idea of building a simple workbench, but want something a few notches up in quality, this plank-top workbench plan from PlansNOW might be just the ticket. Although the plan claims you can build the entire bench in one weekend, they're assuming you know your way around a woodworking shop and are familiar with some fairly complex joinery. That said, this is definitely one of the better plans you can find for a workbench.

    The plan calls for easy-to-find construction-grade boards for the entire bench, including the top (no plywood used in this design). However, you'll be ripping a lot of that off-the-shelf lumber down to size if want to follow this plan as given. The good news is that construction-grade lumber is relatively cheap - or at least cheaper than what woodworkers usually buy for other woodworking projects. The plan designer suggests that you take the money you save on wood and buy a nice machinist’s vise for the top.


    Now on to the hard part. To get the same super-strong legs and framework, you'll need to dig in with some mortise & tenon joinery. Well, at least some tenons, anyway. The designers of this plan found an easier way to create mortises - by cutting grooves in two boards and then sandwiching them together around the tenon. This will save you plenty of time that would otherwise be spent trying to bore out mortises (with expensive shop equipment no doubt). However, you'll still need to do some fairly tricky work on a table saw with a dado blade to pull off the technique. And speaking of woodworking tools, you'll need some woodworking clamps to glue the leg pieces together. The remaining joinery consists of half laps on the stretchers (where they meet the legs), and some more simple butt joints held together with heavy-duty construction lag screws. If you can find some of these screws with a bronze-like finish, it will add even more pizzazz to the overall design.


    The effect is very nice, though. When everything is put together, a particularly nice feature is a side rail (connecting the legs on each side of the bench) that peaks through the front of each leg - giving the appearance of a well-crafted, through-mortise & tenon joint. This workbench plan also includes instructions for installing a lower shelf, which is typical for most bench designs. There are also some tips for modifying this plan to make an even larger bench, in which case you'll be adding a center section with two more legs to support the added weight.


    Small Workbench

    Sometimes the most useful workbench in a shop isn't a workbench at all. It's a small table or shelf in an out-of-the-way corner that's just the right size for a quick, down-and-dirty job. One problem, though. The kind of table or shelf I'm talking about isn't really made to do hard work on. They're usually too small, or too high, or too wobbling can quickly create a dangerous situation in your shop. Want to design your own workbench plans? The perfect solution is to have a small - but sturdy - second bench that you can tuck away in a corner. The Small Workbench plan from PlansNOW might be the answer. This bench features a rock-solid frame, a top strong enough to handle two vises, and an optional storage cabinet. There’s even room to store pipe clamps or scrap lumber on the stretchers between the legs. In regard to the vises, we're not talking about the kind of vises you buy at a hardware store. The two woodworking-style clamps are part of the bench design that you'll build right into the structure.


    Like a lot of the workbench plans at PlansNOW, this is primarily a woodworking bench - designed by woodworkers for woodworkers. That means plenty of work on the table saw and some fairly complicated wood-joints- half laps, cross laps, dadoes & grooves. It also means the plan calls for hardwood (not dimensional lumber). PlansNOW used maple for this particular project, which will give you a practically indestructible bench. If that's what you really want or need, go for it. Otherwise, you could probably substitute a softer (and less expensive) wood for the maple. Aside from that, everything goes together fairly simple with common lag screws and hex bolts.


    You'll also need to put on your woodworker's hat to build the top. You'll be gluing up individual hardwood panels to create a solid work top that measures approximately 33" wide by 24" deep. That means you'll be doing some careful prep work to the panels before gluing them together - lots of sanding and possibly some work on a planer to get the pieces smooth enough to bond. If you've never glued up solid wood panels, you might want to read up a little on this technique before taking on the project. If all of the previous hasn't scared you away from this workbench plan, you'll be happy to know that the plan also includes some ideas for adding drawers made with box joints (you provide the box joint know-how) and a pair of hinged doors that create an enclosed cabinet below. Some of these features may seem a little over the top for a small, second bench for your shop, but you can always pick and choose the features you want.