The Imperfect Workbench

I recently moved to a house and with this move came a change. I know some people prefer apartments, and that’s great for them. However, I’m certainly not one of them.

Moving from an apartment to a house wasn’t only a psychologically beneficial change of scenery (to be frank, I don’t think I could ever live in an apartment again), but also one that means I could finally get back into the business of some larger scale tinkering that simply wasn’t viable inside an apartment. Once again, I had myself a garage.

With most things it’s best to start small and build your foundation up from there. In this case the first step (well, actually second) was to build a workbench because first, I had to build something to set my miter saw (DeWalt DWS779) on, which I bought because I’d be cutting down a bunch of 2x4s. Basically, I’m buying tools to make things just so I can spend even more money on tools to do more things, that also cost money.

It may be a vicious cycle but I’m feeling okay about it.

I’m not willing to settle for just a workbench, I have some more expansive ideas in mind. The theme for this garage is flexibility. I want to be able to pull my cars out onto the driveway on a Saturday morning, take advantage of the full garage, and pull everything back in in the evening.

My plan is to make several “mobile” work stations over time and mount casters so I can roll them about as needed. I wanted the legs on my workbench to be able to sit firmly on the ground, especially since I’d be adding a pegboard. What I ended up doing is buying a set of these retractable casters from Amazon to accomplish that.

Now, I want to clearly state that this is by no means the best workbench design. I looked at a number of designs online but finally decided try my hand at designing something in Fusion 360. Fortunately, 2x4s are pretty inexpensive so even if I bungled the entire thing up I wouldn’t be out a whole lot of money, just time.

TOOLS USED

  • Miter saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Track saw
  • Drill
  • Impact driver

The impact driver was indispensable tool in this project. You certainly don’t need a miter saw but it was very helpful by turning a otherwise laborious task into half an hour or so. If you don’t use a miter saw I would be very careful because you want to make sure everything is as even and exact as possible.

The track saw is very optional, you could easily make a guide with a 2×4 and some clamps if you don’t own a edge guide for cutting the sheets

I drilled pilots for very few of the screws (maybe four when going into the end grain), however if you think you might crack the wood at some point it’s always safer to just make a pilot.

The above isn’t an extensive list, I also made use of clamps and other more common tools.

BILLY OF MATERIALS

  • 14″ (4)
  • 15″ (4)
  • 24″ (10)
  • 36″ (2)
  • 57″ (5)
  • 60″ (2)
  • 74″ (2)

The above are only the lengths of 2×4 needed. I also bought a 4×8 sheet of 3/4th MDF and a sheet of pegboard, the latter of which I have plenty extra of. I used 3-1/2″ and 2-1/2″ deck screws plus various bolts outlined in the steps below.

1 – TOP FRAME

24″ (5) & 60″ (2) 2x4s

2 – LEGS

14″ (4), 15″ (4), 36″ (2), & 74″ (2) 2×4

I placed a 2×4 where the horizontal brace for the bottom shelf would later be mounted. I wanted to make sure the legs were as even as possible and triple checked all of my measurements before finally driving in screws.

3 – ATTACHING THE LEGS

57″ (2) 2x

I attached all four legs at the same time using clamps to hold everything together while I made measurements and got out the level. After measuring everything a few times and checking repeatedly with the level I finally screwed everything together.

4 – BOTTOM FRAME

28″ (5) 2×4

Somewhere between mounting and legs and finishing the frame I took a trip to the hardware store and ended up picking up a LED shop light and more screws. I added some short 2×4 scraps to act as a temporary mount for the light.

5: PEGBOARD

57″ (3) 2×4

You can see the horizontal 2x4s for the pegboard in the photo from the previous step.

6: Bench Top

After cutting the MDF to size I used my jigsaw to cut out slots for the 2x4s that would hold up the backboard.

7 – PEGBOARD

I drilled nine holes for 3/8th bolts for the spacers to mount the pegboard too. I also used the jigsaw here to cut the down the top edges of the pegboard due to the 2x4s that I’m using to mount my light to.

8 – CASTERS

For a set of retractable casters that boasts a capacity of 800 lbs I was somewhat surprised they included screws. There wasn’t any way I was going to rely on them. I scrounged around for something and ending up drilling holes in the legs and using some 3/8th inch 5″ bolts with crush washers and some aluminum plates (I would have used steal but I aluminum was available) to mount the casters to the legs. 5″ was a little too long but it was easy enough to cut them off.

The front of the bench faces the left side of the image above. I was concerned that the placement of the casters would make the bench less stable, but I was also worried that if I had the casters sticking out front ruin my feet on them.

When I finally got my bench somewhat stocked and tested rolling my bench around I was surprised at how sturdy it all was and I had no concern that it’d topple over while moving it about.

The bench extremely sturdy on the ground, more than I expected. Even still I don’t plan to put a whole lot of weight on the pegboard. I also plan to add some sort of anti-tipping device that I can unfold just in case.

My only complaint about them isn’t really about the casters but the process of lifting them. The best way I’ve found is to simultaneously each side at once and the same applies for lowering. I plan on crafting a solution to this problem so I can engage and disengage all four at once.

CONCLUSION

The workbench isn’t completed, but it’s getting there. I have a number of things I still need to get around to but I’m pleased with it thus far.

Most pressingly I need to work out my electrical setup. Having a power strip hanging precariously from one side isn’t a permanent solution. It’s been rather chilly the last few days and once it warms up I’m planning on wiring something up.