A simple to construct workbench you can make in a few hours for less than $100.
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Every garage or hobby room needs a solid workbench that can take a beating. It's easy to spend hundreds of dollars buying a workbench and then worrying about every little scratch it gets. Instead, make your own on the cheap and then not worry when it gets beat up.
I'll show you how to easily and quickly make a solid, sturdy bench you can pound on without worry about it getting hurt. While the table I'm making here is six feet long and two feet wide, the general design can be applied to almost any size you want. For a smaller bench that rolls, see our DIY Rolling Power Tool Bench.
Materials NeededThe materials needed for this project should be easy to find at any home improvement store. We'll be making this bench out of 2x4 lumber but you could certainly use 2x6 lumber if you wanted something beefier. For most, 2x4's will be fine.
In terms of building you'll need some tools as well. I highly recommend a miter saw for straight cuts (see Ryobi 10 Inch Compound Miter Saw Review). A corded or cordless drill with philips bit as well as a small (1/8" is good) bit for pre-drilling holes is recommended.
- 6 of 2"x4"x8' lumber
- 3 of 2'x4' MDF or plywood (1/2" or thicker)
- Box (1lb) of 2.5" screws (deck screws work well)
- Tube of Liquid Nails
- 4 of Level feet (optional) - Combination Leg Equalizer or T-Nut Leg Leveler or similar
- Paint / Shellac (optional)
Step 1: Cut Some Wood
The easiest way to achieve what you see in the photo above is to start cutting! Make sure you know how to use your tools and follow all safety procedures (including safety glasses).
Tip 1 - Anytime you're cutting a piece of wood, be sure to square up the end you're starting on. Do this by putting it in your miter saw and cutting a small slice (1/8" or so) off the end. Now you'll know it's perfectly square.
Tip 2 - Mark a single cut at a time, make the cut, then mark the next cut. Do this rather than marking several cuts on a board at once which won't come out correct since the width of your saw blade can screw things up down the line.
We now need the follow pieces cut from your 2x4 lumber:
To make sure you get the most out of your six 2x4s, cut them as follows:
- 2 pieces 68" long
- 2 pieces 65" long
- 4 pieces 21" long
- 10 pieces 17" long
- 4 pieces 8" long
#1 & #2 = 68" piece and 21" piece
#3 & #4 = 65" piece, 21" piece, 8" piece
#5 & #6 = 8" piece and five 17" pieces
Step 2: Top Assembly
Set the two 68" pieces on the ground and two 17" pieces with them to make a rectangle. The two 17" pieces will go inside the longer pieces, giving the box a total length of 68". These all need to be glued together with the Liquid Nails (which I'll refer to simply as glue from now on) and then screwed with two screws going into each corner. It's best to pre-drill your holes with a 1/8" bit.
Take a minute to make sure your rectangle is, in fact, a rectangle rather than a skewed trapezoid. Not sure how to do that? Then read How To Square Up Framed Boxes.
Step 3: Add Inner Legs
Using the four 21" pieces, assemble your legs. These go on the inside corners with a little glue and a couple of screws. Make sure they're snug in the corners and kept straight and square. Clamp pieces if needed as you go to make screwing easier.
Note that we're working with the bench upside down at this point, but here is how the corner will look when it is flipped upright.
Step 4: Add Outer Leg Tops
To make this bench sturdy, each leg is made of two 2x4's. We now need to add in the outer leg pieces which starts with the four 21" pieces. Assemble as shown in the photo above using glue and a few screws in each.
When all four are done, it should look like the photo above.
Step 5: Add Bottom Runners
We'll now add the two 65" pieces onto the front and back of the bench, right on top of the 21" pieces we added in Step 4. Glue and screw them in place as usual, making sure things are square and straight as you go.
Step 6: Add Out Leg Bottoms
On each of the four legs, add in the 8" pieces which get glued and screwed in place. The four legs are now complete but the bench still needs supports added in.
Step 7: Add Bottom Shelf Supports
Before we can flip the bench upright (as shown above) we need to add in the 17" support pieces. These run between the front and back of the bench and help make it really strong and sturdy. Start by placing a support on each of the ends, but inside of the legs. Next, add one to the middle and then split the space on either side of the middle for the fourth and fifth supports.
An easy way to do this is to measure the center of where each support will go and then using a speed square (which is really a triangle!) you can transfer that mark into a line. This line indicates the center of each 2x4 support piece and allows you to easily know where to pre-drill and screw.
Here's a close up of how the supports go in. It's important to make sure they are all flush (level) with what will be the top of this shelf area. Remember, we're still working upside at this point so the "top" here is really the "bottom" still. Also note, in my photos I have more than five supports in place which is overkill, five is enough. Then again, there is no kill like overkill!
Step 8: Add Top Supports
Flip the bench upright now. From this point on we'll be working with it this way.
This is a good time to make sure things are square, if they're not you may still be able to skew them back into place without a ton of trouble. Need help with square? Read How To Square Up Framed Boxes.
Use your speed square again to easily mark the center lines where each of the support pieces will go. One in the center, and then split the distance on either side of the middle support for the remaining two pieces. Glue and screw.
Stand back and marvel at your work, which isn't quite done yet.
Step 9: Finishing Up
If you'd like to paint your bench, now is the time to do that. It's easier to paint it before the top surfaces are added. One note, before the paint sets up you may want to line the tops of the 2x4's with wax paper before putting on the surface tops. The tacky paint will hold the paper in place. This will make it easy to remove the MDF or plywood later, which you will want to do when things get beat up enough. Otherwise the paint will stick to those surfaces over the years.
If you've decided to get the optional level feet, this is a good time to apply those as well. Flip the bench over so it's upside and install the level feet per the directions they came with. This usually involves drilling a hole for the thread rod to go into and possibly some screws to hold the feet in place.
Now apply your tops. I went with 1/2" MDF because it's cheap and comes in pre-cut 24" x 48" pieces I can fit in my car without buying a full sheet. For the bottom shelf I cut one of those pieces with a jig saw to be 21" wide, leaving it the factory 48" length. I then cut another piece to fill in the gap. This left me with a 1/2" overhang on the front and back of the bench.
For the top, I used one full sized piece of 24" x 48" MDF and then from that leftover piece from the bottom I cut a 24" x 24" square, giving me a total top size of 24" x 72" with a 2" overhang all around. If you're using MDF, you'll want to coat the MDF in something since MDF will soak up even a single drop of water and warp the surface. I went with several coats of Shellac which brushes on easily and creates a fairly durable and water resistant surface that should last for years of abuse.
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