It is not hard to build a workbench that is durable, stable, and cheap (estimate
is $150 if you have to buy all the lumber.... I used some scraps to cut this
cost) . It will not take long. Maybe 2 weekends?
My secondary bench is made from common construction lumber, with a 3 ply
laminated 3/4 Plywood top, 2 1/8 thick. Overall top size is 24x55 inches.
the plywood top is significantly less work than a glued up traditional
vertically laminated top..... it is a compromise in time and long term
functionality, but it gets you going fast. At 2 1/8 inches thick it is no
slouch.... if you want it thicker, add a layer.... or two. It is not expensive
to do this.
It consists of 4x4 legs, notched at the top for a 2x4 "apron" with an additional
notch about 6 inches from the ground for stability, to which I added a shelf and
cabinet drawer free standing drawer box.
The materials list would include
4x4x12' ( or shorter pieces) for the legs. ( about $30)
4x 2x4x8" ( used to cost about $3 each..... probably $23 each these days!)
2 sheets of 3/4 x 4x8 plywood, I used Home Depot Birch ply... which leaves a lot
of scrap from which you make the drawer box. ( $54 each.)
( I also planned to add a 1/4 inch thick hardboard top for a really smooth and
replaceable top surface, This has turned out to be a very good decision as I
spilled a bunch of Danish oil on it the first time I used it...!))
Steps in the process:
The very first thing to do is to purchase your vises. EVERYTHING depends on
their size and mounting methods.
Design it on paper.... your choice of vises will radically alter the size of
your apron structure... mine has overhanging end and side to allow for the vise
and to allow glue ups along the long side of the bench. My base measures 19x48.
Note that ALL the apron measurements are relative to the outside of the
legs..... and the legs themselves must be square but can be of differing
thicknesses.... only the outside dimensions count.
Cut to rough length all the 4x4 and 2x4.
Then plane one edge of the top apron 2x4's to be sure straightness....
Plane the middle 2x4's on both edges to be parallel, straight, and the same
Mark and notch about 3/4 to 1" deep the 4x4 to accept the 2x4's....about 4-6
inches from the foot end. These must fit quite well for stability.
Notch the 4x4 at t he top end, but only about 3 inches down, to allow the apron
parts to sit above the legs..... You do this to make sure the top has something
flat and planar to be attached to. Same depth.
All the 2x4 aprons are vertically half lapped in the corners, this eases all the
corner overlap issues.
Assemble with glue, 2 1/2 to 3" screws and dowels as locks. It will NEVER come
The top is a 3 piece sandwich of plywood. I actually used some scraps to make
up the middle core piece. Glue up on something flat and planar... a kitchen
granite top is just about perfect. Use weight ( concrete blocks, old boxes of
tools, or other) to supply the clamping pressure. Roll on the white/yellow glue
using a paint roller... 9", 6", or whatever you got.....This gets it on fast
If you are careful in the assembly, the edges will be pretty flush to each
Screw down the top to the apron ( from the bottom!) using really long screws or
countersunk holes to allow for shorter screws to be used. the counter bore is a
better idea. Or you could use a angled hole....
I added 3 construction joist hangers and short 2x4's cut to fit to make sure the
plywood top did not sag anywhere. If you use a more traditional top, this is
Attach vise(s), drill holes in the top and legs to accommodate your chosen hold
downs, make drawer box to ft using left over plywood.....
Start working on your new bench.....