Creating a woodworking bench from scratch can be an extremely rewarding experience as well as being one of the most important parts of setting up your own home workshop.
Trust us, working on the ground with only a couple of cinder blocks or other supports can turn even a simple project into backbreaking labor. That’s why we’ve assembled a guide to enable you to create one at home cheaply and easily.
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Step 1: Building the Base
You’ll have to make sure that you have room wherever you plan on building your bench in order to make the most of things. While it might be tempting to oversize the bench, it’s best to make sure that it fits comfortably wherever you’ve decided to place it.
An ideal size for most people would probably be about 3’x6’, which will allow for you to use most tools on it without having to rearrange your whole garage or workshop. Once you’ve decided on the size of table, you’ll also want to decide on the height.
If you’re going to be the only person using the bench, then you’re in luck. Setting it at slightly below waist level is pretty much ideal, allowing you to make sure that you can use most tools comfortably.
Use 4×4’s for the support and cut them to the desired height to begin with. You’ll want at least four supports. 2x4s can be used as cross supports roughly 3” to 4” from the ground for additional support. You want to make sure that this entire part of the frame is solid as heck.
You’ll also want to mount cross supports made of 4x4s along the top of the frame. In this case use ½” thick screws at least six inches in length on each corner. The important part is the make sure there is as little wobble as possible by the time the frame is done.
Mount an additional 2×4 across the center of the board, keeping it horizontal to the ground.
Remember that this thing is for getting work done, it doesn’t need to be pretty, but it does need to be solid in order to be usable at the end of the day.
Step 2: Making the Table Top
You’re going to want to find stout boards in order to make sure that you have the best tabletop possible. Don’t agonize about materials much, there’s a secret about woodworking benches: they all end up beat up eventually. If this is your first serious step into woodworking, you can always build another one when your skills improve anyways.
What it does need to be is flat and thick. This is one instance where we’d recommend staying away from reclaimed lumber of any sort unless you have access to a large planer or are willing to stand for an extended period of time.
A single piece is fairly ideal and 1 ½” MDF boards can be found in most home supply stores and cut to fit with a table saw. If you’re looking at doing things really heavy duty, however, you can still get away without having to invest in a planer just yet. If you’re planning on going extra heavy duty with your projects, or can only find 1” MDF, then cut two pieces.
Using 2x4s you can make sure make a flat top with some careful selection. Be sure to make sure all of the boards are of roughly the same height, errors within 1/16th of an inch or so can be fixed with a simple sander once you’ve mounted the boards. Cheap lumber isn’t always at exact specifications, so check it carefully before buying.
Measure them out before you purchase them in order to make sure that you’ve got enough for what you need.
You’ll want to make the front and back as flush as possible with the frame, while allowing for an inch or two over the frame on each side. If you can’t get everything exactly flush along the width then just try to get the wall side flush to make it easier to maneuver.
Step 3: Mounting the Table Top
The next step might seem deceptively simple, but it can make or break the usefulness of your new DIY woodworking table at the end of the day.
With a single piece top things are relatively simple. Drive the corners first. Then place your screws every 3”-4” along the sides of the table. Do the same across the center center support. If you’ve chosen to double up on the boards, then fasten them with 1 ½” screws before the final mounting with longer screws.
Using 2x4s will be a bit trickier. You’ll need to join them back to front, using at least two screws along each side of the top of the frame. If you’ve sized everything right you’ll also want to mount the board which goes over the cross support at every 3-4” across the length of the support.
If you have a table saw capable of ripping a 2×4” you can cut it to make things flush at the end of the table, but in most cases this is unnecessary.
If the surface is too uneven for your tastes, a power sander of nearly any type should be able to smooth things out quickly enough as long as you were careful in your board selection.
The table you’ll have ended up with at this point should be quite solid, and only a little bit of work remains.
Step 4: Customization and Mountings
This is where many people make a lot of mistakes. Do not clutter the surface of your table with too many vices or other mounts. For most people the simple mounting of a miter box and a single vice grip should be enough. Do it on the sides so you will have room for your larger tools.
With a little bit of care you can make the entire top of your new DIY woodworking bench modular for the addition of more vices or other tools which may need to be mounted. In order to do this, determine the size of the tools you may need to mount and pre-drill holes. Keep the bolts you’ll be using handy near the tools and you’ll be able to do things quickly and easily later.
Cabinets can also be built underneath with simple hinges and pieces of MDF or even particle board and handles for easier storage but whether or not you choose to do this is entirely up to you at the end of the day.
These customizations are likely to change as your skill grows and you develop your own preferences, and can certainly be done at a later date if you so choose.
If you’ve been looking for a great way to make sure that you have a place to work wood in your garage or home workshop, we hope we’ve given you the ideas you need. For many amateurs, the making of their own DIY woodworking bench is just the first step into a new hobby, and indeed it can be quite rewarding to know that you’ve created the surface upon which your new creations will emerge.