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Thread: Need ideas on a down n' dirty built in workbench

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Need ideas on a down n' dirty built in workbench

    I'm looking for some ideas on building a quick/cheap workbench. This will be built in to the alcove in the shop between my cyclone closet, and the wall to the finishing room. Since it will not be a fine woodworking bench with stock and tail vices (hopefully that will happen in the future, maybe doubling as my outfeed/assembly bench), I won't be building the typical beautiful woodworking bench. This is where I'll have my 2 Snap-On wall boxes with hand tools mounted. This area is for building small things, or working on non-woodworking stuff, from rebuilding a lawn mower engine, to hand drilling, to radio pre-installation assembly, etc. I will have my small shop vice mounted on top, probably on the left end.
    My initial thoughts were to use MDF doubled up for the bench top. But the more I think about drilling into it, the more I think I should use something else...maybe 2X4's on edge? Maybe use a 1/4" masonite sacrificial top on top of that? The back outside legs will be some doubled up 2X6s with 1/2" OSB between them that are left over cutoffs from some headers. The front legs will be 4X4 Douglas Fir. I will put in 2 middle legs of 2X4s doubled up or some more 4X4 DF. Each of the legs will have heavy duty adustable feet mounted to them to level the bench. I may also secure the bench to the walls, once leveled...haven't decided on that yet. I'll use 2X6 for top stretchers. Will I need bottom stretchers? or will built in shelving between the legs serve for this purpose? I guess i could put stretchers on the insides of the legs to use in holding the shelving material in place, with come cross braces so the shelving doesn't sag.
    Thanks for your ideas! Jim.
    Coolmeadow Setters...
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    When Irish Eyes are smiling, they're usually up to something!!
    At a minimum, I'm Pentatoxic...but most likely, I'm a Pentaholic. There seems to be no known cure. Pentatonix, winners of The Sing Off, season 3


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    My Q&D workbench is 3/4 MDF (flooring grade) with a 3x2 frame glued screwed underneath to strengthen it up. Ends are from the same MDF but the whole thing is secured to the wall at the back and one end. It's SOLID, not pretty, but solid
    I suggest not making the front stringer too deep, you probably want to be able to sit at the bench on a stool if you are working on small fiddley things.

    Cheers

    Ian

  3. #3
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    how about a 2x4 frame with a solid core door on the top?? It worked for me for quite some time.
    Jim

  4. #4
    Don Taylor is offline Former Member (by the member's request)
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    Hi Jim,
    This is my answer to a good work/runoff table. I can roll it from the shop to the garage and load it down with lumber or a small Buick if I need to.

    http://www.dontee.sistmllc.com/worktable/index.html

    The design will adapt to any size at all.

    DT

  5. #5
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    Ian, that's a good point about the stool and the upper stringer. I might have to adjust things a little there, because I do plan to use a stool..in fact have it as a left over from a place I worked at 20 years ago when they went out of business...same place and time I got the Snap-On wall boxes and tools! (Same price too-free!)

    Jim, I had thought about the solid core door, and that would work well, except for the dimensions, which I didn't give you to know about. This bench will be 7'9". The door would be a tad short, and too expensive to buy 2 of them.

    Don, that is a nice rolling table. How have the 2X4s held up on the top? I would be afraid that they would sag. Guess I could use some 2X4 framing under it to shore it up to keep that from happening. Could still put a piece of 1/4" masonite on top to get a smooth surface. Could also see if going to 2X8 or larger pieces might be cheaper also, which would also allow for a littler overhang for clamping. Thanks for the idea!! That's what I love about this place! Jim.
    Coolmeadow Setters...
    Exclusively Irish!
    Home of Irish Setter Rescue of North Texas
    When Irish Eyes are smiling, they're usually up to something!!
    At a minimum, I'm Pentatoxic...but most likely, I'm a Pentaholic. There seems to be no known cure. Pentatonix, winners of The Sing Off, season 3


  6. #6
    I am kind of proud of how I made my shop work bench. Mine is 24 feet long, or the length of my shop but that is inmaterial. I like the truss framing method as I call it. @x4's cut and gusseted with OSB.

    I pre-built frames every 4 feet. The top stringer is gusseted right to the outside stud, while the bottom cord is also gussetted to the same stud, but of course on the bottom. This design keeps the bench super strong, but allows me room under the bench and is not so obstructive.

    For the top I used rough sawn boards because I have a sawmill and tons of boards for next to nothing for cash outlay. Over those I screwed down OSB sheets to get a flat, semi-smooth surface.

    I am not saying my bench is the best. Its just a inexpensive, but strong and sturdy way to get bench space while still having room underneath. Now I know my explanation is hard to understand so here is a picture. The picture is cluttered up, but if you look close you should be able to see what I am referring to.

    I have no intention of traveling from birth to the grave in a manicured and well preserved body; but rather I will skid in sideways, totally beat up, completely worn out, utterly exhausted and jump off my tractor and loudly yell, "Wow, this is what it took to feed a nation!"

  7. #7
    Don Taylor is offline Former Member (by the member's request)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim O'Dell View Post
    Don, that is a nice rolling table. How have the 2X4s held up on the top? I would be afraid that they would sag. Guess I could use some 2X4 framing under it to shore it up to keep that from happening. Could still put a piece of 1/4" masonite on top to get a smooth surface. Could also see if going to 2X8 or larger pieces might be cheaper also, which would also allow for a littler overhang for clamping. Thanks for the idea!! That's what I love about this place! Jim.
    Jim, if I had it to do again, I would put two sheets of MDF on it. I may do that anyway. It has no sag and I have had some very heavy things on it. I worked on top of 5 sheets of 3/4" plywood laying on that table for two months.
    If I don't go with the MDF, I will certainly put the 1/4" masonite on it when I get around to the skirt.

    DT

  8. #8
    I also used two 3/4" sheets of MDF. The bottom is screwed onto the frame, and the top is fastened from underneath. Nice and flat plus it does clean up well. (my bench is used for everything from WW to lawn mower repair. )

    Right now, my bench base is an old metal desk (ala Steelcase). It's a bit loud when I pound on it, but it doesn't move at all. My previous bench was 2x stretchers and 4x legs. My FIL is using that now - still good and stable after 14 years.

    FWIW,
    Wes

  9. #9
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    Whatever you do, make sure the top layer is sacrificial, and can be replaced.

    Cheers!
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  10. #10
    Join Date
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    Jim,

    I think I've come up with the 'lazy man's good enough really cheap 8' bench'. I just built one 8' long by 25 1/2" wide by 34" tall for under $75. Here's the recipe, in shorthand:

    Get yourself a bunch of hem-fir 2x4s. Joint em and run em through the planer to get the round edges off. If you've got a 13" planer, glue 'em up to get two 12 3/4 sections, and run those through the planer. Instant benchtop...

    While you're at it, pick up three 2x6s (4 if you want the bench a little taller than 34"). Joint, plane, chop em off to height. You want two for each leg. Rabbet the ends, top and bottom, so that when you glue them together, you have a M&T exactly the height and width of a jointed/planed 7-8' 2x4. I did the first bench on a router table, but went with a dado stack this time. I suppose you could bandsaw it. Then rabbet the outside of each leg, top and bottom, to accept a 25 1/2" 2x4.

    Glue up the legs (I give em a pop with the air nailer till the glue dries , glue on the stretchers and stringers, set the two benchtop pieces on the stand, glue and clamp em together. While you're waiting for the glue to dry, drill a 7/8" hole for a nominal 1" dowel, down through the top into each of the legs. You only need to go an inch or two into the top of each leg, and you don't need any glue. If you're persnickity, you can drill down into the stretchers as well (if 4 is good, 6 is better... persuade the dowel into the hole, and flush trim.

    Nothing original here. But it's easy, quick, and cheap. If it gets onery, you can knock it back to flat with a jointer plane. If you ever need it to, the top comes off. Best of all, you can buy the wood in the morning and have a passable bench by the time your wife starts serving cocktails...

    Thanks,

    Bill
    Last edited by Bill Lantry; 04-02-2007 at 05:13 PM.

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