$100 DIY workbench
Santa brought me a Lowe’s gift card which I decided to turn into a workbench for my garage. For around $100 and 2 hours of time I built the 72″ wide X 24″ deep x 36″ tall pine workbench you see pictured above. This is a purely functional design that is big enough to support a couple of bench-top power tools while leaving enough workspace to spread out on. The casters provide mobility so that the workbench can be moved around the garage or out into the driveway as needed. Following is a step-by-step of how I did it.
- 1ea 24″ x 72″ x 3/4″ stain grade pine panel
- 4ea 2″ x 4″ x 8′
- 2ea 2″ x 3″ x 8′
- 2ea 2″ x 8″ x 8′
- 2ea 3″ fixed casters
- 2ea 3″ locking swivel casters
- 1ea box of 3″ deck screws
- 8ea 1/4″ washers (not pictured)
- wood glue
Step 1: Measure cut and assemble the legs.
I wanted the finished height of my workbench to be 36″. This is standard kitchen counter height and is ideal for medium duty work on smaller items while standing. Subtracting the thickness of my table top (3/4″) and the height of my casters (3 3/4″) I was left with 31 1/2″ for the legs themselves. I then cut 4ea 2X4s and 2X3s to 31 1/2″ long:
Next, I measured and pre-drilled the 2×4s for the screw holes:
Using a Speed Square, I measured in 4″ from each end and in 3/4″ from one edge. I also put a single screw at the center of the leg (also 3/4″ in from the edge). Using an awl punch, I marked the spots to be drilled (using the punch keeps the drill bit from walking as it starts).
I used a tapered countersink bit with a stop ring to get nice clean screw holes:
Next, I applied a generous bead of wood glue to one edge of the 2X3s…
…and, using the 3″ deck screws, assembled one 2X4 and one 2X3 together into an L to create the legs (I used an impact driver for these long screws to prevent stripping the heads)…
The assembled legs looked like this:
Step 2: Measure, cut and assemble the top frame.
The top frame was assembled like a ladder (see next photo) and fits inside the 4 legs. I wanted a 1 1/2″ overhang at the 4 corners of the table top so I subtracted 6″ (1 1/2″ for the overhang + 1 1/2″ for the leg thickness X 2 for each side) from the table top length and depth to calculate the frame dimensions of 66″ x 18″. Two 2X4s were cut to 66″ long, divided into three sections and pre-drilled for screws. The cross pieces were then cut to 15″ long and the frame was assembled with glue and screws like this:
Using a tape I measured diagonally from corner to corner to check for squareness. In this case everything was spot on. If it wasn’t I would have had to stood it up and tweaked on it a bit until it was (before the glue dried).
Step 3: Attach legs to frame.
I measured and pre-drilled the tops of the legs for attachment to the outside of the frame. Here I went with a 1″ inset from the top and outside edge of each leg and a 1″ inset from the bottom edge of the 2X4 frame rail.
With the frame laying on a flat surface (concrete driveway), I used a square to align each leg before securing them with four 3″ deck screws each (2 per side/leg) and wood glue.
Step 4: Attach casters.
With the table still face down on the driveway, I attached two fixed casters to one end and two locking swivel casters to the other. I used 1/4″ washers to make the head bigger on the deck screws to keep them from pulling through the relatively large holes in the caster base plates. I could only get two screws in each caster but the weight of the leg was mostly centered over the caster body so it should work fine. These casters are rated at 300 pounds capacity each. This is the smallest size I would recommend for this project.
Step 5: Attach the top.
Using a square I measured in 1 1/2″ from each side and marked all 4 corners on the bottom of the stain grade pine panel. This served as a guide during attachment of the top to the base. BTW, normally I would recommend 3/4″ birch plywood for a project like this. I chose to go with a laminated pine panel for the top instead of plywood because the pre-finished and pre-cut 24″ x 72″ panel was $15 less than a 4′ x 8′ sheet of birch plywood. I could have gotten a 4′ x 8′ sheet of MDF for a few bucks less but I didn’t feel like hassling with a Lowe’s employee to get it cut down. In other words, the pine panel was the easy way out for me for this quick project.
For this project I chose to attach the top to the base with countersunk 3″ deck screws driven through the 3/4″ stain grade pine panel top. If I had used 3/4″ birch plywood I likely would have glued and screwed it to the frame from below. However, I was concerned about the potential dimensional instability of the pine panel so I screwed it just snug down from the top w/o glue at every frame cross member. I figure this will hold it securely while allowing for a modicum of movement if the top should expand or contract a bit.
Step 6: Build the shelf.
I wanted a storage shelf to make use of the space under the table to help get some boxes and tools off the garage floor. The cheapest and simplest solution turned out to be two sections of 2X8 cut to length and screwed to 2X4 cross members. Not only does this design support plenty of weight, but it also quite effectively ties the legs together and strengthens the base of the table. I left the shelf high enough off the floor so that I could easily get under it to retrieve lost items. I’ve made the mistake of putting shelves like this too close to the floor before ;-)
Step 7: Finishing details.
With the top attached I used a sanding block to lightly round the sharp corners of the top so they wouldn’t snag on my clothing while I’m working around the table in the tight confines of the garage. Also, easing the sharp corners will lessen the inevitable impact on my hip bones and my girls’ little heads.
Finally, I used my random orbital sander and some 220 grit paper to clean off the pencil marks on the top. Being a stain grade panel it was already smooth so this was not a required step. At this point I could have applied any number of finishes to my new workbench but instead I decided to leave it unfinished. The way I see it, this is intended to be a workbench. I’m really not concerned what it looks like and don’t want to be worried about messing up a pretty finish with greasy car parts, super glue, paint, etc. I might be tempted to apply a polyurethane finish if this were to be used in a wetter environment (ie: carport, greenhouse, etc.). However, I’d more likely would just have built it using cedar or pressure treated lumber and left it unfinished as well.
Step 8: Put it to work.
As you can see, only 3 days into its existence and my new workbench has already found a permanent home in my garage. In fact, it seems I may need to build another so that I have a place to actually work on projects :D