Thursday, November 21, 2013

Building a workbench - part 1

 Today's post is from my wonderful husband!

Greetings, readers!  I’m honored to do the first guest post on this blog!  You’re in for a mediocre treat!  Today and tomorrow I’ll show you how I built a simple workbench for the garage.  The plan was in my head throughout the build.  Building from an actual paper plan may be more your style.  Things are a little more accurate that way I suppose, but my bench turned out exactly how I pictured it with little to no mistakes.  Let’s see how I did it.

First off, I needed materials.  Here’s a list of what I bought for the bench itself:
1.     1 - 4’x8’ sheet of 23/32 plywood (not OSB, I hate that stuff)
2.     3 – 8’ 4x4 posts (non-treated since they will be inside)
3.     7 – 8’ 2x4 studs
4.     16 metal corner braces (I bought 8 with 8 screw holes to fasten the sides of the bench to the posts and 8 with 4 screw holes for inner bracing)
5.     100 – 2” wood screws (self tapping)
6.     100 – 1 ¼” wood screws
I may have bought more screws than needed, but I will use them in the future so they aren’t being wasted.
The first step of the build required me to cut a 4x4 post into two 40” sections.  I made two cuts in the middle of the post with a circular saw to assure that the end of the post that would make contact with the ground was perfectly flat.
“X’ marks the section of post that will be left over after the cuts.
Using a circular saw is less than ideal for cutting a 4x4, but I made it work with a first cut, flipping the post 180 degrees and making a second cut that lined up with the first. 

The cuts were slightly off so I used a flush cut saw to clean them up. 
Finished front side posts. Both came from a singular 4x4.
Once the corner posts for the front of the bench were cut it was time to make each side of the bench.  My bench was going to be 30” deep so I took a 2x4 and cut two 30” sections and secured these boards to the 40” post with metal corner braces.  The corner braces provide a good template for the fasteners and add much needed strength and support to the overall structure.  I find it much better than just plain wood screws.

Bracing the inside corner for support
After the 30” 2x4’s are fastened to the 40” posts it was time to fasten the back ends of the 2x4s to what will be the back post for the workbench.  For the back posts I used a full 8’ 4x4.  This was I can fasten pegboard to the tall posts on the back for tool storage.  Here is what one side looks like when finished.

After building the two sides of the bench it was time to start working on the inner framing to supports the lower shelf and the upper work area.  Things got a bit tricky when trying to connect the two side pieces with the first 2x4 on the back side of the lower shelf.  I had to set one of the large side pieces standing straight up and braced against the track for the overhead garage door and the other side I was able to balance upright on its own.  As stated before the plans for this bench were in my head.  I can’t honestly tell you how far up I went for the shelf underneath the work area.  I fastened it in with another metal corner brace and wood screws and did the same for the far end on the other side of the bench.  Everything was made sure it was level ad square before fastening the other end.
Here the two end pieces start to come together.
When I went to Lowe’s to get the lumber I had them cut the plywood in the store with their panel saw.  That panel saw is great.  With the 4’x8’ sheet I had them immediately cut the length down to 6’ and then rip the now 4’x6’ piece into a 30” width piece and a remnant 18” piece.  This 18”x6’ piece is what I used as the lower shelf.  You’ll notice in the next picture that the lower shelf is recessed.  I did that to be able to fit a work stool comfortable under the bench if I need to sit and work on a small project on the top work area.  Wood economy is important when buying lumber.  Try to get the most out of the least amount of lumber as you can.  I have so far used ¾ of the sheet of plywood for this project and will soon use that last piece on another project I’m sure.  Figuring out what you need can be frustrating sometimes but I guess it’s better to buy more than what you need so you don’t have to make another trip to the lumber yard.  That extra lumber can come in handy someday and won’t hurt anyone if it just sits around for a bit especially if you have a wife that understands that.

Back to the bench.  The lower shelf needed some extra strength so I added in two joists to the middle of the shelf.  The joists were just pieces of 2x4 and worked well.  I don’t have a picture of the joists for the lower shelf but you will see them when I show how the upper work area came together. After the joists went in and were properly fastened I laid the plywood down and fastened it to the outer frame as well as the joists. 

Here’s the shelf:

On to the upper work area!  The same principle applies to the upper work area as to the lower shelf.  Frame the outer area and install joists in the middle for added support.  You’ll see in the next picture that the 2x4 on the front of the frame is recessed a bit.  I did this for two reasons.  1) Clamping space and 2) installing an outlet strip for easy power access (more on this tomorrow).  Not a hard job here, check it out:

You can see the joists here.  After the install of the joists, again, the larger sheet of plywood went on.  Firs the plywood was laid on the bench and I butted it up flush and square to the back posts.  Measurements were taken and a squared ‘U’ was cut out on each end of the sheet to accommodate the posts.  Once these cuts were made the sheet fit in perfectly and it was fastened to the frame and joists.

The bench itself is now done:

I’m sure I left some things out and may touch more on some things tomorrow when I post about installing an overhead light for the bench as well as the power switch and the pegboard.  If you have any questions you can reach me through the comments or email Jenna. I don’t claim to be a carpenter, but this is something that most people can do easily with a few tools and some basic knowledge.  Thanks for reading and I hope you learned something today.  Come back tomorrow for the rest!


UPDATE: links to part 2 and part 3.

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