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Work Benches

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  • Work Benches

    I probably have done this thread already. My search fu is weak, apologies in advance.

    I need a workbench for my vise, 1 ton arbor press, and as a place to assemble projects.

    I don't weld nor do I know anyone who does so this project is probably going to be in wood. As soon as I let my guard down, the basement will flood, so it's going to be pressure-treated wood

    Anyone care to share construction tips or pictures?

    Right now I'm thinking four 4x4 legs with two sets of 2x4 stretchers. Plywood shelf in the bottom. Overall length will probably be something like 8' with a depth of 2'. Height? That's a question. Also, thickness of top? I'm not going to pound directly on this, so is 1" thick plywood enough?

    I intend to put the vise over one of the front posts and the arbor press over the other.

  • #2
    For a top, get a soild core door from a commercial remodel. They dump these by the truckload.. 2 3/8 thick 8'X3' is very common. Then, if you get rich (or lucky) screw down a sheet of 11awg steel around your vice area.

    I have 24 feet of benches (3 doors). 8 feet of it will be covered in 1/8th (11awg) tomorrow.

    I used 4x4 legs and a 2x6 top frame, cross braced every 4 feet and anchored at the back to the wall (into the studs). The 2x6 is rabbited into the 4x4 legs for load, the front legs are secured to the concerete with post base holders, and the rear legs are screwed to the wall. Nothing will move this bench!
    Last edited by lakeside53; 12-04-2011, 08:17 PM.


    • #3
      I did the 4x4 with a solid core door and am very happy with it. I did put a 2x4 under the edge where the arbor press gets placed, as I saw it bowing just a little under use of that much pressure.



      • #4
        Amen on the solid core door as a top. I have two benches made from them one is my grinder bench and the other is my work bench with two vices mounted on it. I covered the work bench with fiberglass sheeting like one used in a shower after finding a slightly damaged sheet at Home Depot.

        BTW, I bought mine when they were gutting the the Big E hotel here in Owensboro and have one or two left over. If you're coming to O'boro any time soon I'll give them to you. Just PM me.


        • #5
          I like to use steel cabinets as bases to provide extra storage. I buy Vidmars when theyre <$500 each, but for a cheap solution, I also have several lighter steel cabinets that used to be office furniture way back when. They wont support multiple tons, but up to 1000 lbs isnt a problem, and for <$5 each I have no problems with them being "light duty." For the bench tops, my company has a pile of very beautiful, straight, and dry "scrap" hardwood that is free for the taking by employees prior to being recycled. I simply take 4x4s and bore a hole every foot, then use 3/8" threaded rod to "bolt" them together, cap the ends of the holes, and lag the tops onto the cabinets. I also typically will stain the tops dark to resist oil and hide stains. I really like having thicker benchtops, when they get too dinged up a sander or power plane "renews" them nicely.
          Last edited by justanengineer; 12-04-2011, 05:55 PM.
          "I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer -- born under the second law of thermodynamics, steeped in the steam tables, in love with free-body diagrams, transformed by Laplace, and propelled by compressible flow."


          • #6
            For the top, a cheap solution is mdf and then glue a piece of laminate on top. laminate is fairly cheap, surprisingly durable and easy to clean. Below is shot of my "new to me" lathe. The work bench is laminate over 3/4" mdf. You can't see it in the image, but there is a 2x4 subframe under the top.

            Last edited by herbet999; 12-04-2011, 06:00 PM.


            • #7
              I went with 4x4 legs, 2x10 skirting and braces along with a 3"x3'x8' top. No wobble shimmy or shake.
              Build it stouter than you think you will ever need. Then you dont have to upgrade later.


              • #8
                I made mine by first bolting a 4x4 to the concrete wall in the basement using lead tamp-in anchors for the bolts. The top is a ppiece of 3/4" AC plywood split the long way then the pieces set on top of each other and glued to make a top 2'x8'x1 1/2". That got lag bolted to the 4x4 on the wall and the front supported by a longitudinal 4x4 set back from the front edge an inch or two, from the ends about 6" to a foot. The logitudianl 4x4 in turn is supported by two 4x4 legs. I put my vise over one of the legs.

                I find that 2' width is quite adequate. At 3', it gets harder to reach the back and it turns into a place that collects random junk. (Your mileage may vary.)
                Last edited by SGW; 12-04-2011, 06:22 PM.
                Try to make a living, not a killing. -- Utah Phillips
                Don't believe everything you know. -- Bumper sticker
                Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects. -- Will Rogers
                There are lots of people who mistake their imagination for their memory. - Josh Billings
                Law of Logical Argument - Anything is possible if you don't know what you are talking about.
                Don't own anything you have to feed or paint. - Hood River Blackie


                • #9
                  Originally posted by SGW
                  I find that 2' width is quite adequate. At 3', it gets harder to reach the back and it turns into a place that collects random junk. (Your mileage may vary.)

                  LOL... that's why I make mine 3 feet deep - so there is room at the back for drill cabinets, misc stuff and of course accumluated junk. That leaves 2 feet at the front to actually get some work done
                  Last edited by lakeside53; 12-05-2011, 02:05 AM.


                  • #10
                    Hi Tony

                    I will add my support for the door as a good top. Try looking for a shipping damaged metal one at your local building supply.

                    If you can, avoid putting it up against a wall. All round access to your bench is a better idea in my view. None of your surface goes to waste and it is less likely to accumulate junk. And when it does it is easier to tidy up.

                    Regards ….Bert


                    • #11
                      Here is one of many I have built that will handle a lot of weight. The top is bolted to the stand and can be easily removed for moving up/down stairs. It will easily handle 1000 or more pounds. The white material is melamine laminated MDF. For even greater strength plywood could be used. Whatever you use it needs to be the same on both sides to prevent warping.

                      Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here


                      • #12
                        One of the biggest mistakes I see made when using wooden legs is screwing the legs into the side of the upper framework. This forces the screws to take a sideways force from the weight of the top and everything on it. The legs are studs- they should be bearing the weight directly on the ends. One end is on the floor, the other should carry the top structure on its end as well. With 4x4 legs, I'd notch into two adjacent sides of each leg so a 2x4 will set on edge in the notch and be flush with the top of the leg. The edge of the 2x4s will then sit on end grain to carry the weight, and you can screw it together as well. If you run the front and back 2x4s past the legs a short ways, you can then add the side pieces, which also rest on end grain, and you have two ways of screwing them into place- into the leg directly as with the longer pieces, then from the long pieces into the end grain of the side pieces. This will be very strong, and no screws are under stress to carry weight. You could pound on this top for years and it won't loosen up.

                        My preference as well would be to add a bottom layer of plywood to the framework of the top. Notch all four corners of that to fit around the legs. Both top and bottom would be the same plywood, 1/2 inch thick being lots, then add a piece of 3/4 mdf for the top. This would be made larger all around so you have some room for clamps to go when you need to hold something down. You don't need much overhang- 1-1/2 inch is what I normally use. Use lots of cross pieces in the framework, and before you add the plywood, shim the framework up on the floor so it's not warped. Once you glue and screw the plywood into place, any twist you have in the frame will be there forever. Your last chance to get it flat is just before you add the second plywood piece. Up til then you can still twist the structure a little.

                        If you know where you want the vise and the press, make sure you have bracing in the framework where you'll want the bolts to be. You can either drill right through and use bolts, or pilot hole and use lag screws.

                        The top becomes one piece being glued, screwed, and tatooed. The legs are removable. You can add short angle iron pieces between the legs and the bottom of the top if you feel the need to for extra rigidity. I probably would, as it doesn't take much material or effort, and the solidity of the bench would make be feel good every time I worked on it.

                        To make it sit flat wherever it's going to be, I'd make an adjustable foot for each leg. Check out the bottom of a washing machine or dryer for the idea, though I'd go with something more heavy duty than what you'll find there. What I've done in the past is get some 1/2 inch nuts, turn them in the lathe for about half of the length, to a diameter that will be a tight press fit into a washer. The washer is screwed to the bottom of each leg, and a center hole is drilled to allow a length of threaded rod to insert. The bottom of the threaded rod would have another turned nut with a press fit washer on it to act as a foot. Epoxy the nut to the rod to make that one piece, then screw it most of the way into each leg. From there you make height adjustments when the bench is in place. If you go with this kind of adjustment, you can include the space it takes up when you decide on how long to cut your legs.

                        Just giving some ideas. I know how much I appreciate a solid and flat workbench- and I know how much I'm turned off by a saggy, wiggly, bench.

                        Then, as someone mentioned, you can laminate the top. I've had it both ways- bare mdf, and laminated. Lam is a bit slippery, and bare mdf should be coated at the least, since any water landing on it will swell it up. Just a seal coat will do. One thing about the mdf top is that you can replace it when it gets all beat up. You don't glue that part down, just use screws. If you laminate, you might want to consider having the top plywood piece overhanging as well- this gives you a lip to put screws into the mdf from the bottom. No screw head gaps under the laminate is always good-
                        I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-


                        • #13
                          This is one of my "light duty" cabinets, with the black plug at left removed to show countersink/construction. I would tend to trust it more than any MDF or plywood bench, and with some moderate care it should outlive me as everything else in the shop will. I have <$5 in this bench including the cabinet and ~2 hours total cleaning, assembly, and staining. Unfortunately I have found I am much better working with metal than wood, and I also prefer the cleaner look of metal vs wood storage. Metal shelving is also much easier to clean when something spills/leaks. Please excuse the mess.

                          Last edited by justanengineer; 12-04-2011, 10:55 PM.
                          "I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer -- born under the second law of thermodynamics, steeped in the steam tables, in love with free-body diagrams, transformed by Laplace, and propelled by compressible flow."


                          • #14
                            Bolts not screws

                            Second the comments on the construction method as the screws will eventually start to be a problem .
                            Any heavy wooden benches that I have seen usually had the legs supporting the weight not screws , as the bench often has everything piled upon it and some have collapsed much to the dismay of the owner.


                            • #15

                              pics say it all .

                              you dont have to be a skilled craftsman to build the above ..
                              uses floor and walls as integeral part of it, that provides the extra strength.

                              angle iron brackets to hold it all together.

                              4x4 "larch" goalpost fashion, post and crossbar

                              the above is recent

                              the one below in my concrete workshop has a 1/2 inch steel plate on top of the planks ..and has served me for 25 years witrhout the slightest bit of wear or damage...same constrction method.

                              the steel plate for the top 25 years ago cost me £100... today ...i wouldnt even think about it too expensive

                              Last edited by aboard_epsilon; 12-05-2011, 08:20 AM.