Monday, February 18, 2013

My first workbench: Finale!

Yes, you read the title correctly, in this post I will be finishing the workbench! Last time I left off with a completed frame, so logically one might think that all I need to do is attach the bench top. Unfortunately, due to the monkeying around I did trying to get the legs level despite the uneven floor resulted in an uneven top. When I place the bench top onto the frame, it would wobble from side to side. At this point, my only real option was to remove material from the high corners until the top would sit flat. So after a few hours of sanding using my random orbit sander, I managed to achieve this. Was this the most efficient method possible? Probably not. I think using a hand plane would have been much better, but I do not have one (and even if I did, I hear they take a bit of a time investment before you can actually use them properly).

I was reluctant to glue the top to the frame, because I thought it would be a good idea to leave open the option of removing the top should I need to in the future (for example, maybe I want to install some drawers or something), so instead I cut some 1-1/2"x1-1/2" scrap wood into small chunks as shown. I used my skill saw because it was easier on these small pieces than dragging out the big circular saw.
I cut six small pieces from this scrap wood using my jigsaw.
Before I continue, I think it is worthy of note that even though it is not completed, this is my first use of the workbench ever! All of my other tools are jealous of my jigsaw for being a part in this momentous occasion. With that out of the way, I clamped the pieces to the inside of the top of the frame, making sure the tops of these pieces were flush with the top of the frame. Following this, I drilled a series of pilot holes and then drove in some screws like so.
I clamped the pieces to the frame, making sure the tops are flush.
To mount these pieces, I first drilled a pilot hole and then used screws.
Because, again, the frame is not perfectly straight, I positioned the bench top in such a way as to maximize the amount of overhang on each end, then clamped the bench top down.
The top was then clamped to the frame.
Screwing the bench top to the small scrap pieces was a bit awkward as you probably can imagine when looking at the photos below.
The top was then screwed in place.
With the bench top mounted, it was time to add the centre supports I cut out near the beginning of the project. Because of its thickness, the bench top feels very sturdy, so perhaps it doesn't require this support, but I had it cut already and the original plans called for it. Plus it's not a hassle to install anyways. To begin, I placed the bench upside-down, and positioned the support in the centre. In retrospect, I probably should have turned the frame upside-down when mounting the top, it probably would have made things easier. With the support in place, I simply screwed it in as shown.
I then added the centre support for the bench top.
I did the same thing for the support for the shelf. In this case, the support is of higher importance since the shelf is much thinner (about 1/2"), and will have a seam that you will see later. Since this part of the frame is 'floating', I needed a way to make the centre support flush to the rest of the frame, so I clamped a small piece of plywood as a reference for the support piece, as shown below. The following photo shows both supports mounted.
Next the centre support for the shelf was added.
Here is a photo showing both supports in place.
The shelf is made from a piece of plywood which will have the corners notched out to accommodate the legs. But how do I know where to make the cuts for the notches? I used a very simple method: since I knew the plywood piece was oversized significantly, I simply placed it on top of the legs (with the bench still upside-down), and traced around the legs as depicted below. Using a straight edge, I extended to relevant lines to the edges and cut out the notches with a jigsaw.
I used a fairly simple method for determining the cuts. Measuring is sometimes over-rated!
I then extended the relevant lines to the edge.
A jigsaw is ideal for this cut.
With the notches cut, I determined the final dimensions of the shelf and used my circular saw to trim it appropriately. Following that, I made a cut down the centre. This was necessitated by the fact that there was no way to get the shelf in place without doing so (in order to achieve this, I would be required to install the shelf while assembling the frame. It wasn't worthwhile in my opinion). Finally, I screwed the shelf down, completing the assembly of the workbench.
I trimmed the shelf to size, then cut in in half to facilitate installation.
Screwing the shelf down marked the final step in the bench's assembly.
But that doesn't mean it's over! I found the plywood I used for the top to be a bit rough, so I used my random orbit sander to smooth it out (about a half hour of sanding). I also took this time to sand down some of the rough areas of the frame (i.e. saw marks, glue, etc.).
With a bit of sanding, the project is complete!
This concludes this simple workbench project. I look forward to making a lot of use of this beast. From the few cuts I did on it here, I can say that it is lightyears ahead of using a wooden pallet on the ground! For your viewing pleasure, I have some pictures of the completed project below.

I hope you have enjoyed following along on my first real woodworking project on this blog! If I don't have it up tonight, then soon I will post some details about this project, including the final schematics, on the 'projects' page. I hope you will join me again when I begin my next project!


  1. Hey Jeff,

    Enjoyed your post and your triumph. Well done & thanks.

    I built a similar w/b a few years ago based on a design found at It has served me well, initially 'on site' for a second floor tiling project and then as a general garage w/b. Only trouble is, horizontal surfaces attract clutter!

    Looking forward to continuing reading your w/w blog.


    Brian H
    Uxbridge Ont.