Bench Plans: Easy Woodworking Project

This work bench has so many uses for such a simple piece of equipment.

| July/August 2009

  • Finished workbench
    The finished, handy-dandy bench, ready for any project on your to-do list.
    Illustration by Nate Skow
  • Measure carefully
    Measure carefully – remember the old adage, measure twice, cut once – and mark your cuts
    iStockphoto.com/Jim Jurica
  • Top view of workbench under construction
    A top view of the bench under construction. Note the temporary horizontal brace; remove it after the top has been installed.
    Illustration by Nate Skow
  • Tom Larson's bench
    Stained with paint and grease, this bench has been through a lot.
    Tom Larson
  • Making the handle
    Cutting out the handle that makes it easier to move the bench.
    Illustration by Nate Skow
  • Potting plants and potting soil
    Working with plants and potting soil becomes easy when they are all within reach.
    Tom Larson
  • Connecting side pieces of plywood
    Screw the side pieces of plywood to the legs.
    Tom Larson
  • Brace the sides
    If the sides are bowed in so they aren’t aligned with the top, put a stick in between them.
    Tom Larson
  • Connecting end pieces and the legs
    Screw the end pieces of plywood to the legs.
    Tom Larson
  • Another option
    An alternative is to drill from the bottom with a scrap underneath.
    Tom Larson
  • Drill two holes where you want the handle.
    Drill two 1 5/8-inch holes each 3 inches on either side of the center of the top.
    Tom Larson
  • Reassembly
    Mark the pieces adjacent to each other, remove the screws, apply glue to all surfaces that contact each other and reassemble.
    Tom Larson
  • Connect the dots
    Use a handsaw or power reciprocating saw to remove the wood between the holes.
    Tom Larson
  • Weight the top of the bench.
    Weight the top of the bench while the glue dries.
    Tom Larson
  • Top view
    Top view after reassembly.
    Tom Larson
  • Finished
    The finished product – Tom Larson's workbench.
    Tom Larson

  • Finished workbench
  • Measure carefully
  • Top view of workbench under construction
  • Tom Larson's bench
  • Making the handle
  • Potting plants and potting soil
  • Connecting side pieces of plywood
  • Brace the sides
  • Connecting end pieces and the legs
  • Another option
  • Drill two holes where you want the handle.
  • Reassembly
  • Connect the dots
  • Weight the top of the bench.
  • Top view
  • Finished

I built the prototype of this bench years (OK, decades) ago as a platform to stand on while supporting one end of a piece of Sheetrock on my head as I nailed it in place on an eight-foot ceiling. Since then, labor-saving Sheetrock lifts have become common. These lifts make the work a lot easier and avoid sore muscles and a sore head. But I have kept the old-fashioned bench. It is so handy in so many ways that I would not think of discarding it.

Standing on the bench puts me at a comfortable height to do all sorts of household projects from hanging curtains to cutting in paint where walls meet ceilings. Installing lights, ceiling fans, wood trim, shelving and the like is more easily done standing on the stable, roomy bench than standing on the narrow step of a ladder.

In addition, the bench serves as a low table or workbench on which to saw or drill. On the bench, a paint can or roller tray is within easy reach. So are flower pots and potting soil. Also, it makes a good place to sit and take a break. Turned upside down, the bench becomes a box in which to carry tools and materials to a work site. There are so many uses for the device that finding a name for it is difficult. We just call it “the bench.” Its dimensions can be easily altered to suit your purposes and size. 

Materials:

4 construction grade 2-by-2s 20 inches long (legs)
2 8-by-30-by-½-inch pieces of AC-grade, five-ply plywood (sides)
2 8-by-15-by-½-inch pieces of AC, five-ply plywood (ends)
1 approximately 16-by-30-by-1/2-inch piece of AC, five-ply plywood (top)
24 No. 8, 1 5/8-inch deck screws
4 No. 8, 2½-inch deck screws
Glue (Titebond III is a good choice) 

The 2-by-2s used for legs need to be selected so they are free of large knots that would weaken them. I’ve specified ½-inch AC-grade plywood, but you could use any plywood between ½-inch and ¾-inch. I used ¾-inch for the top because I didn’t have enough ½-inch. The 2-by-2s are actually 1½-by-1½-inch, and plywood thicknesses may be less than the sizes used to refer to them. The width of the top equals the length of the end pieces plus two thicknesses of the side pieces. The widths and lengths of full sheets of plywood are almost always exact.



If you have a table saw or other equipment to saw plywood accurately without a jig, then cut the pieces indicated above and proceed to assembly. If you will rely on your handheld circular saw, then mark the cuts and use a length of 1-by-4 clamped to the plywood as a guide when sawing. Measure the distance from the far side of the saw’s blade to the edge of the saw’s foot and clamp the 1-by-2 guide that distance from your cutting line. Before making the cut, be sure that the saw blade is where it needs to be. 

Assembly instructions

Use 1/8-inch pilot holes for all screws to avoid splitting. The heads of the screws should be countersunk so they don’t protrude from the surface of the plywood. You can glue up as you go, but I prefer to screw the pieces together first to make sure everything fits.






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