How to Build a Sturdy Workbench Inexpensively

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Introduction: How to Build a Sturdy Workbench Inexpensively

Think quick. What is the most used tool in your workshop? What tool do you use every day and for every project? Did you say your workbench? Well you should have. Thank about it. A good, solid workbench is the most important feature of any well equipped workshop. You hammer on things on it. You clamp things to it. You layout and assemble things on it. Or you can just set a bunch of stuff on it and clutter it up. However you use it, even if you take its presence totally for granted, it is actually the most important tool in your workshop.

This Instructable will show you how to build a very sturdy workbench easily and inexpensively in only a few hours work, that will give you many years of use. The workbench presented here is 80 inches long by 36 inches wide by 34 inches tall, and rock solid.

More information on this and my other projects can be found on my blog at mdpub.com.

Step 1: Gather the Materials and Tools

The materials

This workbench is built from a solid-core wooden door re-purposed as a bench top, and mounted on a frame of 2X4 lumber. It was built for a little over $80. Here is the list of materials required:

1 36 by 80 inch solid core wooden door.

10 2X4s 8 feet long.

Some 2 1/2 inch long coarse thread drywall screws.

Some 1 1/4 inch long #6 drywall screws.

6 steel angle brackets.

(Optional) Enough 1/2 inch or thicker plywood to cover an area of 76 by 32 inches for a shelf.

The door was purchased at my local Habitat for Humanity Restore for only $30. The Restore is a great place to pick up salvaged building materials inexpensively. It was a brand new door that had never been drilled for a lockset or mortised for hinges. There was some damage to the veneer, which made it unwanted by most people, but it was perfect for my application. A salvaged door that had been drilled and mortised can also be used, and probably can be had even cheaper.

The 8 foot 2X4s only cost about $3 each at a local big box homecenter store. Select straight pieces without twists, splits, or a lot of large knots for best results

The screws and 6 steel angle brackets also came form the local big box store. The screws cost about $6 per box, and the angle brackets were a couple of dollars each.

The tools

The tools that were used for constructing the workbench consisted of:

A power mitre box saw for cutting the 2X4s to length.

A cordless screw gun for driving in the screws.

A cordless drill for pre-drilling screw holes.

A tape measure.

A carpenter’s square.

A pencil.

(Optional) A brad nailer and brad nails.

Cordless tools aren't necessary to build the workbench, but if you have access to them, they make life a lot easier.

Step 2: Build the Frame.

The frame for the workbench consists of two rectangles 76 inches long, by 32 inches wide made from 2X4s, and four legs 32 inches long, also made from 2X4s.

I wanted the top of the workbench to overhang the frame by 2 inches on every side to allow for easily clamping things to the top of the bench. Since the top is 80 by 36 inches, the two rectangular frames needed to be 76 by 32 inches. To make them, cut four pieces at 76 inches, and four pieces at 29 inches and screw them together with the 2 1/2 inch coarse thread drywall screws to make two rectangles. Cut an additional two pieces at 29 inches long to be used as stretchers across the middle of each rectangle. Predrilling the holes for the screws will help prevent splitting the wood.

Cut eight pieces of 2X4 at 32 inches long for the legs. Screw two of the leg pieces together in an "L" shape to make one leg. Repeat three more times. The finished height of the bench with 32 inch legs will be approximately 34 inches after the top is attached. If a different finished height is desired, the length of the legs can be modified to suit your particular application.

Attach the legs to the two rectangular frames as shown in the photos. One frame should be screwed on 8 inches up from the bottom. The other should be screwed on flush with the top of the legs.

The purpose of the lower frame is to strengthen the structure and prevent the legs from spreading, but it can also be covered with plywood to be used as a storage shelf to maximize storage space in your workshop.

Step 3: Attach the Top to the Frame

The easiest way to attach the door top to the frame is to lay the door on the floor, and then set the frame on top of it upside down. Make sure the side of the door you want to be up is down against the floor.

Make sure the frame is centred on the door and there is a 2 inch overhang all around as shown in the photos.

Use the six angle brackets to attach the top to the frame. Us the 1 1/4 inch #6 drywall screws to screw through one side of the angle brackets into the frame, and through the other side into the door. use at least four screws per bracket to strongly attach the frame and top.

The workbench is now nearly complete and very heavy. Stand the workbench upright. The help of a friend my be required to get it upright.

Step 4: Finishing Touches

(Optional) Attach plywood to the lower frame to make a storage shelf. Use 1 1/4 inch #6 drywall screws or brad nails to attach the plywood.

(Optional) A power strip can be attached to the frame of the workbench to allow for easily plugging in power tools.

(Optional) The top of the workbench can be finished with polyurethane to protect the wood, or covered with a sacrificial sheet of thin plywood to protect it from damage during heavy use.

(Optional) A heavy duty bench vise can be screwed to the top of the bench, and is a very useful addition to the workbench.

Step 5: Final Thoughts

The workbench should give many years of good service in your workshop. If the top of the workbench becomes badly damaged or worn after several years of heavy use, the top can be detached and flipped over. That will allow for at least several more years of use.

I hope you found this Instructable helpful.

More information on this and my other projects can be found on my blog at mdpub.com.

21 People Made This Project!

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31 Discussions

Thanks mdavis19 for the really helpful tutorial and video. I have made my own based mainly on yours, although I ended up putting the legs inside the frame rather than outside. Im pleased with the end result. Its dead level on the top all round, even with the legs not all being totally straight!

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Hi, I am looking at this article,

"HOW TO BUILD A STURDY WORKBENCH INEXPENSIVELY"-

I have a question. Is there any special consideration for using 2x4's for the legs of the bench over perhaps, 4x4's?

Mike Briggs

Washougal, WA

Some ideas.

Do NOT use drywall screws. Use deck screws instead. They're available at HD or Lowes. You can even get stainless ones if you'd like. I'd even consider using 1/4 inch carriage bolts, washers and nuts to bolt everything together.

I'd also think about using 4 x 6 posts for the corners rather than 2 x 4s, and I'd consider gluing the wooden pieces together for additional strength.


Great Instructable!

I am so excited! I am a 73 year old woodworking granny. I just completed my first project--your workbench. I got a solid core door for ($18.00) at my local lumber store. It had a couple of dings on the edge but otherwise was fine. I made it all by myself except my hubby insisted helping me attach the legs and the top. It took me most of one day to make it. I think I viewed your tutorial at least 10 times. Now I am ready to move onto some small projects like bird houses. Measure twice---cut once. Thanks again.

what would be the best sealer for this bench? keeping it outside all the time using it for knife making. so it will get dings and stuff any help would be nice. I am a rookie in wood working just needing the right direction.

What tools are recommended? Table saw? Mitre Saw?

Thanks for the instructions. Just finished with a coat of deck stain and polyurethane. Added some wheels as an added touch to move around the garage as needed.

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Since drywall screws have lousy shear strength, I'd just suggest deck screws instead. Otherwise great plans!

1 reply

I was going to say the same thing. Use deck screws, or any kind of wood screws. I snapped plenty of drywall screws in projects like this, before learning that they are really not meant for wood.

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Pleady

2 years ago

Thanks for this tutorial. Such a simple but great build and exactly what I needed.

Love it! Thanks so much for sharing this. I reckon I'll be using your ideas to make a similar one. Cheers!

Great tutorial, can't wait to build one for myself. Thanks for sharing

Hi Jeff....Love the videos. I hope that you can make a video one day on how to make a sturdy shelf for a basement. Thanks, Bob

Is it necessary to have two 2"x4"s per leg? If only one were sufficient, you could save on weight, cost and labor.

Great well detailed instructable Here are things I did with mine

I made mine about 8 yrs ago. The legs I made were not as elegantly simple as yours.

I also used a sheet of 1/8" thick hardboard over the door I used a length of light angle strapping, like the material used to hang a garage door motor from ceiling on the back and sides of the top... this allows me to slide the hardboard out and replace it. I added 2 additional stretchers on the bottom to increase the strength of the shelf I currently have 2 engine blocks and 3 transmissions on that shelf. for power I spanned the front with a length of 3/8" conduit to and mounted a 4 gang box with U bolts a length of heavy cable to the box plugs in to the wall and the entire box slides left to right across the the front of the bench. I had to add add a leveling system cause the floor in the area this was to go was "off" I used 2" galvanized pipe bits flanges and caps on the 4 corners for this.

That closeup of the leg and frame (top) is beautiful!
I learned something just now, it's so simple it's an elegant solution.
Thank you very much MDavis19!

Very nice build. I like using a sheet of 1/8" masonite (hardboard) on top of the bench. Gives it a very durable finish that can be replaced when worn out. And a 4'x8' sheet is under $20.

1 reply