The old 2×4 bench with a melamine top served me well for about 5 years before I decide it was time to upgrade. I actually probably started looking for something better about 2 years ago but never really came across anything that I wanted. Type in “workbench” on YouTube and you will see two main types:
Old faithful, 2×4 construction or the workbench worth more than my entire shop, the roubo.
Neither of which really seemed appealing to me. Now don’t get me wrong there are thousands of variations of either that may or may not suit my needs but at the end of the day, 2×4’s still look like 2×4’s and a 3″ thick maple top is very expensive and difficult to make. Never the less I did come across a few that made it on the short list.
This first guy is pretty cool with all its extra storage, maple top and a front and side vise. from the picture the frames seems really simple with its 2×4 contraction and lag bolt joinery. the cabinet could be customized to what ever you think would work best for your shop. I also like the idea of the open shelf at the top for power tool storage. Giving it a little closer look, I start to see some things that are not so appealing though like the single 2×4 legs look acceptable to racking and the stretchers seem to be to light for its work load.
This one here is similar to the one above with lag bolt joinery but use a 4×4 for the leg which I think would help a lot, not only in strength but also adding some much-needed weight. I also like the idea of the plywood/MDF top for a couple of reasons. Cheap, cheap and it also a lot cheaper than a solid maple top. Almost there with this one, except one thing, A 4×4 post is only sold in pressure treated or cedar around here locally. Cedar actually wouldn’t be that bad, but it is light and I really didn’t want the bench to look thrown together with different materials that are normally used for decks.
Hmmm what do we have here? Thick heavy legs and stretchers, cheap but nice looking top and lots of room underneath to customize to my needs.
Here is my bench completed. As you can see its very similar to the one above except for a few small changes to cater to my needs. The height is set for my table saw out feed, clamp storage on one end, twin screw vice at other end, drawer added for all the stuff used the most at the bench and large open area for tool storage.
The construction of this bench was made primarily of plywood but also used one sheet of MDF for the top, shelf and drawer. Everything else came off of two sheets of birch plywood. it’s all mortise and tenon joinery making this very strong with virally zero racking.
I started out by cutting a whole bunch of strips 3 1/2″ wide for the stretchers and legs. The legs would end up being 5 plys and the stretchers would be 3.
Then I made a simple jig to form my tenon on each of my stretchers. I then glued them altogether being careful that my edges stayed flush.
For the legs i just glued all five pieces together but the middle one would be cut twice to allow for the two tenons. As you can see from the picture I used a scrap piece of plywood the same width as my tenons for a spacer. I wrapped the spacer in tape so it wouldn’t get glued together.
I used two clamps end to end to get the length i needed to clamp the two stretchers to the two legs.
The top is held to the stretchers via pocket holes.
I did splurged a little here and added maple trim all the way around to protect the edges from getting all beat up. I think it was worth it because not only is it practical, it looks great.
I then added a maple board to one end of the top measuring 3 1/2″ for the twin vice. Its kind of a fake twin vise though because you have to turn both handles, oppose to an actually twin vise that has a chain connecting the two handles allowing you to only have to turn one handle. This method is diffidently a cheap and effective alternative. All i used was two cheap econo screw vices for the hardware and mounted them to the bottom of the table and used 1 1/2″ thick maple for the moveable jaw.
I think i love this the most about this bench. A long full width drawer used for all the stuff you always are looking for when working on a project like screws, pencils, sandpaper, measuring tapes and hammers.
I have now been using the bench for about 3 months and i gotta say i absolutely love this bench. It ended up been a huge upgrade for the shop because of is sturdy construction, weight and conveniences.
and a free plan here: