Building a Simple Shop Bench


I have often needed to come up with a quick and dirty solution in the shop to put things on. As I was building up my first shop, I never seemed to have enough room to store and use my benchtop tools. I have seen the type that can mount 2 different benchtop tools and the top will swivel to expose the tool needed at the time, but all I needed was a bench to use the power tools with and the swivel top shop bench can be a little complicated to build.

Here is a quick shop bench that is made from six 8 foot 2x4s and two one-quarter sheets of 1/2 inch plywood or MDF. If you don’t have these items laying around the shop, you can pick them up for around $30 at the big box stores. The bench can be made to any dimensions but this plan is based around the quarter sheet (4′ x 2′) of the sheet good of your choice so that minimal cutting is required.

Cut List

8 Foot 2×4 Cut List Layout

After you collect the materials needed, layout the patterns needed as shown in the cut list below. Cut the 48, 36, and 8-inch pieces from the first four 2×4 boards. The 21-inch pieces are required for the shelf so cut those next. At this point, you can assemble the 2 shelf units. Depending on your preference, you might want to leave the plywood off until the final assembly but that is up to you. The last 2×4 is cut up into 4 20-inch lengths for the middle spacers that the top shelf will rest on. The length of the 8-inch bottom supports and the 20-inch middle supports can be customized to your needs.

Here are some cut list downloads including one for 10 foot 2×4’s if they are preferred. I couldn’t see much of a cost difference and since my “truck” is actually a Mazda3 with the back seats folded down, I like to stick with the 8 foot limber.

8 foot 2×4 8 Foot 2×4 Cut List Download
10 foot 2×419 Foot 2×4 Cut List Download
Cut Lists for your downloading enjoyment

The Build

Now, let’s get to building stuff.

  • Using the four 48-inch legs, screw the 8-inch bottom supports flush to one end. This will make up the bottom of the bench. (I don’t use glue in this construction but you may choose to.)
  • Place one end of a shelf onto the top of the 2 8-inch bottom supports and screw 4 2 1/2 inch screws thru the legs and into the shelf to secure the shelf in place.
  • Secure the other end of the bottom shelf to the other legs in a similar manner with 2 1/2 inch screws.
  • Place the middle supports on top of the bottom shelf and secure it to each of the 4 legs. HINT: If you angle the screw downward, it will snug the middle support into the bottom shelf to make a tighter connection.
  • Place the middle supports on top of the bottom shelf and secure it to each of the 4 legs. HINT: If you angle the screw downward, it will snug the middle support into the bottom shelf to make a tighter connection.
  • Place the top shelf on the frame and secure to all four legs using 2 1/2 inch screws making sure the top of the shelf is flush to the top of the legs.

That’s it. Now you can paint it, stain it, varnish it – or just be lazy like me and leave it unprotected. It will last forever even without the protection of a finish coat.

Exploded View with measurements

I am still old fashion and use empirical measurements but at least I have moved away from the fractions. As you can see in the illustration above, I am very adapt at measuring to hundreths of an inch. Or maybe i just didn’t want to go back and adjust the graphic. Okay, I’m lazy.

Animation of how the bench goes together
Basic Junk Collector – but it helps keep the area somewhat organized.

Beyond the Design

With this basic design, you may want to change some of the dimensions to make a wider bench or a taller workbench. the modifications are simple as all you gotta do is cut the legs to the total height desired, Cut the bottom spacer to the height you want the bottom shelf to be, and cut the middle supports 4 inches shorter than the resulting distance from the top of the bottom shelf to the top of the legs.

With the image above, you might notice that I have 2 layers on top of the top shelf. To accomplish this, I simply cut the middle support 1″ short (or the total of the 2 thicknesses you use for the top). When I sit the top shelf onto the frame, I fill in the remainder with the second piece of plywood – MDF in this case. I had planned on abusing the top with glue-ups and saw blades but that never happened. The MDF is not screwed in place nor is it glued in place making it totally replaceable if such horrible abuse should ever take place. It might slide front to rear but it is captured by the legs form moving left to right. Very sturdy.

Great for bench top tools

Simple Shop Shelves

Another solution that can be made with this design are Shop Shelves. To make a sturdy set of Shop Shelves, I did not use the bottom supports but laid the bottom shelf directly on the floor and screwed 6 foot 2×4 legs directly onto to the bottom shelf. Next, I cut a set of supports for the next shelf and followed the standard instructions to install the supports to the legs. I made a 6-foot tall shelf and the spacing between the shelves varied a lot but I sized them to fit specific items. I got 4 shelves that are currently over-flowing. I made 2 shelves and they varied in height and length. One had 3 flat areas to put stuff and the other has 4. Providing dimensions for these Tables/Benches/Shelves is almost unnecessary because they can be built to your needs and you can cut the lumber to length as you build.

I even used it as my CNC table

Conclusion

This may not be the fastest shop bench to build but I can’t imagine a design that is this fast to put together that will be this sturdy. I have had some of mine in the shop for 5 years. They have been slid around the garage floor, weighted down, screwed into, and abused in every way. They are still sturdy little taskmasters. I couldn’t be happier with this design and I hope that you all try it out. Enjoy.

John McCormick

I have been woodworking since being introduced to the hobby in High School. I enjoy woodworking as a hobby and would like to share some of what I have learned with the world. I have recently built a CNC router system and I have enjoyed learning this new dimension of the hobby.

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