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Folding Workbench

Build this solid, roll-around, folding workbench in a day with simple hardware and only two sheets of plywood.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Folding Workbench

Build this solid, roll-around, folding workbench in a day with simple hardware and only two sheets of plywood.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Overview

Here’s a workspace that’s huge and accessible from all sides yet folds up and stows away easily. If you don’t have room for a full-size permanent workbench but really need space to spread things out, this workbench is it. It opens to a solid 4 x 7-ft. surface with both wings up, yet closes and rolls into a small 4-ft. x 18-in. spot in a corner of the room. It’s a perfect workspace for the garage or basement. It’s also a great surface for making repairs, working on hobbies, cutting sewing patterns, wrapping gifts, folding laundry, doing stained glass crafts or even just holding a mechanic’s parts.

This project has no complex wood joints. Just straight cuts, careful measuring and some nailing and screwing.

Cutting and Shopping Lists

Exploded diagram of workbench

Figure A: Folding Workbench Details

With this illustration, and the Cutting and Shopping Lists, you have the basics for building your own folding workbench.

You can see and print and enlarged version of Figure A and the Cutting and Shopping Lists in the Additional Information section below.

Assembly is as simple as glue and nails

Take a look at the Cutting List and cut all your pieces from 3/4-in.-thick hardwood plywood. I used birch plywood from a home center, but any flat plywood sheet will do. Avoid construction-grade plywoods because they’ll often have bows or warps that’ll make precise fitting impossible. I strongly recommend you use a guide (Photo 1) to cut the plywood. You’ll have tighter-fitting joints and better glue bonds.

Once all the plywood pieces are cut, rip the 1/4-in. wide edge banding from 3/4-in. thick boards (or buy it precut from a home center or lumberyard if you don’t have a table saw).

Assemble the upper and lower shelves as shown in Fig. A and Photo 2 with carpenter’s glue and 6d finish nails. Note: Don’t alter the design of the shelves for this workbench. The large shelf supports (A1 and A3) on the bottom and top of the shelves keep the bench from racking out of square. Glue and nail the sides to the shelf ends, then let the assembly sit for an hour to let the glue dry before attaching the casters as shown in Photo 3.

Use 1-in. brads for attaching the hardwood edging

The thin hardwood edging is a necessary component of the bench; without it, the hinge screws would not hold as well and the plywood could delaminate along the edges. To apply the edging, start a few brads into each piece of wood edging, put glue on the plywood and tack each piece into position (Photo 4). Once the edging is tacked in place, nail it every 6 in. with the brads. When the glue is dry, sand the sharp corners of the edging.

Piano hinges are the key to this bench

Piano hinges are a pain in the neck—all those tiny screws. But all those screws give continuous support along the joint for a sturdy worktop. Be sure to align one hinge blade with the top (C) and the other with the top of panel D. Use a hinge center punch like the one shown or a Vix bit, a special drill bit that’s self centering. Screw the hinges securely in place with the screws provided.

Glue and screw the blocks to the underside of each panel (D) to support the 3/4-in. pipe flanges and pipe legs. I bought 3-ft. lengths of pipe, threaded on one side, and found that I needed to cut (with a hacksaw) about 1 in. off this length. This allowed room for the flanges and the rubber feet.

The locks serve a dual purpose. First, they keep little hands from getting into things and getting pinched, and second, they’ll keep everything inside from tipping out if the bench is jarred. To install them, drill the holes for the lock (Photo 7) and glue a wooden catch to the bottom of the shelf as shown in Fig. A. Measure the shaft of the lock once it’s installed to get the correct thickness for the block. We used a 1/2-in.-thick block for ours.

Apply a finish for more color and protection

Remove the hardware to make painting or varnishing a whole lot easier. Label the panels in a hidden spot so you get the right on the right side when you assemble. Small variations from one panel to the next can show up on your hinge placement and locks.

Sand the entire bench with 150-grit sandpaper and use a power sander to knock down any high spots on the hardwood edging. Vacuum the dust, wipe the bench down with a tack cloth and apply your finish. Wait a few days after the last coat of finish to let it cure before you put your first scratches on the workbench.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Cordless drill
    • Circular saw
    • Hacksaw
    • Straightedge
    • Wrench set

You'll also need a center punch.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • See Materials List in the Addendum.

Comments from DIY Community Members

Share what's on your mind and see what other DIYers are thinking about.

1 - 13 of 13 comments
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June 03, 9:37 AM [GMT -5]

I built one of these and it is very nice..construction was fairly simple. However, it would have been nice to have some other measurements during assembly For example, what is the distance for the A1 support to A2 shelf, or how far in does A2 go from the edge of B?

January 07, 8:08 PM [GMT -5]

I just finished this workbench, and I already love it! It started out as a "use all my wood scraps" project, and it came out nicely! I spent only about $40 on the whole thing. I used 1/2" chip board instead of the expensive stuff, finished off a bucket full of old screws, and used 1 1/2" pvc for the legs (way cheaper). I left both ends open so I have easy access to the stuff in the middle without having to open the table up, and didn't put a shelf yet, but plan on doing it. I have a 2 car garage (that really doesn't even fit 2 cars if it were empty), and this table is perfect. It folds up against the wall, and when it's all the way out, I have almost an entire 4x8 sheet table to work on. Also, I made it the same height as my table saw, so I have an outfeed table now too!

I plan on making something similar in the future to hold my miter saw, all at the same work height so the work surfaces are inter-changeable.

December 11, 10:44 PM [GMT -5]

I, and my family, love this workbench. It has become the best table we own for outdoor, driveway, use. I roll it out for outdoor parties, gatherings, and need-a-flat-surface-here contingencies. I built it with MDF and put a coat of polyurethane on it to create a solid, secure bench/table/work area. Thanks for the great idea!

October 22, 11:27 AM [GMT -5]

I'm hoping to build this table this coming weekend but as I'm purchasing materials I'm finding that the piano hinges available at the local big box hardware store are cheaply made and tend to have a gap when in the closed position (table up position in this case). It looks like the hinge pin section is too wide to allow the two halves to close tightly together, which it seems would cause a rather annoying gap in the table surface. Does anyone have any experience or input with this or recommend a particular brand of hinge that seems to work well on this project?

September 17, 1:25 PM [GMT -5]

I will put my table on a furniture roller, the heavy duty padded one with 4 " casters. You can get one @ Harbor Freight for $ 10 when it goes on sell. this way , I will always remember where my roller is and I can roll this table easily but when it comes to heavy pounding, I will slide table off the roller and set it on garage floor.

August 21, 7:45 AM [GMT -5]

Hi all, I'm in the final stages of this project and wanted to share my thoughts. This is a great project to get your feet wet with. I was able to knock out most of it in a Sunday afternoon. I chose it out of necessity and underused garage space and it is my plan to build at least 1 or 2 more. Some of the changes I will be making on the next one. On all I plan to leave on side open. This just makes more sense for storage purposes. I keep thinking of reaching for things that are stored under the table. secondly, thee verticals that are centered I plan to move to the swing out table side to maximize my open storage side shelf depth. I went skimpy on the legs, using 1" wooden rods in conjunction with a hole saw for recess for them to slide in. It just made "cents" (the pun is intentional) and plan to build a something into the next unit that will allow me to connect the two together. I haven't thought it out yet?! My thought is for projects to wheel these puppies out and connect the two for a large work table connecting them together. Lastly, I will probably leave both sides open on the second and have a couple of smaller locking compartments inside. Not for practicality but because I think it would be cool. I will be modeling it up sometime this week in Cad, if anyone is interested?

June 03, 5:11 PM [GMT -5]

Living in rental housing now I find that this type of workbench/storage unit is a great way to have workspace without installing the kit permanently. Two items worth noting. First, do NOT go cheap on the casters. Small casters will not hold up to pounding and constant movement; so get a heavy duty set. Make sure that at least two of the casters are lockable and that they rotate for easy movement. Second, While it is tempting to add lots of little storage shelves and bins inside, that will also add weight. If you elect to modify the system then consider the amount of additional weight added; especially this is the weight you'll be pushing around your garage.

The project itself took me a weekend to build. I am far from a skilled carpenter, so building something this size was actually a major project for me. I'd rate my skills at low to moderate, and this project can be easily completed by someone like me.

January 17, 4:13 PM [GMT -5]

I like the idea....looks good. Has anyone every tried putting 1/4 hard board as the working surface?

September 19, 2:28 PM [GMT -5]

Can someone explain how the legs store when leafs are folded up after use?

September 03, 12:27 PM [GMT -5]

We just completed renovating our kitchen. I was able to salvaged the old island (48x36). I removed the doors and drawers but kept the shelves and laminate counter top in tact. I then added the the piano hings, wings, pipes, casters, and peg board. I saw this in my magazine just in time. Otherwise, I the old island would have just been demolished.

August 18, 1:37 PM [GMT -5]

@WD Harris: I like your modification! Could you let me know what legnth you had to modify the pipes? ...also any other specific modifications-- such as how far the off-set of the hinges? Many Thanks!

August 15, 3:36 PM [GMT -5]

Thanks for the tips and ideas!

August 06, 7:40 PM [GMT -5]

I built this project when it first appeared several years ago. It was one of the first wood projects I built and it has served me well over time. I made one modification that made it even better. Instead of attaching the leg mounts directly to the underside of the fold out panels, I mounted the boards with hinges which allows them to be permanently attached. I offset the hinges at a slight angle so the two legs on each panel would fold up without hitting each other. I added spring clamps, normally used to hang brooms and mops on the wall, to snap the legs into when folded up.The legs fold up and fit into the bottom shelf area nicely. An added benefit is that the legs are splayed out when down due the the thickness of the hinges on the inside of the mounts. This adds back the stability lost from non-rigid mounting. The length of the pipes was modified slightly to make the panels even with the center top.

My wife liked the workbench so well I used a slightly modified version (shorter) to make her a sewing machine table that she can fold out when she is sewing large pieces for quilts.

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