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How to Build Workbenches: 4 Knockdown Designs

Make more room for tools and carpentry projects with space-saving workbenches that set up or come apart in seconds. Made from recycled doors and other readily available materials, all these designs are both inexpensive and easy to build.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

ABC boxes

Assembling parts is easiest when you can work at a comfortable height. But the height of that working surface depends on the size of the project. These ABC boxes, so called because they're made with sides of three different dimensions, make a variable-height assembly table base. By rotating the boxes or standing them on end, you'll get three different working heights. For stability, you'll need three boxes; it's best to fasten them to the top. All three boxes can be made from one 4x8 sheet of 3/4-in. plywood.

Knock-apart utility table

This table is made from a full sheet of 5/8-in. plywood for the interlocking base stand and a sheet of 3/4-in. plywood for the work surface and shelves. You'll also need four 10-ft. lengths of 1x3 pine for the edge banding and cleats.

Cut two 30-in. high by 48-in. long pieces from the 5/8-in. plywood for the base pieces. Then cut a slightly oversize 5/8-in. wide slot in the bottom half of one base and in the top half of the other. Make both slots about 15-1/2 in. long. Assemble the base and position the top so the corners are aligned with the legs. Screw loose fitting 12-in. long 1x3s along each side of each leg to hold everything stable.

The table is much more stable if you use the 3/4-in. waste from the top to make triangular braces (which also act as shelves) with 20-in. long sides. Using 1-1/4 in. drywall screws, attach 1x2s to the base about 12 in. up from the floor and screw the shelves down.

Fold-down workbench

Here's an easy-to-build, inexpensive (about $50) and sturdy workbench that tucks away in seconds. Key ingredients—a solid-core door for the top and a pair of iron pipe legs to support it. To build one, you’ll need:

  • A 28- to 30-in. wide solid-core door ($20 to $25).
  • Two 3-1/2 in. gate hinges ($5)
  • Two 28- to 34-in. lengths of 1-1/4 in. water pipe ($15)
  • Two 1-1/4 in. pipe flanges ($6)
  • Two plastic pipe thread protectors (cheap or even free)

Buy the door from a lumberyard and everything else from a well-stocked hardware store or home center.

With a circular saw, cut the door to the desired length. Fifty inches is long enough for most jobs but still short enough that the door can sit rock-solid on two legs. If you use the whole door, add a third leg in the middle. Determine a comfortable bench height, subtract the door thickness and have a hardware store cut the pipes to length. If necessary, have threads cut on one end for the flanges. Ask for a few plastic pipe thread covers to fit on the unthreaded floor ends.

Screw the flanges under the tabletop, centered 12 in. in from the front and side edges. Then, using the gate hinges, connect the rear edge of the door to a 2x4 of the same length. Measure and mark the studs, then screw or nail the hinged 2x4 to the studs. Get a helper or a few sawhorses to hold the tabletop in place while you work. Now just screw the legs on and you're done. If the floor and tabletop aren't exactly parallel, unscrew or tighten the pipes to make the tabletop sit rock-solid.

Light-duty work table

If you ever need a light-duty work surface anywhere in the house for sewing, painting or school projects, this one's for you. Get to the home center and buy a hollow-core door; four toilet flanges; a 10-ft. length of 3-in. PVC pipe; 16 No. 10, 1-1/4 in. long screws and a tube of construction adhesive. Inside of a half hour, you'll have the flanges glued and screwed to the door and be ready to slip in the 30-in. long PVC legs.

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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.

    • Miter saw
    • Cordless drill
    • Circular saw

Required Materials for this Project

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

    • Refer to the project you're interested in for materials.

Salvage yards and reuse centers carry large inventories of inexpensive used doors perfect for workbenches.

Comments from DIY Community Members

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1 - 4 of 4 comments
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January 20, 7:30 PM [GMT -5]

While doors and such make great worktops, I checked in with my local kitchen/bath remodeling shop. I picked up a nice piece of countertop that was a sales sample. The few dollars I paid were better for them than throwing it out. The downside is you have to like purple. (kidding)

March 24, 3:39 AM [GMT -5]

Created one like it a few years back. The boxes work great being different demensions on three sides, very stable, easy to store and I have used boxes for addional storage on jobs when needed. Using a door has been ideal, light weight, strong enough for most painting, finishing, cutting material and sanding large pieces. If you can't find a used door panel buy one, Hollow core doors are stable, light and inexpensive to purchase.

January 19, 11:56 AM [GMT -5]

Would have been nice to include a cut out sheet for the plywood instead of just dimensions. Is it just me that has problems like this? I'm less of a draftsman than a carpenter!! Give us amateurs a break!

January 17, 3:40 PM [GMT -5]

I had an old solid core door and the neighbor threw out an old folding table which had working legs. I took them off the damaged particle board table and screwed them to the door. Folds up quickly and easier and more stable than just sitting on boxes.

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How to Build Workbenches: 4 Knockdown Designs

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