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.
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.