Overview: Design and materials
Does your current workbench consist of two sawhorses
and an old door slab? Well, my friend, it's
time to upgrade. There are hundreds of workbench
plans out there, but not many of them call for plywood.
Plywood makes a flat, stable work surface, and it doesn't
need to be clamped, glued or planed. And it can easily be
replaced if it gets too beaten up after years of abuse.
If the idea of building drawers makes you break into a cold
sweat, then build your workbench with two shelf sections and
forget about the drawers. But if your mantra is, “The more storage
the better,” then get yourself an additional half sheet each
of 3/4-in. and 1/4-in. plywood, and build another two drawer
sections to take the place of the lower shelf.
Simple, Sturdy Workbench
You get a workbench plan that's:
- Simple enough
to build on a
- Easy enough
for a beginner
- Strong enough
to hold a V-8
- Tough enough
to last a lifetime
Simple Workbench Components
4 legs, 2 boxes and a top: That's all there is to it. The
legs are just 2x4s screwed
together. The shelf and
work surface could be constructed
as simple boxes or
made with drawer components.
It's a perfect project
for a beginner but a great
bench for even the most
Step 1: Cut out the workbench parts
1 of 1
Photo 1: Cut plywood parts perfectly straight
Cut the shelf top first and use the factory-cut edge as a guide for your other
cuts. Measure the distance between the saw blade and the edge of the saw
base plate, and align the shelf top that same distance away from your cutting line.
It's always nice to cut as many parts as possible before starting
the assembly. That way, you can set aside the dust mask, safety
glasses and hearing protection for longer periods of time, and
the air isn't continually filled with sawdust. Cut everything
except the lengths of the drawer components. In case things
get a little out of whack during assembly, you'll be able to measure
and fit the drawers to the actual openings.
Mark the cutting lines for your big sheets with a chalk line.
Use a framing square to mark the lines for the smaller components,
but don't forget that the blade will remove about 1/8 in.
on every pass, so either add that space when you're marking,
or mark and cut one at a time.
Start with the shelf top (C). Cut the whole length of the plywood.
You'll have to freehand this one, but don't worry if your
cut isn't perfect. The cut edge will be down low and backed up
against the wall. Use the factory edge of
the shelf top as a guide to cut the three
other larger pieces (A, B, D; Photo 1).
Think you might have trouble lugging
around full sheets of plywood? Some
home centers will cut them up for you if
After cutting the big parts to length,
you'll have some medium-size chunks of
plywood you can use as a guide to cut
the smaller components, or you can
clamp down your framing square as a
guide. Next, cut the 2x4 legs (L). You can
get two legs out of each 8-ft. 2x4 with
about a 2-ft. piece left over. Set aside the
remaining four 2-ft. pieces for use later.
Cut the 2x4s that make up the shelf and
drawer compartment frames (M—Q),
starting with the long boards first.
Figure A: Simple Workbench
For the names of the parts and their dimensions, see the Cutting List in “Additional Information” below.
You can download and enlarge Fig. A Simple Workbench in “Additional Information” below.
The Cutting Diagram shows
how to cut one
sheet of 3/4-in.
sheet is much simpler:
just cut lengthwise
to yield parts C
and D. Cut the
(J and K) from a
4 x 4-ft. sheet of
You can download and enlarge the Cutting Diagram in “Additional Information” below.
Step 2: Assemble the shelf section and drawer section
1 of 2
Photo 2: Frame the drawer compartment
Drill 1/8-in. pilot holes through the frame back and into the plywood drawer
dividers. If you skip this step, you're guaranteed to split the plywood.
2 of 2
Photo 3: Add the top and bottom to the drawer compartment
Install the bottom first. Mark the locations of the dividers, and clamp
everything in place before predrilling and fastening. Install the top the same way,
but don't forget to add the drawer guides (R) first.
Use the benchtop (D) as a temporary
workbench (if you don’t have a door slab).
Join the 2x4 frame with one 3-in. screw
in the middle of each corner. This will
reduce the chances that screws will collide
when you attach the legs. Secure the
plywood shelf to the frame using 1-5/8-
in. screws about 12 in. apart. Use glue on
every joint except the top sheet of plywood—you may want to replace it
Assemble the three 2x4s that make up
the drawer compartment frame (M, N)
with one 3-in. screw at both corners.
Mark lines for the location of the drawer
dividers (E). Driving screws into the end
grain of plywood can cause it to split. You
can avoid this by predrilling holes with a
1/8-in. drill bit. Attach the plywood
drawer dividers to the frame using two
3-in. screws in each one (Photo 2).
Lay the drawer compartment bottom
(B) on top of the frame, and mark lines
on the front of the plywood to line up the
front of the drawer dividers. Then mark
lines across the top of the plywood for
the location of the screws. Clamp the box
down with the drawer dividers aligned,
then predrill holes for the dividers (Photo
3). You can often eliminate small warps
and bows in the plywood by starting at
one end and working your way down the
line. Screw the plywood down with 1-5/8-
in. screws. Space the screws about 12 in.
apart the long way and 8 in. the short.
Before you repeat the process to attach
the top of the drawer compartment, install
screen mold on each end of the drawer
compartment with 3d 1-1/4-in. brad nails.
This will help the outside drawers slide in
straight once the legs are installed.
Step 3: Attach the legs and shelf
1 of 2
Photo 4: Screw on the legs
Square up one side of the leg and fasten it with one screw, then square up
the other side of the leg and fasten with two screws. Double-check the first side
before driving in the final screw.
2 of 2
Photo 5: Install the shelf
Set the shelf on spacers to hold it
in perfect position. Then screw through
the legs just as you did with the drawer
Preassemble the legs with three 3-in.
screws in each leg. Flip the drawer box
upside down. Position the legs so the
seams are facing the ends of the workbench.
Secure the legs with two 3-in.
screws on each side of each leg. Use a
framing square as a guide (Photo 4). Next,
cut the four 2x4s you have left over from
the legs to 16 in., and use them as temporary
spacers for the shelf. Secure the
shelf to the legs with two 3-in. screws on
each side (Photo 5).
Step 4: Install the top and trim molding
1 of 1
Photo 6: Cover the plywood ends with screen mold
Nail on the screen mold with 1-1/4-in. brads. Start with the
long sections first, and use the scraps on the shorter ones.
Before you screw down the benchtop,
predrill holes for the screw eyes that will
act as drawer stops. Drill two 3/32-in.
holes for each drawer opening, 2 in. in
from the sides and 1-1/2 in. from the
front (see Figure A). Align the benchtop
flush with the back legs and even on each
side. Secure it with a row of 1-1/4-in.
screws down the front, back and middle,
spaced about every 16 in. Again, you'll
have more luck getting a flatter surface
by starting at one end and working your
way down the line.
Attach the screen mold to the end grain
of the plywood. Don't worry about the
back side if your bench is going to sit
against a wall. Nail on the screen mold
pieces with 1-1/4-in. brads (Photo 6).
Step 5: Build the drawers
1 of 1
Photo 7: Build simple drawers
Glue and clamp the front, back and sides together first.
Then nail on the bottom. Finally, nail the sides to the front
Double-check the sizes of your drawer
openings, and cut each drawer bottom
width 1/4 in. smaller than its opening.
Cut the sides of the drawers (F) so they
will be exposed at the front. This won't
look as nice, but it will make the drawer
front stronger and keep it from pulling
off after you fill the drawer with heavy
tools and hardware.
Glue and clamp the drawer sides
together, but before you nail them, attach
the bottom with 1-1/4-in. brads. Remove
one clamp and set the drawer on edge
with the other clamp hanging off the side
of the workbench. Nail each corner
together with three 1-1/4-in. brads.
Remove the other clamp, and nail the
remaining two corners together. Work
fast so the glue doesn't set up before you
get it all put together. Repeat the process
for the other three drawers (Photo 7).
Step 6: Apply the finish
It's hard to stain plywood without its
looking blotchy, so after sanding down
the rough and sharp edges, we finished
our workbench with Minwax PolyShade,
a combination stain and polyurethane. It
can be brushed on like regular polyurethane
but adds a little color in the process.
We did one coat on the whole bench
and then added a couple more coats of
regular polyurethane to the work surfaces.
Apply an extra coat or two to the
bottom of the legs so they won't wick up
moisture from your garage floor.
Attach the drawer pulls. We chose
chest handles instead of standard drawer
pulls because of their low profile. They
won't get in the way when you're clamping
projects down to the front edge of the
Install the screw eyes/drawer stops
after you insert the drawers. You may
need a small screwdriver for leverage on
the last few turns. All that's left is to
show off your handiwork to your wife or
neighbor, and get started using your new
workbench on your next project.