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Wood Work Bench

This simple wood work bench is perfect for a garage or utility room, and it takes up almost no floor space. It's also great as a potting bench or laundry table.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

All purpose work bench

Growing up in a small house with a bunch of kids, a dog, a couple of cats and short-term guests like turtles and goldfish was a whole lotta fun, but let's face it—personal space was nonexistent. Any project that anyone had was slated for the kitchen table. That '50s-style chrome-legged table was used for everything from making cookies to folding laundry to spray-painting model cars and planes, and yes, doing homework, too. Often, in the middle of a task we kids were told to take it elsewhere. We usually chose the coffee table or piano bench, which have the scars to prove it.

What we really needed was a work area that we could stand or sit at, where we'd be able to do our projects from start to finish. The perfect solution for tasks like these is this sturdy utility bench. It's solid, cheap, easy to sweep under and just the right size for chores that need a space of their own.

The bench is made from lumber, plywood and hardware that are available at any home center or lumberyard (see “Shopping List” in Additional Information, below). The frame is made from 2x4s, and the top and shelves are made from 3/4-in. plywood (just buy a half sheet) edged with 3/4-in. thick boards.

Note: Buy your 2x4 material at least a week before assembly and stack it in the house. This will allow the wood to dry and stabilize, and prevent further shrinking or warping after assembly.

Wood work bench details

Wood work bench details

Figure A: Wood Work Bench

The shelves and shelf supports lock the side supports together and prevent any movement while you're hammering or sawing on the top.

For a larger version of Figure A, see Additional Information, below.

Tools, time and options

This project is designed with the beginner in mind. All you need are a circular saw, a framing square, a drill and drill bits, a hammer, wrenches, a few small clamps, and a little building experience.

Once you gather all the materials, you can easily have the bench up and ready to use in a few hours. It'll go even quicker if you have the lumberyard rip (cut lengthwise from 1x6) the 2-1/4 in. wide fronts for the shelves and top and the 3/4-in. x 3/4-in. rear shelf cleats, although you can easily make these cuts with your circular saw. If you decide to rip these narrow cleats yourself, a safe and easy way is to rip-cut a 3/4-in. wide piece first from 1x6 using the rip guide that came with your saw. After ripping the long 3/4-in. piece, you can cut it into the two lengths needed.

We designed this table with a finished height of 37-3/4 in., which works well for most standing tasks. You can easily adjust the height by changing the length of the rear legs (use the 36-in. height of your kitchen countertops as a baseline for what is comfortable for you). The construction process will be the same even if you raise or lower the finished height a couple of inches. Follow the step-by-step building guide in Photos 1 – 8 and check Fig. A for building details.

Potting bench

Potting bench

Laundry room table

Laundry room table

Not Just For Carpentry

This sturdy bench is also perfect as a potting bench or laundry room table.

If you want a surface that's easy to clean and protects against spills, apply two coats of polyurethane varnish to the top and the shelves. We used a water-based finish that dried quickly and was hard as nails by the next day.

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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.

    • Hammer
    • Clamps
    • Miter saw
    • Cordless drill
    • Circular saw
    • Socket/ratchet set
    • Countersink drill bit
    • Level
    • Framing square
    • Orbital sander
    • Safety glasses
    • Wood glue
    • Wood chisel

Required Materials for this Project

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

For a complete list of materials, see Shopping List in Additional Information

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