5 projects for a better shop—adjustable sawhorses, a super-handy tool rack, a workbench with storage space, a miter saw stand and a silencer for your shop vacuum. They're all low cost, can be built in a day and are essential for the small shop.
By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine
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$20 – $100
Project 1: Adjustable height sawhorses
A pair of dowel pins allows you to raise and lower the top to find a comfortable working height.
Dowel pin assembly
A clip and a key ring hold the dowel pin in place. The chain keeps it tethered so it won't wander away when not in use.
Every shop needs horsepower. These adjustable horses are easy to build from construction-grade 1x4s and 2x4s. Add the adjustable-height jig and these horses will hold projects at the perfect working height. Use a pair of them as a stand for portable or bench-top power tools, or make a temporary workbench by throwing a piece of plywood on top.
Figure A: Sawhorse Assembly Diagram
All parts are labeled and they key to a Cutting List you'll find in the Additional Information below. Note: You can enlarge Figure A by downloading it from the Additional Information below.
Project 2: Shop vacuum muffler box
Muffler box in action
A carpet-lined box muffles the vacuum noise. Casters allow you to roll it right to your work area.
Avoiding clouds of sawdust is a must in a small shop, but a dust collector eats up valuable space and money. A shop vacuum makes a good substitute, but because the decibel level of most shop vacuums rivals that of a jet engine, build this box to muffle the noise. Put casters on it and it'll follow along as you connect it to various power tools.
Build the box from a 4 x 8-ft. sheet of 3/4-in. plywood or MDF (medium-density fiberboard). Glue in wood battens at vertical corners for additional strength. Fasten with 2-in. screws. We lined ours with carpet scraps for extra muffling. Cut them to size and glue them to the box with construction adhesive. Use strap hinges on the door so the screws drive through the face of the door and box side. Avoid butt hinges because there's little holding power for screws driven into the edge of plywood or MDF.
Figure B: Shop Vacuum Muffler
Build the box from MDF or particleboard. Double-check the size of your vacuum to make sure it fits. You'll find the complete Materials List with hardware and a Cutting List in the Additional Information below. Note: You can enlarge Figure B by downloading it from the Additional Information below.
Project 3: Flip-through tool rack
Flip-through tool storage
Plywood “leaves” swing from standard door hinges, allowing quick and easy access to tools.
Unless you live in an art gallery, wall space is always at a premium. Build this booklike storage rack, and expand your wall space exponentially. Grabbing a tool is as easy as flipping through a magazine.
Mount two parallel 2x4s on the wall spaced 24 in. apart. Cut the leaves from 3/4-in. plywood and hang them from the 2x4s with 3-in. door hinges. Fur out the hinges with 3/4-in. plywood blocks so the pages can pivot without binding. Mount the leaves at least 4 in. apart to allow room for them to fold back. Let your imagination run wild creating holders for your various tools.
Figure C: Peg-Board Leaf Option
For you Peg-Board fans, sandwich a 1×3 frame between two pieces of Peg-Board. Now your collection of hooks and holders will work with this tool storage system. Note: You can enlarge Figure C by downloading it from the Additional Information below.
Project 4: Workbench with built-in storage
Workbench with lumber storage space
This simple workbench doubles as a storage rack for those long pieces of lumber and plywood that tend to clutter your workshop.
At the heart of every small shop is a multipurpose workbench. Build this workbench with tons of storage space underneath. While ours is configured for lumber storage, you can put cabinet doors on the front and store tools and materials. For our 8-ft. long bench, we built four 2×4 frames; that left about 27 in. between them. This spacing provides plenty of support for the double 3/4-in. plywood top and long lengths of lumber underneath.
Figure D: Workbench Support Frame
These simple frames support the workbench. Simply connect them with the plywood fronts and tops to make the bench stiff and strong. Note: You can enlarge Figure D by downloading it from the Additional Information below.
Project 5: Full-feature miter saw stand
Miter saw stand
This compact stand features sliding saw base, sliding supports on both sides and a stop block for repetitive cuts.
If dedicating 8 ft. of wall space to your miter box is just another fantasy, build this portable stand for your miter saw that provides all the features of a permanent miter saw table. When it's not in use, lean it against the wall or hang it from the ceiling. While you can build this from an 8-ft. 2×12, it'll be challenging to find a straight one. A good alternative is to glue together two layers of 3/4-in. AC plywood. Cut a 3/4-in. wide by 1/2-in. deep groove for the T-track with a dado blade on a table saw or with several passes with a router. Build the sliding supports out of 3/4-in. pine or plywood.
Screw or clamp your stand to the sawhorses to prevent tipping.
Figure E: Miter Saw Stand
The adjustable elements make this stand highly versatile. Note: You can enlarge figure E by downloading it from the Additional Information below. You can also download a Shopping List for the special hardware.