If this workbench looks familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen one a lot like it in your father’s or grandfather’s shop. Variations of this design have been around for decades, and for good reason: The bench is strong, practical and super easy to build. You can run to the lumberyard in the morning, grab a few boards, and by noon you’ll have a perfectly functional workbench.
The workbench isn’t fancy—it’s built from standard construction lumber. But you can easily customize it with drawers or other features now or later. To see some of the improvements you can make, visit DIY Workbench Upgrades.
If you can cut a board, you can build this bench. And you don’t need any fancy tools either. In addition to a small square and a tape measure, you’ll need a circular saw to cut the parts and a drill to drive the screws.
You’ll find all the materials at a lumberyard or home center (see Materials List in Additional Information, below). Choose lumber that’s straight and flat, and that doesn’t have too many gouges, slivers or cracks. We used Torx-head screws with self-drilling tips. But you can substitute any construction screw. If you’re not using screws with self-drilling tips, drill pilot holes to avoid splitting the wood.
If your car is too small for the long boards, you can ask to have the boards cut to length. Just remember to take the Cutting List with you to the store.
Cut the parts according to the Cutting List in Additional Information. We used a miter saw, but a circular saw will work fine. Mark the 2x4s with a Speed square or combination square. Then carefully cut the boards to length. If you plan to stain or paint the bench, now is the time to sand the parts. And to really simplify your job, you could also stain or paint the parts before you assemble the bench.
Figure A: Exploded View
The overall dimensions of the DIY workbench are: 60′ wide x 28-1/4′ deep x 36′ tall plus a 7-3/4′ backboard. For a larger PDF version of this plan, see Additional Information, below.
Start by building the top and shelf frames
Photo 1: Build the frames
Use 3-in. screws to assemble the frames that support the top and the shelf. To avoid splitting the 2x4s, either drill pilot holes or use self-drilling screws. Build both frames and set the top frame aside.
Photo 2: Attach the shelf boards
Attach the outside boards first. Then position the two remaining boards to create equal spaces between them and screw them to the frame. Before driving screws, drill pilot holes with a countersink bit.
We used an old door propped up on sawhorses as a work surface, but the floor will work too. Lay the 2x4s for the front and back of the top and shelf on the work surface and mark the centers. Remember, if you’re not using self-drilling screws, drill pilot holes for the screws. Photo 1 shows how to assemble the frames. Set the top frame aside and screw the shelf boards to the shelf frame (Photo 2).
Build and attach the leg assemblies
Photo 3: Assemble the legs
Drill five holes about 2 in. from the edge of the pegboard with the countersinking bit. Spread a bead of construction adhesive on the legs and attach the pegboard with 1-1/4-in. screws. If glue oozes through the holes, wait for it to dry. Then shave it off with a sharp chisel.
Photo 4: Screw the legs to the top frame
Apply construction adhesive where the legs contact the top frame. Then attach the legs with screws.
Photo 3 shows how to build the leg assemblies. You’ll notice that the leg assemblies are 1/8 in. narrower than the inside dimension of the top. That’s so you can install the legs without binding, which would cause the pegboard to bow. Also, if the only pegboard you can find is thinner than the 1/4-in. pegboard specified, add the difference to the front and back of the shelf frame (C). For example, if you buy 1/8-in. pegboard, add 1/4 in. to parts C.
The pegboard is useful for hanging tools, but its real function is to stabilize the workbench as a brace. We added the construction adhesive to make sure the assemblies stayed strong and rigid. Be aware, though, that some of the adhesive will be visible through the holes.
The pegboard holes are a little too big to use as screw holes, so use a No. 6 countersink bit to drill pilot holes and make countersinks for the screws. Secure five evenly spaced 1-1/4-in. screws into each leg.
The next step is to attach the legs to the top frame. Apply construction adhesive to the top 3 in. of the legs. Then attach the leg assemblies with 3-in. screws (Photo 4).
Add the shelf and top
Photo 5: Add the shelf
Rest the bench on one end. Slide the shelf between the legs and line it up with the bottom of the pegboard. Screw through the shelf into the legs.
Photo 6: Mount the top boards
Starting at the back, align the first 2×6 flush to the back and measure for the 2-in. overhang on the side. Attach the 2×6 with trim screws. Attach the rest of the boards the same way. The front 2×6 will overhang the frame about 2 in.
Stand the workbench on one end. Then it’s simple to slide the shelf into place and line it up with the pegboard (Photo 5). Drive 3-in. screws through the shelf frame into the legs to support the shelf.
The top of this bench is 2x6s, placed tight together. The boards overhang the frame 2 in. on the sides and front. The overhang makes it easier to use clamps on the edges of the workbench. Photo 6 shows how to get started. We attached the 2x6s with trim screws, but you could substitute 16d casing nails.
Attach the back brace and backboard
Photo 7: Install the backboard
Attach the 1×4 shelf to the 1×10 backboard. Then add a 2×4 block at each end. Rest the backboard assembly on the workbench and drive screws through the back to hold it in place.
The 1×10 back brace keeps things from falling off the back of the shelf, but it also stiffens the bench to prevent side-to-side rocking. Apply construction adhesive before attaching the brace with 2-in. screws.
The backboard is a 1×10 with a 1×4 shelf attached. On the side of the 1×10 you want facing out, draw a line the length of the board, 1-3/4 in. down from the top. This is where you’ll align the bottom of the 1×4. Draw a second line 1-3/8 in. from the top. Drill pilot holes with the countersink bit every 8 in. along this line. Now ask a helper to hold the 1×4 on the line while you drive 2-in. screws into the shelf through the pilot holes. After the shelf and 2×4 blocks at each end are attached, screw the backboard to the workbench (Photo 7).
You can modify your bench to fit your space and work style. We mounted an inexpensive woodworking vise on the front of the workbench and drilled holes in the 1×4 shelf to hold screwdrivers. If you’ve got a pint-size carpenter in the family, check out the Mini Classic DIY Workbench for Kids. It would make a great project to build with your kids or grandkids.
Required Tools for this Project
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
- Caulk gun
- Circular saw
- Cordless drill
- Drill bit set
- Framing square
- Miter saw
- Orbital sander
- Safety glasses
- Tape measure