DIY | Build a workbench
ARTICLE Richard Urlich PHOTOGRAPHY Gareth Poley WORKBENCH PLANS Gareth Poley WORKBENCH BUILD Richard Urlich MATERIALS for this project were kindly supplied by Carters.
- Timber for frame 135 x 19 (2 x 5.4m)
- Timber for legs 75 x 50 PG (4m)
- Plywood for bench top and shelves 2.4m x 1.2m (1sheet, 25mm thick)
- Standard sheet of pegboard 2.4m x 1.2m
- Pegboard edging 3.4m
- 8g x 45 chipboard screws, zinc plated, square drive - quantity 100
- PVA glue
Note: All timber should be untreated
- Spirit level
- Power drill and drill bit smaller than the screws diameter 1.5mm, plus square drive attachment
- Hand plane
- Circular saw
- Compound drop (optional)
- Straight edge
- Saw horse x 2
- Tape measure
1. Getting started
Selecting the site
Choose the area that you want your workbench to occupy. This will dictate the maximum size of your bench. The area should be well lit and your bench should be placed in a way that does not block out light (for example through windows). Think about factors such as proximity to power outlets and access to the outside if you want to build and transport larger items. The workbench should be able to sit flush up against the wall and in fact be fixed to that wall. Ensure there are no pipes running through the wall.
The workbench pictured here is 2.2 metres long. Be sure to alter the materials list if you increase or decrease the size of your own bench. When buying timber, consider choosing lengths of material that will leave little waste once they’re cut up. Work out the length of your bench and whether you can get two lengths out of one piece. As mentioned above, the workbench for this article was made to a length of 2.2 metres. In this case, a 5.4-metre length of timber left enough timber to construct two braces for under the bench.
Building your workbench
If you have a nail gun it is very useful to pre-fix timber into position before screwing it on. Pre-drill all screw holes to prevent splitting timber and use PVA wood glue on all joints.
Build the top and bottom frames and fix them to the legs. The bottom frame should sit 200 millimetres up from the floor.
Attach the top and bottom bench tops and glue and screw them on with equal overhang on the front and the sides. Check the depth with a ruler to create a screw line.
Be sure that when you are putting the bench together that you check it is square and plumb. Once your workbench is screwed and glued together you can lightly hand plane any sharp edges to eliminate splinters and improve the look of the bench.
Screw the workbench to your wall when completed, for safety reasons.
Building your pegboard
Cut the pegboard edging to length. Joins should be cut on a 45-degree angel for a quality join.
Glue the edging to the pegboard.
The pegboard can be fixed to the bench with three 135x19x50 millimetre lengths of timber screwed and glued to the back of the bench at even intervals. Glue and screw the pegboard to the upright timber boards.
For any power tools use an RCD (residual current device) to prevent electrocution in case of an equipment malfunction. Ensure you have personal protection equipment. This includes protective safety glasses and ear protection.
Basic tool kit
A set of well-chosen tools will let you take on almost any job around the house and see you through many DIY projects. Here’s a basic list to help you get started.
Hammers and mallet
If you’re only going to buy one tool, make it a good hammer! It truly is a builder’s best friend. Get a good claw hammer of a decent size. A smaller claw hammer is a nice addition for small nails and dowelling. Get a mallet with a square head for staking and driving pegs into the ground.
In an ideal world, you’d have a whole set of screwdrivers – both Phillips and flat head – in all the different sizes you may need. To start out with, consider getting two or three screwdrivers of each type in the sizes you most commonly use. If space is limited, consider getting a screwdriver with interchangeable tips.
You probably already have a measuring tape that may do the job in a drawer somewhere. But if you see yourself tackling a few DIY projects in the years to come, consider investing in a sturdy, high quality model.
There will always be something that needs cutting, so make sure you have a utility knife and extra blades ready. Retractable blade knives are a good choice for general use, allowing you to quickly adjust the cutting depth and to safely retract the blade into the handle when the knife is not in use.
It does what it says – it helps you get things level. A traditional carpenter’s spirit level looks like a short plank of wood and often has a wide body to ensure that the surface that is being measured is horizontally and vertically level.
A builder’s square is perfect for creating a true 90 degree angle when cutting wood to size. Use it for constructing walls, calculating rafter angles, creating stairways, or simply marking up … anything! It’s a simple tool, and it will last you a lifetime.
A good handsaw is ideally suited for cutting wood. Chose a crosscut saw to start out with. Some projects may require making fine cuts or cutting out contours, in which case a coping saw would be needed – along with a stash of replacement blades.
Perhaps a circular saw is not really such a ‘basic’ tool, but it’s certainly a very handy one. Most serious DIY projects such as building a shelf unit or a deck require a lot of wood cutting, so this tool will get a lot of use. As with most basic tools, consider buying the best you can afford.
Their versatility makes them a favourite in the workshop. You’ll find yourself whipping them out for all sorts of repairs and projects. Ideally, you should get a couple of wrenches to cover the majority of jobs.
Vice and clamps
A vice is extremely handy. If you want to sharpen tools or sand things, you’ll need something to hold them in place. A lightweight vice probably won’t do, so invest in a heavy duty one and ensure that your workbench is solid enough to hold it. Clamps are also useful.
Finishing off something you’ve built is a great pleasure, and it’s even more fun if you have the right equipment to do the job properly. A hand-held sander is a good start-up option. If you’re mainly interested in smaller projects, you may get away with a block and sandpaper – but it’s hard work!
To help you achieve nice rounded and smooth edges, a good file is key. It’s worth having a couple of files in different sizes on hand. Depending on the kinds of projects you’re working on, having one large file for general use and a small file for tight gaps is useful. Consider getting files with different shapes.
Another essential tool to have is a decent electric drill. The cordless kind is extremely versatile and will be useful for a number of jobs around the house. Ensure you keep your cordless drill charged and ready for action. Consider getting a drill with a quick charge system or a spare battery.
Every serious amateur builder needs one – a tool belt! You’ll have many of your basic tools handy at all times, whether you’re in the workshop, on the roof or elsewhere around your home. Alternatively, use a good sized, portable toolbox for projects on the go.
Safety first! It’s well worth getting yourself kitted out with a good pair of safety glasses, sturdy footwear, leather gloves and earmuffs.