Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Plans For a Custom Garage Workbench

The workbench is the heart of any shop. It reflects the worker using it, and it's quality impacts the quality of the parts being built. I've designed this bench from some great ideas others came up with- I picked the ones I liked and the result is this bench which is great for a garage or basement. It features a transportable miter saw table, a heavy duty assembly table, plenty of tool storage and it's compact design allows it to fit in the workspace you have. The table can be built on a tight budget and with just a few basic tools.
As with most projects- the more tools you have at your disposal, the easier the project gets. This isn't exactly cabinetry grade building here so you can improvise a little if you don't have all the tools. The photo below shows [almost] everything I used to build mine.

  • Miter saw
  • Circular saw or table saw (or the saw at the big box store)
  • Drill
  • 3/16" drill bit
  • Jigsaw
  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Speed square
  • Stud finder
  • Clamps
  • Caulk gun
  • Socket wrench
  • Safety glasses
  • Planer

Step 1: Frame the Assembly Table
A) The assembly table is designed to be sturdy and straight forward. The design is called a torsion box and it is inherently rigid- meaning you'll have a strong surface to work on. Cut the 2x4 pieces for the frame and assemble using screws and construction adhesive. 

Building Tip: Save yourself a ton of headache by temporarily fastening the ledger board to the wall with screws. Use the stud finder and mark the location where the studs intersect the ledger and bore 3/16" holes through the ledger, drywall and the stud. Take the ledger down and assemble the frame. When it's time to put it back up on the wall have the lag bolts started and ready to bite into the pre-drilled holes. 

B) Determine the height of your bench by measuring from where your wrist naturally hangs when your arms are at your sides down to the floor. This is just a general rule of thumb, most commercially produced desks are between 33"-36" tall. The benefit of making your own is the ability to customize the workbench to your needs. The desk in the plans is 37.75" because I'm tall. If you plan on adding a rubber floor mat for extended periods of standing compensate for that thickness. Finally, subtract the thickness of the plywood top. Follow this formula: 
H= Wrist Measurement + Mat Thickness -.75 in.

C) Place the frame on top of a 2'x8'x.75" piece of plywood. With scrap 2x4's trace where the two notches will need to go for the legs and cut the notches with a saw. 

D) Measure H inches above the floor and mark the location on the wall. Holding the top of the 2x4 on the mark at H inches, use a level to ensure the table top will be level along the red axis. Trace the top of the 2x4 along the wall. Using a stud finder, determine the location of the studs that you will be mounting to. Transfer the stud locations to the 2x4.

E) Spread construction adhesive along the 2x4 and use 3-1/2"x1/4" lag screws to secure the frame to the wall.

F) Place a level along the green axis on both ends of the table to determine the length of the legs. Concrete floors are not always level and the legs may not be the same height. Secure the legs with screws.

G) With the plywood sheet secured with clamps, trace the outline of the 2x4's on the sheet, remove, apply adhesive between the lines and reattach with clamps. Screw plywood to frame and remove clamps after adhesive has set. You'll be left with a heavy, hefty and totally solid workspace. 

F) Take a step back to admire your progress. 

Step 2: Add Supports for the Miter Table Drop-in and Shelving

A) If you have a pickup truck or van/SUV with fold down seats, measure the length of the cargo area. This will ensure the drop-in miter saw table will fit in your vehicle. The bed of my truck is 6'6", so I made the miter table to be 6'4"- adjust your measurements as necessary. 

B) Following steps 1D-E, attach the ledgers for the table and shelf.

C) Continue to the front of the table and assemble the front supports. I plan on doing some work seated at the end of the bench, so I only extended the shelf half the length of the assembly table.

D) Cap the open end with a 2x4 to add rigidity for the miter saw table.

You'll notice here that my actual bench is a mirror image of my plans. I decided to flip my plans so that the garage track runs over the miter saw table so I can install cabinets over the fixed table later. 

Step 3: Add Decking
A) Attach the remaining 2'x8'x.75 piece of plywood to the top of the assembly table frame. Some urge the use of construction adhesive on this side of the table as well, but I recommend only using screws. That way, if the table sees too much battle damage, the top can be unscrewed, flipped over, and reused.

Tip: Prior to screwing the top on, use a countersinking bit to pre-drill the plywood and ensure no screw heads protrude above the table surface

B) Using a 1/2" sheet of plywood, add the shelf to the lower ledger.

Step 4: Add Storage
A)Add a row of plastic bins to the lower surface of the assembly table for easy access to screws, nails, nuts and bolts. 

B)Underneath the shelf, add more storage by building simple boxes on casters to store hand tools, clamps, sandpaper, and other miscellaneous shop items. These bins can be constructed from plywood, MDF, or pine planks based on how heavy duty you want them to be. 

Step 5: Build the Miter Saw Table
This is my favorite part of the whole design. This removable table allows you to bring the saw inside to cut crown moulding or throw it in the pickup to take to a project site. When it is installed in the bench the assembly table acts as an extended feed table. 

A) Measure the length of the opening your saw needs to have full range of motion. This figure will be the length required for the cut out. 

B) Cut the 2x4's to form two frames. In the four pieces shown, cut hand holds for easier carrying. The holes measure 6" long by 2" tall. Use a router to remove the edge on both sides of the board. Repeat this process on the plywood tops as shown.

C) cut the runners to fit inside the ledger for the miter saw table. Runners are 2"x2"x6'1/2" and 6'4". These will help the table stay snug when fitted with the full assembly and provide improved rigidity when it is a standalone table. 
Front View

Rear View
Design Change: I made the long side of the table long enough to accommodate a 48"cut. That way I'll be able to cut a 8' board in half.  The exact dimensions of your table will be unique to the saw you use, the space you put it in, and the length of your truck bed so only use the above drawing as a reference. 

D) Assemble the components in the same manner as the rest of the workbench has been constructed. 

E) Shim the saw so that the deck is flush with the raised boxes. To ensure the saw remains level, plane the shims to an exact height. Using the saw as a jig, drill pilot holes where the holes are in the base of the saw. Remove saw and drive hanger bolts to secure the saw. Replace the saw and fasten to the table with wing nuts. 

F) Using hardwood, construct an L-shaped fence. With a 4' level, align the fence with the fence on the saw and screw in place. 

G) Insert miter saw table assembly into workbench. 

Here are the references I used to design this bench:
For a more complex assembly table that's ideal for woodworking, consider modifying this design with the following:

Materials List
(2) 3/4"x4'x8' Sanded Pine Plywood ($71.94)
(1) 1/2"x4'x8' Sanded Pine Plywood ($26.97)
(10) 2"x4"x8' Whitewood Stud ($31.90)
(1) 1"x3"x8' Oak Board ($12.12)
(100) 2-1/2" Wood Screws ($12.67)
(1) Construction Adhesive ($9.92)
(10) Plastic Storage Bins ($12.40)
Total: $177.92

*Note: rolling storage bins not calculated in final price.

You may also like:
Project Inspiration
The Essential Toolbox List
Wooden Propeller Plans


  1. I really like the design and the information in the article. Thank you for sharing. Would it be possible to request the sketch up file used for this article. I would like to import it into the model of my garage modify to fit my dimensions.

    Thank you.

    1. Adam- Glad you liked it! Shoot an email to KTFauthors (at) and I'll send it to you. Let us know if you end up building it and send pictures our way. My wife and I actually just bought a house, so I'll be building this too in the next few weeks. (Finally!)

  2. Great looking bench, Tim. I sent you an email also for the file please. I just moved and now have a smaller garage. I want to modify the bench to roll on casters and then expand if possible. I'll send you the file when complete for a view if you like.
    Again, very nice design.

    1. Thanks Blazer- the file is on it's way to you. Good luck!

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