Sunday, July 03, 2016

Building A Garage Workbench

With our kids having recently moved out, we're rearranging our house and getting rid of a lot of stuff. That means my dream workshop in the garage is finally within reach. I'm a jack-of-all-trades, master of none, so the workshop will be used for basic woodworking, rebuilding cars and other odds and ends. It's going to be strictly functional and not a glamorous man cave.

The first thing I want to make is a wall-mounted, 8' x 30" workbench. Thanks to the Interweb Tubes, I've found sound designs, material lists and am now working my way through suggestions for the workbench top. I stopped at Home Depot yesterday and viewed some options. Here's a partial list.

  • Stainless steel. This gets a lot of play on the forums, but I've worked on it before and unless I'm cooking, I don't see the point of it. It's cold, hard, noisy and glares in the light.
  • MDF or particle board. It's inexpensive, but it disintegrates under many conditions. It swells when wet and disintegrates. Dent it and it disintegrates. Bash the side and it disintegrates. Meh.
  • Corian. This is the low-end counter top you would use in a bathroom or kitchen. Hard and durable, you can easily get these with molded backsplashes. I looked at these at Home Depot, but wondered what would happen when I missed with a hammer blow. Cracking and chipping, for certain.
  • Plywood. This is what I'm leaning towards right now. From the forum linked above, the pros use two layers of it. The first is a base and the top is essentially disposable. I'm going to go with 2 layers of 3/4" plywood, which I can get for about $25 a sheet. I'll sand and varnish it so it will be easier to clean. If I bash it, it will just dent. If I need to further protect it during some work, I can always roll out a little auto trunk liner carpet or something like that. Since it's not conductive, I can do electrical work on it, too. One of the commenters on that forum recommended a layer of tempered hardboard on the top as a very disposable work surface.
This is tempered hardboard. I had to look it up.
My only concern now is how to design hard points into the the bench so I can affix clamps and vises to it. I'm not sure if I want a vice permanently attached. I think I'll learn about the topic, build the bench to that can be retrofitted and then use the bench for a while and see how it works.

Update: Here's how to mount a vise on a workbench. Pretty straightforward stuff. Bolt it as close to the edge as possible so the mouth of the vise hangs over the edge for working with tall things. You can reinforce the bench beneath the vise with 2x4s if you want. Definitely something I can retrofit. That's a good thing, because I don't own a vise.


tom said...

My workbench is 3/8"(?) plywood (with 2x4s reinforcing the vise and bullet reloader). My desk is built the same way, but I have an architect's mat (green rubber layer) on it for writing. The desktop has worked well for over 25 years, and this is my second workbench (left the old one when I moved).

Mostly Nothing said...

So I have three work benchs. All covered with junk. Sam likes to build thing but not great at putting tools away. That's not completely fair. The work bench in the garage is my mess.

Anyway, the first is a kit from an out of business home improvement store. All wood. 2x4 and 2x6, I believe. 23 or 24 years old. It has a backsplash with ruler markings I never use. It is a bit wobbly after all this time so it is nailed to the wall.

The second is a metal frame with MDF in the garage. It has a small peg board on it. It's really nice for accumulating stuff that needs to get put away in the garage, or should go back to the workshop. It also has a bunch of paint cans on it that probably will never be used again.
The third Sam made from basically scrap, MDF on 2x4. Very strong, good work bench. It has the grinder on it, and usually the router table or drill press.

Cleaning needs to happen. But today I have to finish redoing the intake on the MG. cabling, syncing the carbs, getting the idle right for once,etc. and the mower needs attention.

K T Cat said...

MN - Kids! They're nothing but trouble! :-)

tom - I figure that most of this prep will be overkill. The thing is going to be build like a battleship and will last far longer than I will.

tom said...

My benches and desks are quite solid. I'd send photos, but you'd have a hard time seeing them through the junk :-(

Mostly Nothing said...

Ok, K T, stop the nagging. I cleaned all three work benches.

Now they are all ready to accumulate a whole new set of junk!

The MG is also running great now. Idle is still a bit high.

K T Cat said...

MN - You're my hero. But then you knew that. It's why I named one of our sons after you.