Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Workshop Renovation: New Workbench

In one of my last blog entries I found this nice dresser on the curb and turned it into a tool storage cart for my workshop.


As a result of this, I had a serious deficit of space in my garage workshop. I had a total of three 4-foot workbenches, a 5-foot workbench, my very large table saw and 7 smaller tool carts. Not to mention other things taking up space in my workshop like a garbage can, water softening system, smaller benches, a shop vac and a hot water heater.


My workshop had become overrun with stuff.


I had become unhappy with all this stuff in my workshop. My biggest gripe is all those workbenches. I only actually use one for my assembly needs. All the other benches just hold power tools, and random "junk".


So it was time to change all that and fix up my workshop. I began to revise my workshop by disassembling all my 4 and 5-foot work benches and turning them into 2 smaller carts to hold my drill press, compressor and combination disc/belt sander.


I also threw together a simple main workbench for the time being, replacing the horrible 2x4 top I had made (that was very uneven) with a flat sheet of plywood.


All this left me with a good amount of usable wood.


So to begin the transition to a newer, more space-savvy workshop I decided to construct a newer main workbench out of all the plywood sheets I have.


This will once again be a 4-foot table, but instead of using 2x4s for the body's construction, I'll cut the plywood to make it solid. This workbench will also have some drawers - which means I can put more tools inside instead of cluttering my garage walls with them. 



I can make the body out of the plywood I have, but the top, back and trim will have to be bought.


Once I was happy with my design, I went into my garage and gathered my plywood boards.


...this included the board I was using as the top on my temporary workbench.


Since these boards had been used before, I had to sand down the edges to be smooth again.


Then I began to make the frame of my new workbench by cutting the plywood I had on hand. The 4 boards all needed to be the same width, so using the table saw was best and easy.


Next I marked the 4 boards so I can cut them to length.


Since I need the 2 sides to be the same size, I squared up 2 of the boards and clamped them together on some saw horses.


Then I planned on cutting both boards at the same time using my old circular saw and Kreg cross cutting system...


...but something wasn't working right. The saw wouldn't go far and was burning the wood*.


So I finished my cut with my other cordless circular saw.
*As it turned out, the blade on the circular saw was put on backwards the last time I switched blades.  Duh.


With the bottom and 2 sides cut to length, I started drilling pocket holes onto the side panels.


To attach them to the bottom I used my home-made corner clamping jigs.


These jigs hold both pieces together at a perfect 90-degree angle. This allowed me to drive screws in the pocket holes.


Once the screws are in I could remove the corner jigs.


I then repeated the process for the other side.


Because 3/4" plywood isn't always 3/4" thick, I measured the space between the 2 legs before cutting the board for the shelf. Luckily for me, the measurements all added up correctly, and I cut the board for the shelf.


Then more pocket holes drilled into the shelf.


Before I attach the shelf, I cut the remaining pieces for the top of the shelf.


I then took 2 of the newly cut pieces and clamped them flush with the top of the sides.


Having these boards clamped flush allowed me to put the shelf in place. I had to place the whole thing on the floor so I could easily screw in pocket screws.


And the shelf is attached! I then removed the clamped pieces...


...and cut them to the correct length using my table saw sled.


All these pieces will make up the middle divider on the shelf...


...as well as the back...


...and front/top supports.


I realized I never made back/top supports in my plans, so I cut some leftover plywood...


...for supports on the back. In addition to the supports adding stability to the table, parts of the table top will also be drilled into them.


With all those pieces cut to size it was time for more pocket hole drilling.


I attached the back pieces first, with the divider being sandwiched in between them. I used a large bar clamp to make sure all the pieces were tightly held together while I drilled screws into the pocket holes.


Once the back was in place, I repeated the process for the front...


...and finally the back and middle.


And the carcass for my new workbench is complete.


After looking at it for a while, I went to my old workbench, and removed everything from it.


I then began to take off the locking casters from the old cart...


...and attaching them to the new cart.


Woohoo! I love this thing so far.


I put the old 2x4 workbench top on this cart temporarily to see how it would look.


And then I added the stuff that was on the old cart onto the bottom of the new cart.


The new cart holds everything nicely, but it was getting late. So I cleaned up and started to make dinner.


(YUM). Then I ate and didn't feel like doing anything else for the night. The next morning I realized I never drew up plans for the drawers. I had my coffee and went back to my plans. 


The drawers will be made of one sheet of .25" plywood, one sheet of .5" plywood and a single 1x8 board. I also need to cut some drawer guides for the inside of the table.


With my plans complete I went to my home center and bought the wood I needed to complete this project: a few sheets of plywood, one sheet of hardwood board...


some poplar boards for the trim and a single pine board for the drawer fronts.


I removed the temporary top and other stuff from the workbench.


The first thing I did was to use my trim router to make a .25" rabbet around the bottom back of the cart. This will create a space for a thin sheet of plywood.


Before routing I used my marking tool to scribe where the cuts will be. The scribe uses a fine point to etch the wood, and this etching will keep the wood from splintering and ripping when I use the router.


Then I routed the back.


To be on the safe side I removed screws that were close to where the router would cut. 


Once I finished routing I needed to square the rounded corners.


A sharp chisel and hammer makes this easy to do.


Next I cut a sheet of thin plywood...


...to fit in the area I routed.


With the plywood fitting nicely, I removed it and added glue to the rabbet.


Then I put the plywood back in place and used some .75" brad nails to hold it until the glue dried.


Now the bottom has a back to it! And even though it's only .25" thick plywood, it adds a lot more rigidity to the whole thing.


Next I put the bench on it's back to start working on the face frame.


I measured and put a stop block on my miter saw...


...and cut the poplar boards to length.


I did a dry fit to make sure everything lined up correctly before...


...drilling pocket holes.


Once all the pocket holes had been drilled, I clamped everything together with the pocket holes sticking up.


I then assembled the face frame with pocket screws.


The frame came together nicely with the exception of one of two small blowouts, but its holding together.


Next I flipped the frame over (so the pocket holes can't be seen) and glued/nailed the face frame onto the bench.


Now it was time to work on the top. I put a thick sheet of plywood on my 2 small benches...


...and marked where the body of this workbench will connect with the top.


I then flipped it all over and attached the plywood top to the body with some screws.


With the plywood top on, I then placed the hardboard sheet on top of it. This hardboard will take all the abuse, and when it's no good anymore I simply get rid of it and replace it with a fresh piece of hardboard.


I measured the thickness of the plywood and hardboard together.


Than I locked the fence on my table saw to that measurement...


...and cut the wood to that thickness.


Then I cut them to length on the miter saw. The short sides are cut to the width of the table top. The longer sides I cut longer then they need to be, so I can simply trim them with a hand saw.


I attached the short sides first with glue and brad nails.


Then I attached the longer sides...


...and trimmed them with a saw.



With all the sides down, I cleaned up any little bit of glue squeeze out.


Then I placed the hardboard on top.


The hard board fits perfectly, but the trim I added has a few points where it's higher than the hard board.


So I marked the height of the hardboard with pencil...


...then removed the hard board.


I used a block plane to remove the excess wood.


And finished by sanding.


And it's looking great!


Next it was time to work on the drawers. I measured the inside of the bench so I could cut the drawer runners.


I used some of the cut-off poplar for the runners...


...and simply glued and nailed them in place.


Now it's time for the drawers. I started by cutting the drawer bottoms which is .25" thick plywood.



Once cut to size, I tested how well they go in and out. The one on the left is a little tight...


...so I trimmed about 1/8" and wrote "LEFT" on this board.


Next I took the .5" thick piece of plywood and cut it into strips. These will make the sides of the drawers.


I cut all the piece to length on the miter saw.


With the workbench top all done, I can assemble these drawers on top.


The drawer sides were simply assembled with glue and nails.


Then the bottoms were assembled also with glue and nails.


Now they need new drawer fronts.


Here's where the 1x8 pine board comes in. I cut them to length on the miter saw...


...then to thickness on the table saw.


To make the drawer fronts look a little nicer I rounded all the front edges on the router table.


Then I gave them a good sanding.


Next I located the center of each drawer front...


...marked it...


...and drilled a hole. This will later be for the drawer handle.


...which reminded me that I had to find some matching handles among my junk.


These two knobs will do.


Then, with the drawers inside, I lined up the fronts and shot a couple of brad nails. This will temporarily hold the fronts to the drawers.


With the drawers removed, I drilled some screws to hold the fronts in place.


Then I redrilled that hole through the drawer fronts, and into the drawers.


This let me attach the drawer knobs.


And the drawers look good closed.


...but when opened all the way, the fall downward.


So I took the cut-off pieces of pine and cut some small pieces...


...which I glued and nailed to the insides - just barely above the height of the drawers themselves.


This allows the drawers to be opened all the way without drooping down.



I then added some wax to make the drawers slide nicely.


At this point I started putting some stuff back in my workbench.


One of the things my workbench is missing are my bench clamps, which I want to put on the side.


But I have a feeling that the bench top is not thick enough to support the vises or any pressure I might apply when using the vises.


I'm really not in the mood to buy more material, but I have plenty leftover I can utilize. I still have some 3/4" plywood strips left over that can fit underneath the edges of the table top and still allow the drawers to open and close.


So I trimmed the plywood...


...added glue...


...and clamped them on.


While clamped I ran screws from underneath.


I don't know what was wrong with me when I put on that first piece, but in no way was it flush to the edge of the table. I added a second piece of plywood, this time under the side of the table.


I did go back and fill that gap with a small piece of plywood. I also added plywood to the other side of the table.


Now the top is meaty enough to support my bench vises.


There's not too much left to do other than to add onto the workbench. And I decided the first ad-on would be for my pocket hole jig.


My jig is attached to a piece of plywood and has a cut-out handle. I traced the cutout onto a scrap piece of wood.


Then I cut out the piece on the bandsaw...


...and shaped it on the disc sander.


Then I drilled 2 holes through it...


...and attached it to the side of my workbench.


Now I can hang my pocket hole jig on the side of my workbench.


After taking a break and coming back I decided I didn't like the look of the poplar sides with the plywood glue-on that I had done. It is stronger, but not as pretty. So I took the leftover poplar I had and glued/nailed it on the trim - mostly to cover up the plywood.


Since I didn't have pieces of poplar long enough, I had to creatively attach them. This particular corner looks a bit messy and uneven...


...but a little sanding with my power sander fixes that.


Then I added a little wood filler to pretty it up.


Then I needed to let the wood filler dry.


This was an opportune time for me to clean up my messy workshop.


And also to dismantle that hideous old workbench.


Once the workshop was clean(ish) and the wood filler was dry, I sanded it smooth.


Then I took all the measuring tools off my wall...


...and put all those tools in the drawer.


This gave me wall space for one of my most important tools - a printout for fractions of an inch and their decimal equivalents - something I use very often.


One tool I did not put inside the drawer was my quick square.


This tool I use all the time and I think I want to mount it to the other side of my bench.


I'll pretty much do the same thing I did for my pocket hole jig - cut out the inner shape on a piece of scrap wood...


...sand it, drill it and screw it on. Now my speed square will always be handy.


And I think that's about it for now.


This new bench is awesome. It's strong, mobile, has 2 bench vises and a pocket hole jig...


...a speed square, storage space...


...underneath...


...and space in the 2 drawers.


I even took some of the scrap plywood and made some drawer dividers.


And the top is easily replaceable.


I can't wait to start working with this thing!



A few days later I added a framing square and my T-square - 2 tools I use very often - to the side of the bench.


I'm sure I'll continue to add stuff to this workbench, but for now I'm done.

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