DIY Workbench: Build a Portable and Inexpensive Table out of 2x4s

So you just moved into a new place and are in need of a sturdy bench to work on DIY projects. Instead of purchasing something ready-made at the store, with a little determination you can build one yourself at a more economical cost for about $100. This workbench design will give you a solid surface with two layers of storage (not counting the floor underneath) and an integrated power strip. Additionally, it can be broken down if needed, allowing you to transport it to another location in the future.

What You Will Need

(10) 10′ long 2×4 wooden beams

(12 ft.) 3/8″ – 16 threaded rod

(16) 3/8″ – 16 nuts

(16) 3/8″ washers

(1) 4’x8′, ½” plywood sheet

(1) Power Strip

(12) nails approximately 1″ long (roofing nails work well)


Cut the Wood to Length

If possible, have your local hardware store cut the 1/2″ plywood sheet into sections of 22 1/2″ x 58″ and 19 1/2″ x 58″. Save the cutoff pieces, which will be used to construct the middle storage shelf. The 2x4s need to be cut as well as listed below, though this may need to be done at home with a miter saw.

  • (14) at 4’10”
  • (4) at 3’2″ – This will be the total height of the bench, so if you want it larger or smaller, scale appropriately.
  • (2) at 19 1/16″
  • (40) at 3 1/2″

Finish the Plywood Cuts

Once the wood is cut to the correct general shape, to complete this design, you’ll need to make a few finishing cuts.

  • For the top layer (22 1/2″ x 4’10”), as seen in the picture above, cut 4 notches out, 1 ½” from each 4’10” length on both sides, 3 1/2″ deep and 1 1/2″ wide. As this is the shape of a 2×4, you can use a piece of cutoff wood as a template if needed.
  • For the bottom storage level (19 1/2″ x 4’10”), cut identical patterns out, this time directly on the 4’10” edge instead of spaced 1 1/2″ from that side. The outside will be open, rather than having a 1 1/2″ “tongue” on the corners.
  • Finally, for the middle storage level, cut two of your cutoff pieces to add up to the dimensions of the bottom storage level, then make the same notches in the front as the bottom shelf. In the back, make cuts 4 ½” wide by 8″ deep to accommodate the angled support in the back.

To ensure cuts are made correctly, you may want to wait until the 2x4s are assembled to visualize how things will fit together.

Drill and Finish Cutting the 2x4s

Once cut, you’ll need to drill 3/8″ holes through each piece of 2×4 to attach the bench together. Each hole should be centered on the long axis of the 3 1/2″ face.

  • Drill a hole through the center of the (40) 3 1/2″ 2x4s.
  • Drill holes through each of the (14) 4’10” pieces, 1 3/4″ from each end. Counterbore the resulting holes on (2) of these pieces from one side with a 1″ paddle bit to 5/8″ depth.
  • Through (2) of the non-counterbored 4’10” pieces, also drill holes 12 3/4″ from each side. As pictured above, through one of these pieces, make a rectangular cut ¾ inches deep, starting 4 3/4″ from one side, and ending 13″ later to accommodate your power strip (note that this as well as the plywood cutout may vary depending on strip used). If using a handheld jig saw, it can be helpful to mark the path, drill the corners at 1/4 inch or so, then work from there.
  • Drill three holes through the 3’2″ pieces, 2 ¼” and 13 ¼” from one end, 8″ from the other end. Counterbore through the 13 ¼” and 8″ holes in the same manner as the (2) 4’10” pieces.
  • Drill holes 1 3/4″ from each side on the (2) 19 1/16″ length 2x4s. As shown in the image above, chamfer one piece on either each side to 45° to a depth of 1 1/32″ on one side and 2 3/32″ on the other (measured from either horizontal 2×4 plane). The second will be the same, but both sides will be cut to 1 1/32″. This will keep these supports from sticking out upon assembly.

Cut Threaded Rod to Length

Cut the 3/8″ rod to the following lengths. Take care to ensure that nuts can still thread onto the rod after manipulation.

  • (2) 22 1/4″
  • (4) 19 1/4″
  • (2) 5 1/2″

Assemble Workbench Frame

Once you have everything cut out, the bench should slide together. Thread a nut with a washer onto the end of each of the six longer cut rods. Push the (2) 22 1/4″ rods through a counterbored 4’10” piece, then each should go into the top hole of a 3’2″ piece, with the counterbores on those pieces facing the assembled nuts and washers. Insert (4) 19 1/4″ rods in the same manner into the 3’2″ pieces.

From here, follow the figures below for how to insert each piece of cut 2×4, remembering to insert the 5 1/2″ rods (along with corresponding nuts and washers) as shown. Exploded views are provided for the top and middle levels of the table. For the bottom, replicate the middle layer, substituting a square (3 1/2″ x 3 1/2″) spacer for each of the angled support blocks.

Light blue, 3 1/2″ square spacer 2×4; dark blue, 3’2″ main vertical supports; grey, 4’10” horizontal supports; yellow, 19′ 1/16″ angled 2×4 supportsIf you have problems with insertion, a rubber mallet can be used to “help” the 2x4s into place. Additionally, if needed, you can bore some or all of the holes oversize at 17/64″ or even drill some of them again off-center. As seen in the assembly photos, it can be helpful to lay the 2x4s with the 3/8″ rod inserted on the ground, resulting in the 3/8″ rod sticking up.

Critically, as you insert the 2×4 supports, ensure that you don’t put your body directly over the rods while pushing. It would be possible to seriously injure yourself if the rods slide in faster than you were anticipating. Use a mallet if you need help sliding the rod into place.

Once the rods are nominally in place, loosely attach nuts to the opposite side (including the internal 5 1/2″ supports). Tighten incrementally until the workbench is secure using a socket wrench. Don’t be afraid to use a mallet to force the rods into place, using extra 2×4 material as spacers when needed.

Add Work Surface and Stain

Place your power strip in the 2×4 recession cut earlier, with the power cord facing whatever direction will be convenient for your setup. Place the top piece of plywood on the assembly, with the rectangular cutout aligned with the power strip. Slide the middle and bottom plywood pieces into place. If everything fits correctly, you can use your bench as is or finish it as outlined below.

Make any adjustments as needed, then remove the power strip and finish the surface of the assembly with an orbital sander. Sand the pieces of plywood as well, then wipe each surface down with a rag to remove loose wood particles. Apply a coat of stain and urethane (you can buy it combined to save a step) to the 2×4 supporting structure as well as the pieces of plywood. Be sure to use gloves during this process to protect your hands.

Once dry, slide the power strip and plywood back into place. Though the plywood surfaces should nominally stay put, use nails on the top layer to secure it to the structure. Other layers can be fastened as desired, but since you will likely only be storing items there, it is not generally necessary.

Use and Disassemble

Once set up, you’ll find this to be a sturdy workbench, capable of holding tools and supplies underneath of the work surface, while providing you with power. If you do need to move in the future, this bench can be disassembled as needed by removing (either partially or fully) the 3/8-inch rods that connect the vertical supports.

When this bench was initially built, the 3D modeling program used (Onshape), had an app that was used as a reference on a smartphone rather than always referring back to a computer. While you build this, or as a reference during disassembly, it’s a great idea to have the original instructions or pictures that you’ve taken of the finished bench literally in-hand for reference.

via DIY Workbench: Build a Portable and Inexpensive Table out of 2x4s


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