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People often over-complicate shop design, mostly because it’s fun to kick around the shop and build things. In this case, however, we needed to build an eight-foot bench with storage in a day. We could have gone any number of ways, but in the end speed, a few 2×4’s, and rough 3/8″ ply won out.

I love framing things in with 2×4’s and ply. The stock is all cut to size, and as long as you can picture in your head what you need, plans aren’t necessary. Build a box; make it work like you want it. I start by building the sides and nailing them together with an 18ga brad nailer and wood glue. Then use the Paslode framing nailer to stab a few 3-inch steel rods into each end of some 2×4’s for the base.

The back piece comes next. Since the bench was exactly 8′, only one cut was needed to trim it to the right size (34″ high). Glue and 18ga brads tacked the ends in place and made sure they were standing at 90-degree angles (upright). This made it easy to locate the top rail with glue and 18ga brads to hold it while shooting 3″ nails in from either side.

The internal shelf and front door jams went on next. This one was designed for full use of the height on one side and more small storage one the other. The center beam for the bench top was also braced in the middle to combat sag.

After we threw it in the truck and moved it to its new home, the top went on with glue and brads. All that was left was to build a few doors from the same 3/8″ ply plus a few sticks of pine trim.

When I left for dinner, the only task that remained was to put latches on the left set of doors. Coming in at around $130 for the lumber and hardware combined, the hinges and latches themselves ran about a fifth of the cost of the entire project. With the cost so minimal the return was high; a semi-custom, solid piece of shop furniture that adds tons of storage and a 2′ x 8′ bench top for workstations. All in all, not a bad Saturday’s worth of effort.


8 Responses to Projects: Cheap Workbench Build

  1. Cameron Watt says:


    When I make plywood topped benches or work tables I make them so the lumber framework underneath the ply on the 12-18″ nearest the front edge is solid(or very closely spaced) and preferably on edge; it makes it really solid and doesn’t drive the cost up too much.

  2. FredB says:

    Looks good.

    Will you leave it unpainted?

  3. Eric R says:

    Nice job Sean !

  4. jeff immer says:

    Just a thought, but an over hang would allow you to clamp stuff down easier, and to not compromise size or cost you could always add a 2x to the edge.

  5. gary z says:

    Good Job!

  6. Mayor of Shekou says:

    One feature I always insist on for work surfaces is a toe kick area along the bottom. Being able to get the toes under lets you get right up to the table, and can really reduce fatigue over time.

  7. shawn says:

    If you put it on casters then you’d get the toe kick area, & make the bench movable, so it can be pushed against a wall or pulled out depending on your need. I built a bench very similar to this once in my old garage, except with a real solid top made from 2×10’s with a plywood top. Hammered on it plenty.

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