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Author Topic: Designed a new bench - like it so much I decided to share  (Read 329 times)

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Designed a new bench - like it so much I decided to share
« on: August 16, 2019, 02:43:38 pm »
Hey Everyone -

The Mrs. asked for a workbench in some new space we had - so I quickly drew one up in Sketchup..  then adjusted and refined it a bit.
What came out is a really nice 8' bench that costs under $100 to build including glue and screws (less if you technically count I only use 1 1/2 sheets of plywood and not 2)

The design goals were simple – create a bench using minimal materials that was sturdy.  Our new garage space needed a place to “do stuff”.    It was a good time to fire up Sketchup – I had not designed anything in a while and I was a little rusty.

Sheri's Bench
Materials needed:

2 – 4’x8′ Sheets of plywood
Home Depot Plywood
3 – 2×4’s
2″ Construction screws
Construction adhesive.
Note: You really only need 1 1/2 sheets of plywood for the bench as you will see.

Step 1:  Create a bench kit

Here are a majority of the components – If you have a table saw and a chop saw – you can cut all of this in about 20-30 minutes.

Cutting widest to narrowest is the best – 21″, 19 1/2″, 6″, ….  On the plywood sheets.  The only thing to be aware of is the last two 3″ wide strips have a 18″ x 4″ piece at the top.  If you cut the 18″ length off first, you can get all of the pieces out of this one sheet.  Home Depot in my area just started selling a very affordable and good quality plywood for these benches.  Really nice for this project.  See materials list above.

The second sheet has just the two shelves – and is less than half of the overall sheet of plywood.  If you make a second bench – you only need one more sheet of plywood!

Once all of the “long” pieces are sliced out at the tablesaw… a chop saw station with a stop block will make quick work of cutting all of the parts to length.

I used pressure treated 2×4’s for the legs because the garage floor this bench will be on has gotten wet a few times.  When cutting the legs – you should be able to get them all 32″.  Depending on the 2×4’s, they may end up at 31 7/8″ due to the width of the blade on your saw.   As long as all six are the same length – you will be good.

You should end up with a stack of components – your own bench kit!

Optional Bonus Step: Create drilling guides for the cheek plates

The full plans show screw placement for the cheek plates on the legs.  In actuality – there is no need to be so formal with the screw placement.  However – I’ve now made three of these benches and creating this template once and pre-drilling all of the holes makes assembly of the legs MUCH quicker.  The template above was made on scrap 1/4″ Masonite cut to the same size as the cheeks (4″ x 18″ and 3″ x 18″). 

I drilled 1/4″ holes for placement and used my Vix bit drill (below) to drill all of the starter holes in the cheeks.  The Vix bit is self centering and makes a nice starter hole for the screws without messing up the template. 

A drilling template is not required – But I think I’ll be making more of these – It just speeds things up a lot.

Starter holes on the top cheek plate – perfectly spaced in under 30 seconds.

Repeat for all of the 4″ and 3″ cheek plates.

Step 2:  Assemble leg sections

I have a bench with bench dogs and an end vice.  Here I have a backer board (top of legs) and the bench dogs holding everything square.  Creating this setup on your bench will provide repeat-ability making each leg section.

Here is the leg layout again on the bench – no thinking or measuring.  If you can get the sides and the top square to each other, it will be right every time.   

To position the stretcher between the legs – I made 2 x 13 3/4″ spacer blocks from scrap.  They are on the inside of the legs and guarantee the stretcher will be in the correct place w/o moving.

Here you can see all six helpers:
  • Two cheek plate drilling guides
  • Two inner spacers for the lower stretcher
  • Two outer spacers for the lower cheek plate
Big timer saver and makes everything repeatable.

Back to building: Adding construction adhesive for strength.

The top and middle stretchers are not fastened to the legs.  That said – I wanted to add some rigidity to the assembly and construction adhesive fits perfectly.  Squirt some across the joint and add the upper cheek block .

Quick note:
The finished width of the leg assembly should match the finished width of the cheek plates (18″) – The pressure treated 2×4’s were actually a bit wider than 3.5″ normal 2×4’s.  To compensate – I trimmed the 2"×4″ stretchers length a bit (~1/4″) so that the width of the legs+stretchers matched the width of the cheek plates.   A quick test fit before gluing will let you know if you need to make any minor adjustments.

Closeup of Construction screws.
These are very tough, inexpensive and easy to drive screws.  The box comes with the #25 Torx tip.  Use an impact drill to set them and secure away.  The starter holes make them go in very easily.

Position and attach the lower cheek plates.

Here again I made a couple of spacers from scrap so that I did not have to do any measuring or risk the cheeks from sliding around while gluing them.  These ones are 14″ long and allow easy attachment of the lower blocking.   Once you get the first side done – flip and repeat.  For the sake of completeness – I flipped the cheek plates on the second side so that the screw patterns cover are opposite.

Completed:  3 Sets of legs

I'm still working on the pictures for assembly, etc.
Once its all done - I'll also post a link to the PDF set of plans

More to come..
« Last Edit: August 17, 2019, 06:47:39 am by bperkins01 »
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Re: Designed a new bench - like it so much I decided to share
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2019, 03:16:53 pm »
Rad, lots of good tips here. Half of this stuff is just learning the language and there’s a lot of information I wasn’t aware of.  Thanks for posting Bud.

Mike A

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Re: Designed a new bench - like it so much I decided to share
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2019, 05:26:03 pm »
Nice work. I have been planning on drill holes for bench dogs in one of my workbenches. I was looking at end vises at the Woodcraft store last week.
I built a router table into my table saw table after I saw one of your posts.


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Re: Designed a new bench - like it so much I decided to share
« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2019, 08:11:14 am »
Thanks guys.
When I made my bench.. I wasn't really sure I wanted bench dogs..  But they get a lot more use than I expected.

Table saw router = so useful.

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Re: Designed a new bench - like it so much I decided to share
« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2019, 08:25:32 am »
Step 4:  Assembly
You can assemble this a bunch of different ways - I've made 3 of these benches and I think this way may be the best.  If there is remotely a "tricky part" - its getting the lower shelves and the center legs all squared up with each other..  But on a scale of 1-10 for "tricky"  its about a 3.

Start with the end legs and the 6" top rear stretcher.  It should get a  little construction adhesive and be square and flush to the bottom edge of the top cheek plates. The rear stretcher has a build in "back splash" so that stuff doesn't roll off the back of the bench never to be seen again..

Then do the same for the lower 3" stretcher.

Stand it up to attach the center leg.

Of course you want the leg centered and you want the 3" stretcher flush with the cheek blocks.  You will find that everything is a little "floppy" at this stage.  I had to nudge things flush a bit here and there.  As long as you made the legs all the same - everything will pull together square in the end.

Here is the new wrinkle I added on the 3rd bench assembly order.  Drop in the lower shelves for now (don't attach them).  Just use them as spacers for the legs.  Here you have the opportunity to knock them into position, test fit/alignment and make sure everything lines up before getting too much assembled.

Attach the top - more construction adhesive just because we can.

Start by pulling the top flush to the back stretcher and flush to the leg ends and put a screw in near the back.  Do the same for the opposite end.  If all is well - it should be flush with the sides at both ends.  Add the screws through the rear stretcher into the top along the backside.  This will pull the top in tight the entire length (no gaps!)

Once the top is screwed to the rear stretcher - go ahead and muscle the legs flush to the top and finish screwing the top down to the legs at the center screw.  My design has set up so the "front screws" go into the front stretcher.  So hold off on them for just a bit.

Put it on its back and add the two front stretchers.  You want these to be flush with the cheek blocks on the centers of the legs and the tops of the legs.  The plywood top is likely cupped one way or the other and the last row of screws will go into the top stretcher to hold it down and add rigidity.

Here are both stretchers in place and the top screwed tightly to the top stretcher..

Last Step:  Attach the lower shelves

Attach the shelves with screws - the only trick here is you may have to hit them will a mallet to square them up.  Any last little twists will get corrected by nudging these into position.  As long as they are flush along the front - everything else will fall into position.

Completed - took under an hour to screw the parts together.  If you have a small trim router - go ahead and round over all of the edges so that it doesn't splinter.

Going here..  It will likely not be visible in 4-6 months..

Downloadable PDF Plans:  Sheri's Bench
« Last Edit: August 23, 2019, 03:54:10 pm by bperkins01 »
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