The Work Bench

Ever since we moved to the country, my newly acquired Man Cave has been an utter mess, with everything that didn’t fit into the existing two cupboards simply stored in random piles on the floor. This doesn’t make things easy when I want to do some work, as I have no surface to work on, and it creates a habitat for losing things. So I’ve had it in my mind to build a work bench, with an under-bench shelf, out of timber left over from our veranda roofing build. As luck would have it, there was a house demolition happening around the corner the other week and everything was up for sale, which gained me the perfect timber bench top for $5. The top actually came from the laundry, but was of the same type of construction usually used for kitchen bench tops, heavy, laminated timber. After stripping off the unnecessary bits and marking where the frame would go, the project was on.

DIY Work Bench

The bare bench top after bits removed and frame locations sanded

I’m using hardwood for the bench top support frame and 100mm square treated pine for the legs (because that’s what I had leftover). My most difficult decision was whether to bolt the frame onto the top using coach bolts, or just put batten screws from underneath and into the underside of the bench top. I decided to opt for the latter, as that would give me a smooth bench top and, as all the weight would be borne downwards, there’d be no stress on the screws. If it didn’t work out, it would be easy enough to put in coach bolts. If you’re wondering what I was going to do with the hole where the sink went; well, I kept the sink and that’s going to become a wash trough and I’ll have a container under the sink to collect all the waste that arises, for proper disposal. What you see is what was the top of the bench, hence the manky stain next to the wash trough opening.

DIY Work Bench

Framework cut and ready for assembly

The frame was then both glued and screwed onto the bench top so that it becomes, more or less, one solid unit. By this stage, the top alone is becoming very heavy (50kg after a quick weigh-in), which is good, as there’s no point in having a flimsy work bench. Of course the thin part at the end where the sink sits decided to split in a couple of spots as the screws went in, so it was a matter of adding a brace with more glue and extra screws (the clamps are holding the brace in place while the glue takes hold). The sink end doesn’t really matter, as it isn’t going to contribute to the overall strength of the bench; it’s going to be more or less a cantilever end piece. It might not look all that pretty, but it’s actually fairly strong (the screws were somewhat deeply countersunk because I couldn’t get the right length screws).

DIY Work Bench

Framework glued and screwed into place

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the horrid flooring on our veranda, that’s courtesy of the previous owner who decided to paint the timber, in what appears to be battleship grey undercoat, prior to putting the house on the market – go figure (but we have plans to fix this abomination). You can tell how poorly the paint has stood up to normal usage, though the photo adjustment makes it look far worse than it is. The next stage were the legs. Again, we had material left over from the veranda roofing build, but I also remembered that there were treated pine posts left over after a retaining wall was repaired, so this was even better, and there were four of them. The batten screws were once again countersunk into the frame and while the legs were quite solidly attached, I added some extra braces ‘to be sure to be sure’. Overall, it’s beginning to look the goods.

Bench legs and wash basin in place

The next part was to add the frame that would support the under-bench shelf, plus it would add extra strength to the table; however, it was a toss-up as to how low down to locate the shelf. Do I leave space underneath so that I can slide rarely used, smaller, stuff out of sight, or place it higher so that I effectively have two shelves, the floor and the shelf? But by giving the shelf some depth, means that I have room for something like a set of drawers. The only way to solve this, and taking a bit of a punt, was to look at all the things that needed a home in the shed, their value and frequency of use. I’m not sure if I made the right decision, but at least I tried to give it some reasonable thought (I still need decent shelving regardless). As at time of writing, I haven’t sourced the timber for the bench shelf, but that will come soonest.

DIY Work Bench

Bench legs and wash basin in place

And as the wash trough won’t be used very frequently, I intend to make a top for it so that it can act as extra bench space, as well as storage space for less frequently used tools etc (or filled with ice and stubbies for those hot working days). As for the tools, the vice had an obvious position, but the others will need more thought so that it becomes a functional layout. The bench grinder, being on its own platform, can be moved about and may remain in that form. The cheap drill press may end up the same way, as it doesn’t seem to have a natural spot on the bench like the vice. Of course I still have other clutter to relocate, but now that the work bench is in place, everything else should follow.

DIY Work Bench

Still deciding where to place bits of equipment

More serendipity in the Man Cave, as I spotted some leftover floating floorboards that were used in the kitchen before we moved in and, as it turned out, they were perfect for the shelf. I also located the grinder to the other side onto a cantilever frame, so that it’s more accessible and practical. I still intend to put a cover over the wash basin with a hinge so that I can use it as a work top, but lift it out of the way when I need the wash basin, which can also double as a storage area. A drawer system on one side under the bench would be good, to place all the small things that aren’t ideally suited to shelving.

DIY Work Bench

Shelf in place and grinder in a better home

And thus endeth this rather boring session on a DIY work bench. That said, it was a pretty enjoyable project for me and turned out rather well. Now I just need to install some shelving for the remaining stuff that’s lying around in the man cave.