Novice Difficulty but Strong Workbench

Many of us, over time, have accumulated lots of excess building materials and I for one am not a fan of just scrapping stuff, but I also don’t like it to lay around waiting for that rainy day; because we all know there’s just not enough of those when you want them.

My project this past summer was to use up some of those materials and build a workbench, something that has been lacking in my garage/work space. Luckily I had all materials on hand to do this project and didn’t have to buy anything at the hardware/lumber store.


  • 2x4x8′ – 6 pieces (plus 2 to keep things square)
  • 1x6x4 – 1 piece
  • 10 sq. ft – hardwood flooring
  • 3″ deck screws – 6 (that’s right, only 6)
  • 2 1/2″ finishing nails – 40
  • Carpenters Glue


  • Table Saw
  • Mitre Saw (manual or electric)
  • Drill
  • Drill Press w/fence (optional)
  • Mortising router bit
  • Jigsaw (optional)
  • Hammer
  • Nail set
  • Tape Measure & Pencil
  • Squares (sliding and framing)
  • Chisel (best) or flathead screwdriver (in a pinch)
  • Personal Protection (Goggles, gloves, ear plugs, etc)
  • Patience

Unfortunately I only have the one pic as it was done but here is how it was made.

Cutting Lumber

  1. Cut 2 2×4 at 6′ for the back legs and to support the back.
  2. Cut 2 front legs 40″ long
  3. Cut 1 front support and 2 back supports at 40″
  4. Cut 4 side supports at 28″

Now for the fun part mortise and tenon construction for the whole structure

  1. Set the table saw at 1″ high with the fence set at 1/2″
  2. All supports (front, back and side) will get run through the table saw at both ends
  3. Each piece will be run through sticking straight up on all 4 sides to create a section in the middle of each end that is 1/2″ x 2 1/2″
  4. Once all are done, set the table saw at 1/2″ high and the fence at 1″ because, yes, we’re going to cut off the remaining unwanted pieces to actually form the tenons.
  5. After that is done the pieces should all look like the picture above, just a lot rougher.
  6. Now on to the mortised slots. The key to this step is precise measurements. On each of the legs, you will measure from the bottom of the leg up. For the first slot (for side supports) I put the bottom one at around the 12″ height, just make sure all 4 legs are marked the same. To easily mark the spot for the hole, I used a sliding square, set at 1/2 depth which when used with the pencil will easily mark the sides of your hole. The top and bottom of the hole are the measurements from the bottom and they are critical to ensure the supports are level after assembly.
  7. The upper slots can have the sliding square used to ensure the holes are cut 1/2″ from the top, 1/2″ from the side, then just measure 2 1/2″ down from your top mark to finish off your measurements for the square hole.
  8. Our next step is to setup the drill press, fence and putting in the mortising bit into the press. I did a little freehand, but setting up the fence to be able to slide your piece back and forth on the press is much easier. You may find that your drill press does not go fast enough to efficiently mortise the hole, if this is the case you may need to switch to a plunge router with a fence. When setting up the press, I set the depth of the bit to 1 1/8″ so that we’re mortising a bit deeper than our tenon that way we don’t bottom out when doing our assembly and risk having some play.
  9. Next we will drill into the wood to clear out 95% of the rectangular hole that we marked out in step 8. Depending on how good your mortising bit is, will help keep the hold clear. I used spruce lumber which is a little sappy so it gummed up the bit a couple times which I had to clear out to keep the bit operating efficiently.
  10. Using the chisel, or a sharp screwdriver (or even a utility knife) finish off the hole square and make any adjustments necessary to ensure the mortise and tenon fit nicely, snug, not tight; if you need to use a hammer or anything to pry them apart, it’s too tight. The glue when applied later will swell the wood a bit and help to bond both the pieces together.
  11. Once all the joints fit nicely, you can now start assembling the frame of bench. I assembled both sides first as they were very easy to just put together on the ground. Put a generous amount of glue both in the mortise and on the tenon and slide each piece together ensuring it’s seated well and there is no gap where the tenon can be seen. If you have clamps (real long ones) you can use them to hold the pieces together, but you need to ensure you keep the sides square. I didn’t use the framing square, but that’s the easiest way to check this (verify on both the upper and lower supports), I used the Pythagorean Theorem to square it up (measure any multiple of 3x4x5 such as 15″x20″x25″ to form a right angle, then I took a piece of spare lumber and screwed things in place temporarily while the clue dried.
  12. If you want your bench to look like a piece of furniture, make sure you wipe off any globs of glue after pieces are assembled. I didn’t do this because it’s a workbench that will likely be smashed and beat up over many years of service.
  13. I would wait 12-24 hours before attempting to connect the sides to let the glue dry. Putting them together is a little trickier and requires you to use some more temporary screws, after things are squared up.
  14. As you can see from my top picture, the workbench has an open front, so in order to keep things square and a little more supported, I used the mitre saw to cut 2 right angle triangle pieces which I glued and screwed (4 total screws).
  15. There is also a need to ensure not just the front/back are square but also the top where your work area will be. You can use a true square piece of plywood or a framing square, or the 3,4,5 trick. Whatever you use to secure the top, make sure you don’t take it off until you’ve got a few boards on top, or if you’re just using plywood, make sure it’s cut to fit and fasten it in place.

Putting together the top.

  1. This was pretty simple. I had a number of pieces of hardwood flooring leftover in my basement so I used the tongue and groove feature to make the top. I didn’t even measure the pieces, I just made each piece flush with the back of the frame.
  2. Starting at one side, use your pencil to draw the cutout needed to go around the leg that continues up beyond the top. To cut this out you can use either your table saw (less safe) or the jigsaw, I did the former.
  3. Make sure the piece fits at the back and side, but don’t worry about the length because we will be trimming all of this off later, but just ensure the piece extends at least 1/2″ beyond the front support.
  4. Apply glue to the frame and to the tongue and groove of each piece you place down.
  5. I drilled pilot holes for the finishing nails so they would more easily go through the hardwood, otherwise you’ll likely bend them. Another option would have been to use an air finish nailer, but I went a little more traditional. I put 2 nails on each end of each board.
  6. At the other end, do the same process to cutout the notch for the long leg.
  7. Once all the boards are in place, draw a straight line on top of the workbench 1/2″ from the front of the framing. You can use your sliding square to measure around. Then use the jigsaw (or circular saw) to cut all the boards while in place.
  8. On the top of the 2 long legs, I put the 1×6 just to join things together and give me a place to put jars, or tools, or whatever on top. I secured this with 2 screws on each end.


This was a fun project to do. It took me one weekend and now I have a solid workbench that I can install a vice on store tools on after putting a back on it, and somewhere I can work without having to bend over all day.

One other thing that I kept in mind is that I had an old Bathroom cupboard with plywood instead of counter top, that fits very nicely underneath, so I not only have my workbench but a secondary work area, when needed.

I also added an LED light strip all the way around the inside of the back section to provide light for my projects.

Here is the finished product (actually still in progress since I haven’t attached any tools.

I hope this was at least mildly entertaining. There are lots of details and this was a relatively complex project to post here as my first subject related post. Feel free to comment or use the forum to discuss. Be sure to follow me on social media or sign up for updates.


— Jack

Would love to hear your thoughts!