This page is my photo journal of how I built my garage workbench using some salvaged 4x4 wood posts for most of the frame. The bench is fully fastened into the wall studs behind it as well as the shelving I had built to the left (those shelves are also fastened to the wall studs).
I had some very specific requirements for the desk dimensions which is why I needed to build my own. Also a good workbench from the store is several hundred dollars. For the same price, I can build something much stronger and better suited to my environment.
- I wanted it to be tall enough to store my winter tires under the left side (in garbage bags in the photos).
- I wanted it tall enough to fit my bar fridge under the right side.
- There is a low voltage service box on the wall which must be accessible above the finished desk height (telephone service, ADSL, etc).
- There are 110v outlets on the right side of the workbench which obviously need to be accessible.
- I needed to observe all the above constraints while maximizing the workbench size and making sure that the full rear frame can be fastened into the wall studs.
GRK 6-1/4" Decking Screws
I used these screws to attached the rear workbench frame into the wall studs. My 4x4 posts really do measure 4", deduct another 1/2 or 5/8 of an inch for drywall and you'd got about 2" of screw into the wall studs. I liked the deep torx head on these screws for excellent grip when torquing down.
Those large fender washers happened to fit perfectly around the head of the decking screws and help spread out the support of the screw head. I photographed the home depot bag in case you want to go look for those two bin numbers.
GRK 3-1/2" Decking Screws
I used these screws to attach 2x3's to my 4x4 post frame. With 1-1/2" deducted for the width of the 2x3 that leaves about 2" going into the 4x4 post. I liked the deep torx head on these screws for excellent grip when torquing down. (Much better IMO than a shallower Robertson or any Phillips head).
Notching 4x4 Posts - #1
I measured the notch I wanted to cut out of the post, set my circular saw to 2" depth and then cut the first notch on the post where the two 4x4 posts will mate.
Notching 4x4 Posts - #2
After the first notch is cut, I continue cutting lines about 1/8" thick all the way across my notch area.
After trying a few of these I realized it works best to work in the direction towards the plate on your circular saw. So right to left, as the base plate will always be on solid wood and make nice straight lines. This is probably painfully obvious to you carpenters out there, but I'm a computer programmer! Take it easy on me. :-)
Notching 4x4 Posts - #3
Here's what the post looks like after cutting along the whole notch area to a depth of 2" into the post.
Notching 4x4 Posts - #4
After the notches, I took a 1" chisel and knocked out the remaining thin plates of wood. The depth is mostly controlled by my sawing marks.
After chiselling, I actually also had a small wood rasp to just kind of scrape it flat. This isn't intended to be strain grade work. Just solid and level!
Workbench Rear Frame Corner
Here's how the corners look after notching both the top post and leg post. The mate nicely and the top post is well supported wood-on-wood with the bottom post.
Workbench Rear Frame Attached To Wall Studs
All three pieces are attached to the wall and into the wall studs. These are those GRK 6-1/4" deck building screws I photographed at the beginning with fender washers to spread out the strength.
3 each in both legs and 4 in the top post that will support the workbench surface.
You can see I cut an extra notch near the middle of the workbench in that top post at the back. That wiring box on the wall is where my low voltage utilities enter the house (Phone/ADSL). I mean need to run wires behind the workbench here to support the ever changing set of equipment for these utilities. I made the notch 1" deep and about 4" wide so there is lots of room in case I also want to run an extension cord or power bar through there.
I leveled the back frame at every point throughout cutting, assembly and fastening. Then rechecked at the end to be sure! This is obviously the most critical support of the back of the workbench surface.
Workbench Top Frame - #1
The front of the workbench will be a mirror image of the back frame. Those two frames will be connected by a 2x3 surface frame.
Why 2x3s you ask? Well I had some tight tolerance here. I needed to fit my winter tires under the back left side for storage while still keeping the top workbench surface under the low voltage utility box on the wall for phone service. I needed that extra 1" compared to using 2x4s.
Those Irwin corner clamps were handy for "dryfitting" the frame pieces when I only have two hands.
Workbench Top Frame - #2
These Irwin corner clamps conveniently allow you to put screws in the end area without removing the clamps. Very handy.
Workbench Top Frame - #3
Once the perimeter was complete, I added supports in the middle of the top frame.
I sandwiched the middle frame support pieces with two pieces of scrap wood as shown to keep the support nice and flush with the perimeter frame.
Remember: I don't yet have a nice level workbench to work on and my garage floor is sloped for drainage (and not perfectly flat)!
Workbench Frame Leveling
At this point the back frame was already level, and I'm attaching the front left leg. So I then leveled the surface from front to back on the left side before attaching the first front leg.
The right side leg is currently just a temporary 2x4 clamped in place. After the workbench surface was nice and level, I measured the appropriate height for my final leg (my garage floor is not level, its sloped for drainage, so the front legs are almost an inch longer than the back legs).
Workbench Frame Finished
Ta-da! The finish workbench frame with its fourth leg installed.
You can see my winter tires under the left side (actually their the summer ones right now, but you get the point) and my drinks fridge under the right side.
I'd say its starting to look good!
Workbench Frame Finished - Testing Height
Its going to be a few weeks before I can do the workbench surface, as I don't own a table saw. So I through a folding table on there just to see how the workbench felt height wise.
The working surface will be 38"-39" of the ground (remember: sloped floor). Good standing height for a garage workbench.
The frame is 33" in depth, while the work surface will be 35" in depth (so the front overhangs). This felt perfect. Deep enough that with storage on the back wall (or on the rear of the workbench later on) it still have plenty of working room towards the front. I can still comfortably open the cabinet on the back wall.
Workbench Frame Finished Closeup
Here's the final shot of the frame, just begging for top surface!
We'll have to break here though while I figure out what to do for the top. I'm thinking a couple layer of 3/4" plywood with a hardboard "replaceable" top, trimmed with maple or something to protect the edges from "bumps".
I might also put a couple lines of T-slot or something in the workbench surface to facilitate the "multi-use" nature of my workbench. That'd make it easy to clamp on various things and remove them later when I just need a flat surface for something else.