If you are getting into woodworking, one of the best projects to get started with is creating a usable work table. work tables can be simple, complex, plain, or ornate. If you were thinking about building a work table, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s look at the designs of a 2x4 work table you can use to help you create the ideal bench. We will provide you with a short description, so you can see what it looks like and know what materials you need to help you make an informed decision.
Should you build or buy a worktable?
This just might be the toughest one to nail down because of the high regional variability in material costs. But keep in mind that good-quality pre-made work tables will be expensive. The little guy on the left is from Grizzly and costs only $275. Not a bad price right? But I guarantee you that if you actually USE this bench for a while, you will quickly come to hate it for its cheap vises and wimpy little chicken legs.
For many (if not most) of you, woodworking is a hobby. That means it's the place where you direct your disposable income. So if you have the budget for one of these high-quality pre-made benches, I say all the power to you!
No doubt, buying a work table is going to be more convenient than building one. But consider the fact that if you buy a cheap work table, you could very well spend a whole heap of time repairing, replacing, and reinforcing things just to make the bench usable. And that’s not very convenient, is it? Remember that the style of the work table can dramatically affect its functionality. So when you purchase one, you are pretty much stuck with the style you purchased. Modifying and customizing may prove to be difficult.
Yes, it's true. Making a work table does take certain skills. Let me put it in simple terms: In my opinion, building work tables gives you all the skills you need to build more workbenches. And while there are some valuable techniques and lessons contained within the process, these are things that can be learned and practiced within the context of regular woodworking projects.
One of the great things about building your own bench is that you can customize it to your needs and tastes. Think of all the choices in work-holding! Frankly, it's mind-boggling and you can go nuts just trying to decide what to include on your table. But if you keep it relatively simple, you can always add features down the line. When you buy a commercial bench, this is going to be much more difficult.
For the Noobs
You are just starting out. There is no way you can anticipate everything you will require from a work table. If built properly, your work table could literally last your lifetime. So committing to one design this early in your growth curve just doesn’t make sense. And not to mention, you probably don’t even have a make-shift work table to build your new work table on. It's a chicken and egg thing. My advice? GO CHEAP! Pick up a couple of sheets of plywood and some 2x4s and build a utility bench.
How to build a work table out of 2x4
- Miter Saw
- Circular Saw
- Hand Planer
- Hot Glue Gun
- Safety Gear
- 2x4, 32
- Carriage Bolts, 8
- Rod Coupling Nuts, 8
- Rubber Furniture Cups, 8
- Pack of Hot Glue Sticks, 1
- Box of 2.5" Screws, 1
- Simpson Tie plates, 16
- Wood Varnish, 1
- Wood Glue, 1/3 gal
Step 1: Preparing the wood
Take a little time to square up the sides of each 2x4 to help improve the contact area for gluing in the next step. I suggest doing this for all 4 sides of the boards since most lumber has a fair amount of defects.
Step 2: Glueing
- Divide your boards into even number groups.
- Each group should have the same crowning (bow in the same direction). Get them to be as uniform as possible.
- Once organized, begin applying a liberal amount of glue to the top surface of the first board then stacking the second on top of it. Repeat this process until the last board is stacked (no need for glue on the last board).
- Apply pipe clamps approximately every foot, alternating from top to bottom.
- Double check to make sure the boards are still aligned before fully tightening the clamps.
- Make sure each clamp is very tight by going back and re-tightening them several times following a pattern of starting in the middle and working outward.
- Allow 24 hours to dry
- Repeat this step for each group
Step 3: Plane each section
Once the glue has dried, run each section through the planer, both top and bottom.
Keep track of the final thickness of each section. They need to match each other by the end.
Step 4: Glue the sections together
- Align the sections together in a way they fit best. Even after all the prep work, there will likely be some bowing in each section. Match these as best as you can.
- Stand them on the side and apply glue to the surfaces that will connect. Glue only needs to be applied to one of the surfaces that connect together. Most of the glue gets squeezed out so there's no need to waste it.
- Secure good alignment between sections and apply the clamps in the alternating top and bottom positions.
- Allow 24 hours to dry.
Step 5: Hand plane the imperfections
A little love from a hand planer will smooth out these joints.
Do this for both sides.
Step 6: Sanding
The love from the planer is a little rough and tends to leave small grooves after each pass. Sanding with progressively finer grits starting with 80 and ending with 250 or so will clean these up nicely.
3 steps in sanding should be plenty and will produce a nice result.
Step 7: Trimming the ends
Use a straight edge (level) and square to get a nice line to even out the ends of your tabletop.
With a circular saw cut along the line.
Step 8: Building supports
I fastened a couple of 2x4's together to make base support to attach legs.
On the underside of the table align these supports and secure them down with some wood glue and a couple of wood clamps.
I used a Kregg jig to help seat in a few screws.
Step 9: Making legs
By gluing together a couple of boards and securing them with some screws, I was able to build a few legs.
Note: The supports in the previous step were made this same way.
A board was placed on top of the supports and marked underneath to easily assure proper distances between legs.
The legs were then attached to the table using the Simpson Tie Plates. I found these to be very stable in holding the legs in position.
A 1.5" gap was left on the backside of the table to allow space for additional support (shown in a later step).
Step 10: Cross supports and beams
Additional supports were added to give rigidity to the legs, front to back.
These supports were added to the backside of the legs to resist side-to-side motion.
I positioned the boards using clamps and marked off where the cuts needed to be made. It's a little faster and easier than measuring.
Step 11: Footholds
Under each leg was drilled a hole using a spade bit.
The proper depth needed can be marked off using a piece of tape on the bit.
The rod coupling nuts were then pushed into the holes. These will hold the feet
With the bolts, furniture cups, and hot glue you'll make some leveling feet for the bench.
Step 12: A finished look
I added a soft edge to the table using a palm router just for a little aesthetics.
I applied a couple of coats of varnish to limit the amount of staining and help preserve the natural colors in the wood.
Let dry overnight and it'll be ready to go!
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