DIY Mobile & Modular Workbench To Bring Your Shop to the Next Level
I tirelessly searched YouTube and Pinterest for workbench designs, and after taking into account the tools I have and the types of project I work on, there were essentially three main features I needed:
- Mobility – Hauling tools in and out of a garage is tiring and it eats up time during a build. Plus, if you’re like me, your garage is not quite a full-time woodshop, so being able to store a workbench to the side is a must.
- Size – I needed a workbench that could accommodate the largest material I might find myself working with: a 4’x8′ sheet of plywood. It takes a large workbench to act as a decent out-feed table for a table saw or to provide an adequate work area when assembling larger projects.
- Modular – A good workbench should be able to change with your needs, so I designed this workbench to either be two smaller halves or one big work area. I also built-in a slot to accommodate a variety of fixed tools such as a miter saw, pocket hole jig, router table, etc.
To see how it all came together, check out the build video below. If you think this design might work for you, jump below the fold to see step-by-step instructions.
Before, I start with the instructions, I have to give credit to Steve Ramsey at Woodworking for Mere Mortals and Bob at I Like to Make Stuff for the inspiration behind this design. I love the simplicity of Steve’s workbench, and the genius use of magnets with Bob’s work tables . I highly recommend checking out their videos (and their YouTube channels). Now – let’s build.
1. Build the Workbench Frame
The frame of the workbench is comprised of 2×4 and 2×6 boards. I used 2×6 boards for the ends of the frame to add extra stability to the workbench, and also to create deep recesses for shelves for storing tools, cans of finish, clamps, etc. The overall height of the workbench is about about 36-inches, so take into account the thickness of the tabletop, height of the casters, and the cut boards for the frame accordingly. As pictured below, using a stop-block makes cutting consistent lengths much easier.
I used pocket hole joinery to assemble the entire frame. To do this, you will need a pocket hole jig to crank through the many, many pocket holes that need to be drilled. Pictured below is a Kreg K4 pocket hole jig which makes this whole process much easier. It also has a handy attachment for a shopvac to keep the work area clear and the drill bit cool.
With all the pocket holes drilled, join the frame with 2 1/2-inch Kreg pocket holes screws. Be sure to clamps the boards together while joining them.
The frame is essentially comprised of two long sides while being joined with shorter boards that span the width of the table.
Once the frame for both benches were assembled, I added a 2×6 to the outside of each side to create the “legs” for the workbenches. This adds extra rigidity to the frame and creates a wider base for attaching casters at the bottom of each workbench. Note that the length of the extra 2×6 is the entire height of the workbench.
Once the legs are fully in place, add casters to the bottom of the bench. This makes moving the project much easier as you continue to build it. Use locking casters so the workbench will stay in place when the time calls for it.
I caught this later in the build, and the issue is unique to this workbench design where two casters sit next each other, but you’ll have to account for their rotation range. Initially, I had the two inside casters sitting next to each other, and because of this, they would bind up and block one or both from moving freely. This results in a workbench that is very difficult to move and maneuver.
To correct this, I moved the casters further apart. This lets them rotate freely while the workbench is pushed around. This also added to the height of the workbench.
2. Build and Attach the Workbench Top
Most of the workbenches I saw online were constructed with top made of 2×4 glued together by their face grain. This makes for a super-strong work surface, but it used quite a bit of material, takes more time and can be challenging to ensure that it’s completely flat. Instead, I opted for 3/4-inch cabinet-grade plywood. I made the top strong by lamenting two layers with glue.
To create the bench top, start by cutting the plywood sheets right up the middle with a circular saw or table saw. Using the Kreg RipCut (pictured below), I was able to make long, straight cuts.
Laminating these layers of plywood will create a very sturdy and strong work surface, and it starts by liberally brushing on wood glue to one layer of plywood and then placing the other on top of it. To provide clamping pressure while the glue dries, attach brad nails while pressing down on the plywood layers. Be sure to make sure the edges of the plywood line properly.
To attached the table top, I drilled pocket holes on the inside of the workbench frame. You can chose to attach the top by simply using screws through the top of the bench top, but that means screw heads will be visible on the workbench. That’s not a huge deal for most, but since I have a pocket hole jig, (in this case a Kreg Mini Picket Hole Jig) I used pocket screws to attach the table top. Whatever you decide to do, be sure to attach the top in a way that allows you to easily remove it down the road in case it needs to be replaced. This workbench is going to get plenty of use and abuse so you can image that the top will need to be replaced at some point in time.
3. Attaching the Tables With Magnets
Using the of idea of attaching modular workbenches with magnets, I drilled circular slots into 3-inch strips of pine using a forstner drill bit. These slots fit the circular neodymium magnets that would help clamp the workbenches together.
The wood strips that hold the magnets are wider than the actual thickness of the plywood top. I did this for two reasons: 1) The magnets are wider that then thickness of the workbench, and it was easier to drill the slots on separate pieces of wood than attached them directly to the plywood top. 2) With the top edges of the pine strips flush with the plywood table top, this left a slight over-hang that acted as a handle all the way around the bench top, and moving the workbench became much easier.
As I mentioned in the build video, it’s recommended to have the magnets stick out a bit from pine board edging. This allows the magnets to make better contact and form a tighter bond when moving both workbenches together. I highly recommend these neodymium magnets on Amazon. I ended up using 6 pairs to attach my workbenches, and I would maybe even recommend using 8 pairs to make an even tighter bond.
4. Completing the Miter Saw (or Multi-tool) Slot
Of all the features of the workbench, this is the one I have found to be most handy. Turning the workbench into a miter saw station is so convenient, and fortunately, making a small variation to this basic frame design allows you to build this in.
One of the workbench halves has a 3 1/2-inch-deep slot built-in to accommodate a drop-in for a miter saw. This requires additional framing, but the design is simple enough. The boards are 2x4s joined by pocket screws. It just worked out that the height of my miter saw’s work surface is 3 1/2 inches. Carefully measure the dimensions of any tool you want to “drop-in”, and remember to account for the additional height of a table top that will be added later to the workbench.
For times when I didn’t need my miter saw in the drop-in and/or I wanted a completely flat work surface, I created an insert for the drop-in.
Before I made the platform for the miter saw, I first made the insert of the slot using 2x4s and two laminated layers of plywood. I build this so the insert would be level with the rest of the workbench. I also used magnets (the same ones used to connect thee sides of the two workbenches) to secure the insert on to the workbench frame.
For the miter saw insert, I also used two layers of 3/4-inch plywood, laminated together with glue, and secured it to the workbench frame with magnets.
I carefully lined up my miter saw to make sure it was in the center of the insert. If you have a compound miter saw, be sure to test its rotational range in all configurations to make sure the insert will accommodate it. The last thing you want is to attempt to adjust your miter saw for 45-degree cut, only to have it not fully rotate because the workbench slot is not wide enough. With the saw is set in place, attach it to the plywood insert with screws. My miter saw has 4 screw holes for this purpose, but you may need some washers to completely attach yours.
5. Finishing Touches
You may want to consider applying a few coats of finish on the workbench tops to provide an extra level of durability. This also leaves the workbench feeling silky-smooth, and it makes clean-up a little easier. I also added my logo to the center of the workbench using my trusty inkjet-to-waxpaper transfer method.
I am so happy with this design, and I hope this was helpful for as you plan to build your own workbench. I spent a long time sketching this plan on paper, but after actually using this workbench design for 5 months, here are the top aspects that for me:
- Setting up for woodworking is so much easier when all my tools are on a rolling workstation. I would spend a good 20-30 minutes getting out all the tools I needed for a project, and now this is down to a matter of seconds.
- The miter saw insert is big a time-saver. Also, since the workbench top is level with the miter saw platform, cutting long boards is much easier. And when I’m not using the miter saw, I can easily store it under the workbench and re-gain a large, flat work area.
- Having a workbench also creates a lot more storage for your shop. So as you’re working on your design, think about the tools and materials that you want to store.
- I thought that I always wanted a giant workbench that would sit in the middle of my garage – I mean workshop. But given my set-up, that’s just not practical. Most of the time, there is a car parked in my garage, so splitting the workbench into two lets me store it out of the way. Also, it’s nice to have two smaller workbenches at times, depending on the kind of work I’m doing.
So what do you think of this design? I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions I how to improve it. And let me know if you build one of your own – I love seeing photos of your projects. I’m happy to answer any questions and don’t forget to subscribe to Gadgets and Grain on YouTube.
Links to Tools I Used
If you’re curious about some of the products I used on this project, check them out on Amazon. When you click on the links below, Gadgets and Grain gets a little commission when you check out – I would greatly appreciate it!
- Kreg Jig K4 Pocket Hole System
- Kreg Pocket Hole Screws
- General Tools Digital Sliding Bevel Gauge
- Kreg Face Clamp
- Dewalt Trigger Clamps
- Dewalt 20V Cordless Drill
- Kreg RipCut Circular Saw Guide
- Titebond II Wood Glue
- GluBot Glue Applicator