Here’s a little tutorial on how to install plywood walls, but first… a little backstory. This summer we moved our leather shop up to Washington state and into a new workshop space. The workshop was bare-bones and definitely needed a little help, and part of what needed to be done was sheathing the walls in plywood. I chose plywood simply because I really only had two options… Drywall or Plywood. Drywall is notoriously a pain in the behind and I have no real experience with it. I also think drywall is not a great choice for a workshop since it does not function well in being able to install shelving, brackets and hangers wherever you need them. Truth be told plywood was actually my second choice. I originally wanted to install aged wood boards to lend a little character to the space, but reality dictated that this would be a poor choice due to non-uniformity in wall thickness, warping, smells, and insect infestation.
That said I suppose we should get on to it, so here’s a quick tutorial on how to install a plywood wall. Once you have these basics down for measuring, cutting to width, cutting holes for obstructions and securing…you can just repeat over and over until your project is done. Oh – for those with workshops in their garages attached to the house, make sure to refer to your local code to see if plywood is allowed. In many places you can use it – just not on the wall that is shared with the house.
PART 1: Tools and Materials
You won’t need much to get this project going. I should note that the tools I use, I purchased on my own accord and I do not receive any compensation for showing them off (similar tools from other brands will work quite well too). The image at the top of this post – from the top down I have a track saw and track (used to cut the plywood to width or length, or other odd angles), battery operated jigsaw (cutting out holes or other obstructions), deck screws #9 x 2″ length GRK brand, drill with bit for screws, drill bit slightly larger than width of the blade on jigsaw, work gloves, t-square 36″, pencil, notepad, measuring tape, protective glasses, thin wood shims (to raise plywood off ground level).
Then of course you will need to choose the right type of plywood. Typically most will base this on price, I did too since I had to purchase around 40 sheets of the stuff! I actually really dislike the look of the typical cheaper plywood you find in most home stores. It’s not the most pleasing stuff to look at. I ended up going up a notch in price for something called ‘Sande’ plywood. From researching it online it doesn’t appear to be the best type if you are building finer cabinetry, however for a wall in a workshop I think it will do quite well. A lot of people had issues with ‘voids’ in the plywood – that’s something you don’t want in a woodworking project. I ended up choosing this type for two reasons – it was still towards the cheaper end, and it has a very flat look to it. The grain pattern is not very pronounced so it kind of blends right in.
I thought I should throw a shop update on the blog here to keep you all in the loop as to our progress since moving in. I believe I last left off when we were getting insulation put in. That took a solid week or so and now the walls and ceiling are looking good. So good in fact that it was time to get the furnace up and running before the cold winds started blowing from up north. This area of Washington is technically a ‘temperate’ climate, but winter daytime averages are in the low 40s. Add to that the fact that we are out in the woods, and things tend to cool down quite a bit, especially in the shade. About 3 weeks ago we had a couple of propane tanks dropped off in preparation for getting the furnace in place.
A Workshop Furnace
I decided to move it into the loft space to keep it away from the work areas and thus help keep it quieter inside. The silence in here is deafening, you can hear a butterfly fart. So I wanted to keep it that way as much as possible and by placing things up in the loft I can now wall it off to further dampen the noise. As you can see, the return is built right onto the unit with minimal duct work since it’s near the top of the building. When things get really cold I can keep the blower on just to keep warm air circulating.
I also had the guys put in a fresh air return with shutoff, I think it will help during cold days if there’s a bit too much humidity in the shop due to drying hides out after we hand dye them. It also helps if you need to flush the shop with fresh air, but this isn’t as likely since we don’t work with toxic chemicals. All of our dye, conditioner and wax is handmade right here in the workshop from natural materials. So natural in fact – that we don’t use gloves!
To help spread the heat in the entire shop we had a line of duct put in place. It kind of has that grocery store look, but it works quite well.
After clearing inspection with the county, we were finally able to get things hooked up and tested out. This heater certainly does the trick, and now I can walk into the shop on those busy pre-holiday mornings and have it ready and toasty.
Safety Railings for the Loft
While all of that with the heater was going on I set to work building a safety railing in the loft. It’s a little over 10 feet off the ground up there and felt a bit precarious. The last thing I needed was a camera to go rolling off the edge…or better yet – my feet! Well, technically anything can roll off that edge still as there is no toe board (inspector pointed that out). So I still have more work to do up there, but it’ll be quick. I installed the posts by myself on a ladder and to accomplish this feat of magic I did two things first. One – I measured twice…everything. Two, once I knew where the post would be attached I then screwed in two 9 inch deck screws to act as a platform to rest the post on.
I used a fairly simple construction method – just 4×4 posts and 2×4 railing and intermittent pieces.
The stairway has a railing now too and it feels much better with one!
This may be too muchinfo – but thought I would share the very easy method I used to connect the posts to both the beam and on the stairway. For the beam I used the above ‘Timberlok’ 8″ screw with a large faced washer. This combo allowed me to drive the screw in using a hammer drill and no pre-drilling needed. This was extremely useful.
For the stairway I used these ‘Thrulok’ screws at 6 1/4″. These also are driven through the 4×4 and through the stairway stringer. Just long enough to reach out the other side and screw right into the included nut cap. Also a great alternative to the through bolt method.
Up on the loft…soon to be the photography area… the OSB wood floor had quite a few oil stains on it from previous owners. I went to work with a belt sander and did what I could to make it feel a bit cleaner up there.
Here’s the floor pretty much complete – it’s bare bones, but efficient!
As if that weren’t enough going on around here, I also had a stack of plywood delivered. I decided to start putting this up for my shop walls. In the end it was either plywood or drywall, and everyone knows what a giant pain drywall is. Plywood is very simple to install and is extremely useful for a workshop since you can build off of it and attach things to it at any point.
Over the next few weeks I will be posting a short tutorial for anyone interested in the simple techniques I used to get the plywood walls up. I will make sure to cover a few of the handy tools I ended up with that are making the job much easier.
Work Shop Lighting
One final part of our update is lighting for the workshop. I have high ceilings now…and no ladder that can reach them. This meant coming up with a solution where I could hang the lights without hiring a professional…and have them be moveable to areas where work stations would move. Right now my floorplan is workingout…but in a year who knows! I might change the layout to work better for me and I will need to move my lights as well. So – I decided on using cable attached between the beams 10 feet up. In this shot there is only one row of lights hung, but it is working quite well. The cable will hold a ton of weight and I can place them spaced out across the shop to help me hang lights practically anywhere. The shop lights plug in at the end of the cable where outlets were installed. This will show up again in a tutorial as well in case anyone out there faces the same issue.
And with that, it’s Friday and time to relax. There’s a lot to do to get this workshop all put together but it can all wait until after a nice walk through the woods. Make sure to get out side on the weekends and enjoy nature!
Well, it usually takes a day or two off to realize that you might have made a big mistake…after already doing a lot of work. Here I noticed that I didn’t account for the relative angle of the drill press table, or rather the entire drill press sitting on a sloped floor. This made my holes about 1.2 degrees off, which is kind of significant for a stool. Luckily there’s a way to fix it.
Above I cut out the template for the legs to sit against at 7 degree angle as per the plans. This simple setup will help make the measuring and cutting of the dowels a fairly simple task. Continue reading →
Alright, it’s day 2 of the DIY workshop stool. I’ve finished figuring out how to put together the Grrripper (a device that lifts your hand away from the wood as you feed it through he table saw – they include a DVD which if you still have one of those ancient players it is well worth watching through), and now it’s time to prep the table saw. Initially I fed a piece of lumber through the table saw only to feel it resist an abnormal amount. It was not a pretty sight and felt a bit dangerous so I quickly hit the ‘stop’ button on the saw with my knee. After all the last thing you want is kickback – where the board slams you in the face and you have to come up with excuses for your girlfriend. Turns out my table saw needed a bit of rust sanded off the surface and a wax job. Now everything slides right through, always take care of your equipment. I ripped each leg of the stool to be 1.5 inches wide. Continue reading →
Now I’m not typically a ‘precision’ kind of guy. At least in the field of woodworking and joinery (in leatherwork I couldn’t stop that evolution). So when I decided to build this stool for my workshop I kind of thought it would be fairly simple. Boy was I wrong…and sometimes you have to face that as a DIYer. The fact is, with a stool – the more precise you can be in measuring lengths and angles…the less headaches you will have down the road. That’s why I bought this electric angle gauge:
It measures down to 1/10 of a degree – allowing me to set up my drill press and table saw precisely. Unfortunately as you will read on further into the DIY, I may not have calculated the relative angle of slope of the garage. That’ll make more sense later though so let’s get on with it.
As you can see above there are a few specialty tools you can use to make this a whole lot simpler. Starting from top left to bottom right: pencil, tape measure, ruler (I know this one looks special but any old ruler will do), right angle attachment for the drill (super handy), Kreg jig (very handy for attaching the seat), digital angle reader, rounded edge router bit (1/2 inch), forstner bit for cutting dowel holes, drill, Grrripper used to push wood along table saw (seems safer than other methods). I am sure I have skipped a few but, let’s just go with that for now! Continue reading →
As September fades back and the rest of the country prepares for the cool and refreshing fall winds… down here in the Desert Southwest we are just arriving at the beginning of our summer. It’s hot as hell right now, and there’s nothing better than eating outside on a handmade picnic table where at least the breeze can catch you.
The yard has been a bit, um, a bit too dainty with this tiny blue petite folding table to act as our only source of outdoor comfort, so let’s dive on in to a simple picnic table build first featured on Popular Mechanics website, link here. I will be following the plans pretty closely, except for making the table and benches a bit longer. Let’s get on down to it.
First off here’s all the hardware you will need: 12 of 3/8 carriage bolts, 12 of 3/8 nuts for the carriage blots, 24 washers for the carriage bolts, 6 of 3/8 lag screws and 6 washers for the lag screws. Then get a box of 3.5 inch exterior screws. There’s a number of different head types – I chose the phillips since that’s what I’m used to, though I am sure there is a reason they developed the star shaped head – maybe I will be lucky enough to find out why in a few minutes!
For reference this is a carriage bolt.
This is a lag screw.
And this is a deck/exterior screw.
For the wood I chose douglas fir or yellow pine. I think the 2x4s are yellow pine. Just get some cheap stuff that isn’t all warped. I spent a good 30 minutes checking out all my pieces and digging through the pile at Home Depot before I got a decent selection.
It’s back into the woodshop for the annual ‘Make My Girlfriend Something By Hand for Her Birthday’ extravaganza. It has been a while since I have been able to do this – in the past year I had to move twice. Twice, yes both the home and the workshop. It drained the energy from my lifeblood and contributed to a period of inactivity here on the blog…but then again – I always have an excuse!
Well, this time I am going to be making a small desktop drawer that will also function as a stand to hold up her computer screen at an ergonomic height. I am by no means a well-trained woodworker, so most of my projects inevitably end up being large lessons in redoing everything from scratch. I am still learning proper wood joinery techniques, so this project will focus on a few different applications – the rabbet joint and groove, and possibly a mortise and tenon as icing on the cake.
Here’s a photo of my first mortise and tenon joint project – a small cabinet extension to make grabbing those spices nice and easy:
The first step? Measure what’s already there to get an idea of the size this drawer needs to be. Here’s what is being used as the screen stand right now:
Yes, that’s a clay pig.
Measuring out the minimum size needed tells me that I need a base of 9 inches x 9 inches and height of 3.5 inches. This partially affects the size of wood I will use, since I want a functional drawer, but also need this thing to be sturdy enough to hold 20 + pounds of Apple.
Checking my vast reserves of wood inventory – lots of scraps from the past, I found two sheets of dimensionally cut walnut a .5 x 6.75 x 69 incher for the outer box/frame, and a .25 x 5 x 48 inch for the drawer itself. Since the bigger piece doesn’t reach the full 9 inches needed for the base, I will need to add in another wood joint to connect two pieces and maintain the strength. Here goes!
Proper footwear first! Don’t want that drill bit falling on your toe.
Of course, before I make any cuts I sketched out an overview of the piece and rudimentary measurements of the different parts including an idea of how the joints will work…all on tiny purple sticky notes. Probably not the best idea, but I am trying to get this project movin’!
I marked my cuts, adding in about 1/8 inch between for the kerf (amount of wood removed by the blade). Got my eye protection, hearing protection (some Howard Leight ear muffs) and off to the miter saw for the first round of cross cuts.
This is possibly the most minimal and simple cutting board you can make with the least amount of tools and know-how. Before I get to the tutorial, let me begin with the story on how it all started. About a year and a half ago I returned from my journey through Central and South America with a nice lil’ gal. We happened to return 1 month before Christmas and thus were expected to give eachother a fine present in traditional American style. Now – I have a tendency not to go along with societal expectations, but rather do what I feel is right…and something about Christmas never really felt right. The expectation of buying some electronic gadget, or fancy clothing, or other general meaningless knickknack – didn’t really seem genuine. In the end it usually adds up into an ‘arms race’ of families and friends spending more and more every year. If you go back and give less one year – our society has taught us to notice that and put a feeling of shame on it. And what happens to all of that junk in the end? I think most of it goes into storage units, attics, closets, and landfills.
Well I had had enough of that and decided to start something new. The new rule, halfheartedly yet optimistically agreed to by my girlfriend – that nice lil’ gal that she is, was that we were to make something by hand for eachother for every major gift giving occasion. Over the past year or so this has proven to be quite the challenge…as a handmade gift takes much much longer to give/make than one bought online. (Our last Christmas gifts were finally presented to eachother this June!) Both of us are learning that in order to create certain things – new skills need to be acquired and knowledge of certain tools needs to be gained. Every gift we have made so far has so much meaning and thought behind it as well as a boatload of memories of how much we screwed up while making them. It is a lot of fun and I would recommend it to everyone out there looking to make life a bit more interesting. So far on the list – a wood and glass night light, a leather purse, a tree stump drill bit holder, fine art drawings, wood and steel noteboards, and a walnut pencil, oh and this cutting board below…now let’s get on down to it.
I went to my local hardwood store, not the big name brand places…but a smaller guy with a huge selection of many species not normally seen anywhere near a Home Depot. I looked over every board of Walnut, my favorite due to it’s darker color and nice grain patterns. It’s important to look down the long edges of the board to see how straight it is. The straighter from the get go…the easier it will be to work with. No board is perfect, but it’s best to get one that’s close. I chose this piece because it was pretty straight, and also it had a nice light color near both edges, with a dark contrast in the center.
The board itself was about 10 feet long and about 1 inch thick – so it was a little unruly getting it strapped onto the car in gusty winds…and luckily it didn’t rip my roof racks right off. At home I clamped it to a pair of saw horses to prepare for the first cut.
Looking over the wood I decided what section I wanted to be the cutting board based on the pattern and knots. In a cutting board you can have the knots in it for show, but it may cause trouble down the line when that board gets wet and dries several times. The knot could pop out. I liked this knot a lot though so I decided to make a small cheese board out of that section and use a clearer section for the cutting board.
I used a square to mark the cross cut of the first piece – later to become the cheese board.
Once the cheeseboard section was cut, I measured out the length needed for the cutting board. I did this more by feel – eyeballing it to see what dimensions looked best. I then marked the crosscut with a square and sawed away.
On the tablesaw I made a ripcut (length of the board) to get the cheese board width down to size. You can also do this with a handsaw and a bit of sweat. Shown above and in the next two photos is the cross cut for the cheese board to get the length right. I held the board up against the miter gauge to slide it into the saw. In general it is safer to use a crosscut sled for this part…but again these cuts can all be done by hand with a handsaw.
Once both pieces were cut down to size, I then had to take care of the rough edges that came with the board as well as those from the table saw.
The fancy way of smoothing out a rough edge is to use a router table like a jointer with the bit on the left. The simple way with a bit more work is to use a hand plane or even just sand the heck out of it for a while. Since I am into learning new tools and techniques I finally set up my router table and easily fed the boards through, cleaning up all edges in seconds. In the photo below you can see a divot on the top board where the tail end of it fell into the bit too much. I need to do a bit more research to figure out why. The next bit on the right above, it to cut 45 degree angles into the corners of the boards, giving it a nice bevel and protecting the edges from splintering with heavy use.
I hate hand sanding, it is slow and monotonous…that’s why I acquired this electric hand sander which makes it easy, fast and fun. The sander hooks into a vacuum so there is virtually no dust at all. I used a 120 grit initially to sand out any major markings in the wood, then switched to 320 grit for smoothness. Again this can all be done by hand with the basic sheets of sand paper…but you may regret your sweaty pits.
For a little custom touch I used a wood burning tool and personalized the boards. It’s always the small things that make handmade goods priceless. If you do anything like this – make sure to protect the wood while in a vice, by putting a soft cloth between the wood and metal.
At this point I wet the wood on all sides to raise the grain. I then dried it quickly with a heat gun. Raising the grain allows you to re-sand everything back down to a super smooth surface. This is very important on a cutting board that will get wet – as you want it to stay as smooth as possible afterwards.
After re-sanding everything I applied a healthy coat of all natural walnut oil with a soft cloth.
This is always my favorite part for the reason seen above.
Here’s a great brand of walnut oil. After applying I let it sit for a day to soak in and dry out.
I then took and objective look at both pieces and realized that something was wrong. They were too straight and uniform looking. I needed to add more of a handmade touch. I decided a good way to do this was to add a subtle angle into the edge of one side of each piece. For this I used a hand plane and it was easy work. You can also use a piece of sandpaper attached to a wood block. For the cutting board – I didn’t make this angle go too far in so as not to disturb the practical useability of the board.
The cutting board needed something more. Again the straight edges bothered me. I think this is a result of using a machine to cut/smooth out the edges versus a handsaw and sandpaper. With machines you get almost perfect looking pieces. To stray from that I decided to add in a natural looking corner using a coping saw. by using a coping saw I was assured that I would not be able to cut in a straight line and the cut may look more natural.
After doing this I had a slight heart attack. It was a big move and on a nearly finished piece, I wasn’t completely sure I wanted it after I did it – but it was too late.
In my drill press I put a cylindrical sanding bit in place and used it to tidy up the cut corner.
To create a bevel on the cut corner I used this mini plane…which did nothing but rough up the edge…so I stopped using it. Sanding worked fine at this point and once I was done sanding it all down I decided the heart-attack-causing cut grew on me and I was happy with it.
As a final step I used a walnut oil, beeswax and carnauba wax mixture to coat the entire sides of both boards. This brand is food safe and looks great when it is all rubbed in.
On hindsight – I don’t think the wax is entirely necessary as it feels like it washed off within a fe uses. The oil however is very important to protect the wood in the long term. You should re-apply every month or two to keep the wood from warping or cracking.
I hope you enjoyed this simple tutorial on how to make a cutting board. I have quite a few other how-to articles and tutorials on this site, so check around.
Let me know waht you think and if you have any questions in the comment box below.
Check out my other fun and well photographed tutorials below:
A few weeks into the new year and it is time to take a look back and see what happened in 2013. Mind you, I quit coffee cold turkey yesterday (for the 432nd time), and am writing this with taped up eyelids dosed on pain meds. Let’s see if I can get through it. Here we go:
2013, just like 2012 was a year of massive change for me, Mr. Lentz. In the beginning of the year I had just returned from an 8 month journey through Central and South America. I was in culture shock. There are a lot of things you don’t get while traveling and one of the biggest ones that bothered me was the lack of some solid mental stimulation. Traveling is great, it is fun to see new things, new places, new people…but I ultimately missed what I had begun in my workshop in Boulder, CO. That is – designing, building,writing…all around creating. This keeps me busy and gives me a feeling of fulfillment like no other South American ancient ruin can compete with.
So…once I returned to the States, I packed up my stuff in Boulder, CO and headed out West to begin my work anew.
I started from the very beginning, taking a close look at my previous designs and reworking them. Ultimately creating entirely new ideas that were much more refined.
I did the same for my rings, creating new designs, using better materials and in more efficient ways.
I expanded on my ideas a bit, trying to push them to the limit of what was possible. Out came this Grass Knuckle.
I took the time to write several tutorials, which I am proud to say have helped numerous makers like myself begin in the world of makin’. The one below is about how to build a quick, cheap and sturdy workbench.
Then I threw together an idea about a wood and leather lunch box. It came together nicely, but I am still looking to improve the design.
Several fans requested a simple leather wallet tutorial…so I made one. I realized that a lot goes into a simple leather piece like this just to get it looking right.
Partly due to my own forgetting of the steps to make a leather belt (there are many) – I made a tutorial of one. This guy now sells in my shop, it’s a fine piece of work.
There were a few ideas I had to scrap. The one below is a leather and dye combo I do not use anymore – in favor of natural dyes I make by hand.
This phone wallet below was scrapped. It included a secret interior pouch…that was extremely time consuming to make.
Many new wallets were born this year. The time taken to conceptualize, design, template, create, refine and finish for sale in the shop is immense! – But worth every second. I love designing new work, the best part is when I condition up the leather with my own hand made leather balm (extra virgin olive oil, beeswax, carnauba wax), the leather glows with deep and rich colors.
Constantly experimenting with new ways to create natural colors from vegetable matter…I added two more color options Dust Storm and Stallion – though soon to be combined into just the Stallion.
For a brief period I created a desertscape for photographing my leather goods. This proved hard to maintain in the longrun and I quickly switched back to wood backdrops.
Realizing the importance of getting away is crucial to the creative mind. I took a break in Colorado, hiked a fourteener and let my mind be free and wander without anything or anyone to tell me what needed to be done next. I recommend this for everyone – take a nice solo week and drive off somewhere towards nature. You will be glad you did.
Some designs from the past were revived for a custom order. Only to quickly disappear again back into the past.
Mistakes were made, plenty of them. In fact it is quite common as a craftsman to fudge things up every now and then.
I burnt some leather too.
Then I created even more leather designs, a purse, cuff and the belt from my tutorial.
Towards the end of the year I disappeared into my workshop, not seeing the light of day for weeks on end. It got busy. Very busy, very quickly. It was a blast and I worked my tail off.Looking back is kind of crazy, just reading through this and realizing how far I have come since my travels ended. There are a lot of new ideas and projects coming along that I will be sharing on here shortly. I have a few fun powertools…still waiting to be unpacked due to the craziness of the Holiday Rush). With them I plan to make bigger things – things for the home and maybe some art. This next year looks like it will be a busy one as well, but I am preparing for it in advance. That’s the great thing about making mistakes – hopefully you remember them and learn a bit from them. I think it’s important that when we are all sittin’ back and thinking about the new year ahead of us, that we also look at the year behind us and continue on that path of improvement. Cheers the 2014!
This video must be shared. It makes a decent mockery of all those maker videos out there. Everything about it is well thought out – so much so…that if you were thinking of making your own video about your work/workshop/art you may want to take some notes. Of course, there is still a hint of doubt in my mind whether or not this is for real. Not after further review of the website.
It has been a while since my last post. I have been a busy maker. Every day I am in the shop, and nothing could feel better. There is something about making things with your hands that is relaxing, it makes you focus, lets you use another part of your brain that a computer can’t touch. When I have a spare moment, I use it to continually design new things. The current project – minimalist wallets. I have a couple available already in the shop. Today I bring you a video made by a very talented English filmmaker – Anne Holiday. She has made an entire series of videos on different Makers in her area, focusing on why they do what they do. Over the next few weeks I will be posting my favorites to share, here’s the first…
The Black Walnut Tree is a killer. You would never suspect that as it grows in your yard, it is also slowly releasing a toxin out of its roots called Juglone, that works to inhibit the metabolic functions of larger plants. Thus keeping competitors away by suffocating their nutrient intake.
Luckily, once this mighty tree is cut and harvested of all its goodness – it becomes mostly harmless to the human finger.
Except for those rare instances when a small ring is placed on a large finger therefore stifling blood-flow and increasing expletives.
The intent of the new and improved ‘Redwood Ring Series‘ is to build upon the past. Every time I look at my work I notice imperfections, things that could use a bit more finesse. This is the life of a creator – you will never be done.
In the past I had used plain and simple Pine wood with a walnut husk and vinegar stain. This worked for me back then…but when I ventured back into my shop this past week – I decided I could improve things quite a bit. After experimenting with several different varieties of wood, including cherry, oak, and maple, I realized that Black Walnut was the best of all. Not only is it native to the U.S., it also grows plentifully from the eastern plains west, and from Georgia north.
Black walnut is a fairly dense wood that comes with a grayish brown tone. All it takes is one light coat of Extra Virgin Olive Oil to darken and make the grain glow even further.
Each ring created so far is made with real grass or moss that has been dried and preserved to maintain its color and texture. The grass and moss is embedded into the wood and requires no maintenance whatsoever. Though you may want to rub on a little extra virgin olive oil onto the wood every few months if necessary.
All 5 new designs are currently available in the Mr. Lentz Shop. It takes about a day to carve out your ring, then another two for it to be at your doorstep.
And your grandmother could build it. It takes 8 hours, it costs $111 and it needs a bare minimum of tools to complete. These are all things that ring quite nicely in my ears – and they are all reasons why I decided to build this workbench. Everything I do requires a vast amount of table space, some projects require a vice, others – a drill press. PlusI always have a need for shelving for bulky storage and plenty of room in the back for storing handy tools. This tutorial is all about the nuances in building such a workbench – I initially started it one late tuesday afternoon, only to realize I didn’t have all of the right hardware…another trip back to the store. The next day I realized I didn’t have all of the right pieces of wood…another trip back to the store. Then I realized some of the hardware I bought was not the right type…another trip back to the store. All in all I took over eight (damn) trips to the store to build this bench. God forbid you fall into the same trap – I intend to save you all of that frustration and make it simple, give you all of the details – up front. The checklist of things you will need…before you begin. First off, let’s be fair – give yourself a weekend to put this thing together. When you are building by hand, take it slow – measure things out, double check, take a step back and make sure you are in fact building a right side and a left side…and not two left sides.
Here is what the final outcome of the table will look like:
The wood and hardware needed are described below, along with a cut list and dimensional drawing.
2. The Wood Needed
To build the frame of the table get 8 pieces of 2×4 of kiln dried whitewood (pine) studs that measure 8 feet long, then get 2 pieces of 8 foot 4×4 ‘green’ douglas fir ( Image A shows these pieces, the 4x4s have already been cut). For the table top, it is up to you. It will depend on what you use the bench for, but most people wont need expensive hardwood like maple. I went with 3 pieces of 21/32 inch x 12 inches x 8 feet of pine (Image B). This is pine that has been glued together, then planed to a nice smooth and thin piece of wood. It works well for wide surfaces, is smooth, and is fairly cheap. For the bottom shelf get a sheet of thin plywood, something cheap – as you don’t need it to look great, just hold things. An 8 foot long piece that is around 20″ wide will do. As an extra item – I got an 8′ x 4′ piece of pegboard to install behind the table to hold tools and everything else (Image C).
3. The Hardware Needed
There is very little hardware you will need for the workbench – just box of 3 inch deck screws, 18 “L” brackets to fasten on the table top planks (get another 18 screws that are half the size as the ones that come in the L bracket package), and up to four adjustable feet to level out the legs of the table (I used just one).
Just make sure not to get any screw called a “Composite Deck Screw” with a square head as seen in the above image. You will have an aneurism trying to get these crappy things into the wood without stripping half of them, unscrewing them, re-screwing them, unscrewing them and finally throwing them out.
Above is the aftermath of what I went through for the first 3 hours of the build. Bad choice. The best choice is to use regular Phillips head wood screws and pre-drill your holes with a 7/64 drill bit that is long enough to make a 3 inch hole.
3. The Tools Used
While it is handy to have a few powertools at your disposal (table saw, chop saw, belt sander) it is entirely possible and actually quite easy to build this workbench with hand tools only…with the exception of a drill.
The above tools are all it takes. A square to draw perpendicular cut lines on your wood, tape measure, saw, screwdriver, sand paper, and a drill.
This list shows what pieces of wood to cut at what lengths, and how many pieces. This is the entire cut list for this project. One note on the cut list that I screwed up royally…make sure to wait on cutting the upper and lower shelf crossmembers only after you have assembled the table up to that point. This is simply because the width of the table will undoubtedly change by the time it is all screwed together. I accidentally pre-cut them and they ended up too short, so I had to cut into a new piece of wood and use the rest as scrap for another project.
This diagram shows the breakdown of the table and how it fits together. Notice the simple detail that the side rails on the top extend beyond the front of the table legs so they can join the front rail. The top side rails go a bit further beyond the back legs to give you room for an option to attach a pegboard to the bench to hold your tools. I opted to cover the entire space with table top and put my pegboard on the wall behind the table.
Lay the legs down and place the top and bottom side rails as shown. For the top side rail leave an overhang on the right side just large enough for you to attach it to the top front rail, or about 2 inches. Do the same for the bottom side rail, but leave the overhang on the left side only. Use a square to make sure the rails are intersecting the legs at perpendicular angles. The height of the bottom rail is up to you, mine is around 1.25 feet up, this will allow me to store things under the bottom shelf as well.
Pre-drill your holes to prevent the wood from splitting close to the edge and screw two screws into each rail where it intersects a leg. Keep using the square to make sure everything is lining up. Go slow, small mistakes here make big ones later, as in – wobbly table. Once the left side is complete, build the right side…not identically – but mirrored. This way you don’t end up with two lefts.
Once each side is built, lay each side down with legs in the air. The side rails should be on the outside. Place the front and back top rails into place.
Pre-drill and screw in the front and back rails into the legs taking care that the top of the legs align with the top of the rails (Image A). Then pre-drill and screw the side rails to the front and back rails (Image B, two screws on left side)
Flip the table so the front side is on the floor. Place the lower shelf back rail in position.
At this point you may realize that the lower shelf back rail might not be cut to the right length. Somewhere in the midst of measuring, cutting, drilling, screwing and cursing, your piece doesn’t match up. Take a breath. This is quite normal in the world of handmade. The key is not to let it frustrate you – look at it as another challenge that you need to overcome. In this case my piece was short – which is worse than being long – so I cut another small piece of wood to fit the gap, wedged it in there, and went on my way. Continue to pre-drill, and screw the rail into the legs and the side rails.
Flip the table right side up and check for wobble. If there is a wobble, it means everything is going perfectly. Locate the leg that is shorter, then flip the table upside down. Draw a line from corner to corner on the short leg and drill a hole to install your adjustable leg. There are a lot of different versions of these out there, so yours may actually screw into the side of the leg instead.
Flip the table right side up and place the bottom shelf front rail into position about a hair under 15 inches from the back rail. In the photo above you can see I used a tool box and scrap wood to help hold the rail at the right height. Do what you can to make life easy. Then pre-drill and screw the bottom front rail into the side rails.
Next, on the top of the table measure out the first top crossmember a hair longer than will fit between the front and back rail, cut the first one. Place the first crossmember into position according to the diagram, you may need a mallet or your fist to lightly pound it into place. Repeat that step for each top crossmember, carefully cutting each to the correct size so it can wedge right into place. Exact placement of these is not crucial, they are just there to support your table top.
Next, slap on your cowboy hat, protective eyewear, and pearl button shirt and start pre-drilling the holes to screw into the top crossmembers.
Once finished with the top, repeat the same steps for the bottom crossmembers.
Hopefully the workbench looks something like the above image. If not, it will probably still work, and in the worst case you can always use it for a massive desert bonfire with your friends.
At this point I took a break and decided to install a power strip onto the side of the table, even though it wasn’t quite finished yet. The power strip will be very handy for my drill, soldering iron, boombox, dremel and any other small hand held power tool.
Lay your table top planks on top of the table and decide if you need to cut the length down. I decided not to – leaving them at 8 feet since I needed a little extra room at one end to hold a drill press.
When you lay the boards down, make sure to leave a few millimeters of space between each plank. Wood will expand and contract depending on the humidity level and, indirectly, the air temperature. Thus you will want to give it some space between planks so that it wont push up against itself and warp the wood, or even tear itself out of the fasteners you are about to install. If you build this workbench during a cold dry winter day and don’t leave adequate space, you may find that during your hot and humid summer – the top will have developed large bends. I am estimating a few millimeters in my case, but I guess I will see what happens. Certain types of wood have been known to expand up to several inches in the right conditions.
Using the L brackets shown above I placed two on each end of the plank under the table and two more to hold down the middle of the plank. In the left image you can see two sizes of screws. I bought smaller ones to attach into the plank itself so they wouldn’t go through the top of the table. The longer screws will go into the side rails.
Now we’re on the home stretch. The tools shown above are optional, but if you have them – things will go more quickly. Image A shows two planers. I use the mini one on the left to help shave off wood on the edge of the table to give it a nice round curve. The planer on the right is to help even out the height of edges where planks meet. You can just as easily hand sand those areas as well. Image B shows a belt sander that makes sanding everything smooth a lot quicker. I used it on all of the front edges that I might bump into – but again – you can just as easily hand sand it all.
The workbench should look like this, and hopefully the backdrop of your workshop looks a bit different. Fortunately none of that stuff in the background is mine – and I can easily cover it up with my pegboard.
The last step is to cut the lower shelf from your plywood sheet. I had an 8 foot x 4 foot sheet handy, so I used a tablesaw to cut it down to the right width – however, if you buy yours at any big hardware store, they will happily cut it to any size you need. Once you get the width right by measuring the lower shelf rails – measure out the space where the board will fit against the legs and cut them out. Slap that sucker on the lower shelf, pre-drill it, screw it, and call it a day. Your workbench is done.
This table provides a nice solid wide area for projects. It makes it so much easier to work on things when you can spread out. As an extra step and to make finding tools even easier I installed the pegboard to the wall behind my workbench. I hope this tutorial helped you out and inspires you to create space of your own to be creative. This tutorial was inspired by one found here, but it has been altered a bit and presented a bit more clearly.
If you have any questions on the build I can answer them in the comments section. Good luck!
Check out my other fun and well photographed tutorials below:
The Year of 2011 was a significant one for me. It was the year I decided to take one step back from the computer and two steps into my newfound passion of woodworking. It’s the year I decided to put doubts and second guessing aside – and just go for it. In 2011 I began to know myself as a photographer, artist, woodworker, writer, dreamer, thinker, pilot, rabbit breeder, illusionist, spanish speaking surfer, and lover of all things made by people who make things the way they want to make them. 2011 was the year of taking yourself back to the traditional arts, the hand made, the imperfect creations. In that year I inspired myself to work with wood, electricity, leather, jewelry, and more. I can only hope that my dabblings have helped to inspire you as well and spread your creations to your neighbors too. Below are some highlights of the past year…
Perhaps the most significant part of the entire year…my inspiration that would drive the majority of my work… The Redwood forests.
And of course, I emerged out of the Redwood forests into my very favorite and inspiring city of all – San Francisco. San Francisco played a big part in driving my Beast Series of Jewelry…due to numerous visits to local trendy taxidermy/art shops.
I started up my jewelry shop, that has quickly become quite a success – thanks to all of you!
A jewelry giveaway to celebrate my fans… with a second place prize of, yes, a fish for my tank!
The Friends Making Art Series was established, with my Sis The Welder Girl being the first, as a way to highlight artists far and wide creating quality work.
A follow up Friends Making Art Series with Ritual Chocolate…the finest handmade chocolate you will ever lay taste-buds on.
Tinkered with the creation of a cigar box guitar, a fun project indeed.
Electricity from the wind!
A few new creations make their way out a bit late in the year.
Possibly the best photo I have ever taken.
A rejuvenating road trip/photoshoot with my Best Friend Dara Lynn West. As well as her first of many modeling experiences.
A good start for the Beast Jewelry Series photo shoot.
A Russian themed photoshoot to celebrate that absolutely butt-cold freezingness we are currently experiencing out in Ranch Country.
And… a sneak peak at an upcoming post. Shot in my other other favorite place in the world, just outside of Moab, UT.
Cheers to a new year of exploration to you all!! May 2012 be full of surprises.
My sister, the badass Weldergirl, makes belt buckles. So it naturally occurred to me, in sporting brotherly competition, that I should make some as well. Luckily we work in different mediums, she wins in metal, and I win with wood… so I guess it’s cats game. Just kidding… I have been wanting to create these buckles since I started to gain an interest in leatherworking. One of the easiest things to make with leather is a belt – minimal cutting and sewing. It’s a good way to learn some basics if you are just getting into things. Naturally belt buckles should follow, and yes I was inspired by my sis who made the belt buckle that I wear pretty much every day. Below I have fashioned 9 new designs as part of the Belt Buckle series for this season. Seven with the Redwood theme and two of Beast. Each buckle has been carefully handcrafted with attention to fine detail. The wood is strong and stained from an all natural and non-toxic concoction of vinegar and walnut husk. Of course the moss is all natural and has been dried and preserved to maintain its color. These creations are now available in my shop where you can buy from me directly. Each one is made to order, so yours will be created specifically for you. Check them out.