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Blog entry by CryptKeeper posted 07-28-2011 07:14 AM 1644 reads 1 time favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Have you ever heard, “I don’t have the tools to build anything useful” or “If I had your tools I could build that too”? I can’t tell you the number of times someone has made these comment after seeing my shop.

Anyway, today I was at my company’s warehouse and the guys were complaining they need a large work surface to lay the parts out on when they are rebuilding the factory machinery. The problem is the manager wouldn’t approve them purchasing new workbenches – (there is a long story here).

Looking around I suggested they build something. The very first comment was we don’t have any woodworking tools and the second comment was they won’t let us buy any material.

My response was you already have everything you need – they called me on it and went one step further betting me $100 bucks that I couldn’t put something useable together with what they had on hand.

The rules were they provided the tools, I could use any material found on the premises and I had to finish by lunch. Note I am an IT guy and woodworking is only a hobby.

Here are the materials I found onsite:

3 sheets of ¾ inch plywood left over from the loft decking over the office.
1 box of 1-1/8 inch course threaded screws
1 salvaged piece of ½ inch marine plywood with laminate (this is normally used for wallboard in the factory and is constantly being pressured washed – one side has a nasty gouge and is no longer food safe)
1 bottle of Titebond II glue that was in my truck – the rules stated it had to be on the premises my truck was parked in front of the building.

The big joke on me was the tools they provided:

The joke on them was the workbench I built in 2 hours and 15 minutes.

They paid up and I bought them lunch.

-- Ron - Any day that I don't learn something new is a wasted day.

13 comments so far

View usnret's profile


184 posts in 2470 days

#1 posted 07-28-2011 08:21 AM

No that is one way to get people thinking. And you shared you win with the losers…truely standup.

-- Chief Petty Officer USN(RET) 1991-2011

View bigkev's profile


198 posts in 2590 days

#2 posted 07-28-2011 10:09 AM

The other joke on you was that they got you to do all that for only $100.00 AND you bought lunch! Nice though.

-- Kevin, South Carolina

View jeffl's profile


288 posts in 3272 days

#3 posted 07-28-2011 12:09 PM

More tools doesn’t equal more skills. I kinda agree with big Kevin, after rebuilding some shelves and refinishing conference tables I started keeping wood working on the down low.

-- Jeff,

View Schwieb's profile


1857 posts in 3423 days

#4 posted 07-28-2011 12:23 PM

It always stuck with me, something my Dad would say when I was growing up, and wishing he would let me use some of the tools and materials he used, that more important was what you did with what you had than what you might do if you had more. Making the most out of the resources you have and making it do has served me well my entire life. Thanks Dad

-- Dr. Ken, Florida - Durch harte arbeit werden Träume wahr.

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3270 days

#5 posted 07-28-2011 04:09 PM

There are definitely huge numbers of people that do great work by making du with what they have and doing great work in the process. You definitely showed this to be a fact with your co workers.
I’ll bet that lunch tasted mighty good!

View sarahss's profile


258 posts in 2611 days

#6 posted 07-28-2011 04:15 PM

That is one sweet looking bench. I may steal your idea for myself. I need a large glue up/assembly table.

View CryptKeeper's profile


132 posts in 2912 days

#7 posted 07-28-2011 07:59 PM

@bigkev: For me it was never about the money that is why I gave it back in the form of lunch – All-in-All it was a good way to kill a couple of hours.

@sarahss: I can’t take credit for the design I saw this method used over 30 years ago in cabinet shop my dad worked in and they used them for glue/assembly.

-- Ron - Any day that I don't learn something new is a wasted day.

View Bertha's profile


13517 posts in 2655 days

#8 posted 07-28-2011 08:01 PM

LOL with BigKev. Strong work! That’ll teach them to doubt an IT guy;)

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View CryptKeeper's profile


132 posts in 2912 days

#9 posted 07-28-2011 08:12 PM

I received a couple of PM for more specifics on the layout and assembly and thought I would post my response for all:

For those that may consider building a bench like this it is really simple:

Take one sheet of ¾” ply:

Cut 2 strips ~3-1/4” wide length ways (adjust as necessary so when added to the nominal thickness of your stock it equals 4” – I was using true ¾” stock)

Cut the rest of the sheet in 4” strips

Note: If you are using a circular saw use the plywood’s edge as a guide. For the first cut I stacked my plywood after that I used the first cut as the guide with two screws for clamps – if you notice they only gave me one clamp.

Assembling the legs:
Cut the 3-1/4” strips and two of the 4” strips to length – height is your choice just don’t go over 48”
Glue and screw at a 90 degree angle with the legs making 4×4” L shape

Assembling the frame:
Lay a sheet of the ¾” plywood and whatever you want to use for a sacrificial top (1/4 hardboard with finished side up works well for an assembly table) on the ground – this is to space the top rail. Basically, you are putting the table together upside down.

Attach the 8ft rails to the legs first – snug to the corners this provides more glue area to support the longer runs. Cut the side rails to length and attach to the legs (you’ll notice less glue area here but it provides plenty of support.)

IMPORTANT: If you are putting in a lower shelf now is the time to drop it in after the lower rails are attached you will not be able to put in a solid 4×8 sheet.

Attach the lower shelf rails at the desired height using the same method as before.

Cut the remaining strips the same length as the side rails. Use 2 for the top support and 2 for the lower shelf support – I spaced mine at 32”

Note: If your cuts aren’t precise be sure the rails and supports are flush at the BOTTOM – remember the table is upside when you flip it over the top and the shelf will lie flat.

Flipping the table:
Use caution if you are turning the unit over by yourself the lower shelf is lose and will fall as the unit flips. If you have the option get someone to help you.

Additional thoughts:
You can add center legs if you think you need more support but at the end of this build I had three 200lb + guys standing on it and it didn’t budge.

-- Ron - Any day that I don't learn something new is a wasted day.

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 2998 days

#10 posted 07-28-2011 09:22 PM

Point well made, Ron.

I find I design something then I make the tools to make it with (usually jigs).

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5802 posts in 3156 days

#11 posted 07-29-2011 12:55 AM

Here’s one of my assembly tables I built about 3 years ago. These two look like “brothers from another mother”, except mine is not as tall. It’s 4’ X 8’, and 30 ” high….They really do resemble one another…..

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2652 days

#12 posted 07-29-2011 03:13 AM

It might not have been your design, but you built it with no plans, minimal tools, and stuff you found on hand. Plus you did it in 2 1/2 hours? You are my new hero!!!! AND it is a great looking assembly table. Thanks for posting this. I have to favorite it!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View CryptKeeper's profile


132 posts in 2912 days

#13 posted 07-29-2011 06:21 AM

@gfadvm: That is a great complement, thank you!

@Rick: Yours looks great – I’m scared to think about what mine will look like in 3 years.

As for the height, I used a story pole. I asked the guys how tall they wanted it and the head machine tech said he was taught that the top of a vise should be at bottom of your elbow when your fist is on your chin. I stood him next to an 8’ strip, marked the bottom of his elbow and guessed where the bottom of a vise would hit and that became the height.

-- Ron - Any day that I don't learn something new is a wasted day.

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