Constructing My First Workbench

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Blog entry by MaroonGoon posted 03-18-2013 12:59 AM 2463 reads 1 time favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Alright guys,
I have been planning this simple workbench for a while. This is actually my first large scale project for me and I was happy for it to be a workbench because to me it didn’t have to be a masterpiece. If I screwed up somewhere down the line, hopefully it wouldn’t be too noticeable so it was a good way for me to practice making mortise and tenon joints and becoming familiar with my equipment and develop my craftsmanship.

Here is a list of the tools that I used to construct the bench:

Bosch Plunge Router
Restored Craftsman Band Saw
Cheap Skilsaw Table Saw
Old Dovetail Saw and Skilsaw Circular Saw I found in my deceased step-grandfather’s shop
1” Stanley Chisel
Homemade Mallet
Stanley Rasp

Here is a list of materials I used:
4 – 8’ lengths of 2×4 studs
2 – 8’ lengths of 4×4 Douglass Fir
1 – 4’x8’ sheet of 3/4” MDF
1/2 – 4’x8’ sheet of masonite

I made sure to take pictures throughout the entire process so that I could put it in my blog to help explain the construction process and each finished stage. So just follow with the little text I have and hopefully the pictures will explain better than my descriptions :)

I first cut the 4×8 sheet of MDF into 4 equal pieces using my circular saw and a guide.

Here is my setup:

and here are the cut pieces:

Then I decided to begin making the frame. I started making mortise and tenons. I cut the mortise first with my plunge router and an edge guide with stop blocks on each end of the mortise. Then I cut the tenon with my band saw and a stop block. I checked the rough fit to make sure the width was right and then I rounded the tenons with a rasp and just test fitted each tenon until it fit snugly it’s matching mortise.

Here is my mortise setup:

here is the final mortise:

here is where I rounded and chiseled the tenons:

here is the final tenon:

it fits!!!

Then I dry fitted the short sides together. It all fit like a glove so I went ahead and glued the short sides together with Titebond Wood Glue and clamps.

Once the short sides finished drying and were set, I began making the mortise and tenons for the longer sides. You have no idea how scared I was that I was going to mess up on something and lose all the progress that I had already made! I guess that’s the kind of stress level that comes with serious woodworking :-/ Anyways, it all worked out well! No major mishaps.

Because I didn’t hardly have any work space at the time (hence the reason I wanted to build a workbench), I had to move outside and use the sawhorses in order to cut the mortises.

Here is my mortising set up:

Just to show how nervous I was I did two mortise and tenon joints and dry fitted the pieces together to make sure everything was going as planned:

Thankfully, everything fit nicely so I continued and finished the rest of the joinery.

I wanted to have the shelves inset into the frame so I cut 3/4” rabbet on the inside of the 2×4’s spanning lengthwise. I regretfully didn’t take any pictures of my rabbet set up but I just clamped the work piece onto my table and used my plunge router and guide to make the cut.

Once I finished the rabbets then I dry fitted then glued the entire frame together.

Here is the finished frame:

It fit a lot better than I expected and was square!

One thing I didn’t consider at first was how the humidity here in deep East Texas was going to affect and likely warp my MDF if I didn’t secure it somehow. I worried that the center of my MDF shelves would dish out (sag in the middle) so I added some 2×4 supports in the middle that I trimmed to width on the table saw and used dowels and a drill to secure it.

Once I installed the middle supports on the top and bottom, I cut the MDF shelves to width and length and fit them in. I didn’t glue them down because I wanted to be able to replace them if they got torn up over time (which I figure is likely).

Once I got the shelves set in place I glued the masonite on top of the MDF. I figured putting masonite on the MDF would help preserve the surface since MDF dents and absorbs liquids easily.

I didn’t want my top to warp either, so I added 2×4’s across the long side of the bench and secured them onto the frame by screwing a lag screw through the support and into the 4×4 it rests on. I used a forstner bit to create a hole for the top of the lag screw to be level or under the top surface so the MDF would sit flush against the support.

Here is the lag screw and support installed:

Once I got the supports installed I could glue the glued MDF top onto the frame and secured it with nails.

Last but not least, I attached the masonite top to the MDF top using rubber cement. That way, if I needed to replace the masonite then I could delaminate it from the MDF with some pressure and a flathead screwdriver or two without having to replace the entire top.

So there it is! My first workbench is finished and I’m sure I will be making a revised version sometime in the near future! It is a simple design, but it works for a beginner like me. I felt it was a great starter project for me and I am very pleased with it! I am already planning on making additions to this bench or modifications such as a leg vice and bench dog holes, but I’ll save that for another blog :)

Thanks for reading! Here’s some finished pictures for ya’ll to enjoy!

Happy Woodworking

-- "Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone." -- Pablo Picasso

12 comments so far

View Dakkar's profile


323 posts in 1897 days

#1 posted 03-18-2013 01:13 AM

Nice joinery on the legs, there, Goon. That’s another woodworking milestone behind you. Good luck on the next.

View BigRedKnothead's profile (online now)


8513 posts in 1951 days

#2 posted 03-18-2013 01:33 AM

Nice job buddy. Believe it or not, your joinery looks a lot better than my first attempts. Btw, dry-fitting prior to glue-up is never a bad idea. Do it all the time.
Your planes should get there tomorrow. Have fun!

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View MaroonGoon's profile


281 posts in 1928 days

#3 posted 03-18-2013 02:08 AM

Thanks guys!

I know BRK, I’ve been tracking them several times a day haha I’m really excited about getting them. My oilstones and Veritas jig all came in the mail Saturday so I wonder what I will be doing all this week…hmmm…

-- "Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone." -- Pablo Picasso

View MarkSr's profile


215 posts in 2019 days

#4 posted 03-18-2013 04:26 AM

GREAT JOB, very good description through the whole project. Excellent M&T’s, a job very well done.

By the way now that your on your way with woodworking, may I be so bold as to highly recommend that you please take a class in photography. It was bitch turning my 21” monitor on its right side to view your pictures. LOL

Had to hit you on that one, cause your woodworking was great.

Continue on.

-- Mark, ”...NEWBEE: On the road to learning a lot; but; a lot more to learn…” ("My Granddad used to tell me, if you didn't learn something new today, it just wasn't worth getting out of bed")

View Don W's profile

Don W

18686 posts in 2537 days

#5 posted 03-18-2013 11:49 AM

Great job. You’re gonna wonder how you got along without it.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View MrFid's profile


874 posts in 1874 days

#6 posted 03-18-2013 01:40 PM

Nice! Any plans to add a vice? I am working on my first bench right now as well. Looks like you have an awesome workspace… I am relegated to the basement.

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

View workerinwood's profile


2717 posts in 3037 days

#7 posted 03-18-2013 02:12 PM

Well done. great job!!!

-- Jack, Albuquerque

View helluvawreck's profile


30765 posts in 2836 days

#8 posted 03-18-2013 02:26 PM

That’s a fine wotkbench and it will serve you well.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3303 days

#9 posted 03-18-2013 04:29 PM

A very nice sturdy bench. The workmanship looks very good. You probably won’t ever need another once you get your vises on it. I hope you can turn your photos right side up next time. In case you are unaware of it, there should be an editing feature included in your computer’s photo gallery where this can be done. Just trying to be helpful, not grouchy.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View mantwi's profile


312 posts in 1866 days

#10 posted 08-21-2013 01:36 PM

Good looking bench. I like to use 1 3/4” birch door slabs as a top on my assembly bench. Here in east Tennessee I can buy them from salvage companies for around $8.00. They are strong and dead flat and stay that way. Trim it to the size you need and put a hardwood apron on it to mount vices and for dog holes if you use them and you’re in business. When it’s time to replace the MDF top keep it in mind, just a suggestion

View MaroonGoon's profile


281 posts in 1928 days

#11 posted 08-21-2013 01:44 PM

Thanks man, that is a good idea to use door panels for the top. Sounds like it would work. I’m actually in the process of laminating a bunch of 2×4s to replace the MDF. I have two halfs to laminate today then Saturday ill be flattening out the top and bottom with my planes. My issue with the MdF was I couldn’t put a vise on it and when glue got on it it would tear the mdf when I pried the glue off of it and mdf is not something you can plane down to get a fresh surface. Looking back I should have just used 2×4s with the top instead of MdF but you live and learn I guess :-/

-- "Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone." -- Pablo Picasso

View mantwi's profile


312 posts in 1866 days

#12 posted 08-22-2013 04:26 PM

You’ll like the laminated 2X4’s better than a door slab for sure. There’s just something about running your hand over a surface you made instead of bought. The doors are still a good idea for assembly bench tops though. The added thickness the laminated top gives will make attaching your vise a breeze. Hope you post photos when it’s finished.

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