Making a workbench from 2" x 4" lumber

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Forum topic by Wood_smith posted 03-13-2010 12:12 AM 7405 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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252 posts in 2449 days

03-13-2010 12:12 AM

I want to build and donate a workbench to our local Rotary Club charity auction, but I can’t afford to build it out of hardwood. Has anybody built one from spruce 2 x lumber? How did it turn out? Even by using this cheaper wood, the cost of a decent vise will make it a pricey venture, but it’s a good cause…

-- Lloyd Kerry; creator of the Kerry-All Pouch,

15 replies so far

View TheDane's profile


4939 posts in 3087 days

#1 posted 03-13-2010 12:24 AM

Didn’t use Spruce, but did use Douglas Fir …

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View dbhost's profile


5590 posts in 2656 days

#2 posted 03-13-2010 12:45 AM

Or Southern Yellow Pine…

A Central Forge 94386 9 inch quick release woodworking vice runs for $59.99, which gets down to $48.00 after the coupon. I’ve got one, and it works great. Just clean the cosmoline off of everything, and lube it up with dry lube and it’s fine… Some guys fuss about the quick release not working right, it’s the cosmoline and sawdust that jams them up…

I built a Fine Woodworking design plywood top workbench with that vise, and have less than $125.00 total in the bench… I made the mistake of using cedar for the base, which is WAY too light. But I couldn’t find any pine, or fir 4×4s that weren’t pressure treated anywhere near me.

I am planning on rebuilding the base as I am quite pleased with the top, and vise. I will be gluing up SYP 2×4s to create 4×4s for the legs, and running with it from there. But the bench is in place and functional now. Kind of hard to justify redoing it when I have so many other projects waiting to go…

-- My workshop blog can be found at

View PineInTheAsh's profile


404 posts in 2692 days

#3 posted 03-13-2010 01:05 AM

A most generous gesture Lloyd.

No doubt it will be a highlight of the auction.

With so many wonderful benches here and on the ‘net made from construction grade lumber it’s hard to see a problem. Southern Yellow Pine is an excellent cost-effective alternative and has been growing in popularity for the bench top.

Hope you can post pics of the finished donation, and that your Pouch is experiencing some positive results.


View JimmyNate's profile


124 posts in 2774 days

#4 posted 03-13-2010 05:07 PM

I used yellow pine and 3/4 plywood. It’s awfully light. I store wood underneath to help give it some heft (which helped alot) but I can still get it to move.

-- "We are what we repeatedly do; excellence then is not an act but a habit." ---Aristotle

View Rileysdad's profile


110 posts in 2703 days

#5 posted 03-13-2010 05:16 PM

I don’t know how elaborate a bench you intend to build, but regardless of the design, it’s hard to beat Southern Yellow Pine or Douglas Fir. You can’t use 2×4s, they’re mostly White Pine; but the larger dimensional lumber will work (2×10s & 2×12s) Check out Christopher Schwartz book on workbenches. He gives all the stats on the different woods.

-- Measure twice, cut once, buy extra stock.

View Les Casteel's profile

Les Casteel

159 posts in 2483 days

#6 posted 03-14-2010 08:56 PM

Yeah, in my neck of the woods, I can buy Southern Yellow Pine at the Home Depot. Its real convenient. Its tough and it will harden over time till you almost can’t put a nail into it. Technically although coniferous it’s a hardwood. It also does quite well for the bench top when laminated together with a nice long all-thread to hold it all together. My problem with doug fir is that it splinters like crazy in my opinion.

Also, since you probably probably don’t want to put a bunch of time into it, I always used Faux mortise and tenons instead of milling them. For instance the legs. I would make a 5” x 5” leg. You take a 2” x 6” and rip to 5”. Then laminate 3 of them for the leg. You leave gaps in the inside board that are exactly 5” wide. The gaps become mortises. Then when you make the rails you laminate 3 more boards the same way, except you make the middle board 10” longer than the outside…you then have an instant 5” tenon on each end of the board. They slip right into the mortises and I would usually just clamp them and drill a couple of holes for dowels. Disassemble, add some glue clamp them back up and drive in the dowels. My grand-father used this technique to build timber frame barns when I was a kid. It goes really, really fast and looks really cool.

Email me if my instructions were not clear and you want to try it.

-- Les, Arkansas,

View Wood_smith's profile


252 posts in 2449 days

#7 posted 03-14-2010 09:55 PM

hey- awesome m&t ideas. Sounds pretty simple, thanks!!

-- Lloyd Kerry; creator of the Kerry-All Pouch,

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 3430 days

#8 posted 03-14-2010 10:20 PM

Tough to beat the low cost of 2x framing grade spruce. I got confidence you could build a very functional one for a charity out of it…Maybe 2×6’s here and there.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View MrsN's profile


975 posts in 2950 days

#9 posted 03-17-2010 05:17 AM

my husband built my bench mostly out of 2×6’s. I like it, it works great for my needs.

-- ----- ----- --

View 308Gap's profile


336 posts in 2427 days

#10 posted 03-17-2010 06:03 AM

Ok question….......if you use 2×4 for the top, do you joint one edge to become the top? Yes I’m new.

-- Thank You Veterans!

View dannymac's profile


144 posts in 2440 days

#11 posted 03-17-2010 06:06 AM

Just finished a bench made from 2×4’s i accually split them in half for the top. it’s still nice and beefy and only cost me 40 bucks for the wood which will leave me plenty of money to pick up a decent vice. set up a jig i found here on LJs to use with one of my routers to plane it smooth. it looks almost too pretty to use. at the moment waiting for the first coat of varnish to dry. top is 30” by 72” stands 36” high
20 – 8’ 2×4s
about a half gallon of varnish more or less
plus one vise yet to get

-- dannymac

View Derek Lyons's profile

Derek Lyons

584 posts in 2992 days

#12 posted 03-17-2010 05:06 PM

308Gap, yes you should joint one edge to become the top. In fact, I’d recommend planing and jointing all the 2×4’s in the top down to straight, square, and of consistent dimensions before using them in the top. (And you wouldn’t go far wrong doing that for the ones used for the base either.)

-- Derek, Bremerton WA --

View Steve Peterson's profile

Steve Peterson

317 posts in 2506 days

#13 posted 03-17-2010 06:46 PM

I made some small work benches for my kids (ages 4 and 5) out of HD 2×4s. Try to find kiln dried wood so they will not bleed sap.

-- Steve

View dannymac's profile


144 posts in 2440 days

#14 posted 03-17-2010 07:01 PM

agree with derek the 2×4s i pickup from HD were not exactly square to begin with

-- dannymac

View Don Newton's profile

Don Newton

714 posts in 3043 days

#15 posted 03-17-2010 07:41 PM

I just built such a bench for my Brother in Law for reloading bullets. I used Big Box white wood 2×4s and found them to be serviceable after sorting through the pile for the best ones. Yes, surface and joint the pieces for the top as thay are all different thicknesses. I would stay away from Spruce, they are usually sold as stud grade.

-- Don, Pittsburgh

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