building shop counters

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Forum topic by stephaniesuesansmith posted 09-10-2011 02:26 PM 2298 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View stephaniesuesansmith's profile


2 posts in 2428 days

09-10-2011 02:26 PM

Topic tags/keywords: shop counters shop cabinets joinery question joining

I am turning one of my bedrooms into a wood shop. I have lumber shelves and scrap bins on one wall. I want to build an L shaped counter that is 6 feet by 2 feet on one wall and 8 feet by 2 feet on the adjoining wall. I plan to use 4 X 4 posts spaced every 4 feet, with 2X4x as the frame. My question is how to connect the 2×4s to the posts. Would it be better to screw them all together, or cut mortise and tenons for the joints? If I use the mortise and tenons, the plywood top would actually rest on the posts, without any support from the 2×4s. I plan on having a shelf at 1 foot high and the counter at 3 feet high. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

-- Stephanie Suesan Smith, Wolfe Ciity TX,

5 replies so far

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2656 days

#1 posted 09-11-2011 05:34 AM

I”d use the screws and put cross braces at 16 to 24” depending on what your top is made of.

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

View pmayer's profile


1026 posts in 3031 days

#2 posted 09-11-2011 03:01 PM

I woud suggest a full lap joint where the 4×4 posts are dadoed to receive the 2×4 cross member. construction adhesive and lag bold the members together and it should be solid.

-- PaulMayer,

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2647 posts in 2888 days

#3 posted 09-11-2011 03:53 PM

I built wall mounted counters in my workshop with shelves under. I have about 55 feet of them total in my workshop. I mounted them to the wall with a 45 degree brace every two feet. I built them all of 2×6’s and MDF tops. Very stable and the floor is then clear to sweep a little easier.

-- Website is

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3727 days

#4 posted 09-11-2011 04:04 PM

Give the counter height some thought. If you are going to do hand tool work while standing; (ie: sawing and planing), The best height would be to the bottom of your outstretched palm while standing. According to Chris Schwarz at Popular Woodworking this reduces fatigue in your arms and shoulders. In my case this is about 33 to 34 inches. (My height is 5’ 9”)

If you plan to sit on a chair while working, experiment with some of the tables in your home which are probably around 28 to 30 inches. A counter height of 36 inches will most likely require a stool, which might not be comfortable for extended working sessions.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2816 days

#5 posted 09-11-2011 04:07 PM

You can reduce the mass of your structure significantly. A ladder frame of 1x material with the deck well fastened will reduce the load you need to support and be adequate to the task.

I like Jim’s long view of the benefit of diagonal bracing. Here’s a source for what I consider reasonably priced braces that do the job really well. However, the shelf below idea precludes that construction.

My suggestion would be 2×4 legs and cut rabbets for your skirt pieces. Ladder frame, 1×4. Screws and glue where the frame meets the leg. Make sure the frame sits on the shoulder of the rabbet. Build two separate freestanding benches with accommodation for them to be attached to each other and then screw them (no lag bolts) to the wall in a few places. This isn’t a good application for construction adhesive; it does not resist shear well.

If your softwood components have some moisture in them, polyurethane glue is fun for this sort of journey.

Careful leveling during the process and you’re ready to move in!



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

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