Make A Workbench – Part One

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Hello everyone. It’s been such a tough week that I don’t want to stick to the computer’s screen anymore. I guess it’s time for a woodworking project!

So yeah, I haven’t been so active lately after stating that I would start doing some DIY projects (I wrote a post here) and buying a bunch of tools (you can see that post here). Today, I’m gonna show you my progress so far.

Project Overview

I was thinking a lot about what I should do first. I spent endless time reading blog posts and watching Youtube videos for some beginner-level project ideas. After a while, I decided that my first project must be a workbench.

If you remember from my old post, I had to set up my workplace like below. And believe me, your knees are not gonna like it:

Obviously, every man should have a workbench regardless of what he is doing! And I’m glad that I decided to make one.

For the plan, I’m using the free one provided by Steve Ramsey (link at Reference section). Looks very sturdy and yet agile. More importantly, it is very easy to make.

Tools & Materials

Next, let’s talk tools and materials. Without one or another, we can’t bring the workbench to life.

Tools

Okay, let’s talk about tools first. Personally, I think tools are like toys for adults and I found it somehow inexpressibly relaxing just by looking at the tools I collected.

For this project, I used only the tools like the picture below:

  • Hand Saws (I mostly use the lower one)
  • Tape Measure
  • Square Ruler
  • Clamps
  • Sandpaper
  • Plus an impact driver

Wait… Hand saws? Are you serious? – You may ask.

In fact, as I mentioned before, I bought a circular saw too. Here it is:

Then why didn’t I use it then? Well, I experienced something I hadn’t expected at all: the noise!

To be short, the sound came from my circular saw is extremely loud. Given that I’m living in an apartment, that sound feels much louder comparing to what you might hear inside a factory or a store. I could have just covered my ears. But my neighbor has a baby, I decided to give up the circular saw.

To those who are considering getting into woodworking projects at home: check for noise before buying any power tools!

And don’t worry if you only have hand tools as your only choice (like me). They can make the job done, just not as fast. But in return, you will definitely enjoy the process.

Materials

The materials for this project are very simple and easy to find since it’s for completely beginners:

  • 2x4s: I modified Steve’s plan a little bit to fit my room and my height. I ended up using 9 6-foot 2x4s
  • Plywood: I couldn’t find plywood with the same size as Steve in Japan, so I bought two pieces of size 6′ x 3′ x 1/2′
  • Screw: I’m using 4.2mm x 65mm screws
  • Wood glue

And those were the tools and materials I’m using for this workbench project. Let’s get down to business!

Making my first Workbench

Saturday, March 2nd

I started this project 2 weeks ago, on Saturday, March 2nd to be exact. I went to the home center near me and grabbed some 4 pieces of 2x4s and 2 pieces of 1x4s (still don’t know why I got those 1x4s). More details about how I got the wood will be in a future post.


You may wonder why I didn’t buy enough wood for the entire project. Well, at first I didn’t know whether I could go well with my hand saws, and I definitely didn’t want to make my house look like a lumber yard.

So I got the wood. It’s time to cut them into smaller pieces. You can find more details in the plan. In my case, I need to cut the 2x4s into:

  • 8 pieces of 2′ 3 1/5″ x 1 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ (70mm x 38mm x 89mm)
  • 8 pieces of 1′ 4 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ (42mm x 38mm x 89mm)
  • 4 pieces of 3′ 3 1/3″ x 1 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ (100mm x 38mm x 89mm)

I set up my workplace like the picture below in order to cut the 6-foot 2x4s into smaller pieces. I don’t have a pair of sawhorses, so I had to use my Japanese low table and two clamps to make the wood stable.

Okay, let’s cut. The most struggling thing when cutting wood with a hand saw is how to cut it straight (the angle between the cut surface and one side is 90 degree). I learned that we should draw at least two straight lines on two sides and make sure that those lines are super square. To draw straight line that is square to the edge, I used the ruler like the picture below:

The result looks like this.

Next, I got my hand saw to go into both sides while following those lines. Since I’m still new to this, I tried to go slowly and let the saw do the work. I found it good to check if the cut is still aligned with the lines I drew above.

I finished one cut after about 3 to 4 minutes. Let’s check the result:

Hmm… so far so good. Or just my eyes thought so!

Later on, I found out that one corner (out of 4 corners of every cut) was out of square, even when I used all three visible cutting lines. The reason may be because of my right hand’s movement, which is hard to control due to the low table’s height.

But that’s not a big problem since I can sand the out-of-square corners later.

I continued with all the 2x4s I bought and below is the result. Those took me the whole afternoon. Long time no labor work. I’m running regularly but this type of workout is completely different. Don’t get me wrong. I did enjoy so much and I just had to stop because I ran out of wood!

That was enough. It’s time to enjoy my Saturday.

Sunday, March 3rd

What is worse than a rainy Sunday? A heavy rainy Sunday!

It means that couldn’t go out and buy more wood for my project. I should have been able to if I have a car though.

So the only thing I could do is to make the four legs. The task was super simple. I cut 8 pieces of size 70mm x 38mm x 89mm in the previous day. Then I stacked up every 2 pieces and put some screws in. It is recommended by Steve that you should glue them first, otherwise one piece might slip away while you are screwing in.

Without much effort, I ended up with four bulky legs like below. Before you ask, one piece of 4×4 is much more expensive than 2 pieces of 2x4s. Furthermore, 2 stacked up 2x4s is (arguably) stronger than one 4×4.

That was all I could do on that Sunday. Doing this kind of project is nothing like writing a piece of software. You won’t be able to Ctrl + Z, which will force you to embrace the imperfection and find a workaround to make things work. And sometimes, all you have to do is… wait. The lesson here? Be patient!

Saturday, March 9th

Another weekend has come. Let’s go get some wood.

Again I went to the home center near my house for lumber. I bought 6 pieces of 2x4s (just in case one breaks) and 2 pieces of plywood. Here is what it looks like when buying this kind of stuff 😉

So, I managed to get the wood home. I needed 3 more pieces of 42mm x 38mm x 89mm and 4 pieces of 100mm x 38mm x 89mm.

Let’s saw!

After cutting all the pieces I needed, I forgot to take a picture. So, I have nothing to show here 🙁

Seems like I can move on to assemble all the pieces together. Then I realized I had a small problem: there is one leg which is approximately 3mm longer than other legs!

I didn’t know why that happened, but I had two options: whether to sand out that part or to cut it out. I chose the latter!

Later I found that I should sand instead of cutting. What I didn’t take into account is the thickness of my handsaw, which is roughly 2mm. So the deeper I cut, the harder it became because the cut part kept falling down and there was nothing to hold the saw in place:

So I spent a lot of time just to cut a 3mm thick piece of wood, much longer than using sandpaper. And since the saw wasn’t kept stable, the cut ended up being very rough. Of course, I had to sand it a lot afterward. Lesson learned!

After cleaning up the mess, I decided to give myself a break by running a few rounds at the park.

Sunday, March 10th

It’s the forth day of this workbench project. Looks like my progress is pretty slow… Good news is, today I can go ahead and put all the pieces together, without having to touch the hand saw.

First, I attach two pieces of 42mm x 38mm x 89mm to two legs, one at the top and one at the bottom (2″ from the ground). It looks like this:

Let’s make the other one by doing exactly the same:

Then, I do the same but with the 100mm x 38mm x 89mm pieces. The key here is to make sure that everything is straight and square. The result looks like below:

It looks like a table now. As you can see, the lower pieces will act like stretchers which support the structure of the workbench. The upper part is what will hold up the table top together with the legs.

But I’m not done yet. Remember there are still 4 pieces of 42mm x 38mm x 89mm left? Two of them will be screwed into the legs (just like the other two above but from the inside ) which will add more weight to the base.

How about the other two? Well, the 100mm x 38mm x 89mm pieces are quite long and they will tend to bend inwards. So putting those two pieces in between will help prevent that problem.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Here is what it looks like:

And I’ve made it! Every piece is in its place and the workbench itself feels sturdy already!

It’s time to tidy things up a little bit.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my workbench, without a table top, yet!

Yet another image!

That’s my 2-week progress in this workbench project. Next week, I will cut off the table top from two pieces of plywood. Hopefully, I can finish this project without spending two more weeks 😉

And that’s all for today. Thank you guys for reading. I will update the progress as soon as possible.

Reference

Steve Ramsey’s free workbench plan: link. You will have to provide your name and email, then he will send you the plan plus two detailed videos.

And no, Steve didn’t sponsor this post, lol.

Trung Tran is a Deep Learning Engineer working in the car industry. His main daily job is to build deep learning models for autonomous driving projects, which varies from 2D/3D object detection to road scene segmentation. After office hours, he works on his personal projects which focus on Natural Language Processing and Reinforcement Learning. He loves to write technical blog posts, which helps spread his knowledge/experience to those who are struggling. Less pain, more gain.

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