Workbench Plans – Build a Workbench Or Buy?

Who Needs Workbench Plans?

Today my knees are really killing me, again. Even after promising myself that I would never try to build something on the floor, last night I was in the basement, back down on the concrete trying to replace the belt on a vacuum cleaner. I tried to make the job more tolerable by tossing down one of those foam pads you see for working in the garden. I even tried throwing down some old pillows and blankets, but nothing seemed to really work. Then I started thinking about those professional-style knee pads I always see at Lowes – which I always walk past because I think I’ll only use them once.

So today I decided that what I really need is a way to get my work up off the floor and keep it at a reasonable height… something that my back will appreciate. That’s an easy one. But where do I get one? I’m not even sure what “get” means at this point. I suppose I’ve seen a couple of workbench kits at places like Home Depot and Lowes, but I didn’t see much of a selection really. I could buy one of those bright-red, metal frame workbenches that have the particle board top and a pegboard back. Those workbenches would probably be easy enough to set up without too much trouble. That is, if I’m willing to pay the $100 bucks or so to buy it… and, also if I have a way to get those huge boxes into my car.

Build a Workbench or Buy One?

I guess I’m thinking that a simple workbench should be a fairly easy thing to build myself. And doesn’t it make sense to build my own… especially if I’m going to use that workbench to build more stuff? That makes sense. Besides, a lot of the workbenches I’ve seen in other people’s basements look fairly simple… like they’re put together with 2x4s. I could handle that. If only I could remember (or even understand) how everything went together. That’s kind of the problem. Even with my rough sketches of the kind of workbench I think I’d like to build, I’m still a little fuzzy about what kind of joinery I should use in the corners where the legs come together. I’m not an engineer after all, and I don’t want this thing to be wobbling all over the place after I get it set up.

A Little Help with a Plan

What I’m looking for is just a little help with the overall design of the workbench. So with a quick search on Google for “workbench design” and “workbench plans” I’m seeing lots of websites that say they can help me out with a plan… and most of these I can get for free. At first I’m pretty excited that there’s so much to pick from.

Woodworking or Just Work?

First thing I notice with my Web search for workbench plans is that the word “workbench” is mostly about woodworking… which might not be what I’m looking for exactly. Here’s the test: If you have no idea what a mortise and a tenon joint is, then most of the workbench plans that come up in a Google search are probably not what you’re looking for. Nothing against woodworking, really. In fact, I hope someday I can delve into the fine craft of building fine furniture. That would be wonderful. Maybe build a baby crib for a grandkid. If this is something you are leaning towards, then by all means you should consider taking the leap into building (or buying) a nice woodworking bench.

A workbench can be a beautiful pieces of shop furniture, actually. And experienced woodworkers take no greater pride in having a beautiful workbench to show off to their friends. It’s a very passionate kind of hobby, where serious woodworkers get all perky and excited from just a little whiff of sawdust in the air. That kind of thing. But believe me, serious woodworkers pay out the wallet for their woodworking passion. Most really nice woodworking benches (made from hardwoods like oak or maple) will cost you no less than about $500 for a kit (like at or at least several hundred dollars in wood and materials just to build it yourself. Not to mention that you’ll also need some fairly sophisticated shop tools to build the really nice woodworking benches… like a planer, drill press, router table, that sort of thing.

Something Simple

But back to my original problem, what I need is simply something to get my work up off the floor and at a reasonable height – and not spend a lot of money doing it. The kind of bench I’m talking about goes together with really simple materials… like 2x4s and wood screws that you can buy at Home Depot or Lowes. And this is stuff I might even be able to fit in the back of my hatchback (and save $50 on a delivery charge). Heck, you can even slide 2x4s in the back trunk with some cars (if you have an open panel behind the back seats).

But I’m not ready to head off to the lumber store just yet. I still need to have a rough idea how the 2x4s should go together, and then how many of the boards I’ll need to buy once I get there. This is where at least some type of workbench plan can come in handy, especially if you want to get started right away on the project. Believe me, starting off with someone else’s design can remove a lot (and I mean a lot ) of the guesswork you’d otherwise be facing if you design your bench from scratch.

Finding a Simple Workbench Plan

If you haven’t already noticed, there are tons of websites on the topic of building a workbench. However, be ready to do some digging to find the kind of simple workbench design I’ve been talking about so far. Remember, most “workbench” plans you’ll find on the Web are designed for some pretty serious woodworking. They might look nice, but be prepared for instructions that want you to do work on a planer, a drill press, a router table, and some other tools I’ve never heard of.

Free Plans?

The next thing you’ll notice with your online search is that a lot of the listings advertise free plans. Believe me, I’ve meticulously gone through these “free workbench plans” websites and I can tell you without hesitation that this stuff is mostly junk. Like a lot of stuff on the Web, it’s simply a ploy to get you interested in looking at something else… like a new cell phone or a free credit report.

A Better Plan… under $10

My opinion in regard to workbench plans overall is that you’re better off to spend the $5-$10 and get something that more resembles what a real workbench plan should be-step-by-step instructions with nice illustrations, cutting diagrams, and shop tips and techniques. What I’m talking about here are plans that have at least five pages of content (unlike the photo-copied isometric drawings that some free sites have) and some reasonably good-quality photos of the finished product. The photos alone can be real life savers when you’re trying to put everything together the way it should go together.