Utilitarian Projects #5: Multi-Function Bench.......the interminable project from hell, is finished.

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Blog entry by Jim Bertelson posted 07-18-2011 12:13 AM 6257 reads 10 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: The Planter Stands......Dancing in the Sun Part 5 of Utilitarian Projects series Part 6: Scrap Projects - Tall-Thin-Mobile Storage...and Ten Minute Projects »


This project was previewed as a Mini-Bench, but that was apparently confusing. So I gave it the more appropriate Multi-Function name.

This bench is where I sand, assemble, and glue-up projects. It holds a compressor, nail guns and the nails.

I am also filing this as a project today, but in much abbreviated form.


From the front left….

From the back left…..

From the back right….

The construction is stud grade 2×4’s and cheap plywood (last time I do that), and the top is 1” MDF composed of two 1/2” pieces. The end vertical piers are a lattice of 2×4’s including the legs, sandwiched with sheets of 3/4” birch ply, with everything glued and nailed. the lower and upper horizontal frames are 2×4’s with only one side covered with 3/4” ply.

Most of the 3/4” ply edges are trimmed out with 1/8” thick pine. Excess amounts of 2×4 are used in the piers and the two horizontal frames to increase the mass, and maximize rigidity. 3/4” plywood is used for the same reason. Actually I made it a little too heavy, but it is a rock solid bench and work surface.


The usual top is shown in the above pictures, but it is reversible. On the other side is the cut through top shown here. I just turned the over the top.

Detail of the cut through top….

The top is reversible, with one side having pedestals for cut through and rout through. The slots accomodate 5/16” T-bolts. Because the top fits into a basin enclosed on 5 sides, and because the top has a number of slots, it works well as a downdraft table as well. The top is held by the basin sides, two pegs, and by its considerable weight.

Here it is without the top so you can see the basin….

Here is a peg….

Both pegs….

I plan to put in a vise on the left end. I have numerous hold downs, fixtures, and surface vises for it. It works great for assembling boxes and objects with nails, screws, and glue.


Underneath is an enclosed compartment for my 6 gallon compressor.


There is a hole for air access underneath it, and a shielded exit for wires and hoses. This results in considerable dampening of the noise level when the compressor cycles. There are 5 air hose ports, with 4 in use for 3 nail guns, and a blower. It has a large front door complete with automatic door prop….

...and a small back access door for the tank drain….

The doors use bullet catches for a latch. The doors are opened by grasping the edges.

The shelves, which are adjustable, are on the right holding the hoses and guns. There are 3 guns connected ready to go and a blower….

Here they are stowed away….

Here they are pulled out so you can see them….

The top shelf has a box with adjustable and removeable dividers, that holds the nails for the guns, and beside it is my goto sander, the low profile PC random orbit. The back side of the top shelf has a semi-enclosed compartment for the bulk coils of hose.

The lower shelves hold about 10 to 12 feet of hose in a loose coil for each tool, and it is easily coiled and stuffed back into the appropriate compartment.

Here is the back side of the shelf area….


Downdraft Capability
On the right side is a removable dust collector manifold where a 4” hose connects. It accesses the basin through a rectangular port, situated to maintain the structural integrity of the basin. It port opening has the same number of square inches as the hose.

The manifold on with hose, note the blast gate….

The manifold off, it just slides on and off the bolts….

The back of the bench has a cord keep system. The electrical cord is 14 gauge, very heavy duty, water proof, and self supporting. It will stand the abuse of lying on the floor or being plugged in overhead, if I choose to do that.

Note the cord keep, just two elevated disks, and note one of the handles for tilting….

Each end has 4 receptacles. The left side has a switch with a pilot light that turns on the power for the compressor.

Left side receptacles and compressor power switch….

There is a worklight inside the compressor compartment.

Feet and Wheels
The feet are adjustable carriage bolts. There are wheels at the front and one side positioned so that tilting the bench engages them. There are handles on the opposite side and back to assist with the tilting. The handles can be seen on the cord keep picture and the left sided power switch picture.

The bench is now so heavy (the MDF top, compressor, tools, nails) that it is hard to tilt. I will make a wheeled dolly to help. I am not sure what it weighs, but over 300 pounds and maybe close to 400 pounds.


The top has been in use on a flimsy old project table. Once the multi-function bench was far enough along to use, I moved the top to it, and I have been using it to make its shelves and other pieces.


Okay…this is way too serious a presentation for me, this was the dark side. So I will try to make a more humorous blog as well…the light side…given some time.


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

19 comments so far

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10955 posts in 5018 days

#1 posted 07-18-2011 12:29 AM

Hi Jim!

Looks real good!

I understand how your top works now… as a sanding table as well as using hold-down clamps, etc.

You’ve got it packed with goodies…

Thank you…

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:

View degoose's profile


7279 posts in 4321 days

#2 posted 07-18-2011 12:29 AM

This is what has kept you so quiet lately…

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4275 posts in 4131 days

#3 posted 07-18-2011 12:34 AM

Overpacked Joe, I have been on a mission to finish this. Next is my dust collection system for the table saw….or not. I may move onto a project for the entrance from the garage into the house. Has to hold shoes, have a bench, etc.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4275 posts in 4131 days

#4 posted 07-18-2011 12:39 AM


Yup, this has been a never ending thing…a tarball. But it is done. More importantly, it is very useful and will increase my efficiency. I have been using the top, with some rickety legs, for some time. Thats why I built the bench, the top was too valuable to have the legs give way and drop it.

With any luck I will make the humorous blog to go along with this…..I mean this was crazy-like. Never again with crappy lumber. I did learn a bunch of stuff. Fortunately, I am not foolish enough to make another one…......(-:

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12284 posts in 4395 days

#5 posted 07-18-2011 12:47 AM

Now, that bench is a great example of “Multi-function!
My ShopSmith would be green with envy.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4275 posts in 4131 days

#6 posted 07-18-2011 01:04 AM

My introduction to a Shopsmith was in the early ‘50s. Yup, pretty classy machines.

This started out as a sturdy support for the top…...and ended up holding a compressor, nail guns, became a down draft table, etc.

I am very happy to be done////1

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View lew's profile


13272 posts in 4721 days

#7 posted 07-18-2011 01:35 AM

Now that’s my idea of a multi-function bench, Jim!!

My favorites are the way you incorporated down draft functionality, the almost infinite clamping arrangements and those really cool cord wrap keepers!


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4275 posts in 4131 days

#8 posted 07-18-2011 02:24 AM

The down draft thing was a last minute Eureka thing… was a no brainer. The clamping arrrangements are as good as they look.

I thought about all kinds of stuff for the cord keepers, you know, bandsawed things, fancy stuff.

And then I realized what I really needed. Big keepers you hardly need to glance at, and the cord can never escape because they are so big. They are offset from the surface with some large…..hmmmm…about 1.5 inch dowel stock. I carefully calculated the offset to match the cord and provide a little friction, so you can really stick the cord behind them and the cord doesn’t move. The devil is in the details.

Have a good one… to go look at your latest post…......(-:

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View dbhost's profile


5777 posts in 4198 days

#9 posted 07-18-2011 03:17 AM

I have GOT to buy stock in Watco…. Nice job….

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4275 posts in 4131 days

#10 posted 07-18-2011 04:00 AM


Yup, a lot of Watco on that. Hopefully it will live up to its promise. So far it is working well. But you never know….......we’ll see how it goes. Fortnately it has some flexibility, so I can change things as necessary.

Always like to use a shop built item…........

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View PurpLev's profile


8642 posts in 4615 days

#11 posted 07-18-2011 04:02 AM

Jim. I didn’t know you could fit my entire workshop in a workbench :)

looks very utilitarian bench.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4275 posts in 4131 days

#12 posted 07-18-2011 03:46 PM

Well, I admit it does eliminate a lot of clutter. I didn’t like the nail guns, hoses, and compressor under feet. It also solves further where to plug in the sander, router, etc.

Now if I build one more and…..................

Not to worry, never again.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10955 posts in 5018 days

#13 posted 07-18-2011 06:15 PM

It’s nice to have all those AC outlets easy at hand…

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4275 posts in 4131 days

#14 posted 07-18-2011 08:20 PM

I tend to install outlet strips everywhere, and especially on benches. This way I have one cord on the floor, and the compressor, sander, router, etc just plug into the bench.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10955 posts in 5018 days

#15 posted 07-18-2011 08:29 PM

OK, as long as the circuit breaker can handle it…

And, if it’s controlled by a wall master switch, do not plug a battery charger into the bench, leave it to charge, and then, when you leave the shop, turn off the Master switch! Real FUN… when battery is still really DEAD… LOL

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:

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