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one 2x4 frame to rule them all (workbench design)

by Spikes
posted 10-23-2018 06:51 PM


20 replies so far

View BattleRidge's profile

BattleRidge

121 posts in 778 days


#1 posted 10-23-2018 09:08 PM

My combination workbench, assembly table, outfeed area is of a relatively simple design without a bunch of fancy joinery, primarily of 2” x 6” construction and screwed together with deck screws. The top consists of two layers of 3/4” plywood screwed together (no glue), and the work surface is a piece sheet of hardboard (that can be easily replaced when worn or damaged) that is held in place with double sided tape and a section of modified oak trim around the edges. The height is just beneath the top of my table saw (and a future upgraded table saw). The overall unit is 4’ x 8’ with a 30” x 30” drop down area that I use for my sander, portable router table, scroll saw (each of which stores in the workbench when not in use) and for other purposes. One side has shelving for handheld portable equipment and other items and I will be installing drawers on the other side for woodworking supplies, sandpaper, etc. The workbench is quite solid, sturdy and doesn’t budge while in use.

The designs you have posted should work and if screwed together (as I did mine) you can always disassemble and rebuild in the future if your needs change. I’m off to a meeting so have to be relatively short, but I’m sure you will get additional feedback here.

View lumbering_on's profile

lumbering_on

578 posts in 1052 days


#2 posted 10-23-2018 09:21 PM

If you want, I can post the references to show you how strong screws are, but suffice to say that one #8 screw is capable of safely bearing around 90lbs, and that’s rated at 40% of its actual shear strength. Not only that, most of the weight will be resting directly on the legs as wood distributes the weight evenly over the surface.

In other words, there is no issue with using screws. However, I would strongly suggest you use this to practice your joints as it’s a cheap project and doesn’t have to look good. It’s an ideal way to try something to improve your skills.

View Spikes's profile

Spikes

125 posts in 607 days


#3 posted 10-23-2018 10:00 PM

ok, I guess I’m still not understanding what’s going on with joints/screws and how weights is distributed. In the other thread about the meditation bench my takeaway was that screws were not as solid/a good choice as dowels or good joinery and so latter should be preferred wherever possible. That said maybe the issue was with end grain more than anything else and I was mixing that up when I posted this question.

In any case, at least from a theoretical perspective, if I have a rabbet joint and the stretcher is resting on the leg, and I put a heavy object in the middle of the table, I’d imagine the weight to be better distributed to the legs than if I screw the stretcher onto the side of the leg. In the latter case the force would be on the screw and transferred to the leg through that.

Then in practice this may not matter at all and there’s no reason to believe that the screw will eventually give (I was worried about this too, if over time the screw would have given and caused the top to no longer be true).

When it comes to stability/sturdiness, what about building with 1 2×4 vs doubling that as in the first design I posted? or using 1 board only makes sense if it’s a 2×6?

in any case I like the idea of practicing joinery as you suggested @lumbering_on, so I’ll do that.

thanks,

Spike

-- Don't worry about making progress, worry about practicing. If you practice you will make progress even if you don't want to.

View Hermit's profile

Hermit

238 posts in 1887 days


#4 posted 10-23-2018 10:41 PM

Don’t over think it. I have built most of my cabinets and bench just like you have diagramed except used 4×4’s on the corners. Used drywall screws for assembly. You’ll have no problems.

-- I'm like the farmer's duck. If it don't rain, I'll walk.

View LesB's profile

LesB

2232 posts in 4005 days


#5 posted 10-23-2018 10:45 PM

I have built several similar benches only I use 1 1/8” plywood sub-flooring for the top and then add 3/4” MDF which I seal with varathane so it resists glue and moisture. Also the MDF is easily reversed when it gets dirty and scared up and it is inexpensive to completely replaced.

The one element I see missing in your first drawing it lateral stability. This can be solved either with cross bracing or just adding plywood sheathing to the back and ends. Shelves underneath also makes great storage; which I never seem to have enough of.

-- Les B, Oregon

View lumbering_on's profile

lumbering_on

578 posts in 1052 days


#6 posted 10-23-2018 10:51 PM

Spike, I’m glad to see you are going to be practicing your joinery.

That being said, end grain is a different animal. In this case, you are screwing through the face grain into either face or edge grain. If you think about the straw analogy, and imagine that you are pushing the screw across the straws, then you will realize that it will fasten the two boards quite securely. Just make sure that you drill a pilot hole or you could split the wood instead of pushing through it. see this video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rEqVvW75Q4

As for the size of the boards, you can certainly get away with a single 2×4 rather than two of them. Although, it’s not a bad idea to use the two as it’s easier to make it stable.

View ChefHDAN's profile

ChefHDAN

1489 posts in 3411 days


#7 posted 10-23-2018 11:24 PM

Not to throw more points to ponder, but unless you’ve already bought the lumber, you should take a look at this video from the Wood Whisperer when he built a table from plywood, using a design similar to one from Norm years ago. My dislike of the 2×4 build is that the dimension of the lumber can waste quite a bit of space/storage volume within the workbench, and using plywood screwed and glued can be a stronger and more stable product.. Just my pair of pennies, If I needed another table I’d use the plywood design

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View Spikes's profile

Spikes

125 posts in 607 days


#8 posted 10-24-2018 03:07 AM

@lumbering_on, thanks for the link, I had seen stuff about pilot holes for softwood, but never knew about the difference when doing the same for hardwood, hopefully one day I’ll have some of that goodness to work with, for now it’s just out of budget.

@LesB, thank you for the note on lateral stability, hadn’t thought of it. when you say first drawing tho, do you mean the first picture or the first link? I’d like to keep the back at least open because it will be in the middle of the shop and I want the bottom shelf to be accessible either side. Would ply or cross-bracing on sides enough? alternatively would it be enough if I just added supports, which I planned to do anyway, like in this picture?

@LesB, also about the replaceable MDF part, how do you attach it to the ply so that it can be easily removed? from other designs I was thinking of using an hardened tempered panel (HD lingo, not sure what else to call it, but seems to be the thing ppl use).

@ChefHDAN, thanks for the additional design, had not seen it, I may use that approach for the single-tool carts, I’m just honestly surprised that something with that little support and thickness could be so sturdy.

-- Don't worry about making progress, worry about practicing. If you practice you will make progress even if you don't want to.

View ChefHDAN's profile

ChefHDAN

1489 posts in 3411 days


#9 posted 10-24-2018 12:00 PM



@ChefHDAN, thanks for the additional design, had not seen it, I may use that approach for the single-tool carts, I m just honestly surprised that something with that little support and thickness could be so sturdy.

- Spikes

It’s okay, no worries, my first bench was 2×4, double 3/4” MDF with a tempered hardboard top skin. What you’ll learn over time is that structure and how the parts work together give the strength, in the beginning I over engineered everything, and I still do to an extent, but, then, experience is the best teacher over time, design and build to please yourself, that’s really the only person that matters

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View LittleShaver's profile

LittleShaver

599 posts in 1181 days


#10 posted 10-24-2018 12:21 PM

For my assembly tables, I use your first design and top them with damaged hollow core doors with a couple of coats of shellac. Deck screw hold everything in place except the tops, they stay in place with gravity and added blocking on all four undersides to keep the tops from shifting about. I picked up the doors for next to nothing at the local Lowes in the back corner. I have two that have been in service for about 9 years and have had no issues with racking, weight carrying ability or stability. The only problem I’ve ever had was overloading one edge and having the other lift up. A clamp fixed that transient issue. I did add levelers to both tables so that I can use them for out-feed tables when needed. My garage floor is far from level as are most.

-- Sawdust Maker

View MrRon's profile

MrRon

5783 posts in 3805 days


#11 posted 10-25-2018 01:35 AM



My combination workbench, assembly table, outfeed area is of a relatively simple design without a bunch of fancy joinery, primarily of 2” x 6” construction and screwed together with deck screws. The top consists of two layers of 3/4” plywood screwed together (no glue), and the work surface is a piece sheet of hardboard (that can be easily replaced when worn or damaged) that is held in place with double sided tape and a section of modified oak trim around the edges. The height is just beneath the top of my table saw (and a future upgraded table saw). The overall unit is 4 x 8 with a 30” x 30” drop down area that I use for my sander, portable router table, scroll saw (each of which stores in the workbench when not in use) and for other purposes. One side has shelving for handheld portable equipment and other items and I will be installing drawers on the other side for woodworking supplies, sandpaper, etc. The workbench is quite solid, sturdy and doesn t budge while in use.

The designs you have posted should work and if screwed together (as I did mine) you can always disassemble and rebuild in the future if your needs change. I m off to a meeting so have to be relatively short, but I m sure you will get additional feedback here.

- BattleRidge


I like the 4’ x 8’ bench. When located so all four sides are accessible, all sorts of projects can be handled. I had a 4×8 bench at one time when I was doing tools sharpening. The tools needed for sharpening were conveniently located on the bench within easy reach. Tools were needed to retooth, set and sharpen saw blades and that made the process flow smoothly. Now that I no longer sharpen tools, my bench has been down sized to match my current needs, which is model building.

View Eric's profile

Eric

79 posts in 435 days


#12 posted 10-25-2018 02:15 AM

Lots of good ideas here. So I will add another point to think about.

Fir additional vertical strength add a style against the legs between the top and bottom rail, then add a short block below the bottom rail to the floor.

Also add a joist from the front rail the the back rail placind against the legs. Then a few in the middle section.

As for the top 3/4” plywood will work well. I would band the edge of the plywoodakimg it higher to acomindate either MDF or hardboard. (For a replacement top) drill a 1” hole in the center front edge of the plywood, this allows you to push the MDF up and flip or replace.

Good luck on your project.

-- Eric, Upstate South Carolina

View Al_in_OH's profile

Al_in_OH

4 posts in 1097 days


#13 posted 10-26-2018 05:40 PM


The one element I see missing in your first drawing it lateral stability. This can be solved either with cross bracing or just adding plywood sheathing to the back and ends. Shelves underneath also makes great storage; which I never seem to have enough of.

- LesB

I built mine like in the first picture and LesB is correct. I have lateral stability issues. Not too big of a deal until I am performing a task that requires a lot of force in one direction, hand planing a board as an example. The whole table rocks sideways. I also recently added casters and when I try to push the table around (it’s fairly heavy) there is a lot of lateral movement. I haven’t put anything in place to correct this, but thought about plywood sheathing as this would give me a place to hang some more tools. I also added a shelf to the bottom.

View Spikes's profile

Spikes

125 posts in 607 days


#14 posted 10-26-2018 06:56 PM

thanks for chiming in @AlinOH.

At this point I’m wondering about a basic design principle: is it the case that to make a stable box (workbench in this case) you need 3 sides (back and 2 later sides) enclosed or braced? even in the case of a metal shelf I fixed for the shop it was wobbly until I added the 3 side panels. However pretty much 99% of all the woodworking benches I’ve seen are not, especially the roubos or nicholsons of the woodworking world. Are those ok because all the aprons and stretchers are massive in size with tenon joints? or more simply it’s just a matter of using tenon joints instead of screwing things together like in the first pic?

thanks,

-- Don't worry about making progress, worry about practicing. If you practice you will make progress even if you don't want to.

View JayT's profile

JayT

6325 posts in 2773 days


#15 posted 10-26-2018 07:46 PM



or more simply it s just a matter of using tenon joints instead of screwing things together like in the first pic?

thanks,

- Spikes

This. A well fit mortise & tenon joint is extremely strong in multiple directions and does an excellent job of resisting racking forces. Now take a horizontal M&T joint for the stretchers and combine with a vertical M&T joint from the legs to the top and you have increased the rigidity exponentially because of the different directions.

-- https://www.jtplaneworks.com - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View Spikes's profile

Spikes

125 posts in 607 days


#16 posted 10-26-2018 11:38 PM

fair enough, I guess I’ll go ahead with tenon/mortise joints also as a way to practice instead of just screwing it together (only did tenons once so far and it was a disaster :/).

One question about attaching the top: do I have to glue the tenon in? I was looking at ways I could attach the top in a non permanent way so that I could replace it in the future and a non-glued tenon was an option I considered. The other was buttons with screws, but I liked the idea of seeing the end grain of the leg on the top.

thoughts?

-- Don't worry about making progress, worry about practicing. If you practice you will make progress even if you don't want to.

View mrg's profile

mrg

860 posts in 3561 days


#17 posted 10-27-2018 01:52 AM

You can do something like this and modify into other things like my lathe stand. http://lumberjocks.com/projects/45973

The other you posted can be modified into different sizes quite easily.

-- mrg

View JayT's profile

JayT

6325 posts in 2773 days


#18 posted 10-27-2018 02:08 AM

No, you don’t have to glue the tenon into the top. If the top is heavy enough and the fit of the M&T is good enough, it’ll be just fine with just the weight of the top. My current bench is designed as a knockdown and the top is held in place by the tenons and some lag screws from the bottom. In reality, I’m not sure the lags are necessary, but since I did stub tenons (only 1in long) and not through tenons, the lags are a bit of security.

-- https://www.jtplaneworks.com - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View Spikes's profile

Spikes

125 posts in 607 days


#19 posted 10-28-2018 05:42 PM

thank you @mrg and @JayT.

@mrg, would you recommend to use your build without the threaded rod? HD nearby has no rod long enough to go 6”, altho they have long enough to do the shorter sides.

@JayT, those bench dogs holes? is that what they are called… basically I’m trying to have some system to hold down a board to plane its face. I cannot find some clear instructions on how to drill those holes. If I drill through they would work for the sort of holdowns or clamp trick that go on top of the face, but to do face planing you need something that just sticks out a bunch. Do you drill those holes at two diff thickness, one thinner that goes through, and one thicker for a thicker hold stop or what’s it called…?

thanks

-- Don't worry about making progress, worry about practicing. If you practice you will make progress even if you don't want to.

View JayT's profile

JayT

6325 posts in 2773 days


#20 posted 10-29-2018 12:54 PM

The dog holes are drilled all the way through. That allows them to be used for holdfasts or bench dogs and allows any chips or shavings to fall through. A partial hole would fill up quickly with sawdust, shavings and dirt.

To drill the holes, I used a 3/4in spade bit in a drill. You could also use a forstner bit or some guys start the hole with a 3/4in upspiral bit in a plunge router and finish with a drill bit. If drilling, make some sort of guide to help keep the hole straight. In my case, I simply drilled a 3/4 hole in a scrap of 2×4 and set it on the bench where I wanted the dog hole. As long as I kept the shank of the spade bit centered in the hole in the scrap, the dog hole was going to be straight. Others have used a squared off piece of wood or a speed square to help. Anything that will assist you in keeping the drill straight up and down.

Another option, if you are doing a laminated top would be to drill the dog holes in one piece before assembly on a drill press and then insert that piece of lumber in the right place as you glue up. That one would take careful planning to ensure you have the holes the proper distance from the front to line up with a tail vise.

For face planing, you use a planing stop. There are a bunch of different styles in wood and metal. You can have them fit down into dog holes, built into the bench itself, clamped in a vise or whatever your imagination desires—mine drop into the tool slot endcap, and I’ve also used Kreg bench dogs and pieces of scrap held in place by holdfasts. The only requirement is that it stops the piece being planed from moving forward. Heck, I’ve seen people just drive a nail into a bench with the head sticking out a bit and use that for a stop. Haven’t decided yet how I’m going to do the ones on my new bench, as there will not be a tool slot on the end—it won’t be the nail, however. If you Google up “planing stop”, you will see all kinds of options and just have to pick one to work for you.

-- https://www.jtplaneworks.com - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

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