Nov 3rd, 2010 by Andy
I often tell people that a garage workbench is the perfect project for getting started in DIY and home remodeling. The first reason is somewhat obvious – everyone needs some type of workshop table to get anything done that involves power tools. The second reason is that a workbench is a fairly easy project to undertake. Most bench designs require nothing more than a circular saw, a drill/driver, a few 2x4s and some hardware. From that you can build a surprisingly heavy-duty workbench that will last a lifetime. This can make a big difference for people who like the idea of building something from wood, but don’t really want to learn the finer skills of woodworking.
I also remind people that since the bench will be located in the garage, there’s no reason to sweat the small details. There’s plenty of room for small errors that won’t make any difference in how well this piece of workshop furniture works in your shop. As long as you can make the bench solid and stable, you’ve succeeded in your mission. And since we’re talking primarily about inexpensive 2×4 lumber, you can relax about making a few mistakes here and there. Just make sure to bring home a couple of extra boards as a backup. With most dimensional studs costing as little as dollar each, you can afford to make mistakes. Besides, making mistakes is the best way to learn.
The type of workbench design I suggest for the garage doesn’t require any fancy joinery, like you might find in a woodworking workbench. Yet, it can be just as strong (or stronger) than the finest benches around. The trick is getting 2x4s firmly joined at the corners — where the rails and stiles meet (see my workbench planner for more info about the anatomy of a workbench). Since we’re not using typical woodworking tools here — like a table saw and a router table — we need to have some method of creating stable joinery with a circular saw and a drill. One method I suggest is creating what I like to call a “false” half lap, where one board simply overlaps the other. Anyway, the more conventional half-lap joint is fairly common in woodworking, for creating super-strong joints with lots of exposed wood for effective gluing. Problem is that a typical half lap requires a table saw or a router. One way around this problem is to sandwich 2x4s together in such a way that emulates the holding power of a half lap, but without having to make complicated cuts with more expensive tools.
Another nice (and easy) component of a garage workbench is the top — which is fairly important part of this piece of workshop furniture. In most cases, a simple sheet of plywood cut down to size will do the job just fine. However, I’ve seen several benches lately that have nothing more than an old wooden door mounted to the frame. And depending on how solid of a door we’re talking about, this can be an amazingly nice material to finish off your bench design.