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How to Build a Garage Work Bench

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How to Build a Garage Work Bench


If you want a large work area in your garage, but need to maximize space, you can easily create a large floating shelf that doubles as a work surface. This bench will allow you to use the space underneath for storage and the space above for whatever you wish.

Steps

Attach a 16 foot (4.8 meters) long 2x4 (38×89 mm) horizontally to the wall studs (assuming you HAVE wall studs- if your wall is solid (brick, stone, etc.) this article will not help you). The length of this piece of timber will be the length of the workbench and can be shortened. Use a spirit level to make sure that this is attached horizontally.

2x6 and 2x4 running parallel
Depending on the steel shelf brackets you have (and how far the hole is from the bend in the bracket), you may need a 2x6 (38×140 mm) instead.

The top of the 2x4 strip in this example is 3'-3.5' (approximately 1 meter) off the ground. If you need park a vehicle in your garage and it needs to fit underneath the shelf, account for any additional clearance required (i.e. your vehicle's hood).

Use 2.5" screws (or 3" screws if going through drywall) to attach the 4" (89 mm) flat face against the garage wall studs.

Attach another piece of timber of the same dimensions below the first one. The gap between the two parallel strips is determined by the length of the steel shelf bracket.

Attach the shelf brackets to the two strips. The heavier duty the shelf bracket, the better. The top of the bracket is flush with the top surface of the upper strip. Use a plywood piece on top (a temporary shelf) and then butt the shelf bracket against it. Use 1.5 in (3.8 cm) screws to then attach the brackets. You will end up with two strips against the wall with a row of shelf brackets attached to them. The shelf brackets should be spaced approximately 2' (.6 meter) apart.

If desired, shelf brackets can be alternated; heavy duty, lighter duty, heavy duty, etc. in order to accommodate tool box placement and to be able to comfortably pull up a chair underneath the workbench.

Have a 3/4 in (1.9 cm) 4x8 ft (1.2 x 2.4 meters) sheet of plywood cut into 2' wide (.6 meter) planks at a lumber yard or home improvement center. Place one of the 2' wide (.6 meter) planks on the shelf brackets and screw the plank to the upper strip at the top/rear. Place the second plank next to (left or right of) the first one and join the two end-to-end with a 6 in (15.25 cm) wide x 18 in (45.7 cm) piece of plywood underneath the two plank ends.

Place another another parallel strip on top of the shelf created by the plywood planks and screw this to the wall studs.

Glue and screw a 1.5 in (3.8 cm) by 3/4 in (1.9 cm) maple strip that's as long as your shelf to the front of the plywood plank to take the abuse. This also strengthens the work bench top.

Drawers
Attach drawers to the underside of the shelf. The drawers should be 2' (.6 meter) wide, have a depth of 1.5 in (3.8 cm) and stretch 18 in (45.7 cm) to the back. Making and attaching the drawers is another story - but just to summarize here:

1x4 ((19×89 mm) pine strips can be attached to the bottom of the shelf. The short part of the strip can be attached with glue and screws to the plywood sheet.

Attaching drawer slides

Attach metal drawer slides to the strips.

Construct drawers with a hardboard base and pine sides (1x2in or 2.5 by 5 cm). Edges hold the matching drawer slides. These drawer boxes are then slid into the pine strips that are attached to your plywood plank. And voila! You have thin drawers just below your bench surface for almost all the small tools that you have.

Tips

Always bring a tape measure (minimum 20' or 6 meters long) to the store with you when purchasing wood. Wood is commonly mixed around by the customers by accident, or cut into smaller lengths and placed back on the rack. Being able to measure out your lengths while shopping can save you time in returns!

Screws are better than nails for this project. Drywall screws are cheap, come in many lengths and are easy to drive, but break easily. Purchase high quality screws. Invest in a battery powered drill/driver to make short work of driving them.

Stain/varnish Combinations do not seal and protect as well as 2-3 coats of varnish alone will. If you use this combination product, consider additional layers of varnish as well, especially if you intend on the table receiving heavy use.

Using an orbital sander with 80 grit (then moving up to 150 grit) can give your entire table top a great, even surface. This also prepares it for varnish. Use the 220 grit between varnish coats for best results.

Use small washers on the mounting screws to ensure solid hold.

Use a router with a round-off bit (1/8" to 1/4" or 3 mm to 6 mm depending on your preference) to finish off the maple strip edge for a professional look.

A top of 1/8" (3 mm) or 1/4" (6 mm) Masonite (hardboard) will make a very strong surface.

Consider mounting a light above your work surface. Used pool table lighting can be purchased quite cheaply and adds a bit of decor to a garage, but any type of lighting at all will add considerable value to your workspace.

Adding 4x4 posts as legs to the front edge of the workbench will greatly increase its strength, which is important if you are going to be using it for pounding on things with a hammer. A really solid, sturdy workbench is often more desirable than a wall-mount shelf.

Instead of using steel nails which tend to "back out" over time, use exterior grade deck screws. They are significantly easier to remove than nails if you ever need to replace the bench.

Warnings

The US lumber industry shortens each "2 x 4" by 1/2" for various reasons (shrinkage, smoothing). A standard 2 x 4 (stud) from Lowes, Menards, Home Depot, etc., will actually measure to be 1-1/2" x 3-1/2". Take that into consideration if you pre-measure more than one piece at a time!

This plan will yield a "light duty" to "moderate duty" work surface. If you intend to mount tools to your work surface, such as a bench grinder, a bench vise, or perhaps even an anvil, you should consider building a supporting frame for the leading edge instead of using a floating style shelf. The weight of bench tools as well as the strain that will be added when you actually use those tools could cause a floating shelf to collapse and cause injury.

Drywall screws break easily. Do not use them for constructing this work bench.

Things You'll Need
Required Tools:
Circular saw (18v model recommended)or a Jigsaw
Drill/screwdriver (18v cordless model recommended)
2-4 foot bubble level
Optional Finishing Tools:
Orbital, Belt or Finish Sander w/ 80, 150 & 220 grit paper
Router with 1/8" / 1/4" rounding bit.
For Workbench:
8' x 4' 3/4in maple plywood ($34)(or other hardwood)
2" x 4" x 16' [x3]($4 each)
18" (up to 20") steel Shelf Brackets.
1-1/2" x 3/4" x 16' maple strip for front edge
1-1/2" x 3/4" x 4'-1-1/2" maple strip for side edges (or other hardwood)
2-1/2"-3" screws, (to secure 2x4s to wall studs, 3" screws if securing to studs through drywall)
1-1/2" screws (to secure brackets to wall mounted 2x4s & pine edges)
3/4" screws (to secure brackets to underside of table-top)
Polyurethane glue ($4)
Polyurethane varnish
For Drawers:
2" x 4" x 16' [x1]($4 each) for drawer cross pieces.
Hardboard sheet for drawer bottoms ($17)
1" x 2" pine boards for drawer sides($15 worth)
1 set of drawer slides for each drawer you make