Your first DIY project should be to set up a DIY workshop with a large workbench and plenty of storage. The garage is the perfect place to do this (or basement if you have one), and as long as you have a 2-car garage, you should still be able to park your car inside when you are done (at least until you buy more tools). The great thing about a workbench like this is you can use it as a workbench, as a craft table, or even as a serving table for garage poker night. Below are step by step instructions on how to create this workbench. The project should cost you around $200 or less, and take 1 day to complete.
Step 1: Location
Choose a location for your workbench and measure total area available for your bench. I suggest (and will show) making a 16’ workbench (32” deep). This gives you plenty of space to set up future bench tools, layout projects, and cut long pieces of lumber.
Step 2: Materials
- Base: (2 shelving units) I found the Edsal 5-tier muscle rack shelving unit (4’W x 24”D) to be a great base for the workbench. They are moderately inexpensive, easy to assemble, and very sturdy. They are normally around $80/unit and each unit gives you 8’ of bench space, so you need to buy 2 units for a 16′ bench (they also tend to go on sale for $50/unit). There is also a smaller version of this rack (3’W x 18”D) if you have limited space and want to make a smaller workbench. (Note: These racks also make great garage storage racks when left at full height, and I would strongly recommend them as a great option for organizing your garage clutter.)
- Top: (2 plywood sheets) For each 8’ section, you will need a full sheet of 1” to 1 ¼” plywood (standard sheets are 96”x48”, however, some come 97”x49”, which you should get if available). If you do not have proper tooling to cut your plywood at home, you can have it cut to width at the hardware/lumber store, which also makes it easier to transport. (I suggest a 32” depth, however if you are using the smaller racking system you may want to choose a 24” depth and just split 1 plywood sheet down the middle)
- Brackets: (3) wood-to-wood tie plates, (4) right angle brackets (2/plywood sheet)
- Trim: (optional) One corner should be rounded. You will need 22′ for the 16′ bench (make sure it is wide enough to cover the width of the plywood you use)
- Counter Paint: (optional) We did not do this for our workbench, but we did use it on our laundry room counter. It adds a nice finishing touch, and gives you a washable hard surface (we used Rust-Oleum counter top coating). You can also prime your workbench white to seal the wood.
- Misc: Wood glue, wood fill, finishing nails, shims, screws (2 1/2″ exterior screws for studs, and 3/4″ for under workbench)
Step 3: Tools
- Stud finder
- Hammer (or nail gun)
- Electric driver
- Miter box (or miter saw) – only needed if you add trim
- 2′-4′ Level
Step 4: Base Set-up
The shelving unit comes with instructions for locking together the rails. It also shows how to set it up as a workbench, however, the shelving material they give is not ideal for a workbench top so you do not need to place the provided boards on the very top since we are creating our own top (hold onto the extra boards for other projects). I chose to have a bottom shelf on all 4 workbench sections, and then distributed the remaining shelves as needed (you can get creative with this part as long as the overall bench is stable and the top has ample support). Make sure the center of your workbench has support since this is where the 2 counter pieces will meet.
Note: garage floors tend to slope towards the garage door. You can adjust the base units with shims to help even it out, but it might be hard to get perfectly level, depending on how steep your slope is. As long as your bench forms a plane surface, it can be slightly off level.
Step 5: Top Placement
Place your two 8’ pieces of plywood (already cut to width) on top of your workbench. Make sure you leave a lip on the front (this will be handy for clamping later on). If you were able to find 97” plywood, your pieces should fit just about perfectly across the base (if not, you will have about a 2” gap in the middle). To fill the gap, simply cut a piece out of the leftover plywood to the proper size (this reminds me, always keep your scrap).
Use wood glue to join the counter pieces together, and then use wood-to-wood tie plates on the underside at the front, middle, and back (if you have a filler piece, make sure the tie plate is large enough to connect all 3 counter pieces, and that screws are put into each piece).
Once the top is in place, use 2 right angle brackets per plywood sheet to fasten the workbench to the wall. Make sure you use a stud finder and position the brackets accordingly. I recommend doing this from the underside, but it can be done from the top also.
Step 6: Install Trim
Trim is optional but it adds a nice finishing touch to your workbench. Measure the lengths needed for each side of the workbench and cut outwards from that measurement at a 45° angle using a miter box (or miter saw if you have one already). On the front of the workbench you will need to cut opposite 45° angle where the trim pieces meet up. Once all of your pieces are cut, use wood glue to place them on the edge of the workbench (do a dry fit first). Start at one end and feel by hand that the trim is flush with the bench and then hammer in a finishing nail (you can also use a nail gun for this). Work your way down by feel, putting a nail in every few inches. If you choose to skip the trim, you can sand the edges for a smooth finish.
Step 7: Fill and Paint
You probably want to use wood filler on the seam created from joining the top pieces. You may also want to fill any imperfections in the plywood and the nail holes as well. After the filler dries, sand the entire workbench surface and you are ready to paint if desired.
I hope this was helpful, and feel free to leave a comment if you have any specific questions.