DIY Portable Workbench | How To
The first thing I like to do on a build like this is cut all the pieces down to length first, that makes ripping a lot more manageable. The stop block on my miter station makes this really easy, so long as I set the stop block in the right place.
This board was supposed to get cut in half, but well.. yeah, that caused a little hiccough and extra trip to the store.But then I went right back to cross cutting everything to length and then ripping to width.
This could have been built mostly with 2x4’s but I went with 2x8’s because they tend to come from larger trees and have less knots and such. Also, I like to cut off the rounded corners so starting with wider stock I only have to make three rip cuts to get two boards at the right width instead of four cuts if I used narrow stock.
I just set my fence to take a narrow cut that just removes the round over and then move the fence to the width of the board I want and take two more passes.
The pieces for the top I took to the jointer to remove the first round over so I would also have a good flat edge so it would go together better, then ripped to width on the table saw. How important jointing the is depends on how you assemble the top, I’ll talk more about that later.
With most parts cut it was time to start assembling the legs. I did a rough layout to get the dimension for last leg piece that I needed to make them complete and then jigged together a stop block to cut these because my sliding stop block will not go that close to the blade.
Then it was time to start gluing. I used 2 1/2” 16 gauge finish nails to hold everything together until I could get some clamps on it. But this part could be done many other ways. You could just use glue and clamps, screws with or without glue, pocket holes, whatever you prefer.
The bottom piece of my legs have these gaps, and the idea was to notch the stretchers and create a mechanical joint that would not need any fasteners and would provide extra strength. But the wood had other plans and split along the grain, which I should have anticipated.
So I punted by cutting the stretchers a little shorter and just turning the legs around. That way I still had this mortise and tenon effect that helped everything line up well.
But that also meant the stretchers needed fasteners. I drill a countersink hole for the lag screw head first with a forstner bit and used the hole made by the center cutter to register a pilot bit, all the white using my speed square to keep things tight and square.
Then it was time to add the side aprons, which provide a significant amount of racking resistance. I used some screw clamps to help me hold the board in place, clamps are great substitutes for extra hands, and then lag screwed both aprons to the legs. The base was then complete.
Next was getting the top together. To get this build done quickly, I decided to use cleats to hold the top together. First, I clamped the cleats in place and lag screwed them to the base, then drilled pocket holes to screw the top boards to the cleats. This order made things a bit awkward, but working in a field it seemed like the best way to do it and make sure everything stayed tight and square.
Other ways to do the top would have been screwing it down from above, but I did not want exposed screw heads. Or gluing the top together into a panel, that would keep the top tight but you would need to account for wood movement in how you attach to the base. Those issues could be avoid by using a plywood top, doubled up 3/4” plywood would be nearly as thick as this top. It is really whatever you want.
Some other easy modifications you could do to make this bench more versatile would be adding a small end vise to the top, or putting a shelf on the bottom stretchers. A bottom shelf would give you room for storage, or a place to add extra weight if you were doing some really aggressive planing. But for me this is just an event bench, so I improvised by using clamps to act as planing stops to keep my work piece steady, or clamped the piece directly to the bench.
If there’s anything you would have done different with this bench, please let me know in the comments below.