It’s been a month since I built my workbench and I absolutely love it. I still consider myself more of a power tool guy but recently my method of taking a break from the computer during long editing sessions has been working with hand tools and keeping the electricity turned off….except the overhead lights. I need the lights.
About a year ago I took a giant step forward in regards to having proper storage in a workshop. If you’re constantly moving stuff around just to get to a work surface than you’re wasting a lot of time being unproductive. My major organization solution last year was to build my miter saw station which basically turned the back wall of my shop into a giant storage cabinet full of drawers. I now store all of my tools in that miter saw station. Including my hand tools. Walking back and forth every day to get my hand tools and then put them back is quite annoying. And to save a few trips I found myself bringing more tools to the workbench than what I was going to be using.
All of this resulted in an unorganized and cluttered workbench top every time I wanted to use it. I knew this would happen though so when I designed my workbench I also included a tool cabinet to go down below. If you are interested in a set of plans for my workbench including the vises and tool cabinet plans are available at the end of this article. As the following picture shows, there’s no time like the present to get the cabinet completed.
3/4” plywood is used for the carcase of the cabinet. I often get asked if I ever use the back side of my plywood cart as a panel saw and the answer is no. I find it much easier to just slide the sheet of plywood to one side and overhang the cart as needed. This will allow me to use the circular saw to make the first cut and bring a much more manageable size piece of plywood to the table saw. Speaking of plywood, I’m using birch PureBond hardwood plywood for this cabinet. Since starting to use this plywood last year I’ve been very pleased with the results as well as the consistency of the plywood itself. It’s also made in the USA and formaldehyde free which are added bonuses.
The first section of plywood I cut off ended up being the top and bottom of the cabinet. It’s much easier to move these smaller pieces over the table saw than wrestle a full sheet of 3/4” plywood over the table saw.
Not only will the back panels give this cabinet a lot of strength but the cabinet itself will be secured to the workbench so there’s no need to go crazy with the cabinet joinery. Glue and a few brads to hold everything in place while it is secured with screws is plenty strong enough for this application.
Then the rest of the first sheet of plywood can be cut. I was working off of my workbench plans for the cabinet so it’s just a matter of following the dimensions on the plan. However, it’s always best to verify your project dimensions with whatever plans you are working off of and adjust as needed.
Here you can see one of the back panels. The design is a split design so that there will be drawers on both sides of the workbench. In this orientation the drawers will be on the right side. Same situation if you approach the cabinet from the other side….back panel on the left and drawers on the right. Once I confirmed the back panels were sized properly I set them aside. It will be better to install them after the drawer slides.
Most often, it’s best to work with gravity and not against it. That’s the case when installing the drawer slides. To make the process much easier I rotated the cabinet on it’s side and cut a couple appropriate sized spacer blocks to locate the top and bottom drawer slide. I also added a small piece of tape to the top side of the cabinet and to the spacer block for the top drawer slides. This way it is easier to quickly visually identify what spacer block goes to what side and prevent a simple mistake of installing the slides in the wrong spot.
While there is space to make a few more shallow drawers the design I settled on has four drawers total. Two on each side, one large drawer on bottom, and one shallow drawer on top. I only needed four pairs of slides but it’s less expensive per slide to purchase a 10 pack so that’s what I did. I’ll use the rest of the slides in another project.
Then the back panels could be installed. Same as the rest of the cabinet. Glue, brad nails, and screws.
With the cabinet complete I started on cutting the drawer parts. I used 1/2” plywood for the drawers.
Simple joinery is used again for the drawers. Just butt joints, glue, and brad nails.
Mounting the drawers onto the drawer slides is pretty easy. First, use a set of equal thickness spacers to elevate the bottom drawer off of the bottom of the cabinet. Slide the drawer in so it’s sticking out a few inches. Pull the slides to the front of the drawer and secure the sides to the drawer with one screw at the front of the drawer slide. Then pull the cabinet forward and install the middle screw into the slides. Finally pull the cabinet as far out as needed to install the rear screw into each slide. Remove the shims and the drawer installation is complete for that drawer.
To mount the next drawer use the top of the bottom drawer as if it were the bottom of the cabinet and repeat the process for the top drawer.
With all four drawers mounted to the drawer slides I removed the drawers and slid the cabinet into place.
The cabinet is held in place with a couple of 1-1/4” screws on both sides of the cabinet.
The final plywood parts to be cut were the drawer fronts. The plywood I’m using has a very clear and even top veneer so I didn’t take the time to worry about grain matching the drawer fronts with the cabinet backs. You really have to look hard to see the grain so matching it wouldn’t be noticeable.
The process of installing the drawer fronts is similar to installing the drawers. First, a spacer is used to elevate the lower drawer front off of the workbench stretcher. It’s clamped to the drawer and secured from the inside with four screws. Then the same spacer is used on top of the lower drawer front to elevate the top drawer front into position. It’s held in place with some clamps. And then secured from the inside with four screws.
When I built my pine chest of drawers my friend Ted Alexander turned a set of pine pulls on his lathe. He sent four extra which were perfect to use on this cabinet. Thanks again Ted!
With the cabinet complete I put my tools in place. I didn’t worry about any dividers or spending much time to position them as I know I will probably move them around a couple more times until I figure out exactly where I want them to be. Also, this isn’t the final destination for my hand tools. I eventually want to build a hand tool cabinet to go on the wall behind my workbench. At that point, this cabinet will just be for more shop storage.
The cabinet doesn’t go all the way to the bottom of the workbench. I left enough space to allow holdfasts to be used without hitting the cabinet. This shelf space is also a great spot to put hand saws.
The cabinet turned out great. It’s already convenient to not only have my hand tools organized within an arms reach of the workbench but also very convenient to not have to have the top full of tools every time I want to use it. If you’d like a set of plans for this workbench, the vises, and the cabinet they are available after the last image in this article. Thanks for stopping by folks.
Woodworking Workbench Plans
These plans are in both imperial and metric units. This woodworking workbench is built from readily available 2x10x12′ boards and a little bit of plywood for the cabinet. Included is three different vise options for you to choose from or add all three like me. The workbench is roughly 6′ long, 2′ wide, and features a 4″+ thick top, a strong, half lap constructed base, through mortise and tenons to connect the workbench base to the top, and a four drawer cabinet integrated into the base. The lumber for the workbench itself cost me about $110. The following is included in the plan:
- 25 detailed pages
- shopping list
- access to download the SketchUp file used to create the plan
- a lumber layout diagram
- a plywood layout diagram
- reference diagrams for specific part and assembly dimensions
- step by step 3D assembly diagrams with written instructions
The entire plan is included in one PDF document. Most everyone will have a PDF reader installed on their computer already but if you do not you can use the free program Adobe Reader to view the plans. You can download Adobe Reader HERE. The checkout process for this plan uses PayPal. You can use major credit or debit cards through PayPal. You do not need a PayPal account. To purchase the plan follow the link below. After you purchase the plan you will receive an email receipt from me containing a link to download your plan. Make sure to check your inbox and spam filter for the receipt. If you do not receive the email within 10-15 minutes or encounter any problems please contact me.
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