Free Workbench Plans
Click on the link to download a PDF copy of these free workbench plans.
Some time ago I found free workbench plans for making a workbench from a single sheet of plywood. A large part of what made the plans attractive was the fact that it could be built with common tools. Being on a tight budget and not having access to a table saw, I thought this would be a good idea.
Big mistake. It must be the worst workbench I have ever had the misfortune to work on. Granted, I was probably expecting too much, the plans were free, after all. It turned out to be incredibly flimsy, not at all appropriate for any kind of woodworking. This is also when I discovered the term racking. Must admit I have never heard of it before. Something best avoided.
They say you learn something everyday. Well, this time I learned two things: even free can be expensive, and racking is not fun.
What is racking, you may say. Well, have you ever sat on a wobbly chair? That is racking, as I understand it, the joints have become loose. In the case of a workbench, the joints are simply not strong enough for any number of reasons.
When free is not free
First, a note about free. There is much to be said about getting something for nothing, that is a whole topic for conversation on it':s own, perhaps for another time. I'll say this much for now - even though a woodworking plan may be free, it still requires an investment of my time, and of course the materials to build the project. This particular workbench plan was not a good investment of my time, not to mention the fact that the money could have been better spent on buying materials for a more appropriate project.
So I decided to design and build my own workbench, incorporating some of the features that I have seen on more traditional workbenches. In my research or quest for a free workbench plans, racking was never mentioned. Some plans claimed to be solid and sturdy, but I also discovered that the cure for racking lies in the joints. Which also means large bulky frame and worktop, in fact everything large, bulky, heavy, solid, all that good stuff. Which also means, in my experience, a lot of sawing and hacking and chiselling, whether by hand tools or table saws and the like. Sounds like a lot of work and all. Not that I don':t like working, not at all. I find work quite fascinating, could watch it all day.
Not exactly my cup of tea, so I decided to sit down with a cup of coffee and have a serious think. Sometimes I sits and thinks, sometimes I just sits. Sometimes it looks like I':m thinking when in fact I':m not thinking at all because I':m ruminating. Some of my best ideas come from ruminating. I like to think this was one of them, and it would be nice if you agreed.
A lot of workbench frames featured mortise and tenon joints, and some with a bolt as extra reinforcement. If anyone has tried to make a chair, you know, the old fashioned kind, they have mortise and tenon joints, and no matter how well they are made, over time, the joints work loose. Same with workbenches, so it seemed to me to be a good idea to include a bolt as reinforcement.
So far so good. Still with the challenge of making something with bulky heavy timber when not only is it a challenge, hard work, all those things that I try to avoid, it':s not exactly cheap either.
So on with the thinking cap once more. My ambition was to use project timber, even though it was more expensive than the stuff that builders and carpenters use, it was more suitable to fine woodworking because it was DAR (Dressed All Round.) Of course I use the term fine woodworking rather loosely, and because I don':t have access to a jointer or thicknesser. It also means it is a bit more stable than building timber, and suitable for lamination. Which led me to my brilliant idea, which was to laminate three pieces of 1 inch timber, leaving a gap in the middle to form the mortise, and likewise form the tenon by making the two outer pieces slightly shorter.
Next was the issue of the reinforcing bolts. Not having a proper drill press, I knew it would be next to impossible to drill a hole longitudinally with any degree of accuracy. Here again the idea of lamination came to the rescue. Instead of drilling a long hole, why not cut a groove on the inside face of each laminate, as shown in the photo below.
For the top, I was planning on using a single sheet of MDF, and laminate that as well. Basically, cut the sheet into three pieces and laminate them with contact adhesive.
As things worked out, the need for cutting mortise and tenon joints was not completely eliminated, but minimised. It turned out to be a pretty good compromise - a relatively cheap easy to make workbench that does not rack at all and as the joints are not glued, it can be taken apart as well, but as to why anyone would want to do that escapes me. Oh, hang on, maybe for transporting, after all it is rather heavy.
This is a list of materials that I used for making my workbench.
This is a list of tools that I used to make this workbench:
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