Table Saw Workbench Part 1: Basic Construction

Intro

Hello everyone. This months project is a table saw workbench for a 1960’s Craftsman table saw. However, you could modify it to accept any table saw you wish. I designed it to accommodate full sheets of 4’x8’ plywood panels and to be tall enough for working at a comfortable height. I also wanted to use the workbench as an outfeed table for mobile workshop tools such as portable table saws and routers. Future installments to this project will include boxing in the Craftsman table saw for dust collection, adding built-in storage and cabinetry, attaching workbench accessories, and installing a benchtop router. However, for our first installment of this series we will be building the basic frame and attaching the work surface. So, let's get to it.

Tool & Materials

Tools:

  • Circular saw

  • Impact driver or drill

  • Plunge router

  • 1” flush trim router bit

  • 1” pattern router bit

  • Table saw with blade (optional)

  • Compound miter saw with blade (optional)

  • Stacked dado blade set (optional)

  • Pocket hole jig

  • 4’ bar clamp

Materials:

  • 2 boxes of 3” deck screws

  • 1 box pocket hole screws for ¾” joinery

  • 1/2 gallon of wood glue

  • Cheap 1” paint brush

  • Small paint roller

  • 9 - 2”x4”x8’ boards

  • 3 - 4”x4”x8’ boards

  • 2 - 4’x8’x ¾” plywood

Dimensioning Lumber

For our nine 2x4s we need to cut ¼” off of each side to get rid of the round overs. This is so the boards will seat firmly in the dedo's we are going to cut out of our 4x4 legs. For the first cut, set your table saw up so that there is 3¼” between the table saw fence and the blade. When ripping really long boards like this I generally like to have some sort of infeed and outfeed support to not have to wrestle with the board while feeding it through the table saw. Once you've ripped all nine boards to a 3¼” with, reset your table saw so that there is now a 3” gap between the table saw fence and the blade. Rip all nine boards one more time removing the remaining round overs. You should now have 9 boards that are 1½”x3”x8’. Now we can set these aside and cut our workbench legs to length.

NOTE: if you do not have access to a table saw you could also accomplish this task by using a kreg Rip-Cut circular saw guide or similar jig.

If you're comfortable and confident enough using a circular saw you could easily build a jig to cut these 4x4  workbench legs to length. I decided to use a miter saw to make it easy on myself. Fasten a wooden fence to the miter saw and set up a stop 3 feet from the miter saw blade. Before cutting the 3-foot sections, cut a very small sliver off the end of the 4x4 to square it up. Once you're done cutting your 4x4 sections you should have six pieces all the same length. Set these aside and let's move on to prepping our workbench for assembly.

Routing & Dados

Starting with our six 4x4s we're going to cut a 3”x1½” notch out of the ends of each board. Again you could use a circular saw with a Rip-Cut guide to accomplish this task, but I am going to use a table saw with a dado stack. Once you replace your table saw blade with your dado stack, set the table saw cutting height to 1½”. Set your table saw fence so that there is 3” from the outside of your dato stack to the table saw fence. It's also a good idea to set up some sort of support to push your material through the table saw. For this purpose I decided to use my table saw miter gauge with a makeshift extension on it to act like a mini crosscut sled. Making sure the end of your 4x4 is squarely pressed up against the fence and miter gauge extension, slowly push the peace through thie saw. Repeat this cut, moving your 4x4 slightly farther away from the fence each time until you've cleared out the entire 3” notch. Once you've done this for all the workbench legs you should have a 3”x1½” notch cut out of the ends.

For the second notch were going to cut out of our workbench legs, set the table saw so there is 6½” from the fence to the outside of the dado stack. The height of the data stack should not change. With your bored family square against the table saw fence and against your miter gauge extension, set a stop on your miter gauge extension 3” from the end of the board. Now you can run your bored through the table saw just like before cutting a 3” notch out of the middle of it. Again, do this for all 6 of your boards. Now let's move on to notching out some of our 2x4s.

To notch out our 2x4s we are going to set up a series of stops along one 8’ board creating a story stick, and use a router jig that will set against these stops for each notch that we cut. Mark a 2x4 3½” from each end. Next, make three more marks somewhat evenly spaced between the two marks you just made. For example you could have marks at 3½”, 2’, 4’, 6’, and 92½”. Take some scrap wood or cut 1”x3” pieces to use as stops for your story stick. Clamp your router jig to your story stick at each mark mounting a stop to one side of your router jig as you go. Now, taking one of your 2x4s square it up flush with your story stick and clamp it down. Now you're ready to start routing.

Install the 1” pattern bit, this should be the one with the bearing closest to the shank, into your plunge router. Set it on top of the router jig on your workpiece and set the depth of the router to cut ¾”s out of the workpiece. Make sure your jig is set up so that it will allow you to cut a 3”x1½” dato. This should be just large enough to accept the end of a 2x4. Go ahead and clamp your router jig against one of your stops and rout out a shallow first pass before moving on to routing out the full ¾” depth. Once you've routed out all of your datos for his board repeat the process three more times. This should give you a total of 4 boards with identical notched segments in them.

The last thing we have to do before assembling our table is cut our cross braces. Although you can make the workbench any width you like, the total width I'm going for is 40”. This means I need to set my compound miter saw up to cut segments from my remaining 2x4s to 38½”. Once that's done there should be 10 segments that are 38½” long.

Glue Up & Assemble

Fortunately gluing up the workbench frame is a relatively straightforward task. Layout two of your 8’ notched 2x4s and 5 of your 38½”  cross braces so the notches and cross braces are aligned with each other. Using your 1” paint brush apply a generous amount of glue in to the two middle most notches or dedos. Also apply glue to the ends of the crawl brace you're going to join. Now press the end of the cross brace into the dato. Once you have the ends of the cross brace firmly seated in the dedo's use a bar clamp to hold them in place while you screw the joints together. Continue to do this for all five cross braces moving from the innermost dedo's outward. Once you finish do this one more time and you should have two 2x4 frames ready to join to the workbench legs.

Sitting down one of the frames we just built take four of your workbench legs and press them in place at each corner of the frame. do not use glue on these joints because the workbench may need to be taken apart at some future date. You can use clamps to help keep the legs in place if necessary. Now that you have those legs firmly in place, simply screw the each joint together with for evenly spaced screws. Attach the two middle legs in the same way and go ahead and set the top frame in place. It should now just be a simple matter of clamping each leg firmly to the frame and screwing it together the same way as before. Now is probably a good time to go ahead and sand any high spots where the workbench legs protrude above the frame and sand the side for any unevenness where the frame and legs join.

Attaching The Work Surface

The first thing we need to do before attaching the work surface is pre-drill are pocket holes. I used a simple pocket hole Kreg Jig for this. in the future I know I'm going to want to drill holes in the tabletop for hold downs and other attachments, so I kept this in mind when deciding where to place my pocket holes. Set your pocket hole jig and your drill bit for 3/4 inch material. Go ahead and mark all the places where pocket holes are going to be drilled. Once you've moved on and drilled all of your pocket holes, place one of the pieces of plywood on top of the workbench frame. Position the plywood so about ¼” is hanging over the frame on one side. Next, take a marker and trace out around the frame so you know where to trim the plywood. Flip the plywood over and use a circular saw to cut out where you just marked. Leave a little extra space between the blade and the line you made so that you have a little bit to trim away with the router later. Move your newly cut piece of plywood back in place leaving a small overhang on all sides. Now is a good time to clamp the plywood in place, crawl under the table, and screw in your pocket hole screws.

Before we can glue our second piece of plywood to complete the top we need to trim the table top flush with the frame. Using your plunge router install the flush trim bit. This is the router bit with the bearing farthest from the shank. Set your router so that the bearing is below the plywood and is going to come in contact with the workbench frame. In one pass slowly go around the edge of the work surface until you’ve trimmed away all the extra material. No we can place our second piece of plywood on the workbench, mark it and cut it just as before. Since we're not using screws to fasten the second piece of plywood to the workbench remove it for now. Break out a gallon of glue and a small paint roller and evenly coat the first plywood surface we’ve screwed to the workbench. Place the second piece of plywood back on the glued surface remembering to leave a little hangover on all sides so we can trim that away later just as we did before. it's going to take quite a while for this to dry, so fined anything you can to clamp or stack on to the workbench to help create as solid a bond as possible. Leave this to set for a couple days and just as before use your router to trim away the extra material around the edges. Finish up by sanding the plywood edges with some 60 or 80 grit sandpaper to knock down any splintering that may have occurred.

Conclusion

Congratulations you should now have a newly built basic shop workbench. As far as the table saw part of this project goes, since I'm using an old Craftsman table saw, the saw top simply sets on the workbench frame so I didn't have to do any special cutting of the plywood to make the table saw fit. if you are wanting to mount a jobsite table saw into this work bench for instance, you will have to make additional modifications. Hopefully I'll be able to get to building the cabinetry, dust collection, and adding work bench attachments before too long. So, I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and until next time, get out there and let's make life awesome.