This is 10 Detailed Tips for Building a Work Table for Your Shop. In this post, I’ll show you several good ideas about making work tables and how you can design one that’s absolutely perfect for the work that you do in your shop. Enjoy.
How to Build a Work Table
To get this started off, there’s an important distinction that I want to draw between a worktable and a workbench. The benches are where you are going to do the majority of your work, and it’s the centerpiece of your shop.
Even if you don’t have a big fancy workbench, you have a spot that you work, and an area that you are comfortable in. That is your centerpiece, and that is one spot in the shop that’s 100% unique.
A worktable is a little bit different. This is a secondary table that is used for different aspects of your project. For example, when you use your workbench a lot, you don’t want to have a large project clamped and glued to the surface.
If you did, you wouldn’t be able to use the bench. This is where the worktable comes in, because that’s exactly what it’s for. This is a secondary area where you can glue and assemble things without having to move them afterwards.
It’s great to have a table like this in your shop. Not only does it free up your workbench for other parts of the project, and other projects, it gives you the freedom to be able to clamp and glue and assemble without getting in the way.
Design Your Table for Your Projects
When you’re going to build a work table for your shop, you need to start the design process with the purpose of the table in mind. This means you need to have a good idea of the projects that you make, or the projects that you want to make.
For example, let’s say you make really big and elaborate wardrobe cabinets. When you design with your project in mind, your assembly table is going to be pretty large. It’s also going to be pretty sturdy to support the weight.
While the table like that is great for a wardrobe maker, it would be a little too much for someone that made pens, or wooden rings. Though it’s nice to have a ton of space, you lose quite a bit of floor space in your shop by making a table that big.
Before you go to the next step, think about what you make really well. Also, think about the projects that you plan on making in the future. Knowing these things will help you as you are refining your design.
Look for Design Inspiration
You are not an island. If you’re not doing this already, you really should be looking around for design inspiration ideas. This is not stealing, it’s actually combining. When you look around, it helps you find good ideas and build them into something bigger.
One of the absolute best places to look for your ideas is Google Images, which is one of the most popular websites on the internet. All you need to do is type in what you’re looking for, and you’ll see many examples.
From there, you continue your search and pick out the features and elements of the designs that you like. From there, you combine those into your own design, and discard all of the features that you don’t like.
Another good place to do this is Pinterest. This is a visual search engine that allows users to post images. The search function is rather similar, and in the results you’ll see lots of different inspirational design ideas.
The important thing is to spend a little bit of time on this part of the process. The last thing you want to do is build what you believe is a good work surface, and then find out a really cool feature later on that you missed.
Work Table Placement in the Shop
Another thing to consider in the design phase is the placement of the table in your shop. This basically means, where are you going to put it? After all, you were definitely going to need space for this new item.
Most of us have small shops that are either in basements or garages. If this is you, floorspace might be at a premium, and it might be hard to come up with a work table like this. In that case, think about what you can do, and what areas you actually can use.
There might be something already in your shop that you could get rid of in place of the table, and maybe put some of those things under it. Don’t feel like you’re stuck, really spend some time looking at what you have.
If you have absolutely no floor space at all, perhaps think about designing a work table that folds down from the wall. These are fairly simple, and can provide you with some temporary space to use as a worktable before it folds back up.
Don’t Make Your Worktable Too Big
One of the dangers that you need to avoid in making a worktable in the beginning is not making one too small, it’s making one that’s too large. In most situations, you don’t need the vast majority of that table surface.
Even when you make large projects, there are ways around using a little bit smaller working surface if you have to. On the other hand, if you know you’re going to do everything on the table, make sure that it’s big enough, but not too big.
The fear of regret is one of the most powerful motivating drivers that we have as human beings. The reason we make these projects way too big sometimes is because we don’t want to wish that it was bigger in the future.
If that happens, we know that it involves a lot more work, and somehow we feel that maybe chopping down a big table is easier than adding to a small one. In reality, they are both about the same, so don’t worry so much.
When you make a table that’s too big, especially one where you can’t reach the center, you typically end up regretting it. The table takes up too much space, and then crowds out other things in your shop.
Design Something You Can Make
Another thing to think about as you are designing is what kind of tools you currently have, and where your abilities currently are. As a beginner, you may not have a lot of tools, and you also may not have a lot of woodworking experience.
That’s OK, you can still make a really good worktable without a ton of tools are a ton of experience, it’ll just be a little slower process. In the end, it’s all about completing the project, not breaking any speed records.
That being said, don’t pick out a design that forces you to go beyond the abilities of yourself or your tools. You can stretch your abilities a pinch in order to learn something, but if you go too far you might end up very frustrated, or possibly get hurt.
Also, unless you plan on buying the tools that you need to create the design that you’re interested in making, all you’ll do is frustrate yourself. Working with the right tools can be hard enough, so definitely don’t make it worse than it already might be.
Make the Worktable Sturdy and Safe
A hallmark of your prep table is stability. That’s something that everyone looks for when they go over to an assembly area like this. One of the first things that everyone is going to do is put a hand on the top edge of that table, and give it a shake.
You definitely don’t want to cringe on the inside every time somebody does this. Stability and safety should be very high on your priority list, and when someone walks over there and shakes your table, you want them to feel a rock.
If you are new at design, you may need to look at some basic engineering in order to create your own stable surface. Things like gussets, and panels can help stabilize your legs, and in turn help the bench be stronger.
You definitely want to incorporate a lot of these design elements into your project, that way it’s strong enough to handle anything you can throw at it. You also need to do it strategically though, because you don’t want an assembly table that weighs a million pounds.
Design the Height for Your Projects
Another thing to think about is the height of your assembly table. The easiest way to do this is to just go with a standard height from a chart based on your own height. The next easiest way is to base it upon the projects you’re going to make.
If you do a little bit of everything, then you should probably go with the standard height that’s based on a lot of ergonomic studies. You can find these all over the internet, and all you need to do is a quick little search.
If you know you make one type of project, or that you do one type of work, you can benefit from building the height with a slightly different approach. Instead of going for average, go for the best for your particular projects.
Average is good for everything, but great for nothing. If you need to shoot for the middle, it will do best in the long run, but it will never be awesome. Instead, if you do rough work or fine work exclusively, you can benefit from a height change.
Fine work and work that doesn’t require a lot of pressure is better done at a higher surface than a lower surface. It reduces stress on your body, and brings the work closer to you. In contrast, heavy work needs to be lowered for leverage.
If you do a lot of work that requires force, like hammering and chiseling, it’s best to have a surface that is lower because it gives you more leverage. Again, choose a height that makes sense based on what you build, and you’ll be happy.
Think About the Surface
Now onto the actual work table surface itself. This is the top most layer that you’ll see when you’re walking past your project. Again, depending on what you do, the surface can vary quite a bit.
If you’re worried about scratching your projects, and you need a surface that’s very smooth, I recommend MDF. This is a nice flat piece of material that is smooth to the touch, and not splintery or scratchy.
MDF is going to be much more expensive than some of the alternatives, but in the end it’s going to save you a lot of time by not having to repair scratches.
If you don’t care about scratches and dings because your work doesn’t really matter when it comes to that, then look for something like OSB. This is going to be a lot less expensive, but the surface will be a lot rougher.
If you plan on destroying the surface of your worktable on a pretty regular basis, you might also want to think about buying a 1/8 inch MDF skin for the top. All you do is put the skin on with a few nails in the corners, and then when you destroy it just pull it and replace it.
This option can be really good for people who do a lot of work with glue, or stain. If you just know that you’re going to annihilate any surface that you work on, plan on making it replaceable right from the beginning and you’ll be a lot happier.
Accessories Like Doors and Drawers
When you’re designing your worktable, you should also consider adding some accessories like doors and drawers. If you want to make your assembly area more functional, these can provide a lot of value.
However, if you’d rather have a simple area that looks more open, then create a design that doesn’t have any of these extra add-ons. Also, anything that you design in addition to the worktable itself is going to require more time.
It’s also going to require more materials, and it’s also going to be more expensive. However, when you add these little creature comforts to your prep area table, it becomes a lot more functional and more beneficial to your shop.
See Also: 8 Reasons I love Woodworking
Tool Storage in Your Work Table
One of the things that you should consider at least, even if you plan on doing a minimalist assembly station is to plan on being able to store at least a few tools. These don’t have to be anything more than the tools you would use at that worktable.
If the primary reason that you have this new area is for gluing, then consider storing your clamps near there. Also, consider a place where you can keep a small container with water and a rag for wiping away glue residue.
It’s really nice to have everything in one spot, especially when you’re trying to get things done in a hobby shop. I know what it is like to have other things that occupy your time, so you may not have that much for the shop in the end.
If you cluster a few tools around this area, you can make it a lot more productive, and in turn you can get a lot farther in the same amount of time.
See Also: 9 Great Tips for Storing Wood Clamps
Your Action Assignment
Now that you know these 10 awesome tips for helping you build a worktable in your shop, it’s time to get out there and take action. Start by going into the shop and looking for an area where you can place this new assembly station.
Plan out some design elements initially, and then make sure to go online and take a look at the sites that I mention for inspiration. All it takes is the right few pictures, and you be surprised how it can change your mind.
After that, build a work table that you can be proud of, and maybe even consider a few little add-ons that make it more comfortable. You’ll be glad that you created the secondary area, and you’ll end up using it quite often.
If you have any questions on building a work table, please post a question and I’ll be glad to answer them. Happy building.
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