This is How to Make a Workbench Top from 2x4s. In this post, I’ll show you how to make an inexpensive workbench top using common two by fours.
Making a Workbench Top
Even though your woodworking bench doesn’t matter, and you can produce great work no matter what your circumstances are if you have the right mindset, and the desire, there is something really nice about working on a super thick and heavy benchtop.
However, in the interest of saving a little bit of money, in this post I’ll show you how to make an excellent looking benchtop out of basic 2 x 4 lumber that you can get at any home-improvement store for a really low price.
You might already have enough of these two by fours just floating around in your shop right now, and that would make the project nearly free, because you already paid for the wood.
Either way, this is going to make a very thick, heavy bench top that you will be super happy to have as a new woodworker, or even as an experienced woodworker.
Designing Your Bench Top
The very first thing that you need to do is design your bench top. For most applications, this is simply going to be the length and the depth that you want to make. Even though this is an inexpensive project, don’t go nuts on your size just because of it.
Most benches are only about 16 or 18 inches deep, and this is because it causes a strain on your lower back to reach out any further than that. Even though the top is not going to cost a lot of money, it’s a waste to make a 3 foot deep top, because you won’t enjoy using it.
Instead, shoot for a depth of about 18 inches to maybe 24 at the absolute most, and you can use the last 6 inches for tool storage. This way, you’ll have a maximum of usable space without taking up a bunch of extra room for no reason.
As far as your length goes, most benches are about 6 feet long. However, two by fours are sold in 8 foot and 10 foot lengths commonly, so if it makes no real difference, you can go ahead and do an 8 foot long bench and have plenty of room.
Selecting the 2×4 Lumber
The best thing is you can do right away is select the absolute best lumber. This is already going to be a very inexpensive project, so spending an extra dollar on each of your two by fours is absolutely worth it.
Most two by fours that are of good quality are going to be around three dollars each. Even if you have to go a little bit more expensive to get something that is strait, dry, and free of defects, it’s definitely worth the price.
In reality, that’s what you’re looking for more than anything else. You need to pick out enough two buy fours to cover the depth of your project. T they need to be clear on the top edge at least and they need to be straight.
The project will be a lot easier if you pick the best wood in the beginning. Spend some time going through that bunker of lumber and pick out the straightest and the most clean boards that you can possibly find.
Preparing the Stock for Assembly
Getting each of your 2 x 4s ready to be assembled into a workbench top is actually a pretty straightforward process. There’s only one real step to prepare the lumber, and it’s pretty quick, no matter which tool you use.
The problem with two by fours is that the edges are rounded slightly. When you glue up your boards into a top, you don’t want to have any gaps or little valleys in between the boards.
The solution to this problem is taking off the top quarter inch to half an inch of the boards, depending on how rounded the edges are. In most cases, once you remove about a quarter inch, you’ll have a nice set of square edges that are sharp.
This can be done by sending the two by fours vertically through a thickness planer or running them across the jointer. You can also set your table saw to the right with, and cut off the top quarter inch off of every piece.
However you decide to process the lumber is fine, though I recommend taking the exact same amount off of every single board. This way, you can still stand them on a flat surface and have the tops be very close to level.
Assembling the Workbench
This is the trick to assembling with your workbench that makes the entire thing worthwhile. Instead of gluing up all of these boards together and needing several really big clamps, and a lot of space, you’re going to do it a couple boards at a time.
Pick your first two boards, and line them up vertically next to each other. Now, in five or six places, or about every foot or two, drill a clearance hole for 2 and 1/2 inch wood screws. This is only on one of the boards.
The screws should be able to fall freely through this hole and then get caught by the head before it goes all the way through.
Next, lay the boards open like a book, and smear a little blue on both of the faces that will come together. You don’t need a lot, just enough to get some glue on the joint.
Stand the boards back up, and a clamp them together making sure that the top surfaces are level the entire way across.
At this point, you are actually more worried about making sure the boards are even up and down, which will produce a level top. Don’t worry about clamping them together on the larger faces as much, because the screws are going to do all of that.
Once the boards are clamped together, and the alignment is perfect, you can fire in the wood screws into the holes that you drilled earlier. Be sure to sink the heads slightly below the surface to leave a flush face on the outside of the board.
Now, bring over another board and prepare it the same way to be glued and screwed to the two existing boards that are already assembled. After that, grab number four and screw it to the three that are together.
Continue this clamping, aligning, and screwing operation until your entire benchtop is complete. This is a fantastic method of building your benchtop, because it will be very strong, and you’ll only need several small clamps to pull it off.
See Also: 9 Great Tips for Storing Wood Clamps
Finishing Touches and Installation
Once the assembly part of the bench is complete, it’s time to move on to the finishing touches and preparing the bench top for a finish. I recommend starting with a belt sander if necessary, but a palm sander will also work if you just need to do a little bit of smoothing.
If you did the job really well by aligning the pieces before you screwed them together, odds are you won’t need to do very much with the sander.
After that, square up the edges and cut off any pieces that stick out too far. Break any rough corners, and do your final sanding to prepare the workbench top for finishing.
Choose a nice, hand applied oil finish to give your benchtop a classic look, and bring out the beauty of the wood. This is also a very easy finish to repair, which is probably going to happen pretty often on a well used workbench.
Your Action Assignment
Now that you know how to take about $50 worth of hardware store 2x4s and turn them into an awesome workbench top, it’s time to get out into your shop and take action. If you’ve always wanted a great looking, thick benchtop, this is how you do it.
Not only will you have an amazing looking bunch, that’s super sturdy and heavy, it will also be a fun project, and not cost you a lot of money. You can really dump a ton of cash into a workbench, but now, you don’t have to.
If you have any questions on building a 2 x 4 benchtop, please post a question and I’ll be happy to answer them. Happy Building.
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