How to Build a DIY Workbench

By Amanda Lutz Updated February 29, 2024

Whether you’re an expert electrician rewiring a vintage lamp, a novice woodworker crafting your first birdhouse, or someone who yearns for a dedicated space to tackle those springtime do-it-yourself (DIY) projects, a workbench can be helpful to get the job done. While pre-built workbench options are available, building a workbench allows you to customize the piece to suit your needs, especially if you want a bigger work surface to include clamps, or add casters to create a mobile workbench. By taking on this beginner-friendly woodworking project, you can make a custom DIY workbench for a fraction of the cost of buying one from a store.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to build a DIY workbench and include some tips and ideas for customizing your piece.

Benefits of a DIY Workbench

Here are a few reasons why taking on this easy DIY project could be more beneficial than buying a ready-made bench off the shelf:

While a store-bought workbench can be a solid solution if you don’t have the time or knowledge to build one, a DIY workbench is easier to customize and is more cost-effective.

Materials Needed

If you’re ready to build a simple DIY workbench, start by gathering your materials and tools. Ensuring you have everything on hand will make the building process much easier.

Here are the materials you’ll need to build a basic 36-x-60-inch workbench with a bottom shelf for extra storage:

You can adjust the dimensions of your workbench to suit your project needs by altering the plywood and lumber measurements. After, you can follow the same instructions to put it together.

When choosing your lumber, any standard framing 2-x-4s will work, but the most common are made of pine. Pine is a soft, less costly wood, so it may dent or get marked easily. If you aren’t worried about the appearance of your workbench, this is a great material to use. However, if you want a worktable that can withstand heavy usage and look new, opt for a hardwood such as oak or maple.

Step-by-Step Guide

Follow this step-by-step tutorial to create a basic garage workbench with a spacious plywood top.

Step 1: Build the Frames

Start this project by building two identical frames. One will be a sturdy worktop, and the other will be a handy storage shelf to be installed underneath the workbench. Here’s how to build the frames of your DIY workbench:

  1. Begin by creating two rectangular frames. Each frame will require two 51-inch 2-x-4s for the length and two 27-inch 2-x-4s for the width.
  2. Attach the pieces at the corners using wood screws and your cordless drill. You can also use a Kreg pocket hole jig when attaching your 2-x-4s—use the jig to drill pocket holes and put screws in at an angle.
  3. Add two 24-inch pieces of 2-x-4s in the middle of the rectangle, about 18 inches apart, to create internal cross braces. Attach them using a cordless drill and wood screws. These braces will help support the weight of anything you’re working on, so a strong frame will result in a strong workbench.
  4. Repeat the previous steps to create a second identical frame.

Step 2: Attach the Legs

Now that your frames are ready, you can attach the legs to your workbench with these step-by-step instructions:

  1. Attach four 31.25-inch 2-x-4s with wood screws vertically to the outer corners of your top frame to create the legs of your workbench.
  2. Lay the workbench on its side and attach the lower frame to the legs where you want to create extra storage.
  3. When complete, stand the workbench upright on its legs.

Note: You can attach the bottom shelf at whatever height is best for you. For example, add the bottom shelf low to the ground if you want to store large equipment. Or, if you use the workbench for smaller projects, attaching the shelf higher may be more helpful.

Step 3: Add the Bench Top and Shelf

Here’s how to finish your workbench with its worktop and bottom shelf:

  1. Add wood glue to the top of the lower frame, including the braces, and slide the 27-x -54-inch piece of plywood into place. Align it with the edges of the frame to create the bottom shelf.
  2. Secure it with wood screws or nails. The glue will help bond the plywood to the frame, but the screws are essential for keeping it in place.
  3. Repeat the process for the top. Add glue, then secure the 36 x 60-inch piece of plywood in place with screws or nails. You’ll end up with a 3-inch overhang on the sides.
  4. Allow the glue to dry completely overnight before using your new workbench. This ensures a strong and durable bond between the components.

By following these steps, you can transform basic lumber pieces into a work table perfect for your DIY projects, crafting, flower arranging, and more.

Tips and Tricks to Customize Your Workbench

Once you’ve built your basic DIY workbench, take it to the next level with custom additions. Below are a few ideas to make your new workspace even better.

Add a Vise

A vise is a metal tool with movable jaws that help hold an object in place while work is done on it. It’s a great addition to your workbench, especially if you use tools like planers.

Here’s how to add a vise to your workbench:

  1. Determine which type of vise you need for your workbench. Common ones include bench vises, woodworking vises, and angle vises. Talk to a pro at your local home improvement store if you need help choosing the best one for your workspace.
  2. Once you choose a vise type, decide the best position on your workbench. In general, mounting the vise on the left of your workbench can make work more comfortable and prevent strain during projects.
  3. Install the vise according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Most vises come with a mounting plate or clamp, making installation easy. Align the mounting plate in your desired location, then screw it into place.

Add Wall-Mounted Shelving

You can create an entire workspace around your wood workbench by adding some wall-mounted shelving behind it. French cleats are ideal for this task, as they allow you to create shelving that you can move around and reorganize with every project.

Here’s how to add wall-mounted shelving behind your workbench:

  1. Cut your shelves to size.
  2. Cut your French cleats at 45-degree angles. You’ll need two French cleats for each shelf. One will point upward and be wall-mounted, while the other will point downward and attach to your shelving.
  3. Attach the French cleats to the wall, using a level to ensure they’re perfectly horizontal.
  4. Attach the corresponding cleats to your shelves, then put them on the wall. When the two cleats fit, they’ll lock your shelf into place.

Expand Your Workspace With a Flip Top

If you want a bigger workbench, consider adding a flip top to your existing bench. This is a great way to add more space without scraping all your hard work.

Here’s how to add a flip top to your workbench:

  1. Cut your plywood to the desired size, and ensure it fits well on your existing worktop.
  2. Attach hinges to the flip top by marking and drilling holes on the new and existing top.
  3. Create support by attaching a gate leg that swings out from the side of your workbench and attaching it with hinges.

Make Your DIY Workbench Mobile

Add some casters to the bottom of your workbench to make it mobile. This is great for those who frequently move around their garage or worksite.

Here’s how to add casters to your workbench:

  1. Add 4-x-4-inch blocks to the bottom of your legs. You can add these to the bottom of your shelf, too—just make sure your casters extend beyond the legs and can move freely.
  2. Screw heavy-duty casters into the 4-x-4 blocks using wood screws.

Stay Organized with a Pegboard

You can use a pegboard to keep smaller hand tools organized or add small containers to hold screws, nuts, bolts, and other supplies.

Here’s how to add pegboard to your workbench:

  1. Create a frame for your pegboard. For the workbench above, create a frame from 2-x-4s that’s 51 inches wide (the height will equal the height of your pegboard).
  2. Attach the frame to the worktop using wood screws, making sure that you screw into the wood frame and not just the plywood.
  3. Attach the pegboard to the frame using wood screws.

Once you’ve added the pegboard, you can use hooks and pegboard containers to organize your supplies.

Our Recommendation

Building a workbench is a cost-effective way to create a custom workspace for all your DIY projects. To create a safe and sturdy workspace, all you’ll need is some lumber, plywood, and a few tools. Once the basic structure is built, you can customize your workbench with additional storage, casters, and shelving to create an ideal place to bring your DIY ideas to life.

How to Build a DIY Workbench FAQ

Is it cheaper to build a workbench or buy one?

Building a workbench yourself is generally cheaper than buying one. However, purchasing new power tools or investing in hardwood can significantly increase the project’s costs.

What is the best wood for a workbench top?

Plywood is often the best wood for a workbench top because it’s inexpensive and sturdy. However, hardwoods such as oak and maple will resist damage better, and you can easily sand out any nicks or scrapes.

How many 2-x-4s do I need for a workbench?

The number of 2-x-4s you need for a workbench will depend on the size of the workbench you build. You can estimate the required linear feet by sketching a quick workbench plan and adding up all sides.

What is the minimum thickness for a workbench top?

The minimum thickness for a workbench top built from plywood is 3/4 inch. You may prefer a thicker workbench top if you’re using power tools like a circular saw.

Can I customize my DIY workbench to fit my specific needs?

Yes, you can customize your DIY workbench to fit your project needs. Add more shelving, make it bigger or smaller, or add a pegboard to keep your items organized. Building a workbench yourself means you can create it exactly how you want.