How to Build a Portable Workbench

  • 01 of 08

    Introduction

    Free Woodworking Plans - Portable Shop Table
    Portable Shop Table. (c) 2006 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Many home woodworkers and DIYers frequently find themselves short of bench-top working space. This portable workbench will help solve that problem.The lightweight bench has a 4 ft. x 8 ft. tabletop and casters that can be employed when the table needs to be moved, but raised up to allow the table legs to sit securely on the floor during use. 

    This project is loosely based on a table created by Norm Abram on the New Yankee Workshop, but with some basic improvements. A color-coded CAD drawing...MORE accompanies each step, so you can see the details on how to make this useful woodworking project.

    Difficulty Level

    • Easy

    Finishing

    Time to Complete

    • 3 to 4 Hours

    Tools Required

    Materials Needed

    • 2 x 4s,  8 ft. long (10)
    • 1 x 6s, 8 ft .long (4)
    • 4 x 8 Sheet 1/2 inch CDX plywood (1)
    • 4 x 8 Sheet 1/4 inch masonite (1)
    • 3 in. spring door hinges (4)
    • 3 inch door hinges (4)
    • 3 inch casters (4)
    • 1 inch closed eye hooks (screw-type) (4)
    • 6 ft. lengths of small nylon rope (2)
    • 2 1/2-inch and 1 1/2 -inch deck screws 
    • Wood glue
    Continue to 2 of 8 below.
  • 02 of 08

    Building the Tabletop Frame

    Free Woodworking Plans - Building the Portable Table Base
    Building the Portable Table Base. (c) 2006 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

    To get started with this project, we first need to build the frame for the tabletop. This is created using simple butt-joint construction. The table frame is 92 x 44 inches in size.

    1. Cut two (2) 2 x 4s to 89-inches in length. These are the two long sides of the tabletop frame.
    2. Next, cut one 2 x 4 into two 44 inch pieces. These are the two ends of the tabletop frame.
    3. Finally, you'll need to cut three 41 inch pieces out of two more 2 x 4s. These will be for the three cross stringers to help give...MORE strength to the tabletop.
    4.  Using at least two 2 1/2-inch screws at every joint, assemble the tabletop frame as shown in the picture above. While exact placement of the stringers is not imperative, we placed them every 23 inches on-center to make them evenly spaced.
    5. Check to make sure the tabletop is square. To do this, measure across the frame from one corner to the opposite corner diagonally, note the length and then measure across the other two corners diagonally. If both lengths are equal, the frame is square. If one is diagonal is longer than the other, adjust the frame until the measurements are equal. 
    Continue to 3 of 8 below.
  • 03 of 08

    Adding the Table Legs

    Free Woodworking Plans - Attaching the Table Legs
    Attaching the Table Legs. (c) 2006 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Once the tabletop's frame is assembled and square, its time to attach the table legs.

    1. Cut the four 1 x 6s into eight pieces, each 35 1/4 inches. long. This will make the finished table top 36 inches. tall. (If a taller or shorter table height is desired, adjust your cut lengths in this step accordingly.)
    2. With the table frame flat on the floor, affix two of the 1 x 6 pieces in each corner, as shown in the diagram above. Use a square to be certain that the legs are at 90 degrees (square) to the...MORE base. Notice (inset) that one side of the leg is placed flush with the corner of the table, while the second side of the table leg overlaps the first. For extra strength, place a bead of glue in the overlap between the two pieces of the table leg. 


    Note: You might be tempted to use 1 1/2-inch screws to connect the two halves of each table leg together along their length. However, because of the lack of thickness of the stock, this may result in cracking or splitting of the piece being overlapped.

    Continue to 4 of 8 below.
  • 04 of 08

    Attach the Stringers

    Free Woodworking Plans - Attach the Leg Stringers
    Attach the Leg Stringers. (c) 2006 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Once the legs are attached to the base, it's time to connect the stringers (shown in yellow in the illustration above). The stringers provide strength and stability to the table legs.

    1. Cut two 2 x 4s to 92 inches in length.
    2. Then cut one 2 x 4 into two pieces, each 44 inches in length.
    3. With the table still in the upside-down position from the previous step, make a pencil mark 12 inches down from what will be the bottom of each leg.
    4. Place one of the two long stringers flat against the two legs on one...MORE side of the table, just beneath the pencil marks on the two legs.
    5. Attach, using 1 1/2 inch screws driven through the outside face of the table leg and into the stringer. Drive two screws through each leg into each stringer (two into the end of the stringer and two into the side of the stringer).
    6. Attach the opposite long stringer in the same manner.
    7. Once the two long side stringers are attached, make a mark 2 inches down each leg.  Affix each end stringer in the same manner as the side stringers. Be certain that the end stringers are two in from the bottom of the table leg.
    8. Once the four stringers are in place, turn the table over to verify that the table is solid and doesn't have any wobble when placed on a flat floor.
    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Attach the Caster Boards

    Free Woodworking Plans - Attach the Caster Boards
    Attach the Caster Boards. (c) 2006 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Now that the table structure is solid, and the table is on its legs, we'll attach the caster boards. These two pieces of stock will hold the casters, and because they have been attached to the end stringers with hinges, you'll be able to raise and lower the casters to move and reposition the workbench. 

    1. Cut a 2 x 4 into two lengths of 43 1/2 inches These are the two caster boards (tinted green in the illustration above). 
    2. Attach two 3-inch (non-spring) hinges, each 3 inches in from the end of one...MORE of the caster boards. Repeat on the other caster board.
    3. Attach the other leaf of the hinges to the short stringers, as shown in the details above. There should be a 1/4 inch gap between the end of the caster board and the table leg, and the bottom of the caster board should be flush with the bottom of the stringer.
    4. Once the caster boards are securely attached using the hinges, the caster board should freely move in a 90-degree arc and should sit flat (horizontal) when in the down position, 2 inches above the floor.
    Continue to 6 of 8 below.
  • 06 of 08

    Attach the Caster Base Braces to the Stringers

    Free Woodworking Plans - Attach the Caster Base Braces
    Attach the Caster Base Braces. (c) 2006 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.
    1. With the two caster bases resting flat in the down position, measure from the top of the caster base to the bottom of the long stringer on each leg. This measurement should be consistent between the four legs, at approximately 8 1/2 inches. However, it is important to know the exact length on each corner for this step.
    2. Cut caster base braces from 2 x 4s to the measurements you just took. 
    3. Attach the braces (indicated by purple tinting) to the long stringers with the spring hinges, as shown in the...MORE illustration. The hinges should be situated so that spring action forces the braces against the workbench legs. When completed, there should be a slight but consistent gap between the bottom of the (purple) brace and the top of the (green) caster board. The purple brace should be able to swing without the bottom scraping against the caster board, with about 1/4 inch of clearance.
    Continue to 7 of 8 below.
  • 07 of 08

    Attach the Casters to the Table

    Free Woodworking Plans - Attach the Casters
    Attach the Casters. (c) 2006 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.
    1. With the caster bases now locked in place by the braces, flip the workbench upside down.
    2. Attach a caster to each end of the two (green) caster boards using 1 1/2-inch screws driven through the four holes of the caster's base. Each caster should be centered on the caster base, and be positioned about 1 inch from the end of the board. You do have some flexibility as to where along the caster board you'd like to affix the casters. However, in this case, wider is better. The greater the...MORE distance between the casters, the more stable the workbench will be when it is being moved.
    3. Once the casters are all attached, return the workbench to its upright position and verify that the table rolls around smoothly.
    4. Once satisfied that the table is stable when on the casters, its time to install the rope pulls for raising the caster braces. Insert one eye-hook about 1 inch up from the bottom of each caster brace.

    Attach the Ropes

    1. Tie one end of a rope to the each of the two eye hooks on one end of the table. When you pull on this rope, it will swing the end braces inward, allowing the caster base to pivot on its hinges and the workbench to settle down on its legs. To raise the table back onto the casters, simply lift the table, and the braces will spring back into place, locking the casters into the down position.
    2. Repeat with the rope on the opposite end, and test.

    Tip: When the rope is not in use, it will dangle on the floor and may get in the way. Place an additional eye hook on the table base (just under the table top) and run the rope through that eye before attaching to the braces. In this manner, the rope is always out of the way, and in easy reach of the operator.

    Continue to 8 of 8 below.
  • 08 of 08

    Attach the Tabletop

    Free Woodworking Plans - Finished Portable Table
    Finished Portable Table. (c) 2006 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.
    1. With the casters in their up position so the workbench is stable, place the 1/2 inch plywood onto the tabletop frame. There should be a 2-inch overlap on each of the four sides of the frame and the edge of the plywood top.
    2. Once this is in the proper position, attach the plywood to the table frame using the 1 1/2 inch screws. Do not use any glue to attach the plywood to the tabletop
    3. After the plywood is attached, place the masonite top onto the plywood. Check to make sure the masonite is flush with...MORE the plywood on all four sides, and attach with a few 1 1/2 inch screws driven down through the plywood into the tabletop frame. The masonite in this installation is designed to be disposable so that it can be easily removed and replaced when it becomes worn.

    Your portable workbench is complete. You may wish to paint or stain the wood (except for the masonite) to protect it from moisture, dirt, and grime.