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Thread: Modular Workbenches and storage for new workshop / layout and design feedback?

  1. #1

    Modular Workbenches and storage for new workshop / layout and design feedback?

    Hi folks, I'm new to the forum, and building a new workshop. Looking for design advice on the specifics like the joinery and design of the benches but also more general design of the shop like layout... really any feedback is welcome! I am hoping to build a series of modular workbenches which will go along the perimeter of the shop. I'm imagining these will serve as workbenches but also storage. I'm planning to have these workbenches be on casters (2x free 2x total lock) and land at 35" high so one can also serve as out an outfeed table for my table saw. The sides of these benches might have powerful magnets in them so they "click" together (strange idea I know)... The workbenches will be build from 1/2 Baltic birch which I have in 5'x5' sheets, the table tops will be 3x of these sheets laminated for a total thickness of 1.5". That tabletop will go on top of a frame built from 2.75" tall frame and then a similar set of 2.75" stetchers will provide stability lower down. The attached drawings will show what I am talking about. The stretchers are frame would be constructed of 1/2 BB ply also and have spacers. In theory one could store tools such as chisels, small hand saws, screw drivers etc in the slots of these stretchers.

    The core power tools I have now are a 3HP Sawstop Cabinet saw with 36 table, a 1412 14" laguna bandsaw, a Nova Viking drill press, and a Bosch CM10GD Miter saw, as well as various hand held power tools and hand tools.

    Was planning on building these workbenches primarily with joints held just with wood glue and countersunk screws, and perhaps some knock down hardware like connector bolts and cap nuts to hold the big pieces together...

    Any advice on any of this? Design of the benches, thoughts for joining, types of wood glue to use for the baltic birch ply (Polyeuethane Guerrilla glue vs PVA tight bond, etc), or even shop layout? Lots of questions waiting to be answered, and thoughts appreciated. Attached drawings are made by me using SketchUp, I could post those too.

    Best-
    -Nat
    Screen Shot 2021-11-02 at 12.24.56 AM.jpgScreen Shot 2021-11-02 at 12.25.13 AM.jpgScreen Shot 2021-11-02 at 12.25.41 AM.jpgScreen Shot 2021-11-02 at 12.26.41 AM.jpg
    Last edited by Nathaniel Jencks; 11-02-2021 at 1:04 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Atlanta
    Posts
    341
    I'm in the same stage as you with similar design and execution needs. I have a metal Rocker outfeed with casters, sturdy but the wheel combo height for ICS is off and I need to raise my saw. For the tables you are looking to build I bought wood countertops they are a bit over 2' wide, and probably 6' long they will flank mt CMS. I will be building the table legs and stretchers from plywood (I saw a good YouTube Video on it .. I'll look for it) and makes a simple M&T joint that won't rack. This way I can custom build the l,W,H to meet my needs. I will add levelers to the bottom and probably not wheels, as my outfeed, assy table is already mobile. This will also make it easier to move someday. We should collaborate on this!

    -D

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    San Francisco, CA
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    9,896
    In general, floors are not flat. In particular, garage floors are sloped quite a bit. This means that if it is important to you that the tops of the workbenches be coplanar, you'll need some means to level the benches. Leveling casters are one approach, but there are others. A consequence of the non-flat floors is that if you set the benches in place and level them, they will need re-leveling if you move them. That is, reality is not quite as simple as your drawing.

  4. #4
    In practice, work/assembly benches want to be away from the walls, not against them, so you can work all around them. Storage cabinets and shelves go against the walls, as well as drill presses, radial arm saw, lumber storage, less frequently used machines (on rolling bases).
    "Anything seems possible when you don't know what you're doing."

  5. #5
    Hi David, glad to have a fellow traveller :) happy to collaborate any way that I can.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Jamie Buxton View Post
    In general, floors are not flat. In particular, garage floors are sloped quite a bit. This means that if it is important to you that the tops of the workbenches be coplanar, you'll need some means to level the benches. Leveling casters are one approach, but there are others. A consequence of the non-flat floors is that if you set the benches in place and level them, they will need re-leveling if you move them. That is, reality is not quite as simple as your drawing.
    Thanks Jamie, this is an excellent point. Perhaps I should put leveling feel on the table and then add then add the "fold down" style casters (I'm sure there is another name). My thought is that much of the time these benches would be at the perimeter providing storage and workspace but during an active project they could be rolled to the center of the room for 360degree access.

    Do you have any recommendations for the feet?

    Thanks again

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by andy bessette View Post
    In practice, work/assembly benches want to be away from the walls, not against them, so you can work all around them. Storage cabinets and shelves go against the walls, as well as drill presses, radial arm saw, lumber storage, less frequently used machines (on rolling bases).
    Thanks Andy, this is a good point. My thought was that most of the time these benches would stay at the perimeter but that when desired a bench could roll into the middle of the room providing access from all sides, or act as supplemental feed out space for the table saw etc. Do you think this is misconceived?

    Thanks for the feedback!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Kansas City
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    2,113
    Shelves on the lower levels of the tables? Thats good storage space.
    Hobbyist

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Lafayette, Indiana
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    1,343
    You may already have this covered, but Consider making your miter saw stand wide enough to accommodate a dust hood for your 45 degree cuts. If you make your dust hood out of the 1/2 ply, I would recommend a simple face frame to stiffen it up, and maybe cleats on the sides and rail on the back to carry the top.

    In the shop, my levelers are nothing more than standard 3/8" bolts and T-nuts available at the home centers. These work fine for supporting work, storage and light assembly. They even work well on my semi-fixed 5' x 3' combination outfeed\assembly\second workbench\storage table.

    You might also consider designing one of your modular tables to serve as a simple router table. You could install a plunge base router underneath and a put slots in the table for a fence. If you are just securing the tops to the frames with screws, that could be an upgrade down the road, but if you are gluing the top to the base rails, it would be easier to work the top for the router table prior to attaching it to the base. I would only make this top 1" thick. I'd probably band the edges with 3/4" x 1.5 poplar, pine or maple to stiffen the top. The reason for the thinner top is reduce the recess depth for setting the router.

    Holding all of these surfaces at the same height or lower than your tables aw will serve you well, especially working pieces on the table saw. I made four similar tables years ago, and appreciated the flexibility they gave me, especially in a garage where I had to share the space with lawn mowers, yard and garden tools, bicycles and the like. When I transitioned to a dedicated shop, three of the tables made the transition. YMMV, but I think these modular tables will serve you well for some time.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  10. #10
    Interesting project.

    Based on experience laminating up Baltic birch plywood into thicker panels, PVA is the way to go; I can't see any upside to polyurethane glue in this application. You will need a goodly number of clamps for these laminations and battens to apply pressure to the fields of the big pieces you are gluing up for the tops. Also note that you will want to laminate pieces that are somewhat oversize relative to your final dimensions, then trim them after they're set up and out of the clamps, as the layers will slide around some as you glue them up and it will be very difficult to keep an exact register.

    I can't tell what joinery you're contemplating for the bases, but would suggest the cross members be tenoned into the legs. Normally, this would mean excavating matching mortises with a router or whatever, but with your laminated legs, you could create the mortises at the lamination stage. I think you're right to consider knock down construction, at least for the rails in the long dimension. This will make it much easier to alter these things or move them, if that becomes necessary in the future. On my workbench, this is accomplished with 3/8 in. bolts that pass through the tenons and secure via nuts let into cutouts in the rails.IMG_1078.jpg

  11. #11
    Build a bunch of clamping squares ASAP. Use Tightbond 1/2 avoid TB3 (green bottle) which dries black and is more viscous (IMO annoying to work with). If possible, get a Festool Domino ASAP which will allow you to do strong butt-joints with plywood. If FD isn't in the budget, butt-joints with glue and trim-head screws will do.

    I recommend sticking with cabinet carcasses with drawers or cabinet doors instead of open storage underneath desk-style benches. Tools you store inside will not accumulate dust (very important; dust holds moisture which can cause rust on your tools), you maximize material usage (less cuts = less wasted material), and carcass structure is innately rigid (you don't need those benches to have beefy legs). You'll be building cabinets anyway once you realize you need to make use of that space and at that point, you'll realize the legs are big for no good reason. If you need a solid top, mount one on top of the cabinet (this design also allows you to adjust the top for levelness).

    You don't need a long miter station. 6' on each side is plenty, unless you're going to work with 16' long stock. Save that extra room for a traditional workbench (I recommend English Workbench; Youtube Rex Krueger Workbenches). Set up your bench clamps ASAP.

    Don't use powerful magnets to "snap" together benches. They'd need to be super strong to be worthwhile and will damage your laptop/phone when you inevitably walk by them.

    I would start by building the traditional English workbench (whose large apron will help you support long stock/plywood for planing/edge banding). Then build the TS outfeed cabinet. Slap a solid top on there with some top-leveling mechanism. Then build general-purpose cabinets on casters that double up as supports for your miter station. Use workbench casters [1],[2] so they don't budge after they're in position (making those magnets obsolete).

    I would not recommend building out all of those table right away because they have very little utility. Your work will mostly revolve around the traditional workbench or outfeed cabinet.

    [1] https://www.amazon.com/SOLEJAZZ-Workbench-Retractable-Construction-Urethane/dp/B07V6X2LNB/ref=sr_1_10?crid=2DLQJ7UTWAPWB&keywords=casters&qi d=1640051780&sprefix=casters%2Caps%2C109&sr=8-10
    [2] https://www.amazon.com/Skelang-Level...al%2C58&sr=1-3
    Last edited by Minh Tran; 12-20-2021 at 9:13 PM.

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