Four Easy Workbench Improvements – Upgrading the Ultimate Workbench

Let me catch you up incase you missed the first video on this build: It’s a 4×8 top with an overhang on all sides for clamping area. A speed square holder on every corner because honestly, where do they always disappear to? A giant middle cubby to store anything and everything, mostly tools in my case. A mallet holder. Plenty of screw box holders, and even more hardware storage bins that are on French cleats so they are removable or rearrangeable. Both sides have four drawers all along the bottom. Then the other end has a custom bench cookie dispenser, clamp storage for both squeeze clamps and quick clamps, then also plenty of tape storage. : ) It makes me laugh just how much crap I managed to store on this thing already. 

Things I Used in This Project:
ISOtunes Bluetooth Hearing Protection: http://amzn.to/2pEjNtv
Bandy Clamps: http://amzn.to/2iMIhvF
Bessey Clamps: https://amzn.to/2YZ0Dxk
Armor Tool Pocket Hole Jig: https://amzn.to/2ECBOQU
Titebond Original Woodglue: http://amzn.to/2hMkdZw
Forstner Bit: https://amzn.to/2U589De
Hand Screw Clamp: https://amzn.to/2K4rxjn
Hardware Storage Build: https://youtu.be/mFPAMmLtvWM
Hardware Storage Containers: https://amzn.to/2X40wzi
Adjustable Feet: https://amzn.to/2WXVO9u
Rockler Bench Vise: https://amzn.to/2XCD5NY
Triton Thickness Planer: http://amzn.to/2r5YmT3
Triton Workcenter: http://amzn.to/2uyuopA
Triton Palm ROS: https://amzn.to/2Jgeven
Rockler Downdraft Panels: https://amzn.to/2R0QWed
Triton Jigsaw: https://amzn.to/2MAs929
Rockler Bench Sweep: http://bit.ly/2K5c3f5
Dust Collection Cart: http://bit.ly/2BLolnt
Dust Right Separator: http://bit.ly/2rKaE39
Mallet: http://bit.ly/2RlMPZR

The first modification was to flip the workbench on it’s back and add some more feet. As it is now, I haven’t experienced the bottom bowing but I do plan on adding cubbies next to this section which I bet would cause the bottom to bow. I quickly made up some simple little feet in the shape of an L. I first used my Armor Tool pocket hole jig to drill in some pocket holes on each set, then used glue and brad nails to attach the pieces into their L shape. Since this is an indoor project I’m using Titebond original wood glue for the entire build. 

The plan is to make these inside feet adjustable, because there is no way the concrete floor will be perfectly level. To do that, next I cut some small blocks that would fit inside my L pieces. I used a handscrew clamp to hold onto these securely while I used the drill press and a forester bit to drill a hole for my adjustable feet.

I used glue and brad nails to attach these into place, then found my pocket hole screws in my new hardware storage area and attached the feet to the center of each railing.

I used a piece of tape to hold each one in place while I tipped the workbench back over on its feet. Then I crawled underneath to not only remove the piece of tape, but to also thread down each foot so they were all touching the ground.

Ok support reinforcements are in, next was to add in some cubbies to break up the one big main cubby. The problem with having such a tall space is I typically have one row of tools on the shelf then everything above it is wasted. To combat that, I added in shelves….and I stuck with shelves over drawers because I love the high visibly and quick accessibility for this space. I just needed another tier. 

I started by cutting up some dividers and again using my Armor Tool jig to drill in some pocket holes. If you have this jig, don’t forget that a 2×4 is the perfect height for side supports when drilling in wide material. 

When attaching the dividers to the bench, I used what will be the shelving bottom as a spacer, then I made sure it was sitting in the cubby squarely before putting the screws. I didn’t use glue here incase I want to change up the size arrangement in the future. Its worth noting that I placed these directly in line with the feet I added in the previous step. 

Next, to add a second layer of shelves, I cut and then attached some small rails. I used glue and my brad nailer for this. I also used a spacer to make getting the height the same on all of them. I personally made my bottom shelf higher than the top, but I recommend getting an idea on what you want to store here before determining the height of these. 

Next up was to cut the shelving bottoms to fit on top of these rails and in between the dividers.

If you want, you can make them permanent and nail them to the rails. However, I wanted mine to slide out so I wouldn’t have to squat or bend over to see what’s on there. To prevent things from falling off as I pull the shelf out, I cut then attached two side walls for each cubby.

Then on the front, I also cut and attached a piece that acts as not only a stop block to keep the shelf from just going back into the space, but also as a convenient hand pull for the shelf. 

To prevent the shelf from just falling out, I cut some strips and attached them directly up front and above the side walls of each shelf. Now I can pull each shelf almost all the way out without it falling. 

Now after I fill up the bottom space with tools, I’ll still have a second row of shelves to utilize the space. 

Moving on to adding a bench vise. I’ve always used my SuperJaws for anything vise related and it wasn’t until recently when I built a guitar in somebody else’s shop that I realized how useful having a dedicated vise was.

To add one on my workbench, I have to place it on one of the ends. I chose the side with my clamps and ended up moving the hand squeeze clamp storage to my lumber rack (since it’s still close). I first jointed an edge and a face on some maple I had, then ran the pieces through the thickness planer to get the second face flat. 

I’m using a workbench vise made by Rockler and on this one you just have to unscrew two Allen bolts on the back to disassemble it.

Now I could take the center section of the vise, transfer the hole location to my wooden piece, then use a forester bit and drill press to punch out the holes. These holes should be drilled slighter larger than the hardware so there aren’t any interference issues. 

After drilling the holes, I test fitted it to make sure there weren’t any issues then I took it back off and quickly rounded over all the front edges at my Workcenter. I made sure to hit the two end grain surfaces first then the long grain after. This just gives you a better result. 

I attached the front vise plate to my wooden block using some tapered head bolts. 

Then built up the side area on my workbench that I would be attaching the vise. If you have a thick workbench top then you won’t need to do this, but since I only have a 3/4” top, I added two more 3/4” pieces here. Now could transfer the hole location to punch through the side of the bench, then attach that center vise section to the built up blocks. 

Last thing was to stab the hardware through the attached center section, then unpackage and attach the handle which comes in three parts. And now I have a working bench vise

Next modification was to make a down draft table. You typically see these as stand alone builds but I thought it would be cool to incorporate one directly into the top of my workbench. You sand on top of it, since it has a holy top surface, then add vacuum to the underside to pull and collect the dust.

I started by making the downdraft box itself. It’s a simple build with glue and brad nails joining the sides to the front and back, then adding that onto a bottom.

After that I glued and attached small rails to the inside, which will hold the panels. I’ll be using these premade panels from Rockler and if you make a stand alone table you mount these rails down 3/4” to make the panels flush with the top. However, I’m wanting the panels flush with the top of my workbench so I placed them flush with the top. This will make more sense shortly. 

I added a few more pieces of trim around the perimeter of my table and I don’t know if you can make it out in the footage, but half of this board is on the table and the other half is overhanging. Again, you’ll see why in just a few.

Next up, I quickly made up two pieces that would taper off the inside of the box. I used the table saw to cut two angles on either side of the board then used glue and nails to stick them in their place inside. This will direct the air and the dust to a more concentrated area to be collected by the vacuum when in use.

To cut the hole for the vacuum I grabbed something that was 4” in diameter, found center of the table, then used a jigsaw to cut it out. 

Alright, now to put it in place in the workbench. To make this easy, I placed the downdraft table exactly where it needed to go then traced around it. Next I used a straight edge and my jigsaw to cut this section out of my workbench top. Making sure to remove any screws that were in my path. 

After cutting it out, I dropped the table in place.

Now I planned all along to add a second sheet of ply to the top of the workbench to stiffen it up. Soooo I popped the down draft table out, set my new sheet in place…making sure the pretty side was facing up….lined the table back up (this time facing down), and traced around it once again. 

I cut this out, using a jigsaw, and set the table back in place. Now you can see that the top trim I placed earlier, which holds the table onto the workbench, is flush with the top sheet of ply.

So now when I’m using the table to sand a piece, I’ll have my surrounding workbench area to help support it. I can leave these panels in place or I can take them out, store them inside the table itself, and pop in a fitting piece of ply to convert the surface back to flat. 

Since I do a lot of sanding, I bought a dedicated shop vac just to keep on my bench under this table, ready to use. 

The last thing I added was a quick one….this is a bench dust sweep that can be added to the edge of any surface with just a few screws. I threw it on the other end of my workbench, which does cancel out some screw and hardware storage but since I now have a very large hardware storage area I didn’t mind the loss.

With this, I can attach a shop vac from my dust collection cart to the underside then sweep off my surface directly into it. There is a grate inside so it’s no problem if you sweep in a pencil or hardware. It even comes with side hooks to store a horsehair brush or other accessories on it. 

Ok, and with that done that wraps up my additions. I’ll use it as is for a while and see what I think about it. Remember as you’re building stuff for your space, that there is nothing wrong with building something basic to get you going then modifying it later. Being able to customize stuff to specific needs and whims is one of my favorite parts of being a builder.

If you want to build your own workbench, I have a set of plans available here! It has a full cut list shopping list, and all the dimensions. 

That’s it for this one. I’ll see you on whatever I am building next!

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