My 12′ Long Workbench

When it came time to build a work bench for my brand new shop, I decided to go big. If you’re familiar with the much smaller bench that I built for my basement shop, the design of this project will be quite familiar. I’ve tweaked a few things here and there that I think will improve the end product, but at the end of the day, this is a fairly standard 24″ wide bench with a single shelf, built from plywood and 2x4s.

Photo 2016-01-31, 9 43 36 AM

I started by squaring off the ends of four twelve foot long 2x4s. These will serve as the stringers for the bench shelf and top.

Photo 2016-01-31, 9 29 08 AM

I decided to notch the stringers where each of the cross members attach. This helps to keep the structure square, and gives plenty of surface area for gluing and screwing the pieces together. Since the stringers are far too long to notch at the table saw, I used a 1/2″ straight cutting bit on my router. This simple jig clamps to the work piece and ensures that each notch is cut 1 1/2″ wide.

Photo 2016-01-31, 10 04 20 AM

The first time I tried to use this jig, I got a little bit too ambitious. I set the depth of the cut to the full 3/4″, and tried to cut through two of the stringers at once. My poor old second-hand router couldn’t keep up, and the bit wiggled loose, tearing a deep gash into my workpiece. Lesson learned, I continued by cutting one notch at a time, and removed the material with two passes instead of one. It took longer, but the router appreciated my patience.

Photo 2016-01-31, 11 01 28 AM

Here you can see one stringer with all of the notches cut, and the five perpendicular cross members inserted into them. Because the final width of the bench is meant to be 24″, and the notches are cut 3/4″ deep, each cross member is cut 22 1/2″ long.

Photo 2016-01-31, 11 09 44 AM (1)

Because the notches in each stringer are cut in the same place, the bench shelves come together very easily, and are almost perfectly square. I put wood glue and two screws on each butt joint between the stringers and cross members. This approach makes for really strong joints that will probably hold up for longer than I do.

Photo 2016-02-13, 1 51 27 PM

With the cross members done, I cut four 24″ end caps at the table saw. Each end cap has a 1 1/2″ notch cut out of its end that is 3/4″ deep, just like the notches in the stringers.

Unlike the cross members, the end caps fit over the ends of the stringers.

Photo 2016-02-20, 10 56 04 AM

With the skeletons of both shelves complete, it was time to attach some legs. Most garage floors aren’t level, and mine is no exception. I used a string line and a level to figure out the fall, and found that my floor drops 1″ over the 12′ length of the bench. As such, the legs closest to the far wall are 36″ tall, while the legs closest to the camera are 37″ tall. This results in a bench with level shelves that can’t really be moved out of the back corner that I’ve built it for.

Photo 2016-02-21, 12 41 02 PM

Once the legs were on and the two shelves were attached to them, I sheathed each shelf with 1/2″ sanded fir plywood. I had to use a jigsaw to notch the holes out for the legs. The plywood added a lot of weight and rigidity to the bench, and at this point, it really started to feel like a hefty piece of shop furniture.

Photo 2016-02-21, 3 13 39 PM

Once the bench was complete, I gave it a quick once over with my palm sander, and brushed on a coat of Minwax Indoor/Outdoor Helmsman Spar Urethane. Even though I fully intend for this bench to get beat to hell, I wanted a finish that would help to protect it from spills and tool scratches. The brush on product is much thicker than the wipe-on polyurethane that I’ve used in the past, and the satin finish that I chose looks great on the raw wood.

The Brand New Workshop

When we bought our house in June of 2015, my wife and I knew what kind of home we wanted. Sure, we took some time to tour other neighbourhoods and walk through houses from different eras, but almost from the beginning of the process, we knew that we wanted a brick home that was built in the early decades of the last century. The place that we settled on was built in 1927 and is in wonderful condition, thanks in no small part to the work that the previous owners put into it.

Photo 2015-04-25, 2 10 17 PM

The house sits on a decent sized lot in an old neighbourhood with large mature trees. To the back of the house, at the end of the driveway, there’s a detached single-car garage. It has not been taken care of in the same way that the house has.

Unfortunately, this is the best picture I have from before we started the renovations

It was pretty clear to us that the garage was going to need some work, but we weren’t sure what to do with it. The building was structurally sound, but it needed a new roof, new exterior siding, new doors, and new windows at the very least. It wasn’t insulated, and there was no electricity running out to it, so it wouldn’t really be a useful space after dark or during the winter.

In the weeks after the move, I set up a basic workshop in our basement. We have a large room down there that worked well, but the noise and dust got on my wife’s nerves, and moving stock in through the side door and down a narrow set of stairs was a pain. Soon enough, I had decided that the garage would become my new workshop.

File 2016-02-04, 8 10 18 AM

In August, I worked with my father in law to rip down the lean-to behind the main garage. It had been used by humans as a garden shed, and by squirrels as a winter home for years, and was in bad shape. In September, we put a new roof on the garage, and I replaced the fascia boards, which had long since rotted through.

IMG_1637

Come October, it was time to start on the interior. I had an electrician run a couple of spare circuits out to the garage, and finally got some light and receptacles into the building. With power in place, the work could begin in earnest.

Photo 2015-11-21, 5 23 01 PM

The first job was to build a ceiling. In the image above, you can see new ceiling rafters that I installed at 8′ above the floor. It was challenging, in no small part because the floor isn’t level. As such, I had to choose a place to use as the measurement point, and then hang the rafters relative to that point using a plumb bob and a level.

In the image above, you can also see my first attempt at insulating the ceiling. I ended up pulling most of that insulation down, because the area between the ceiling and the roof is meant to be cold. Instead, I put the bats of insulation in the flat part of the ceiling, leaving the sloped bits above the rafters uninsulated.

Photo 2015-12-26, 2 02 54 PM (1)

With the rafters up and the building properly insulated, the next step was to sheathe the walls with 1/2″ OSB. Since the space is meant to be a workshop, I decided to use plywood instead of drywall, as I figured that it would take more abuse over the long term.

Photo 2016-01-02, 12 39 54 PM

Given the age of this building, I suppose it should be no surprise that none of the corners in it are square, which made cutting the sheets of OSB to fit very challenging. You can see some gaps in between the sheets that I couldn’t manage to massage out, regardless of how much swearing I did.

Photo 2016-01-23, 1 52 16 PM

Even though they were small, the gaps between the sheets really bothered me, especially in the corners where they were particularly bad. Since I couldn’t get the sheets of OSB to fit correctly, I decided to apply liberal amounts of spackle to the issue. Once sanded and primed, the room started to look really great.

Photo 2016-01-30, 11 36 35 AM (1)

I finished the room with a coat of grey paint. With the painters’ tape removed, the room really started to look like a real space.

To be honest, I’m still kind of surprised at how well it worked out. After all, I spent every weekend working on the project over a span of four or five months, and at times, it definitely felt like it would never be finished.

I still need to replace the doors, windows, and exterior siding, but those jobs can wait until next summer. For now, I’m just happy to have a working shop again.