Thursday, May 15, 2014

Building a Worktable

One thing every home shop needs is a sturdy work table.  A work bench is usually the place you mount your bench top tools or store endless capsules of scavenged screws and spindles.  A work table is a critical support in any shop endeavor.  It's an extra pair of hands, a light-duty anvil, a paint stand, a drafting table, a seat, a pedestal and a place to store things that just don't have a home yet.

My garage is my shop.  I have long wanted to build a shop but materials and finances are not aligning to that end, so the garage has been claimed, the vehicle evicted, and the materials stock-piled.  The mice have been quite happy.  But my garage is a cluttered mess.  I would post a picture but I fear the shock would drive my readers away forever -- all two of them.  So the first major task I am undertaking is making a work table.

To get us started, I did what any modern man would do and googled for plans or videos.  I found the following video very helpful and it is the pattern upon which I am building my table, minus the wheels, and I'm adding a steel top.  I don't like the wobbly feel wheels gave the work bench I created for the kids.  It just doesn't feel solid, though it serves their purposes well.  I want a work surface that is one with the planet and moves nowhere unless intended, so my table will be heavy and solidly built.

To get started, I'm using salvaged materials happily gleaned from a nearby dumpster (with permission).  I pulled some 4 x 4 pine beams (untreated) from heap and also three friends from work gave up scraps from their garages to supply the 2x4's and the table top.  I bought some 1/8 inch steel plate from another co-worker which will be cut to cover the top to provide a rock hard work surface that will take a lot of abuse.

Here are some starter pictures and more will follow.  The dimensions I have chosen are to fit the table top that I inherited.  The table top, by the way, came with some really beautiful pink and gold fleck Formica veneer... and what a joy it was to peel that off and toss it.  The top itself that remained consisted of oak and 1/4" high density fiber board.  I give this detailed description as it is not yet pictured.

Here are the sides after assembly.

Legs, glued and screwed.

And here they are a few days later mid way through final assembly.  The stretchers on the floor are already glued and screwed in.  The one's on top had to wait for a trip to the hardware store.  I have fallen in love with the green-coated decking screws for most heavy duty assembly jobs and had to buy some.  Salvaged drywall screws are great for most things, I built out most of my basement with them, but now that I have experienced the joy of the low friction corrosion resistant screws, of which screwing into wood is amazingly easy (especially with a pilot hole), I can't do without them.

Table base nearing completion
Last picture for today is the sheet metal I bought for a reasonable price.  It came from a guy who once owned a motorcycle dealership.  He has an amazing collection of Honda Goldwings and Valkyries.  Part of the sheet was cut out with a plasma torch and used for some long ago project.  The rest is big enough to cover my table and I have a couple of ideas of how I might cut it down.  I'm still toying with the idea of folding it over the edges of the wood top which will be reinforced with a layer of plywood, glued and screwed, or just cutting it to fit the edges.  One complication is that the salvaged table top has rounded corners, so it might work better just to cut the sheet metal to fit the top surface and adhere it with some liquid nails.


It almost looks like someone drew a picture of a road bike on that metal.  I didn't notice it till the camera flash picked it up.  Anyway, I hope to have the table completed within the week.  Soon enough I have other projects that need to get started and the table will be a big, and necessary, part of those projects.

Also see Part 2 and Part 3.

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