Last post of 2016! Hooray! Remember waaaaaay back in September when I made a post revealing what I wanted my workstation to look like? Me either. Here’s a reminder. The idea was to make a space that was both functional and ridiculously good looking. With the completion of my workbench, I think I nailed it. I had a buddy (unnamed for safety purposes) who once said you can be smart or pretty, you can’t be both. I’d like to think that my Dr. Wife (then girlfriend) who was standing beside me at the time of that comment immediately proved his theory wrong, but just in case he was still on the fence, this workbench should check both of those boxes.
Before we get to the build, I should mention that Kreg Tools and Rockler did provide most of the accessories for the workbench, but as you can see from the refresher post, I REALLY wanted to put these accessories into this build in the first place, they just helped make it happen! On to the build!
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3/4 Forstner Bit (Porter Cable 14 Piece Set)
(1) Quarter sheet of 3/4 Plywood
Bench Accessories Used
Step 1 – Cut & Assemble the Frame – You’ve Got To Start Somewhere…
The top of the bench is made of out of 2×6’s and 2×4’s, The reason I placed the 2×4 on the front apron is two fold, I wanted to be able to have a lower profile clamping surface for my speed clamps and I wanted to give an additional 2″ of clearance for placing objects under the bench.
You absolutely do not have to, but I liked the extra room.
I know a lot of people do not have a thickness planer, but it’s fairly important that the inside of these aprons are square. 2x’s purchased from the store generally have rounded edges, which means when you try to have a flush edge with the plywood panel or the Kreg Trak, the round over edge will leave a gap at the top. It’s mainly for a finishing look, so if you don’t have a thickness planer, you can skip the planing step or just use a sander to manually remove the round over. I personally planed both sides of the 2x material for a smooth edge. I cut my frame boards to length: (1) 2 x 4 x 47.25″, (1) 2 x 6 x 47.25″, (2) 2 x 6 x 32.25″. Using my Kreg Jig K5 Master, I drilled 1.50″ pocket holes and attached the side aprons (47.25″) to the end aprons (32.25″) with 2.50″ pocket screws. Make sure you are doing this on a flat surface and assemble the frame with the top facing down. It’s also extremely important that you check the squareness of frame. If you’re off, you’ll definitely know when you try to install the Kreg Trak in a later step and nothing fits. Then you’ll also need new Kreg trak as you try to smash it into place with a rubber mallet.
Step 2 – Measure & Cut Work Surface – More Like Measure 4 Times…
It’s important to remember that you’re doing all of these steps with the workbench upside down. It’s like you’re building it from the ground up but err… opposite. From the top down? If you’re only installing two Kreg Traks, it makes sense to install the Trak at the front of your work surface instead of at the back. Unless you have long arms like me and can reach everything from afar… but still… keep it to the front. You’ll notice also they I left a square where the 27″ and 45″ Trak’s meet. YOU HAVE TO keep this area because that’s how you feed your clamps into the Trak system. While the 45″ has a spot you can load a clamp into in the middle, the 27″ does not. You would have a trak that goes nowhere if you leave this detail out.
I dry fit my trak into the frame and then double checked my measurements for my plywood top. To cut down on wasted material (because I’m cheap) and add a bonus space to try out an idea, I used a 1/4 sheet of 3/4″ sanded plywood for the top. You have to use 3/4″ material for the top so that it sits flush with the Kreg Trak that is also 3/4″ thick. Because the 1/4 sheet is already 24″ across, I just needed to trim down the length to 45″ to fit the frame.
Step 3 – Cut & Assemble Bottom – Does This Frame Make My Table Look Fat?
The most important aspect of a workbench is that you have a solid work surface that is flat and sturdy. There’s an inappropriate joke in there somewhere about an old girlfriend, but I’ll let that one be. In no attempt to make a convincing segue make the following cuts: (5) 2×4’s @ 20.25″, (1) 2×4 @ 47.75″ and (1) 2×6 @ 47.75″.
Drill 1.50″ pocket holes per the diagram above and install the support pieces with wood glue and 2.50″ pocket screws. If you used a planer to square the frame, DO NOT over drive the screws into the 2x material. They’ll push right through the face because the material is thinner than 1.50″. Besides, Maximum Overdrive with Emilio Estevez was a terrible movie that doesn’t need to be relived. The 2×6 is placed at the back of the frame, I placed a scrap piece of 3/4″ underneath during assembly. Also take note that I did not attach pocket holes in the middle of the 2×6 on the diagram…
But I did in the photo of the actual table. That’s because I hadn’t decided what I was doing with that extra space during assembly. I ended up cutting those pocket holes out completely in a later step. Once the frame is assembled, take a few 2″ wood screws and drive them through the 2x supports into the plywood. This will further secure the work surface and remove any potential gaps. I did flip it over a few times to spot check for any give in the plywood top, then went back and drove extra wood screws in.
When you flip over the top dry fit your trak again to make sure it still fits. There’s no going back after this point. It’s okay if it’s a tight fit, just like how you can still squeeze into your favorite jeans that make your butt look good. How you get in there doesn’t matter, it’s that you got in them that does. Ha! It’s not install time for the trak though, so make sure you can still get them out without damaging them.
Step 4 – What To Do With the Empty Space?
So full disclosure here… this was one of the least thought out and most disastrous portions of this build. What do you do with that empty inset section at the back of the table? Then it hit me, I’m going to make a slot for my speed clamps. Initially, I cut 3 holes that were wide enough for my clamp faces to fit:
The idea was then to cut a thin slot between each hole that was wide enough to run the speed clamp arms through, but a flimsy jig saw blade made my straight lines all curvy. So I junked that idea and just cut a straight slot through all 3 the same width of the holes. I then rounded the edges with my plunge router. There’s a fun video in my Instagram feed where you can see everything go wrong. Ha.
This actually turned out to be a good thing, because not only does this give me an extra place to use my speed clamps, but it provides a great storage for my bench cookies and a place to sweep dust and scraps into during a project. I’m going to attach a dust funnel that can be hooked up to my shop vac for easy clean up later.
Step 5 – Cut & Attach The Legs – For The Table…Not Your Own
Sturdy is still the name of the game here, which is why I went with 2×6’s for the legs. Also, I had a bunch of scrap 2×6’s sitting around… but I stand by my statement. This is also a point where you will need to adjust to your own comfortable height. If you’ve missed the memo like Matt Keddie from Keddie Woodshop… I’m tall.
Lazy Guy: “Dude I’m 6’5″, I’m a tall glass of water.”
I have no response to that. Why? I dunno, my parents are tall? I drank a lot of milk? Regardless, I cut my 2×6’s to 33.75″ and attached with 2.50″ pocket screws. That puts my work surface at 36″ which is fine for me, maybe too tall for you… the little people of my world.
Step 5 – Cut & Attach Leg Supports – Even Legs Need Friends
For additional support, I wrapped the outside of the legs with 2×4’s to add some weight and sturdy up the table. You’re better off having a heavier table than a light one because it helps absorb impact and shifting on particularly vigorous projects. Cut (2) 2×4’s to 29.25″ and (1) to 50.25″. I attached them with wood glue and wood screws 12″ from the ground. Hopefully you get something like this when you finish:
Is it time to install the trak yet? NO! Installing the trak is the LAST thing you’ll do. But keep checking to make sure it fits. If you’re going to stain your bench, now’s a good time. I used MinWax Espresso on my bench with a custom antique finish on the green painted areas. You can get a better look at the green below before I stained it. Then I sanded 25-35″ of the painted surface off with 100 grit sandpaper and then smoothed over with 220 grit. I patched any gaps with wood filler and then stained with the Espresso to get the antiqued effect. But we’re talking about making a workbench pretty… I’m probably losing some die hard woodworkers here…
Step 6 – Bench Dogs – A Woodworker’s Best Friend
If you’ve never heard of or seen bench dogs before, these are a must have for any workbench. They are 3/4″holes drilled into the work surface (I used a 3/4″ forstner bit and a drill) that accept various bench accessories. Two of the most notable are Bench Cookies from Rockler and Bench Dog Stops from Kreg. They both fit the 3/4″ holes. Here’s what’s awesome about them, Bench Cookies give you a couple of different set ups, but the most important is a non-slip surface to raise your project off the bench.
You simply screw the posts into the bench cookies, slide them into the slots and then place your project on top. Anything from sanding to sawing to painting. It’s a great solution for keeping your bench top safe but your project accessible.
As for the Kreg bench dog stops, they work great independently or in conjunction with the trak system (that i’ll show you how to install next I promise!). You simply drop the pegs in and the flat edges are great for keeping your project in place. They are especially good at joining two boards together like a picture frame.
Step 7 – Installing The Trak – The Main Event
Well this is probably really what you’re here for. I actually changed the install per Kreg’s instructions. You’re already out of luck with the hardware they provide if you follow my instructions. They provide machine bolts, nuts and washers for attaching to material that is 3/4″ thick, but you’re installing into a 2×4 that’s 1.50″ thick, so you’ll need to go to the store to purchase extra supplies. Luckily, it’s under $5. More on that in a second, but I actually find my method easier.
Before we get there though, you need to drill your pilot holes. I took a scrap piece of 3/4″ wood, cut it to the same width of the Kreg Trak, and then drilled two 1/4″ pilot holes that lined up with the slots in the Trak.
You can then slide the template into the Trak space on the workbench and easily drill the holes needed for the Trak. I drilled 5 sets of holes on each trak. You need to make sure you check underneath so that you aren’t drill through any pocket holes from your base assembly.
So let’s get to the problem with following the instructions…the little machine bolt comes from Kreg are too short. In addition, the way you install per Kreg is to push the bolt through the bottom of your table, thread the nut for each bolt and slide the Trak on. It’s… very difficult to say the least even if your material was the suggested 3/4″ thickness. Even more difficult since you can’t just slide the material on given the shape of this table. Instead, I went and bought 1/4″ machine bolts at 2.50″ length with a hex head. The nuts and washers from Kreg fit perfectly. More importantly… they fit inside the Kreg Trak. The hex heads are the same size as the provided Kreg bolts. Take a look below.
This is where I feel like my step makes it easier… slide the bolts into the Trak and roughly line them up with the holes you pre-drilled. Then push the Trak down into the bench, making adjustments as needed. My 45″ Trak slid right into place, the 27″ required a few taps with a rubber mallet and a scrap wood spacer. The picture below is one of my favorites from the install… I got fancy. Ha!
So what happens underneath? With the spacing of the pilot holes, you should be able to use the washer and the nuts provided by Kreg. I just tightened them up with a wrench. You want them tight enough so the Trak doesn’t flex when you torque a clamp on the table above, but not so tight that you’re damaging the Trak itself. So go all baby bear and Goldilocks and find a happy medium.
With the Trak installed now you can just slide your Kreg Clamps in and starting clamping down projects. It makes joining pocket holes to a flat surface a dream. No more wonky joints.
Step 8 – Install The Clamp Vise – Bells & Whistles
The final step for the bench build is to install the Kreg Clamp Vise. This nifty little add on is like an extra set of hands. You can use the clamp vise to push against a piece of material like one side of a bar clamp or you can slide the stops in and pin a piece of material directly between the clamp and the vise plate. Perfect for planing or sanding single boards.
That’s it. I finished the bench with a couple coats of MinWax Semi Gloss Poly to help protect the surface. What’s exciting is that this is just phase 1 of the bench build. I’ll be continuing to build accessories that work with this bench like a mount for my Kreg K5 System, a station for woodburning and stands for some of my power tools that will use the bench as an outfeed table.
As usual, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me and if you build your own, definitely send me a pic!
~ Lazy Guy