Recycled Materials Make for One Great Budget Workbench
I was wandering around some estate sales in the fall and came across a few grand finds. First, I came upon an older Wilton vise that I thought would be great to have–just in case. It ended up being quite cheap and I couldn’t pass it up. Later, I found an old children’s play table and set of benches. It resembled a picnic table and was covered in a thick layer of plastic resin but was constructed in solid butcher block maple. The top was 1-3/4 in thick, 30 inches wide and 48 inch long. A perfect small bench was in the works for my garage workshop that I’m desperate to get together.
I took the table and bench apart and went about designing a sturdy base. The bench seats were cut to size for the base legs. A belt sander took care of the old finish there but it wouldn’t touch the plastic resin coating the table top. With a rough chisel and hammer, the thick plastic resin easily popped off the surface. I then purchased two 8/4 thick maple boards to make the feet and stretchers to complete the bench base.
To keep the construction simple, strong, and fast, I decide to make all the leg and foot mortises on the tablesaw with a flat bottom cutting dado blade. I cut the dados with stop blocks to define the ends and made each piece identical to its mate. I glued up the halves to make both the legs and feet. I shaped the feet and glued and pegged all the joints for strength on the leg uprights. The stretchers were left unglued. Next, I made offset 1-in. holes and used a 1-in. diameter oak peg to pull the tenon shoulders tight to the legs. With the large size of these pieces, this joint is incredibly strong and I can knock down the bench should I ever have to move it. And I probably will. The top gets bolted to the leg assemblies with lag bolts.
All in all, I’ve spent less than $100 on this small bench and now I don’t have to rely on my tablesaw top for all my hand planing and assembly tasks. Now I just need to get the Wilton vise installed this weekend so I can forge ahead with some of the furniture projects I’ve been contemplating.