Building the Ultimate Workbench

 

 

The Problem

For me, I had dozens of different storage "solutions" throughout the shop, none of which really worked well. Dozens of blow molded cases for all sorts of different supplies and accessories, bags and boxes of disorganized hardware, fittings, electrical connectors, pins, etc. It was all overwhelming, and made it really difficult to focus on projects in the shop. Only having a few hours a night to actually get work done, I would waste entire nights just trying to find everything I needed. It was frustrating and started taking a lot of fun out of actually going out and working in the shop. I needed to come up with something that solved a lot of different pain points in my productivity without spending tens of thousands of dollars on professional equipment.

 

bench flat lay concept drawing

 

Tools + Supplies

 

 

Initial Testing

After visiting all of the major box stores to see as many toolboxes as possible in person, I eventually landed on the Harbor Freight US General 26"x22" Roller cabinets. For the money, they were noticeably higher quality, and I especially liked the layout of their drawers. Most of what I'm storing in the bench doesn't need very deep drawers, so a lot of the other toolboxes would just mean a lot of wasted space. I also really liked how deep the toolbox itself was, which was really uncommon for the price range I was looking at. Buying six of these toolboxes is a big commitment, especially if they don't work out, so a couple months before I started the workbench, I decided to buy and test one in my office. 

 

office toolbox testing

 

At this point, I didn't know how well the box would hold up to the weight of so much hardware in the drawers. There's a reason boxes designed for hardware storage have significantly higher weight capacities (and cost thousands of dollars). I ended up taking some barbell bumper plates and left them in the drawers, opening and closing them several times a day. I also started test fitting some different kinds of bins that could layout into the drawers nicely. I spent a ton of time going through my shop with different bins and organization systems just to get some kind've sense to what actually fits into them. 

 

I bought a bunch of Schaller Corp bins to start testing how they fit into the drawers, and they fit surprisingly nicely, even though the online configurator tool said it wouldn't work. This was a really nice surprise, several combinations look and feel perfect for the drawers. One critical issue though. The bins are sold as 1", 2", and 3" heights. The actual heights are a little bit shorter, but I found that the top three drawers of the US General box were too shallow to fit the 1.75" bins without causing issues. I couldn't find a 1.5" tall solution that wasn't unreasonably expensive. I reached out to Schaller to see if they would be open to start producing 1.5" bins, and offered to buy several thousand of them to see if they would. Their costs for retooling their injection molding was too much, and it wasn't an option for them. I actually designed and had quotes made to start injection molding my own 1.5" tall bins, but I would've needed to invest a TON of money into getting them started. I looked at 3D printing the bins for the top drawers, but for how many I would need, it would've taken over 7 months of printing unless I bought several more machines. Print farms were willing to print them, but they wanted several dollars per bin, 10x what the Schaller injection molded bins cost. It was distracting too much from the goal of the project, and for what it would cost, it would've made more sense to just buy premium cabinets designed to use the 2" bins in the first place. After spending a ton of time trying to figure out what to do, I decided to make it a future Dave problem, buy the toolboxes anyways, and just get started on the rest of the bench. 

 

Leg Assemblies

 

workbench leg assemblies

 

It was important to me that the overall height of the workbench matched my welding tables and mobile workbenches in the shop. Since this massive bench was going to be stationary, I really liked the idea of being able to roll a mobile bench or welding table up against it for making a massive working surface for building wiring harnesses or other projects that just need a ton of room to work with. With this in mind, I designed a base that would replace the casters the toolboxes came with. I designed some plates to be laser cut by SendCutSend, and I 3D printed a small tool to help align the square tubing to the center of the plates. This is a big project with a lot of repetition, so taking these steps helped save a LOT of fabrication time.

 

leg centering tool guide

 

Supporting the Countertop

After several hours welding all of the leg assemblies and cross supports, I was able to get the toolboxes mocked up and see for the first time what the giant bench I'd dreamed of having was actually going to look like. One important feature I wanted to include was a large open area in the middle. I'm planning on building a couple rolling carts for organizing and storing wiring spools, tubing, and rolls of carbon fiber to tuck cleanly underneath. After routing the countertops so they could sit flush onto the top of the toolboxes, I was able to measure and build the support frame for the center of the bench. The center frame was pretty straightforward to build, but it was definitely BIG, spanning nine feet in total length. 

 

center support metal frame

 

Bins, Bins, Bins...

For longer than I'd like to admit, I was focused on trying to figure out a way to make the 2" Schaller bins work in the 1.5" drawers. I experimented with all of the different kinds of saws in the shop, sanding them, designing some kind've bagel inspired chute to cut them down. It was frustrating and I failed quite a lot. Each drawer can fit between 40 and 80 bins, so whatever solution I came up with needed to cut cleanly, reliably, and reasonably quickly, without chipping, melting, or cracking the bins. After rounds of experimentation, I landed on designing some custom pliers to act as a push stick on my table saw. After several revisions, I had a 3D printed working prototype. Using my Dewalt 10" Table saw with a Freud D1090X finishing blade, I was able to start reliably cutting down 2x3x2, 3x3x2, and 4x3x2 Schaller bins using the same tool. I used my Thermal Transfer Labeling Machine to start labeling each of the bins, and the results were better than I could've hoped. Months of planning, experimenting, trying, and failing, and I couldn't be happier with the results.

 

bin drawer organizers

 

cutting the bins with table saw

 

finished workbench laid out in the shop

 

Want to Build your own Bench?

 

I've created a Digital Downloads Pack that includes Over 30 pages of tips, tricks, and considerations for building your own version of the workbench. Drawer layout examples, an example cut and supply list, a step-by-step guide for laser cutting, and some modular alternatives to the workbench I built. I've also included the files I used for laser cutting with SendCutSend, as well as the CAD models for 3D printing the pliers and leg centering tool. Check out the Digital Asset Pack HERE.

Be sure to Subscribe to my YouTube channel for future projects! 

Disclaimer: All links are affiliate links and help support Grindhouse Performance!

 

 

 

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