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New & Improved Shop Benches (2009)

I'd been using a set of utility benches (link) for 14 years that served me extremely well, but the time had finally come to improve upon their storage and efficiency.  Here's a composite picture (since it's a made of several separate pics that have been pieced together it's a bit skewed):


I wanted to accomplish/incorporate a number of things with these benches:

  • Reuse as much of the material from my old benches as possible.  I was  able to keep just about everything out of the landfill in the end - using the melamine for the top and bottom surfaces and using the 2x4's for other utility construction lumber.
  • Maximize the space available.  These go from a non-movable pole on the left to the far wall of the house on the right.  Every inch available has been used.
  • Maximize the storage available within the benches.  So I packed almost every cubic inch with drawers on full extension slides.  I can't believe how much stuff I have stuffed in this bench, and to my amazement  I ended up with leftover drawer space that's unoccupied (for now).  I even have storage boxes built into the toe-kick spaces.
  • Incorporate my toolboxes to free up the floorspace they were occupying for other things.  I sized the right side bench around the toolbox base cabinets.  They fit nicely down there, and the shallower cabinet (that was the side unit on the base) makes a nice recess for my legs while sitting on the stool working on the PC above it.
  • Incorporate my miter saw and keep the benchtops level and coplanar with the saw table.  My old bench was never leveled perfectly, but for these benches I borrowed an auto-leveling laser that shot a beam all around the room.  I shimmed the bottom of the new benches such that the tops were all nicely level (side to side and front to back) with the laser beam.
  • Use a surface material that is more durable than the melamine I used previously but keep it light.  So I used white formica that I glued over the old melamine (after sanding the old melamine top surface).
I'm thrilled with the way these turned out.  They're everything I hoped and planned for, and since I re-used a lot of material and incorporated a bunch of other leftovers I had on hand they were fairly low cost.

Here are a few more pics that have not been distorted by the compositing feature I mentioned in the picture above:





I had planned to cover the drawerfronts on the left side cabinet in my original plans.  But once I got everything assembled I liked having a visual look at the contents of each of the drawers.  So I decided to live with the bench like this for a while to see if I wanted to cover the drawerfronts or not after some use.  I'm a bit concerned about sawdust getting into the drawers, but that may end up being a minor issue compared with the benefits of having them open and visible.  Time will tell....

Copyright 2009 Chris Billman