How to make a bomb-proof armour bench
for $100 and a Saturday

One of the essentials for making armour is a good, sturdy work bench.  If your work bench is flimsy, you are wasting energy, as some of your pounding ends up going into the bench and vibrating the bench instead of going into your work.  Not only that, but your work moves around, which make it harder to work on it, and everything else on your bench ends up jumping around and slowly creeping around the bench or falling over or off the bench onto the floor.

Here are my instructions on how to build a massive work bench.  It costs about $100 in materials and takes a full day to assemble.  These plans are free to use or distribute. 

The bench is made from 2x4 and 4x4 commercial lumber available at any home improvement store, such as Home Depot.  It is held together with lag bolts.  The completed bench weighs in at about 200 pounds, so by using threaded fasteners to build the bench you can disassemble it should you ever need to move it.  You also do not want to use nails on a bench that you will be pounding on as it may work itself apart over time.

Here is the parts list and prices as of 12/14/2013, from Home Depot:

Description Qty. Price Each Price Total
Pressure Treated 4x4, 8 feet long 8 $5.57 $54.56
2x4 Stud, 8 feet long 5 $2.86 $14.30
3/8-16 threaded rod, 36" long 3 $2.87 $8.61
Cut Washer, 1/4 in 40 $.11 $4.40
Lag Screws, 3/8 x 6 4 $.90 $3.60
Lag Screws, 1/4 x 3 40 $.33 $13.20
Nut, 3/8 7 $.12 $.84
Cut Washer, 3/8 in 11 $.14 $1.54
Total     $99.05

I used pressure treated 4x4s and untreated 2x4s.  Untreated lumber is about half the price of treated, so unless you are going to put your bench outside you can use untreated lumber for the bench frame without issue.  I would prefer to make the bench top out of untreated lumber but that is all there is for 4x4s at my Home Depot.  Note that I also bought a few extra pieces of hardware - it's habit of mine in case I drop one and it rolls off into oblivion so I don't have to make another trip to the hardware store.  The assembly drawing has an accurate parts list if you want to buy exactly the right amount of hardware.

The Drawings (click on them to open a PDF that you can print):

 

 
 

The assembly process.  You can click on any picture to see a larger version of it.

Here is what you start out with:


A baby work bench.

To start with, I cut all the lumber into the pieces needed.  Refer to the assembly drawing to see the quantity of each part needed.  The bench is designed to use the same part over and over as much as possible.  For example, all 4 legs are identical.  You will use the cut-off end of four of the the table top timbers to make the legs. 

Make the 4 long crossbeams before cutting the short and middle cross beams.  You don't want to chop up all your long pieces into short ones and then find out you don't have enough long pieces left.  Always cut the long parts first, then use the left-overs to make the short pieces.

A chop saw makes short work of the straight cuts.  But you can do it with a hand saw, too.


First step:  Cutting all the pieces to length.

First we make the legs.  They are also the most time consuming.

Use the drawings to mark the legs to indicate where to remove material.  Use a saw to cut on the lines, then make several cross-cuts in the area to be removed.  Then use a wood chisel to chisel out the part to be removed.  Work carefully to avoid splitting the wood where you do not want it to split.  This looks hard but is actually fairly easy to do.  I used a circle saw, but a hand saw will work, too.


Making the legs.

Here you can see the process of drilling the holes in the table top beams for the threaded rods.  The threaded rods squeeze all the table top timbers tightly together.  Say that three time fast! 


Drilling the holes for the threaded rod.

The front and back table top beams have counterbored holes so that the lag bolt heads and nuts are under-flush.  You will want to drill the counterbore first, then drill the through hole.  If you drill the through-hole first, there is nothing to center the drill bit in for the counterbore hole.  Use a spade bit and mark it with tape so that you can get the correct depth.  Don't drill the counterbores in the top of the table until you have the table top assembled on top of the bench frame.


Marking the spade bit for depth.

Here are all the finished 2x4 pieces:


The finished 2x4 pieces.

After you get all the wood cut and drilled, next comes the fun part - putting the bench together.  First, we build the frame.  You will want to drill pilot holes into the pieces that match up with the through holes you already drilled in the 2x4s.  This makes it easier to drive the lag bolts into the 4x4s and also keeps the wood from splitting. 

Use a scrap block of 2x4 to position the long crossbeams the correct distance from the edge of the 4x4 as shown below.


Assembling the frame.

Before you start stacking your 4x4 table top timbers on top of the bench frame, move the bench frame near to where the bench is going to live.  The finished bench weighs about 200 pounds so you don't want to be trying to move it after it is all together.  Once your frame is where you want it, start stacking the 4x4 pieces side by side.  Make sure you have your counterbored end timbers on the back and front of the bench.

You will need to cut your threaded rods to 28" long and pound them through all the timbers.  Use a block of wood to protect the end of the rod you are pounding on or you will bugger the threads and you will not be able to get the nut on it.  After you have the rods through all the beams, put a washer and a nut on the ends and tighten them up.

You will probably find that your table top is slightly wider than your bench top.  My 4x4s were soaking wet and as a result were slightly wider than 3.5".  As such the front and back of the table top overhung the bench frame by about a quarter inch.  As it dries out I will continue tightening the threaded rod and it should shrink.

I made the mistake of drilling my top counterbore holes - the ones that the lag bolts use to hold the table top to the bench frame - before I had put the top together.  Unfortunately because the bench top is just a bit too wide for the frame my holes would be too close to the edge of the legs.  This is why I suggest drilling the top holes after you have the table top all together.  I went ahead and lined up the front face of the table top and bench frame and screwed in the front two lag bolts.  I'll leave out the rear two lag bolts until the table top dries out and shrinks.


Stacking the table top beams on the finished frame.

The finished bench!  200 pounds of "ain't goin' nowhere".


The finished bench.

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