Mortise and tenon workbench

I wanted to build a quickie workbench, using some scrap 2x4s and 2x6s I found in the garbage. I started by crosscutting lengths for the legs from a 2x6 using my table saw sled, then ripping the pieces of 2x6 to make the legs. A sturdy sled makes cross cutting an eight-foot 2x6 easy. No need for a chop saw.

I planed about 1 mm off all sides of the pieces on the jointer.

I'm pretty happy with how the bin below the jointer catches most of the shavings, but I have noticed that airborne dust goes up a fair bit when I use the jointer a lot, so maybe I should enclose the shavings box more.

Used lumber is always questionable in terms of potentially having dirt and sand embedded in it. But the knives on my 12" jointer are already nicked towards the right side, so I plane anything that is questionable, on the far right.

Next, cutting 3/4" (19 mm) mortises using my pantorouter. I'm using a 3/4" straight bit. A spiral bit would clear the chips much better, but the 3/4" bit does ok and it's much cheaper.

I'm using the followers and template I made in this article for the mortises and t enons.

Using the same 3/4" bit to cut the tenons. I can cut away 3/8" (10 mm) of softwood material in one pass, though I have to cut the full depth in two steps because the cutting depth of the bit is only 1 1/4" (30 mm) and the tenons need to be nearly 1 1/2" (38 mm) long. Chips flying everywhere from cutting the tenons. I don't think there's a good way to catch the chips because they get thrown in all directions while cutting tenons. Anything that would be effective at catching the chips would cut down on flexibility and obstruct the view. I set the router for slower RPMs. This makes for larger chips but less airborne dust and less noise.

Mortise and tenons for the side frames all cut. Two of the legs have a tenon at the top for joining with a cross-member. I put lots of glue on the mortises and tenons. Both surfaces well covered before assembling the joint makes for better glue joints.

Finish assembling one of the side frames.


Cutting dadoes for the back rail of the bench. The dadoes fit around the legs to give the bench side-to-side stability. I'm cutting those out by making a series of cuts, though I did stack two blades to get a wider cut each time.

Pre-drilling holes and countersinks in the rail for screwing it on. It's important to pre-drill shank holes in the rail that gets screwed on so that the screw thread doesn't engage the rail being screwed on.

Even though the exact location of the screws really doesn't matter, it always looks better when you lay out the holes nicely.

I only attached the back rail with two screws for now because I'm only assembling it for a test.

Next, the front rail goes on. The front rail is a 2x4 with two through mortises cut into it (on the pantorouter, of course) to fit over the tenons in the frames.

A front rail, with two dadoes, similar to the back rail, is attached about 40 cm down. This workbench is very similar to this workbench, but with the front rail moved down so that drawers can be near the top.

I goofed a bit with where I put the lower rungs in the side frames. These should have been about 3 cm higher so a side to side member could be placed on them to support the drawer units. I had to make two support pieces to hold that side to side 2x4 at the right height.

The workbench is meant to replace a temporary workbench made with two sawhorses. I could have made more sawhorses, but I figured it would be more fun to make a quickie workbench to free up the sawhorses instead. And that way, I could make the workbench fit two drawer units, one of which you can see here. I bought these at a yard sale for $25 for the two of them.

Reassembling the workbench on site...


... and installing the two drawer units. These are screwed down in the back to keep them from sliding around and to keep them from tipping forward if all the drawers are opened at once.

The top horizontal is only held down with screws so I can still take the whole workbench apart if needed. It was tempting to glue those mortise and tenon joints for extra rigidity but the whole workbench was rigid enough without.

Screwing on the top, from below.

The workbench has a bit of a Japanese look to it, I think. I like the style, though it was not at all intentional. I hadn't measured the door that I used for the top, so assumed it wasn't as long. That, and the size of the drawer units dictated other dimensions. It's regrettable that the drawers are only 60% as deep as they could be under that bench.

But the whole idea was to make it quick and easy. If I wasn't using existing drawer units, I would have integrated far more, and deeper, drawers like with this one

You might be wondering where this workbench is. It's in a large 30'x40' (9x12m) workshop building that used to be rented out. With such a large space, I figured this would be a good place to set up a workshop. But it's a 45 minute drive from my house, so I'm not sure how much I'll end up using it. I'm trying to avoid spending too much time and money setting it up. The space itself may need a lot of work to make it as suitable for shooting video as my basement shop. There is too much echo and I don't like the sheet metal walls much either.

This was in early 2014, and later that year I built a scaffold so I could paint the shop. When we moved out to the property three years later, swapped it for my good workbench and put this one in the basement of the house.

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