As many of you know, I’ve moved into a new shop space in LA.  Over the pas several weeks, my shop mate( Steve Winsett of Janus Concepts) and I have been upgrading our space, adding tables, wiring, and soon adding lights and drywall.  Rather than buy existing tables, we built our own!  We used a simple design that can very easily be altered to accommodate for different size tables by only changing a few of the measurements.  Our goal was to keep everything affordable without sacrificing quality. After all , we want these tables to last. For an added plus we put them on wheels as well so shop clean up is super fast and we can re arrange the work space with no effort at all.  There is a free to download PDF of the table layout below.

Here’s how we built out tables and how you can build your own!  Firstly here are the tools you’ll need:

These are great tools to own, but that doesn’t mean you have to have them or buy them for this project.  Some places will rent tools, you can get them cheap off of craigslist or yard sales, or borrow them from a friend.  These tools will also make the job super easy.  At minimum, you’ll need a tape measure, clamps, drill, and a hand saw.

TIP:  This project is best with a second person helping out.

As far as materials go, this is what you’ll need if you’re going to build the exact size tables we built for the shop.  Cost will vary, but it will be around $50-$70.  You can get all this from Home Depot or Lowes.  For the plywood board, get them to cut that there at store.  For the tables we built, we had them cut in half  to measure 2 ft by 8 ft.

TIP: Be observant when selecting your lumber.  You don’t want 2×4’s that are split or bowing.

  • 9 qty 2×4 8ft long planks
  • 1 qty 4ft x 8ft plywood board (1/2 inch thick is good)
  • 4 qty casters/wheels 4 inch high (get at least 2 with breaks)

NOTE: The cheapest place to get casters is harbor freight

Once you’ve got all your lumber  You’ll need to measure out and cut all of your 2×4’s.  To do that I highly recommend using a miter saw, if you can’t get access to one then you can use a clamping miter box with a hand saw.  Keep in mind that when you are measuring and cutting to accommodate for the width of the cutting blade, or else your 2 x 4’s will be slightly off.  After they are cut, determine which plywood board will be your top surface and which will be a shelf.  The shelf will need to have the corners cut out to fit the legs in .  The cut will be 7 inches in by 5 inches.  Refer to the diagram below.  The best way to cut these corners out is with a jig saw, but you can still use a hand saw and some elbow grease.

Next step is to lay out the frames for the shelf and top.  Here you’ll need two 8ft lengths and three 21 inch lengths of the 2×4’s.  It really helps to have clamps here to hold the 2×4 to the plywood, especially if the board or plank is not perfectly straight. Begin with the 8ft length and clamp that to your board, starting at one end and clamping your way down, making sure that it is lining up correctly. With the board on top, drill in a pilot hole for your screws using the counter bit drill.  A pilot hole will help ensure that you’re not going to split the wood, and makes it easier to drive the screw in.  When selecting your counter bit, you want it to be just a little smaller in diameter that the diameter of your screws.  You can do this with a normal drill bit too, but the counter bit allows you to set the depth and makes space for head of the screw to sit flush with the surface of the board.  Drill a pilot hole every 12 inches, on the ends drill a hole 1-2 inches in. Repeat that same step for the other 8 foot section on the other side of the board.

Now it’s time for the 21 inch cross beams.  They may be a bit snug.  Insert them flat against the under side of the board at an angle and then use a hammer or a another 2×4 to bang it into place.  A rubber mallet works best.  Add a cross beam to both ends and then one directly in the center and clamp them in place.  Also, as 2 screws to the ends of the cross beams through the side. Since this piece is a little shorter, I made a pilot hole every 8 inches. Repeat this step for the other plywood board.

Next it’s time to assemble the legs.  These are the 34in sections of 2×4’s.  Each leg consists of two 34in sections.  Assemble them with clamps and drill pilot holes every 12 inches just as you did with the table top and shelf.  The closer the measurement of these legs the better, if they are all slightly different, it’s going to make things more difficult for you.  Once your legs are assembled, refer to the diagram and make sure that they are all lined up correctly before clamping them.  They should line up to fit into the holes you cut in the corners of your shelf. Start by laying the top of your table face down so the under side is up. Place a leg in each corner then clap them in place.  If you really want to get exact here, you can use a level to make sure they are straight up and down.  For each leg, about 3-4 screws on both sides per leg will do.

For the shelf, we wanted to make sure we had enough room for computer towers to fit under.  This height is totally up to you.  If you want to place a bunch of bins on your shelves and underneath it, then measure the height of your containers and set the shelf at that height.  For these tables, we went with 17 inches measured from the bottom of the table surface to the top surface of the shelf.  Using a pencil, I marked the 17 inches on each leg and placed clamps on the marks.  With the table still upside down, grab your shelf and set it on over the legs, feeding them through the holes.  If the fit is too tight, you can take off the end cross beams of the shelf, and then re screw those in after the shelf is lined up.  It’s important that you make sure the legs are clamped flush against the shelf.  It make take several clamps per leg.  As with the top of the table, about 3-4 screws per side of the legs should work.  Remember to drill your pilot holes first.

Time to add the feet!  There should be some short ends left over after cutting your 2x4s. Anywhere from 4-6 inches or so will work just fine.  Place them on the bottom of the legs, squared up and flush to the bottom. Three screw will be more than enough to hold them in place.

You’re almost done!  Before you flip the table over, you’ll want to put on your casters (wheels)  Make sure that the brakes are on which ever side you want to be the front so that you can reach them.  Also, some casters may have larger holes than the head of your screw (get your mind out of the gutter!).  To get around that, just use some washers. I find it best to place the caster where I want it, and then mark the holes with a sharpie, remove the caster, drill the holes, then replace the caster and screw it down.

NOTE:  It may be a good idea to sand the edges of the table top and shelf to avoid splinters

Last step, flip that table!  You’re all done.  This is a very basic design that can be easily modified or added onto to better suit your needs in your own shop. Now that you’ve got a work surface, GET OUT THERE AND MAKE ART!  I hope you all enjoyed this little write up on making a a shop table and found it useful.  Check out my other blog posts for great tips and tutorials.