Building a DIY Workbench

Building a DIY Workbench

Of course, a good workshop needs a DIY workbench, right!? I already have one small rolling workbench, but its functions are currently pretty limited. So, it was time to build something a bit more substantial to fit my needs!

Basement Project Recap:

What I’m Looking for in a DIY Workbench

I want my new workbench to serve two main purposes. The first is obvious, which is to create a usable workspace. Right now, my small workbench is great, except that it’s not as big as I would like. So, this workbench will create an additional workspace for me.

The second purpose is to be a storage solution. Right now, I’m using my basement closet to hold all of my tools, but I’ve honestly outgrown it, and it’s really difficult to organize something that I’m going in and out of so frequently. So, the new bench needs to have lots of storage for my tools, hardware, batteries, and other DIY supplies. 

And finally, as a bonus purpose, I also want it to be kind of pretty 😊. Having a nice space to work in will just be an added bonus. Of course, jokes on me because by the time this is finished, it’ll be nice enough to work outside, haha! But, for most of the year, it’ll be perfect.

Designing the Workbench

Because of my storage needs, I actually got a lot of inspiration from craft tables! I also knew that I would be working with particleboard or melamine again because I still can’t justify the cost of wood (except for the benchtop!). So, this direction worked for me. As usual, I’m pulling inspiration from a few sources:

Overall, I knew that my dimensions would be 8’ wide, 2’ deep, and 3’ tall, so then it was just a matter of determining how big I wanted each section to be.

DIY Workbench Supplies:


Part A: Side Cubbies

These side cubbies are perfect for small supplies like stain, wood filler, caulk, paintbrushes, etc. It takes up minimal space because it’s turned on its side, but is still easily accessible!

Cut List:

Remember to use a cut optimizer to get the most of your materials!

  • Sides: 8” x 34.5” (x2)
  • Back: 24” x 34.5”
  • Bottom: 8” x 22.5”
  • Shelves: 8” x 22.5” (x3)

Step 1: Make Cuts

I used my circular saw and rip-cut for this.

Step 2: Pocket Holes

Drill Pocket Holes in the following places:

Step 3: Assemble

Using wood glue, clamps, and a square, you can begin assembling:

  1. Install the two sides to the back, making sure that the pocket holes will be facing the back so they are hidden. It will be easiest to lay this on its back
  2. Install the shelves and bottom to the two sides and back, installing from the bottom. You can determine your own spacing here depending on your needs!

Part B & D: Main Cubbies

These cubbies will be the main structure of the workbench and will store the majority of my power tools, larger hand tools, and hardware. They are both identical, with the exception that they are mirrors of each other!

Cut List:

Remember to use a cut optimizer to get the most of your materials!

  • Bottoms: 24” x 12” (x2)
  • Large side: 24” x 34.5” (x2)
  • Small side: 12” x 33.75” (x2)
  • Middle divider: 10.5” x 33.75” (x2)
  • Back: 33.75” x 11.25” (x2)

Step 1: Make Cuts for Structure

I again used my circular saw and rip-cut (when able) for this.

Step 2: Pocket Holes

Drill Pocket Holes in the following places:

Step 3: Assemble

Using wood glue, clamps, and a square, you can begin assembling:

  1. Attach Bottom to Large Side. I attached these from the bottom so the pocket holes didn’t show.
  2. Attach Middle and Back to Bottom and Large Side. Make sure pocket holes are facing the back.
  3. Attach Small Side to Bottom and attach Middle Divider to Small side.


Step 4: Shelves

I ended up having to install these in two different ways, just depending on what tools I could fit inside the cubbies! I’d suggest waiting until this point since measurements can be off a little bit from installation:

  • Front shelves: 10.5” x 11.25” (x4)
  • Back shelves: 11.75” x 11.25” (x2)

Front Shelves:

I couldn’t fit my nailer or drill with the pocket bit inside, so I ended up having to screw the shelves in from the outside. I was trying to avoid any visible screws, but this was the only method that would’ve worked. I could’ve used my adjustable drill bit again, but I think it would’ve been more work than it was worth. I’ll end up covering them with either screw covers or paint.

  1. Get shelf in place. I used clamps in the front and a spacer in the back. Once it’s in, keep adjusting until it’s completely level.
  2. Mark. I used a pencil and drew a line along both sides and the back.
  3. Remove shelf.
  4. Drill pilot holes. About 1/2″ under your mark, drill pilot holes along both sides and the back.
  5. Countersink your holes. From the outside, use your countersink drill bit.
  6. Replace shelf and add screws. From the outside, add your screws!

Back Shelves:

The spacing was a bit bigger here, so I could fit my nailer. I decided to add supports using scrap melamine and placed the shelves right on top. This will make it easier if I need to adjust the height in the future. Note that I also only added one shelf to each structure. The next section will explain why!

  1. Add support at an appropriate height by nailing in the middle. Checking for level, add a second and third nail to left and right.
  2. Making sure the next adjoining support is level with the first support, you’ll repeat.
  3. Repeat for the final support.
  4. Add shelf.

Part C: Middle Shelf

While I made myself a pretty good plan for the other steps, I knew that I would need to see things in place for these final two. The purpose of this section is to create extra storage, but also to connect B&D together to make it look more like one cohesive piece. 

I did NOT want to fully secure this piece, because I still want to be able to move pieces around to clean without them being too heavy. I also wasn’t sure if I wanted this shelf to be the full depth or just the back half.

After playing around with scraps to get a visual, I decided to only do the back half. It would’ve been too difficult to reach the back of the shelf if I did the full depth. Then, to secure it, I decided to use the same method I did for the back shelves, using support pieces!

I started by cutting down some scrap ¾” pieces, then installed each one, checking for level. 

When I got to the other side, I used a laser level to make sure that they would match up. This does take a bit of maneuvering to get it right, but it’s definitely worth it. Once I had the supports in, I added my shelf and it fit perfectly and is perfectly level! In fact, I noticed that my floors were NOT level in this area, but this shelf is, so that’s all that matters!

Part E: The Far Side

This section is going to be ‘hidden’ by my old workbench that will rest against it. However, I want my countertop to span the entire length, so I wanted to add some structure here to help support it. I also decided to add a shelf, which not only created more stability but also added a little more storage for lesser-used items.

This again took some playing around with scraps to get right.


  • Pocket hole your 1×4 (or whatever dimensional piece you use)
  • Install pocket hole to Tall Side and Short Side
  • Pocket hole the side of the shelf that will go against the Tall Side
  • Screw shelf into support and short side, then add pocket screws

DIY Workbench Countertop

I debated for quite some time on what material to use for this DIY workbench countertop. I knew that I wanted a slight overhang of about 2” on the front and that I wanted it to be pretty thick. I’ve used this 5/4” pine before and I really like how it finishes. However, it’s a softer material and I didn’t think it would hold up as well as a 2” board. Ultimately, I decided to with two 2×10’s with a 2×8 sandwiched in the middle. 

Tools & Supplies

Step 1: Assemble

I started by laying everything upside down. I took the middle piece and added pocket holes every few inches on both sides.

Then, I added wood glue to secure the two outside pieces to the middle piece. I clamped everything nice and tight, making sure to check for any bowing or warping. Then, I screwed the pieces in place.

Step 2: Sanding & Routing

After a couple of hours, I flipped the entire thing over (with the help of my husband of course, it’s heavy!) to start finishing it. I decided I wanted to try to plane the top down to get everything really nice and smooth and level. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out. I just had too much trouble controlling the planer and it ended up causing a lot of issues.

I moved to the sander and after smoothing out the pieces that the planer marked, I ran the sander over the entire thing. I did three passes, first with a 60-grit, then followed with a 120-grit, and finally finished with a 180-grit. I could’ve gone even further and did a 220, but I was honestly tired of sanding haha and it’s still really smooth.

Then, I decided to use my router to add a nicer edge. This is totally optional, but it adds such a nice touch!

The next day I noticed that unfortunately, the tabletop started bowing on me. I decided to add some heavy weights on top and let that sit for 2 days. It did help some, but not completely. We’ll chat about that soon.

Step 3: Stain

The next step was to stain. I did my favorite whitewash first which helps to create a softer color, and reduces yellowness and grain. Then, I applied two back-to-back coats of Early American, wiping off the excess each time.

Step 4: Installing

Before sealing, I decided to move the countertop into place so I could deal with the potential bowing issues. Unfortunately, the slanted floor in this area only exacerbated it. But, I did find a solution. I should note that if I wanted to just screw the top to the base, that would’ve been a pretty easy solution. But, I actually wanted to avoid that because I want this piece to be as movable as possible. I want to be able to get behind the piece and clean it when I need to (which will likely be pretty frequent!).

So, instead, on the two front ends, I added a screw eye, some rope, and a screw. I put the screw eye on the top (underneath the counter), and the screw on the side. I tied the rope around the hook eye really tightly and looped it around the screw. Then I tightened the hookeye even more and it’s holding it in place. When I need to remove the counter or move things around in the future, I can just unloop the rope from the screw and replace it as needed.

Step 5: Seal

All I did was add a layer of my favorite water-based poly with a chip brush, let it sit for two hours, lightly sand it and wipe it down, and repeat until I had three coats!

Now that it’s in place, it really does add so much! I do still think the 5/4” would’ve looked nicer, but this should be quite a bit more durable!

Adding Doors to the DIY Workbench

There are A LOT of ways to build shaker-style doors. I’ve actually now tried four different ways and this style was definitely my favorite. It looks the most professional and doesn’t require any screw or nail holes that need to be filled. However, you do need a router table to get the best results. You could probably do it with a table saw, but it could be pretty tricky. I won’t go into full details in this post, but would you like a full rundown on all the ways you can build these doors?!

Let’s Add Some Color with Paint!

And the last step was to add some paint! This was in the back of my mind during the entire build of my DIY workbench as I debated what color to go with. Would I go white? Black? A pop of color? Maybe use the same color from my pegboard? Unfortunately, that color was too close to the floor color so they clashed, so that was out.

Ultimately, I was feeling really inspired by the changing weather and decided to go bright! I ended up going with Behr Epiphany which is a beautiful purple-pink color.

I had actually also tried the color Lover’s fool but it was a little too magenta for my liking. So, I painted over it. I’m not necessarily a pink girl, but I do floral colors, and this one seemed like a great option! It’s really unexpected in this space, but I kind of love it.

Now, I’m not done yet. And I have some more surprises up my sleeve for this workshop, so you won’t want to miss it! Stay tuned!

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