Custom Search
Home --> Archives --> Workshop --> Build A Basic Workbench
A cheap and sturdy workbench that's easy to build.

Workshop Essentials:

A Cheap And Sturdy Workbench For About $20

Simple 2x4 And OSB Construction Makes This Work Bench An Easy DIY Project

In This Article:

Plywood is cut for the top and shelf. 2x4s are cut for the legs and sides. The side frames are screwed together and made square. The entire frame is put together and the top is fastened in place. The shelf is installed after notches are cut into the corners.

Related Articles:
Skill Level:
2 (Basic)
Time Taken:
About 2 Hours
, Editor
Project Date:
Start >>


Since the 1990's I've been building workbenches following the design ideas in this article. The concept is simple: Use 2x4's for the legs, and 2x4's or similar lumber for the horizontal structure that supports the plywood or OSB top and shelves.

Where the legs intersect the horizontal boards (I call them "stretchers") I always overlap the boards and fasten them securely with four or five 3-inch deck screws or 3-inch nails. When two boards of decent width are overlapped and joined securely, they form a good tight connection that resists movement (sometimes called "racking") when the workbench is bumped or moved.

I say "decent width" because width of these structural members is important. I have built workbenches and shelf units using 2x4's or 4x4's for the legs, and using 2x4's, 2x6's or 5/4x6 deck boards ripped in half (cut lengthwise) on a table saw for the "stretchers". I would never use 2x2's for legs or horizontal supports... they aren't very strong and they aren't wide enough to form a solid connection.

[See Dimensions Of This Workbench]

[See Tools Used] [Add your comments below the article]


Materials For This Workbench:

Materials for simple workbench project.

The materials I used for this project:

  • Four 8' 2x4's
  • One partial 2x4, about 6' long.
  • Two large pieces of OSB (Oriented Strand Board). I used scraps recovered from job sites. One piece was 7/16" thick, and one just happened to be 5/8" thick.
  • 3" Deck Screws
  • 1-5/8" Deck Screws 



Note on OSB / Plywood Thickness:  I have made several work benches like this one. Most have used 7/16" thick OSB for the top and bottom shelves. Heavier OSB won't hurt, of course, but just costs more with questionable benefit.

I would never use 1/4" OSB or Lauan plywood for a work bench. It just is not strong enough, and is not much cheaper than 7/16" OSB.


Cutting The OSB:

The first thing I did was to lay some 2x4's across two saw horses and place a piece of OSB on top.

Using sawhorses and boards as a work surface for cutting OSB or plywood.


Marking the cut line on a piece of Oriented Strand Board (OSB).

I marked the cut line on the wider of the two OSB scraps.

I often use a 4' level for drawing lines. For short distances, this method is easier and more precise than using a chalk line.

The level used here is a product called a "Tri-Level" from Sears, which cost about $15. One edge is triangular-shaped and has a ruler scale.



I cut the OSB to the desired width. In this case, the smallest of the two scraps of OSB was about 26" x 48", so my goal was to make two pieces the same size.

If I was using a full sheet of OSB, I would cut two 24" x 48" pieces from the 4' x 8' panel, leaving enough for another work bench. Many stores sell 4' x 4' panels and 2' x 4' panels.

Cutting OSB or plywood with a circular saw.


Cutting The 2x4's:

Miter saw set up on a plank on two sawhorses.

I used a miter saw to cut the 2x4's, because it is faster, easier, and safer than using a circular saw.

Note how I set the miter saw on a plank laid across two sawhorses. This isn't the most stable work surface for a miter saw... if you ever do this, make sure the saw doesn't work it's way off the plank.



Use A Good Miter Saw:

The miter saw shown here is a Craftsman tool that I bought in 1994, and still use sometimes. When I originally wrote this article (in 1999), I had at least two friends who owned Makita LS1040 10-inch miter saws. The design has been around for a long time, so it's a tried-and-proven tool. You can find this saw on

Makita LS1040 10-Inch Compound Miter saw



For laying out the cuts, I used a tape measure, a red pen and a "speed square".

Tools for laying out cut lines on 2x4's.


Cutting The Legs:

Marking 2x4's to cut for workbench legs.

I marked an 8' 2x4 at exactly 32" and 64". This board will give me 3 legs, each just under 32".



 Only For The Legs:

I aligned the cut so the middle of the blade was on the line. (Normally I align the mark with one side of the blade.)

Aligning miter saw blade with cut line for table legs.

Why? Because 8' 2x4's are normally exactly 96" long.  (10', 12' etc. lumber is usually about 1 inch longer than specified.)

Since the saw blade is about 3/32" thick, I will lose a significant amount of material due to the blade thickness. I don't care if the table legs are slightly less than 32" long, but I do care if they are not all the same length.

Maybe using one 10 foot long 2x4, cut into four legs exactly 30" long, would be the smartest choice.


Cutting 2x4 legs for a workbench.

With the miter saw, cutting is fast and accurate.

Of course, these simple cuts can also be made with a circular saw. I like to use a speed square as a guide when cross-cutting boards with a circular saw. 

You could also use an old-fashioned miter box and a hand saw.



The lumber, after the cutting was done:

  1. The side "stretchers", 45" long. (3" less than the overall length.)
  2. The legs, about 32" long.
  3. The end stretchers, 26" long.


Materials for simple 2x4 workbench


Assembling The Work Bench Side Frames:

Overall Dimensions Of The Workbench Frame:

Dimensions of sturdy 2x4 workbench.

Note that I made this workbench 26 inches deep because that was the width of the OSB scraps that I used. If I was starting with a full sheet of plywood or OSB, I would make the bench 24 inches deep.



I marked the legs 6" above the floor. This will be the distance from the floor to the bottom of the lower side rails.

You can make this any dimension you want.

I used 6 inches because that gives me some space under the bottom shelf... enough room to store a few flat items, or for reaching underneath with a push broom.

Marking lines on workbench legs to lay out bottom cross board.


Layout of side frame for workbench built from 2x4's.
Side Frame Layout:

I laid the side "stretchers" on top of the legs, forming a rectangle.

I aligned the lower edge of the bottom side stretcher with the red lines mentioned above.



I arranged the pieces so the corners were close to being square.

Setting boards perpendicular with speed square.


Pre-drilling screw holes in ends of frame boards for 2x4 workbench.

I pre-drilled one hole at each corner, then I drove in a 3 inch deck screw.

By driving only one screw at each corner, the frame can be tweaked until it's perfectly square.  



Making The Side Frames Square:

I checked the diagonal measurements.

I measured from the top corner to the opposite lower corner on the bottom cross-member. 

Checking diagonal measurements to ensure square frame.


Diagonal measurement of workbench frame.
1st Diagonal Measurement:

On the first diagonal, the distance was 51-15/16 inches.



I measured the distance across the other diagonal.

Measuring diagonals to make structure square.


Second diagonal measurement.
2nd Diagonal Measurement:

On the second diagonal, the distance was 51-7/8 inches.

The diagonals were within 1/8". Close, but not good enough for me.



So I tapped the frame lightly, to shift it a little. I held the lower part down with my foot.

I re-measured the diagonals, and adjusted the frame until the diagonal measurements were as close as I could get them.

Tapping frame with a hammer to force it square.


Driving 3-inch screws into frame of workbench.

Then I drove in three more screws for each joint.



Nails Can Be Used Too:

Due to poor planning, I almost ran out of 3" screws, so I used some 2-1/2" Ardox (spiral) nails. 3" would've been better.

I prefer to use screws for building work benches, because over time screws will hold better as the work bench is moved around, bumped, or hammered on.

If nails are used, I would recommend Ardox nails, because they are thinner and won't split the wood as badly as common nails.

Fastening the workbench frame with nails.


Driving Screws - Drill vs. Impact Driver:

When I took these pictures in 1999, I used a 12 volt drill-driver to drive in all the screws. In 2003, I bought a Makita 12 volt impact driver, and driving screws has never been the same. An impact driver uses a rotating hammer to pound the screw into the wood. It's noisier but much faster, and the tool is very light. Also, the batteries last longer than a drill-driver.

I've used that impact driver so much that I've worn out 2 pairs of rechargeable batteries. I don't think my impact driver is made anymore, but there are even better, more powerful products, which you can see on, such as the Makita BTD142HW 18-Volt Compact Lithium-Ion Cordless Impact Driver Kit

I strongly recommend looking into an impact driver. It's clearly the most useful tool I own.


Assembling The Ends:

Fastening side rails on work bench frame.

After the side frames were completed, I turned them over and stood an end stretcher upright, and then fastened it with deck screws. I used the Speed Square to maintain a right angle.



The side with two end stretchers attached. The other side of the frame looked exactly the same.

Part of workbench frame built from 2x4 lumber.


Assembling The Two Halves Of The Workbench Frame:

Assembling two halves of workbench frame.

I turned each half-frame upside-down on the garage floor and placed them together.



I used a Quick-Grip clamp to hold the lumber while driving the deck screws.

Driving screws in frame of workbench.


Pre-drilling holes for screws in frame of workbench.

Then I flipped the unit over and connected the top components.



The completed frame.

Completed 2x4 frame for low-cost workbench.


Fastener pattern in 2x4 frame of workbench.

Note how the corners are joined. This type of over-lapping 2x4 joint is quite strong.

Pre-drilling the holes helps prevent splitting of the wood, which is common when nailed or screwed near the end.



Installing The Shelves:


I placed the top piece of OSB on the frame and attached it with 1-5/8" deck screws.

I spaced the screws about 6 to 8 inches apart.

Fastening plywood or OSB top on workbench.


Workbench complete except for bottom shelf.
Almost Done...

The work bench with the top shelf attached.



A Small Complication:

The bottom shelf required a notch at each corner, to fit around the legs.

These notches need to be a little bigger than 3" x 5".

Cutting notches for lower shelf on workbench.


Notches cut in corners of shelf for workbench.

Note the Orientation of the Notches:

The 5" dimension is along the long side of the panel.



Your Ad Here - #1
Your Ad Here - #2
Your Ad Here - #3
Your Ad Here - #4
Your Ad Here - #5
Related Workshop Articles:
Most Popular Workshop Articles:

Before you hurt yourself, read our disclaimer.













Your Ad Here - #6


I tilted the OSB panel to get it in place.

Fortunately it fit properly on the first try. In the past I have had to cut the notches slightly larger because the shelf would not fit the first time. Cutting them 1/8" to 1/4" bigger seems to be a fair compromise.

Installing shelf plywood by tilting on an angle to fit between legs of workbench.


Fastening shelf plywood or OSB with deck screws.

The bottom shelf was also attached with 1-5/8" deck screws.




The completed work bench.

Completed work bench project.


Strength Of The Workbench:

  • I routinely stand on these workbenches to reach lumber stored overhead. I find the design to be the sturdiest I have seen, for the cost and level of simplicity.
  • I believe this structure is adequate for standing on because:  1.) The weight is distributed on the equivalent of four studs, and 2.) 7/16" OSB is acceptable for roof sheathing when the trusses are spaced 24" on center. The surface is a little springy, but it will certainly hold the weight of a typical person.
  • HOWEVER... Beware that this workbench could tip over. Standing on a workbench like this could result in falling and serious injuries.


Variations On A Theme:

This is the 8th work bench I have built using this design. Every one has been a different size, because each was made using materials on hand. Typically the dimensions of the plywood shelves dictates the work bench size.


  • One was narrow, only 18" wide.
  • One was quite long, 68" x 24", to support a wood lathe that weighed 150 pounds. That bench had extra stretchers between the side rails.
  • Several have been made entirely of recycled lumber.
  • One bench used recycled 2x4's for the top, instead of plywood or OSB.
  • On one of these benches I installed two electrical outlets. View that article.
  • I've built a couple of 8-foot long workbenches following this design idea, but using 6 legs. The side frames each had three legs, and the side stretchers were 93 inches long (96" - 3").
  • Laminate: Way back in the early 90's, I built a couple of similar workbenches and glued a sheet of laminate counter-top material (i.e. Formica) to the top, using contact cement. Contact cement is a quirky adhesive to work with. First I brushed a coating on the OSB bench top and let it dry for a day. This filled in a lot of the voids in the rough surface. Then I brushed on another coat of contact cement to the top, and also on the underside of the Formica material. I let this dry for about 20 to 30 minutes (until tacky), then I pressed the laminate onto the bench top and rubbed it from the center outwards. I placed a bunch of heavy weights on the laminate (college textbooks, paint cans...) while the cement dried for another day. The trick is to cut the laminate big enough to leave about 1/8 inch of overhang on all sides. Then I simply filed off the excess laminate with a coarse file.



More Info:
Tools Used:
  • Circular Saw
  • Cordless Drill/Driver
  • Hammer, Tape Measure
  • 4' Level or Chalk Line
  • Jig Saw (or Hand Saw)
  • Power Miter Saw (optional)
Materials Used:
  • Lumber, 2x4x8', (Qty: 5)
  • OSB, About ½ Sheet
  • Deck Screws, 3", 1-5/8"
Do you like this article ?
HammerZone's Recommended Tools








Custom Search