Building a Sturdy, Inexpensive Worktable

I think I speak for all of us when I say that sliding doors tend to suck. The fall off the track, don’t like it when they can’t close all the way, and once you bend the flimsy metal track you’re done for.

We had a couple of them on sawhorses out in the garage, and needed some workspace in the basement for arts, crafts, sewing and general work that we didn’t want to clutter up the dining room with. So off to Home Depot.

Let me go back…It actually started with a couple of flat files. Flat files are awesome, and expensive, and we’re lucky to have a couple. But we ran out of wall space and were left with the prospect of having them out in the middle of the room. They’re only about 21″ tall, not nearly high enough for a table to be built with them, but there was the possibility of building a table over them. We didn’t like the idea of putting them right on the ground, exposing them to moisture and potentially rust.

A went out to the freezing garage looking for some 2x4s or something to prop them both up on, and had the brilliant (if I do say so myself idea) of putting them onto an old bed frame. Not only do they stand up off the floor — higher than on 2x4s so they’re easier to reach — but now they’re more-or-less portable. They don’t roll cleanly, but you can easily move them around a little.

So with that in mind, again I’m off to Home Depot. Here’s (approximately, and from memory) the shopping list to make a 5′ x 5′ frame with lumber cut to size and all-purpose outdoor deck brackets.

  • 4 4x4s cut to 32″
  • 2 2x6s cut to 60″
  • 2 2x4s to 60″
  • 2 2x4s to 63″
  • 4 8-inch deck end brackets
  • 8 4-inch deck railing brackets
  • 4 corner brackets
  • 4 L-brackets
  • 1 1/2″ and 3/4″ screws
  • Adjustable feet

Total cost: around $80. You might already have some of this laying around.

First we took the 4x4s, drilled into the bottoms and inserted some screw-in pads. If the floor wasn’t level, or if (if?) my measurements were off it would be levelable.

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Next we drilled pilot holes into the 4x4s — longways we were going to use 2x6s, and crossways 2x4s so that they didn’t interfere with the drawers — and attached the deck brackets.

We also set up brackets on the 2x4s so that we could put in some cross bracing. It looked to be a long run for the 3/4″ door panels, plus side-by-side we didn’t want them to gap when things were piled up. We ran a 2×4 lengthwise a few inches in from center the length of each door.

Notice the shiny thing towards the back — we put a few small hinges on to serve the dual purpose of holding them together, and making it possible to fold them up together to move them. If we’d attached them rigidly we’d never be able to move the panels, which would have run more than 6′ in both dimensions.

Now the 2x6s are nice and rigid, plus they have four drill holes available; the brackets for the 2x4s only have two holes, and they flexed like crazy. So we installed these corner brackets. They’re not from the decking department, just regular hardware.

And after we attached the top to the frame, it was really solid. With both of these I used them to stiffen the lateral movement along the direction of the 2x4s, and virtually all of the play disappeared as soon as I tightened them down.

The total time for the project, including three trips to HD, was about 8 hours. A lot of this was because the cordless drill we were using for pilot holes at first was really under-powered. And because of the three trips. Why three? The second was I measured the cross-braces incorrectly and had to get new ones cut; the third trip was when I realized that the 2x4s even with the cross-bracing wren’t going to be enough and I picked up the corner brackets.

And the final result is about 36 square feet of workspace, with storage underneath.

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