Over time I have upgraded all of my tools, but I have yet to upgrade my workbench. I’ve always been in a house that just has something available but I really wanted to make one that would be my own. I get tons of pallets at work and I hung on to some that had meatier boards than the standard throw-away pallet.
Let’s make some stuff!
I took the top boards off of pallets and removed all the nails or just cut off the ends with nails if the boards were long enough.
Next, I cut all the boards down to the same width. I don’t have a table saw so I had to run them all through my bandsaw. I use my bandsaw for making swords and shields, so the blade is more for cutting shapes and curves, so the blade really got pushed around by the various types of the grain in each piece of wood. I marked a corner on each cut piece that would be the best top front edge of the bench.
There’s a pretty nice variety of boards in that stack. There are full-on 2x4s, some poplar with gray and greenish coloring, and even some super heavy red oak, the bandsaw really had to work hard to get though that! I think that one in the middle looks like a steak.
I made a quick and dirty jig to clamp to the table of a drill press, and drilled four holes through the center of each cut piece. One of the few purchases for this project was some 72” threaded rods. I ran the rods through the holes and spent an entire night and two bottles of carpenter’s glue stacking them all up.
Next, I took a circular saw and cut that cityscape of the back side of the bench.
Now, no matter how you try, pallet wood is never going to perfectly cooperate. Using the jig on the drill press to line the holes up helped, but the boards were curved and bowed here and there and none of their edges lined up perfectly, which was to be expected. Inspired by Nick Offerman, I built a rig that my router could fit in and travel over the top of the bench at a constant height.
On the bottom of the bench I took about about 1/16” to 1/8” of an inch just to get the majority of the boards even for mounting without taking off too much material. On the top, I took off anywhere from 1/8” to 1/4” because I wanted it to be uniform all the way across.
Once that was done I actually took the rods out. They were only there to clamp all the pieces together and keep them from shifting while the glue dried. Since it will be mounted to a frame, they won’t provide any strength and if I decide to make make another top or a full-on table, I can use them again.
I then chamfered the corners and edges, my router got just as much of a workout on this project as my saw! I also added another cut piece to the ends of the table to cover the holes from the rods and I have them held in place with some 7/8” dowels, I think they look great.
Then I used a wood burning kit to burn a 36” ruler into the top with 1/4” increments.
I’ve never used polyurethane before but it went on easily. I went with a satin finish because I felt that gloss or even semi-gloss should be reserved for a something that hopefully won’t have a hammer anywhere near it, like a coffee table.
According to my calculations, the wood got about 7000 times more pretty once the poly was applied.
You could almost say that I built this table for my grandma. She got me a woodworker’s vise and one of the major reasons I built this top was to be able to mount that vise to it. She also gave me a little gadget that belonged to my grandpa that turns a corded drill into a mini drill press and it also needs to be secured to a bench to operate properly and safely.
If I could channel my inner Norm Abram for a second: Boy, that polyurethane really enriches the natural color and beauty of what would otherwise be considered scrap wood. And with the vise and drill press mounted, this will be a piece that will last for many years of service.
I love love LOVE the Wii U loading screen for The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD. So a quick shot with my phone and some photoshop… Enjoy the desktop background everyone!
Wood. More specifically, poplar from Lowe’s.