Floating Hickory Workbench and Shelves

3 Materials
10 Hours

Building Lodi a Custom Hickory Workbench and Shelves. The “closet” in Lodi’s new room was the obvious place for his workbench, peg board and the majority of his storage. We built this new room and completed several steps to finally getting here including Lodi spray painting his peg board in chrome. The closet is particularly deeper to the far left side of it, leaving a 12″ deep “pocket” that seemed the perfect placement for shelves. That gave me the idea that instead of just spanning the entire width of the closet with his workbench, we could cut the bench in an L shape and include one of the “shelves” right in it. Which, admittedly, left me with a bit of anxiety on getting the cuts right!

At well over $100 a sheet for the rustic hickory plywood Lodi picked up for his workbench I really didn’t want to screw this up!

So, admittedly, Lodi’s enthusiasm had to nudge me into tackling this one weekend when we were painting out his room.

(When I get nervous about projects it takes me a bit to get moving on them…)

We started by cutting the full sheet down to the literal inside dimensions of the closet (76 x 34). These cuts would be hidden against the wall so we were a lot less worried about them.

I wanted to see how our skill saw handled the plywood veneer and whether or not we would want to move to our table saw to get cleaner cuts.

Because this is a veneer our skill saw slaughtered it pretty impressively on the top side.

HOWEVER, the underside of the plywood we both agreed was passable for the top of his new workbench.

We felt comfortable using the skill saw moving forward knowing we would have to draw our next cuts “upside down” because we would be flipping it over for install.

(A great trick in this situation that we did not do is to cover your cut lines with painters tape before making your cuts. I don’t think it would have saved us here considering the type of veneer we were working with but its a good rule of thumb to use for any cuts made on plywood.)

Another great trick that I did use was to curve the inside edge of our L shaped workbench. Because blades (such as skill saw blades) are curved getting a perfect square interior cut is impossible.

(Most people, in this case, would have used a jig saw to finish the cut for a perfect square corner.)

I wanted to do something different here so I used a 1″ speedbor bit in the inside corner first before we cut up to it with our skill saw.

(Forget hole saws and forget spade bits that rip your wrist off – spend the money and get yourself Irwin Speedbor bits – I’ll never go back.)

I think it looks deliberate and added a nice curved detail.

We flipped it over to see how we did and were both very happy with what we achieved.

So happy in fact I asked him if he wanted to see it with the first coat of poly so he could REALLY finally see how it was going to look even though we were still a ways from installing it.

First, I carefully sanded the entire piece down using very fine (150 grit) sand paper over the entire top surface. Then, I hit the cut edges and underside of the workbench with medium grit sand paper.

After a thorough cleaning I did one quick coat of poly over the entire workbench and what a beauty!

The depth of the workbench Lodi decided he wanted was 22 inches, just shy of the average depth of a kitchen counter top, and about a foot less than the full depth of the closet.

Lodi picked up some gorgeous solid hickory 1x8s that were ideal for his shelves and there’s plenty of plywood left for a future storage bench (for extra seating and a hinged top) that I want to build him someday under his window.

I purchased two different heavy duty sets of brackets for both the workbench and the shelves.

With the depth of the workbench I felt pretty good about letting the brackets do their thing and not add anymore support besides. (Again, this isn’t solid hickory so its not insanely heavy and no one is going to be sitting on it or standing on it.)

HOWEVER, I made sure all five of the brackets I used beneath the workbench went into studs!

I took a Wednesday off from my day job to get the floors painted and install the bench and shelves and TOTALLY kicked my own butt by screwing up the measurement of the workbench lol.

I had planned to put the workbench IN FRONT of the pegboard so I could just install the brackets right up to the bottom of the pegboard and then just install the work bench (easy peasy) … and yet, for some reason, I took my measurements AFTER we took the pegboard down to paint it…

So, when I went to put in the bench it was a little wide *facepalm* so I had to take the pegboard and supports down from the right side and move all of my shelf brackets down… and then wedge it in there literally using my head to hold it up from beneath it…

So the workbench went under the pegboard… which actually looks better and by some kind of miracle (that makes it look like I know what I’m doing) the workbench also lined up perfectly with the pegboard on the right side…

No one kicks my butt harder than I do.

It is so weird how some things just work out.

After that getting the shelves in was a breeze and I was so excited with how it all turned out.

I was bouncing up and down when Lodi got home from work to show him!

If you look close the floors were taped off when I was building his workbench and shelves. (I still had to seal the floors, the shelves and his workbench so it made sense to do it all at the same time.)

Polyacrylic is not ideal for a bench surface but the urethanes and shellacs are SO toxic, SO stinky, SO hard to clean up after and take SO long to dry. In my experience, as long as its taken care of, a water based polyacrylic will do a fine job in most situations such as this one (and its doing a fine job on all of the floors in our house besides).

I think it turned out awesome and can’t wait to show you guys his completed room and new light fixture!

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4 of 6 comments
  • Kevin
    on Apr 6, 2021

    You did a GREAT job I recently made a closet into a Home Office and it works beautifully!


  • William
    on Apr 6, 2021

    Great job. Your projects are always amazing and I love how you point out any OOPS. For hardwood plywood I like to use a plywood blade and circular saw. The more teeth the cleaner the cut. I also cut with the top side down. Any chipout will be on the under side. Sometimes I tape, sometimes not. Depends on the project. And yeah, pegboard goes on last so it sits on top of the counter. Look at it as a backsplash.

    • GrandmasHouseDIY
      on Apr 6, 2021

      Thank you very much William! I actually didn't realize they make specific blades for plywood I always grabbed the fine tooth wood blades - great tip, thank you!

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