Double Flip-Top Workbench
Storage Upgrade (Part 1 of 2)
February 5, 2018
It’s been close to a year since I built my double flip-top workbench. Back when I originally designed it, I also designed a bunch of storage drawers to be built into it. To fit my needs, there would be two different cabinets, one large and one small. The large one would go under the solid top and have one bank of drawers towards the front, and one bank towards the side. The smaller cabinet would go underneath the flipping section and have a big shallow drawer going to each side. Well, I’m in desperate need for more storage space in my shop these days, so I’m finally getting around to building them.
After refreshing my memory by going over my plans, I drew out all of my rough cuts onto full sheets of plywood, then broke them down using a circular saw and a door board.
With the full sheets broken down to rough dimensions, I used the table saw and radial arm saw to cut all of the components to their exact dimensions.
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Next I had to drill a ton of pocket holes. I decided to go with this method of joinery because it is quick and easy to do, and will be more than strong enough for this application.
When you have a lot of pocket holes to drill it’s really nice to have good dust collection. Without it, the mess can get out of hand in a hurry.
This pocket hole jig is nice because it tells you what size screws you need to use for the thickness of material you’re drilling. Just clamp it in, check the scale, then reach for the matching screws.
The assembly process for both of the cabinets is very easy. First, I put a bead of glue on the edge of the plywood, then I set it in place and clamped it down. This way it couldn’t move while I drove in the first screws. Then I just made sure the outside edges were lined up while I drove in the rest.
This is the small cabinet that is going under the flipping portion of the bench. There isn’t room for it to be very tall, but it spans the entire width, and half the length of the overall bench. This center board is only there to keep the top from sagging in the middle over time. There’s really no other reason to seperate the two sides.
The larger cabinet gets assembled using the same method. Here, the box is upside down and I started by attaching the long side piece to the top, then I attached the back side to both of those pieces. The next two pieces are just slightly more complicated.
One piece references off the front corner, then the other pieces butts up against that and gets screwed into the center of the long side. In order to get the positioning right and keep everything square, I put the outside piece flush against the front of the long side, then drew a line. This line is the reference for the inside corner of the middle piece.
In hindsight, that line drawing method worked, but it would have been even easier if, instead of drawing the line, I had just clamped that outside piece against back. Then, I could butt the center piece into that corner and screw it in into the back. Essentially, this is creating a positive stop that would ensure the middle piece is locked in place while running in the screws, instead of trying to hold it to a line.
Initially, I planned on leaving the bottom open, because it would just sit on a board on the bottom of the bench anyway. However, after checking for square, I found that the case was slightly askew, so I used some ½ inch plywood to make an attached bottom to correct the shape.
With both cases completed, I switched over to batching out a bunch of drawers. As always, the first step is cutting a bunch of parts to size. All of the drawer pieces for the big cabinet come out of one piece of ½ inch plywood.
To make the two drawers for small case, I recycled the cupboard doors from the dining room demolition I did a few weeks ago. Considering these drawers will be 26 inches wide, I figured bumping up to ¾ inch material would be a good idea.
I assembled the drawers much like a smaller version of the cabinets. I drilled pocket holes into the sides of every front and back piece. Then, it’s just a matter of gluing an edge, clamping two pieces together, driving in screws and repeating over and over. This makes for a fast and easy drawer that is plenty strong enough for this application. By putting the pocket holes only in the front and back, you won’t ever see them in the finished product. Once you install false drawer fronts, the front facing holes are covered up, and the back side ones are always pointing to the back of the cabinet.
The only difference in the method of assembly between the cabinets and the drawers is the bottoms. Instead of using pocket holes, I just drilled pilot holes and ran screws straight through the bottom.
With a total of 9 drawers to make, it was really nice to have my little helper in the shop for a few hours. He wasn’t too sure when he got started, but by the end he was a screw driving pro.
I made the rookie mistake of assuming my ½ plywood was really ½ inch thick. Well it was actually 1/16 less than that, so my dimensions were ⅛ inch off when I went to install the drawer slide hardware. To fix that, I cut a bunch of thin strips from a 2x4 on my table saw to use a shims.
I put a spacer against the side of the case so I could mount the slide at the correct height. Then I put a few drops of CA glue on the thin strip of wood, and shot activator against the side of the case. This way I could put the thin strip in place and it would instantly hold itself there.
Next I put the drawer slide in place and marked out the hole locations. I drilled pilot holes just deep enough to get through the thin strip. I didn’t want to accidentally go all the way through the side of the case, but I needed enough of a hole to keep the thin strip from splitting.
Then I put the drawer slides back in place and ran in all the screws all the screws.
I moved the spacer over to the the other side of the case so I could mount another drawer slide at the exact same height. This side didn’t need the thin strip of wood, so I could skip the CA glue and the pilot holes. I just positioned the slide and drove in the screws.
I put some thin scraps on the bottom of the cabinet to hold the lower drawer up just little to give it some clearance. Then I put the drawer in place between the slides and made sure it was sitting down flat.
To make sure the slides ended up perfectly flush, I clamped a scrap to the front of the drawer and pulled the slides up against it. After driving in the first screw, I could remove the clamp and slowly pull the drawer out, putting in more screws on each side as more holes were exposed along the way. In order to get screws in the last holes, I had to remove the drawer from the cabinet. Then, I could put the drawer back in and test the function.
The rest of the drawers are just one big exercise in repetition. I put in a different size spacer to match the different sized drawer and let it rest on the first slide. I glued in the thin strip of wood, drilled pilot holes and mounted the slide.
I layed long strips of ½ plywood across the top of the bottom drawer to create a platform for the next drawer to rest on while I attach the slides to it. This creates a half inch clearance between the drawers. Then just repeat the process until all the drawers are in place.
Since the short cabinet has no bottom, I flipped it upside down in order to reference off the top while installing the slides. This also made access easier since I wasn’t having to reach my arms way into a smaller space. Other than being inverted, installation was exactly the same as before.
That wraps up the assembly of the cabinets and drawers. In part 2 of this project I am going to build and install false fronts onto the drawers, attached some drawer pulls, then mount the cabinets into the workbench. Check out Part 2!