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HomeMy ShopPortable Workbench

Portable Workbench

I wanted an MFT style workbench but with lots of tool storage that would fit in the back seat of my F150. This is the result of that effort. This bench can be made from a single sheet of 3/4″ (18mm) ply and a few scraps of 1/4″ (6mm) ply.

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More Information

I have more cabinet building resources listed below. If you want to know how to build base cabinets or how to hang cabinets onto concrete walls, I have full build videos, walkthroughs and plans available for download.



centipede work holder

Cutting in a standing position is more comfortable and helps you be more accurate with your cuts too.

And the Centipede folds up easily and gets out of the way when your done with it. If you’d like to get one of these for yourself, check it out here: CENTIPEDE WORK HOLDER 4×8

Tool and Supplies for this Build

Portable Workbench Build

For the most part I do my work right here in my shop where I have the work space to get most jobs done.

But sometimes I have work in other locations where they DON’T have those things.

To solve for that I wanted to create a portable bench that has the same benefits as this MFT workstation with its grid of 20mm dog holes AND can fit in the backseat of my truck.

I also want it to be capable of holding all the accessories that I’d want to have with me.

Oh and If I can make it out of a sheet of plywood that would be even better.

I like to start breaking down my plywood into manageable chunks using a track saw or circular saw and cutting on a sheet of pink foam insulation.

It’s by far the most convenient thing I’ve found because you can cut it over and over again and it lasts a long time.

Once the parts are small enough to safely handle, I move over to the table saw to cut from rough to final dimensions.

Another nice thing about this design is so many of the parts are the same width so you end up with a lot of the same size strips.

Now over to the miter saw to cut all the smaller parts.

Portable Workbench – Top

OK, with all my parts cut, I need to focus my attention on the top.

Getting that MFT style grid of holes is a key feature I want this workbench to have.

To create it I’m gonna use the UJK parf guide system which is designed to create that perfect MFT top.

This system comes with everything you need to make a perfect grid of holes.

First I need to locate where I want my starting hole to be located.

Then I can use this special drill guide bushing and drill bit to make a hole in the first and last hole you want to make in the row.

Once I have that, the parf system comes with this story stick with holes in them every 96mm

The story stick gets clamped in place. Placing it exactly parallel with the front edge is what I want.

The stick has 11 holes to match an MFT top.

This first set of holes just allows you to use some pins to hold the ruler in place.

I need these pins in place because I have to remove the clamps to drill the rest of the holes.

This system is great at using guides to make sure you’re drilling in the exact location to make perfectly spaced holes.

Next, I dust off the cobwebs in my brain to remember the ole 3-4-5 rule from geometry, or in this case the 6-8-10 rule which is how the parf guide makes a perfect right angle.

Placing this second story stick in the 6th and 8th holes is all it takes.

Now that I have that side done, I need to repeat on the opposite side.

OK, now I have this set of parallel holes on each end and the rest of this is cake, just move the ruler to each new set of holes and drill out one row at a time.

Outside of using a CNC I can’t think of an easier system for getting a perfect grid of holes.

So basically, the layout and spacing part is done and the last step is to turn these 3mm holes into  20mm holes using this.

Then I soldiered on drilling out the rest of the holes and once I had enough 20mm holes drilled out could use these locator dogs to secure the guide and drill the remaining holes.

This whole top took me about 40 minutes to drill out.

Portable Workbench Assembly

To assemble this workbench I’m going to use pocket screws.

Dominos would have created a cleaner look but I wouldn’t have been able to disassemble it to replace the top down the road.

The side aprons will go on first and that’s pretty easy.

I made sure to precisely place the pocket holes in the same place on both sides of the bench.

That way I can establish a safe zone for my track saw to cut without risking hitting a screw.

After the aprons are attached , the last thing I need to add to the frame is a set of blocking which I made by gluing together three small pieces of ply.

Being careful to line them up flush I used brad nails to hold them together until the glue dries.

These will be used to create a pocket for the legs to go into as well as add some additional stiffness to the frame.

After predrilling and countersinking 4 holes using this nifty countersink drill bit I can attach the blocking directly to the frame from the outside.

Then one screw from the inside for good measure.

What this bench needs next is some legs.

Portable Workbench Leg Assembly

Those are going to be made out of strips of ply laminated together.

I’m gluing up all the legs at once and using one set of clamps so this is kind of like making a cutting board out of plywood just make sure not to glue the wrong side and stick your legs together.

I’m careful to make sure everything is flush and lined up before clamping it all down.

Once the legs are dry they need a quick rough sanding to get off any schmootz from the glueup before I mill everything to final thickness.

And yes I’m running plywood through my planer.

This is Baltic birch ply and every one of those ply’s is birch hardwood

So really there’s no difference between this and a cutting board if you think about it.

And I have spiral cutters on the planer so the finish is nice and smooth.

You could use a table saw for this if you don’t have a planer or have plywood that isn’t solid wood throughout.

I made these leg parts longer than needed to protect against any blowout from the planer which can be trimmed off square at the miter saw.

I also made sure to sand the legs smooth especially on the corners to round them over a bit.

To store the legs I created this pocket on the underside of the workbench.

And to hold the legs in place I’m going to use snap straps.

Portable Workbench Leg Attachment

To secure the legs while in use I’m going to slide the legs into those pockets and then from the outside I’m going to drill a hole through the apron and into the legs.

That will perfectly locate where to drill a larger hole to accommodate a threaded insert.

Then the insert goes in nice and snug and it needs to be slightly below the surface so it doesn’t interfere with the operation of the legs.

Then I can drill out a larger hole in the apron and slide my leg into place to be fastened together with the apron using these star knobs.

Next up, I need to add some tool storage.

Portable Workbench Drawers

By moving the two end aprons inward and adding the blocking, I created a pocket on each end of the bench that I can stick a drawer into.

The drawers will be super simple, just made with pocket screws again.

The front of the drawer is going to be wider than the rest which will cover up the blocking on the ends of the workbench.

And for the drawer bottom this is where I began to switch my thinking and use ¼” ply. I really didn’t want to make the bottom out of ¾” which is way too bulky and it also takes up more space which means less storage.

In the end I think this is better, even if it means I’m not using one single sheet of plywood to make this workbench.

Instead, I cut a small mortise in the bottom of the drawer front and this will allow me to screw the bottom securely and not be seen from the front. Nice and clean.

And instead of making drawer slides I just created these rub strips out of some hardwood scraps and that will eliminate any slop in the drawer’s fit.

Then to capture the drawer and keep it from falling out I used ¼” ply again to create these bottom covers that will go around the leg holes and screw into place.

To make sure the drawers don’t fall out when I transport them, I embedded some magnets into the backside of the drawer front.

And put corresponding magnets into the blocking on the ends of the workbench.

And each drawer will get a small low-profile drawer pull and that should do just fine.

Portable Workbench Tool Storage

Since my bench has dog holes I probably need to carry around some bench dogs but those would be a nightmare to transport rattling around in the drawers but I found the PERFECT solution.

I picked up this foam block made for storing test tubes securely.

This stuff cuts like a dream on the band saw so getting a perfect fit will be easy.

This is going to work perfectly and I can’t believe I lucked into finding the perfect solution.

With the drawers packed out,  I also wanted to make good use of this space under the bench.

I purposefully made this space wide enough for a 1080mm Festool guide rail which I’m attaching using the FastCap track racks.

Again I lucked into the perfect solution for the task.

That leaves just enough space to add my benchdog fence system.

I can simply put the fence dogs into the dog holes like this, but for some added security I installed a couple more of those snap straps.

And to finish this off I’m going to add a nice comfortable handle to the side for transport.

To make the best use of the drawer space and to make sure my tools aren’t rattling around in there while I’m moving the bench, I’m going to use this lightweight kaizan foam.

This foam can be cut to fit specific tools, just trace around the tools and then use a utility blade to cut out the shape and then the layers can be pulled out revealing a pocket that perfectly fits the item.

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