Thursday, January 3, 2013

Benching 250 lbs

I had been planning to build a workbench for the garage with my dad, but a few weeks ago someone posted on our neighborhood's Yahoo group that they had just moved into a house that had a workbench they didn't want. It was free to whoever wanted it, so I replied in a jiffy but kept my expectations low. The only workbench I had really ever seen was my dad's wooden one that he made in the 80's, so I had no idea what other workbenches would look like. I knew I wanted a decent sized wooden one, so who knew if this one would be small, metal, in bad shape, etc. 

When we got to the guy's garage I was floored. It was awesome! Big, wooden, and even had a pegboard backer with a shelf. It's 8 feet long and 7 feet tall, and weighs upwards of 250 lbs. Luckily the back piece with the pegboard is only attached to the bench with two (enormous) bolts, so we took the back off and took the bench to our house in two trips. Good thing we live close and didn't have to drive on any major roads because we took up about 2 lanes. 

Overall, it's a great workbench. Very sturdy, good design, and in pretty good shape. There were a few things I wanted to address, though. First: the height. The counter was 37.5" off the ground, which meant that it came to my waist. 

Working on it would be a litttttle tricky, especially if I do anything that requires me to push down. Also, I couldn't even reach the pegboard because the counter hit me so high up that my arm can't reach. Second issue: that oil stain on the bottom shelf. I planned on putting a sealant on it, but I doubted it would stick over that layer of gunk.

Third issue: the pegboard. The holes are smaller than regular pegboard, so the little metal pieces that go into it are really hard to get in and out. Also, he attached the pegboard with like 2,000 nails, but it's still not as sturdy as I'd like because he used four small pieces of pegboard instead of one long one which means that it wobbles around where those three seams are. Aesthetically, it's stained and has a hole where the old owner's outlet was, but I don't have one there. 

The first step was to take it apart.

(sorry, not sure how this picture ended up so wildly off center)

Taking it apart took forever. The guy who made it used four very long nails on each spot he attached things. We wanted to reuse all of the wood, which meant we didn't want to damage it taking the nails out. Once we got pieces pried apart we had to hammer the nails out and then pry them out. Once it was apart, we cut 7.5" from the bottom so the bench would sit 30" off the ground (standard counter height).

After all the legs were cut, we started reattaching the pieces. We used screws so that if we ever need to take it apart in the future it won't take hours like it did this time!

We clamped the side pieces on.

Got them nice and level.

Then screwed them in!

Then we reattached the front, back, and support pieces.

And screwed the plywood back in!

We momentarily debated buying a new piece since this one was so gross, but I really wanted to keep our costs down on this project so we decided against it. We also considered flipping it over so you'd see the bottom, but the plywood got a little roughed up when we pried it out so the bottom was torn near the old nail holes. I just crossed my fingers that a little sanding would help. We also decided to make the old back the new front which would make the oil spill a little less noticeable and also give us fresh wood on the front rather than showing the brown painted wood he had in the front.

Next we cut down and reattached the pieces of wood that go against the back legs to make them flush with the pegboard piece. 

It may or may not be clear in this picture that the pegboard piece is now 7.5" taller than the bench, so we cut its two legs down as well.

Then we bolted it on to make sure all the holes lined up. And they did! Huzzah!

We unbolted the back piece and set it on the floor so I could remove the old pegboard. It was another nail nightmare. He had 64 nails holding those four pieces of pegboard up.

First I had to pry them up with my screwdriver.

Then wedge the pry bar under them and pop them out.

I was very excited when the first piece was off!

Fast forward a little to the sanding process. Here's where we started, with the workbench flipped around so that the old front is now on the back side.

The back

I used 60 grit sandpaper on my palm sander.

Looking nice and new!

After I finished the top it was time for the bottom.

Can you see the difference on the oil spot? Just a little?

It was terrible because the saw dust from the oil spot wasn't really dust... it was more like... oily dust. Sandpaper didn't last very long!

A few more runs over it and it looked much better!

And I looked much worse... although this picture doesn't show just how dusty I was.

Next I sanded the back piece. See how the bottom left hand corner is a little lighter? That's how much of a difference sanding did on that wood.

After I sanded it we went to go buy the new pegboard. Home Depot had the right size (4'x8'), but only in white, and I really wanted brown so it would blend in with the rest of the bench. This meant we had to go into unchartered territory: Lowe's. It's farther away from the house and not my favorite place, but they had what we needed. Unfortunately, they only had one piece, and it was damaged. Now, the reason Lowe's is wayyy inferior to Home Depot? The place is empty. And I don't just mean customers. There's no one around to answer your questions! As a first time homeowner and novice DIYer, I have a lot of questions. I'm pretty sure I know at least half of Home Depot's employees and have had lengthy conversations with each of them.

So, after trying to find someone for about 5 minutes, we found Alan. He checked and found out that there was a whole package of pegboard! Woo hoo! He didn't mention that it was like 30 feet in the air. So, out came the forklift.

We stood on the safe side of the barricade while they tried to figure out which box our pegboard was in. It took about 15 more minutes, but finally Alan found the buried elevated treasure.

Once we got it home, we flipped the back piece over and set the pegboard on top. 

I had these screws leftover from when I took out the old doorknobs, and they were perfect! Reuse, reduce, recycle.

I screwed one in roughly every five pegboard holes because the pegboard itself is fairly heavy, plus it's going to have to hold the weight of tons of heavy tools.

I was ready to seal everything up and check this project off my to do list, but then I read the directions on the sealant. The temperature has to be above 50 degrees during the application and for 48 hours after. It was 47 degrees at the time, with lows in the 30s over the next few days. Boo. For now the bench will just have to sit in the garage and wait for warmer days. 

But look! I can reach now! And really, I promise I wear more than just sweatshirts... it's just coooold in the garage.

Ahh... so much better. The brown paint is gone, the pegboard is new, and the oil stain is lessened and pushed to the back. I'm in love.

My dad gave me a pencil holder which totally finishes it off, haha.

I put all of my tools on and placed the cabinets next to the workbench to see how they'll look when they're re-installed. Right now they're stacked in front of each other, but when they're hung they'll of course be on top of each other. I'm going to have so much storage... I. can't. wait.

Does anyone have any workbench or general garage tips? The workbench sits on the left side, so I'll be parking on the right and John will park in the driveway. He actually told me he prefers that for some strange reason. There's nothing better than parking in the garage so I'm pretty sure he's crazy, but I am not complaining because that just means there's more space for me to work! 

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