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thibaultron

Harbor Freight Hardwood Workbench Kit Bash

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Part 01

 

After many years of wanting one, I finally bought a Harbor Freight Hardwood Workbench! Actually this is the second one I bought, the first one was in my truck when it was stolen last year!

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This workbench is designed to be used while standing, not ideal for me, or my knees! So I’m going to kit bash it so I can use it while sitting at it. As it comes the work surface is 34 inches high, I prefer a 27 inch height. Also I need to delete the drawers and the front shelf support bar and shelf board of the lower shelf. I’ll save the drawers and slides for a future project.

 

The legs below the horizontal shelf board on the sides are 7” long, so cutting the legs off at the bottom of this will get me the height I need.

 

The first step was removing the screws that held the feet to the legs, and taping them off the legs. Thankfully the manufacturer did not do a good job of gluing them together!

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So the first problem is that I will need to drill the shortened legs for a new 1” dowel to mate with the existing hole in the feet, more on this later. I will not be regluing this joint when I reassemble the legs, I will add a couple screws from the foot into the horizontal shelf board to add the needed stiffening. The pins on the end of the legs are turned not a separate dowel, and are slightly larger than 1” anyway, with a matching larger hole in the feet.

 

When I shorten the legs the cut will bisect the lower shelf bracket hole, so I clamped a scrap piece onto a leg, and drilled through the existing holes to make a jig.

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Next I drilled new upper holes using the jig, then opened up the inside with a larger drill to match the existing holes. I used a piece of duct tape on the larger drill as a depth guide.

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Sorry that some of the pictures are a little blurry. I had to balance the part on my knees while holding it in one hand and using the other for the camera.

 

I broke out my miter saw to cut the legs.

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I adjusted the stop on the end of the table so all the legs would be the same length, and cut the first leg.

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At first I was going to cut just below the hole, but then decided to cut it flush, allowing the foot to rest on the cross piece. This should be more stable.

 

To cut the other leg, I had to remove the square piece, which originally held the slides for the drawers. It stuck up past the top of the leg assembly, and interfered with the stop, when I flipped the assembly over to cut the other side.

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After the legs were cut I re-installed the piece, as it also stiffens the assembly.Here are both leg assemblies cut.

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As this picture shows the new end of the leg has this nice divot in it from the original shelf support hole. This is not very conducive to drilling the end for a dowel!

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So I build another jig to guide the drill for the new dowel hole.

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It was at this point that I discovered that both my old spade bit and even older Fosner bit were both dull and wandered while drilling!.

 

So I tore the jig apart, and will buy a new drill bit, when I buy a piece of 1” dowel.

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    Ron, you may want to attach a wide board or plywood panel across the back of the bench since you removed the front shelf support bar to give it more lateral stability if the bench didn’t come with one already.  I would also suggest some sort of leveling device on the bottom of the legs to make sure your bench sits solidly on the floor and won’t wobble.   I used large T-nuts with a heavy carriage bolt under the legs of a bench that I made for a friends garage shop so he could easily adjust it with a wrench.  That system added less than a half inch to the height of his bench.  Even some trimmed off wood shims would be better than nothing.

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I'm going to use some shims for leveling. More on the mods coming. I do plan to reinforce the legs, again in the coming mods. I may add a plywood back later, will see how the stability is as I begin to use it.

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Part 02

 

I bought the new drill and the 1” dowel yesterday.

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There is a major problem with this drill though, when they say “Fastest Speedbor Ever” they mean it! If you need to drill a 1” hole through your log cabin wall, a stud, the side of your wood hulled clipper ship, etc., this bit is what you need! Subtle delicate hole drilling is not its forte! The screw tip pulls it trough the wood, with little control. So I had to rethink how I was going to drill for the dowels.

 

I went back to the slightly dull Fosner bit, and setup to use my drill press. As it was buried by the stuff I’d moved to do the shop renovation, this took a while, and as you will see, the pictures will show a lot of clutter still around it.

 

Here is the basic setup. I attached my wood vise to the table and rough clamped a leg assembly into it.

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Once everything was lined up I placed the jig onto the leg, to do the fine alignment of the hole position.

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Next I used a level to level the leg and assure that the hole would be straight into the leg (no picture). I then drilled the hole  5/8” deep.  At the present time the bit is still in the drill press, as the chuck key got knocked into the clutter, and I can’t find it! Oh, well it will turn up when I get the shop cleaned out.

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This is a picture of the drilled leg.

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I only drilled the hole 5/8” deep, as the dowel will only be a locating piece, and I did not want to disrupt the glued crosspiece joint any more than I had to.

 

Here is a leg assembly drilled and with the dowels glued in.

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As I had figured when I installed the screws that had originally held the feet into the original doweled legs, they pulled right out of the 1” dowel pins. I guess Lowes dowels are a lot softer wood than the workbench’s. To attach the feet I used 3” deck screws through the bottom of the foot and into the cross piece. I predrilled the feet with a clearance hole for the screw, and a counter sink to get the screw head below the foot surface. I did not glue this joint.

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This is a completed leg assembly.

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Now I could start actually building the workbench!

 

Harbor Freight has a nice blister pack for the workbench hardware. Note that the Allen wrench you use to assemble the bench, is in the blister with the screws for the second step! As it turns out my extra long Allen wrench came in handy for the later steps, so digging it out for the first step, came in handy. 🙂

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The first step is to attach the back shelf support, the one that holds the lower shelf in place. HF supplies bolts with a threaded pin for this purpose.

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These are the two shelf supports. There are two attachment holes at each end, and a grove on one side for the shelf.

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Getting that first bolt in is tricky! You have to hold the leg and support together while feeding the bolt in, lining the pin up so the bolt will engage, and screwing in the bolt! A second person comes in handy for this. Unfortunately I didn’t have one handy! The pin has a slot on one end, so you can use a flat blade screw driver to help align it with the bolt.

 

I’ll continue in Part 3.

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Part 03

 

This is what the finished joint looks like.

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After attaching the support to the other leg, it is time to assemble the legs to the bench top.

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The legs and bench top are both marked with “Front” labels, so be careful at this step. The screws that hold the legs to the top, are long and quite a tight fit. This is where my extra long Allen wrench came in handy. The extra leverage was welcome! Lining the legs up to match the pre-drilled holes in the top, was tricky. I used a flashlight shining in the gap to help spot the first screw/hole alignment on each leg. There are 3 screws used for each leg. The blister with these screws, is where the supplied Allen wrench is, by the way.

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After attaching the legs, I temporarily installed the front shelf support, to stiffen the whole thing while I finished building the workbench.

 

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Next, the vise is installed. First you remove the stop screw and washer on the end of the vise handle thread.

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The vise is then screwed in half way, and the bolts holding the vise nut onto the bench top are tightened.

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After this the vise is screwed all the way in and the vise stop screw and washer replaced. The stop bottoms out on the inside of the shelf slide piece of wood, limiting the vise opening. I may drill this hole larger, to allow me to open the vise more, though this would, of course, make the vise a little more unstable when it is opened that extra width.

 

This is the workbench at this point. I tried it out with a chair, and it was just the height I wanted! The piece of plywood laying across the shelf supports was going to be used to make two triangular braces between the back support and the legs, to replace the stiffness the original shelf would have provided, but I decided to go a different route.

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I think that I would keep banging my ankles on a horizontal triangular brace. Instead I’m going to use right angle shelf supports, like one shown below. I think I have a couple extra ones, if I can find them. I’ll screw them into the leg cross pieces, and use through bolts to attach them to the thinner back shelf support. After these are installed. I’ll remove the front shelf support.

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On a side note, I was somewhat disappointed to find that the actual butcher block work surface, is only about ½” thick, but as long as it stays flat over time, it will be OK.

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5 hours ago, thibaultron said:

There is a major problem with this drill though, when they say “Fastest Speedbor Ever” they mean it!

    You're right about that bit Ron.  They originally were designed for use with an old school hand brace and came with a square end to the shaft.  The screw portion was to make the bit pull its way through the wood and thus reduce the effort required to bore a hole.  Later versions came out for electric drills but the other end still has a octagonal shaft to handle the extra torque on the drill chuck.  They can be used with power but the drill speed needs to be greatly reduced to allow you better control.  

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Looks like you modified that bench to something that fits your needs and did it well. Have been considering buying one of those, it will be for a catch all room and I may not instal the vise. Probably will bolt it to the wall as a safety measure, something top heavy is bound to find it's way on top of it, always does.

 

Edited by jud

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The vertical pegs are used in conjunction with the pegs on the top of the end vise.  You can hold a long piece in place flat on the surface of the table.

I too have "bashed" the Harbor Freight table by leaving off the front rail and bottom shelf so I can sit at the table without gashing my shins.  I also left one of the drawers off to give me more room.

Maury

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21 minutes ago, Maurys said:

The vertical pegs are used in conjunction with the pegs on the top of the end vise.  You can hold a long piece in place flat on the surface of the table.

I too have "bashed" the Harbor Freight table by leaving off the front rail and bottom shelf so I can sit at the table without gashing my shins.  I also left one of the drawers off to give me more room.

Maury

Ahhhh...that makes sense! Mystery solved.

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Ron, surprised to hear that the top is only 1/2" thick, other than that it looks very sturdy, do you have an idea on the weight of the bench, sure you will get a lot of use out of it

 

Ed

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