Foldaway Bench

For some DIY tasks, you need a bench that’s no more than a flat work surface — nothing fancy, no built-in vise, bench dogs or integral storage required. And of course, it should also be inexpensive and easy to build.

This bench meets all of those criteria and has the added benefit of folding out of the way when not in use. Mounted to a garage wall, it’s an ideal utility platform for occasional chores such as servicing outdoor power equipment, cleaning painting gear or working on bicycle parts. But it’s attractive enough to use inside your home as a sewing table or for working on stained-glass projects, beading and other crafts. With basic woodworking skills, you should be able to build the bench in a day for about $40 to $90, depending on the materials you choose.

Materials and tools
All of the materials can be purchased at almost any home-improvement center or hardware store. The precut 2x4-ft. and 2x2-ft. sheet goods are easy to transport and require less cutting in the shop than full-size panels. I used birch plywood for the top (A and B) and top supports (C). Particleboard or medium-density fiberboard would also work and cost less, but they are heavier and less durable. You can cut the pine parts to size from construction-grade lumber or use higher-grade trim lumber, as I did. (Check out the illustration and cutting list in the PDF below.)

In addition to a few common hand tools (a hammer, a screwdriver and a small handsaw), you’ll need a table saw to cut the parts (a circular saw used with a guide fence is another option), a drill to install the hinges and to mount the bench on the wall, and a jigsaw to cut the triangular top supports. I used a 23-gauge pneumatic pin nailer to fasten some of the parts, but a hammer and finish nails and brads work just as well, albeit not as fast. You’ll also need a level when it’s time for installation.

Make the parts
I laminated the 1/4- and 3/4-in. plywood for the top to create a more rigid work surface that’s less prone to warping. You can skip this step if your work doesn’t require such a sturdy bench top.

To laminate the top, first coat both mating surfaces with wood glue (photo 1). Align the edges of the plywood; then use a pin nailer (photo 2) or 3/4-in. brads to secure the 1/4-in. sheet to the 3/4-in. sheet. (The 1/4-in. plywood is the bottom side of the top.) After the glue has dried, trim the edges of the laminated top to size (see cutting list) using a table saw or a circular saw and a guide fence.

Apply wood glue with a short-nap roller to both top surfaces. You’ll need to work quickly because PVA glue has a short open time.

Use a pin nailer or brads to secure the 1/4-in. plywood to the 3/4-in. sheet. The 1/4-in. sheet is the top’s bottom side, so the fasteners won’t be seen when the bench is in use.

Next, glue two 1x4s together to make the wall support (F). Cut the wall support and edging pieces (D,E) to length and width. Lay out and cut the plywood top supports (C). Make the stabilizing blocks (G) that hold the supports in position when the top is in use, and make the wall-latch parts (H and I) for securing the top in the stored position. Bore 1/4-in. holes for the hollow-wall anchors in the wall support and in the latch parts.

Fasten the side edging (E) to the top with glue and 1-1/2-in. finish nails; then attach the front and back edging (D). The pine edging not only provides a more finished look but also affords a better grip for the hinge screws than a raw plywood edge. Fill any holes or voids with wood putty; then sand all of the pieces and ease sharp edges as needed with 120-grit sandpaper.

To attach the edging, first drive in a few 1-1/2-in. finish nails. This will make it easier to hold it in position.

Cut the triangular top supports with a jigsaw. To prevent any interference, allow an extra 1/16 in. for the notches that wrap around the wall support.

Before painting and installation, assemble the top and wall support with the continuous hinge to test the fit. The hinge should allow the free upward swing of the top without any interference against the wall. (For the correct hinge orientation, see photo 6 and illustration) There’s no need to drive all of the screws — that can wait until the final installation. Fasten the butt hinges to the top supports (C) and wall support (F). The back of the top supports should be perfectly flush with the back of the wall support.

Precisely fitting the butt hinges ensures that the top will be level. The hinge barrel must be centered between the two joined parts. Don’t install all of the screws until the fit is perfect.

Orient the continuous hinge so the knuckle is centered between the top and the wall support and there’s enough clearance so the top can pivot without hitting the wall when mounted.

Finish and install
You can leave the workbench unfinished, or you can apply paint or varnish. I used gray satin oil-base paint that’s durable and resistant to abrasion, moisture and chemicals.

Before painting, the workpiece should be sanded and free of dust. Apply the paint with a roller and a small brush; allow 24 hours between coats. Between the first and second coat, scuff-sand the workpiece with 220-grit or finer sandpaper to achieve a smoother final finish.

Once the paint has dried, install the hinges and check that they work properly. I attached small patches of self-adhesive hook-and-loop fabric to the ends of the top supports and wall support to keep the top supports from swinging when in the stored position.

To install the bench, determine its height and hold it against the wall with the level; then mark the mounting-hole positions. (You may need a helper for this step.) If you’re lucky enough for the bench to span a couple of 2x4 wall studs, you can use screws to mount the bench. Otherwise, use hollow-wall anchors.

Level the assembled bench and mark its position on the wall and the locations for the hollow-wall anchors.

When folded up, this workbench takes up little space, making it perfect for the garage. It can be stowed out of the way when you park you cars.

Your new space-saving workbench is ready for use. Though it’s undoubtedly convenient, it does have one potential drawback: To be able to fold it away, you’ll have to keep it clutter-free.