a finished tool bench
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How to Build a Tool Bench

TOH reader Amy Paladino gets help making a tool bench for her garage from TOH general contractor Tom Silva

Amy Paladino is a pro at juggling the demands of her job and family. But as with many of us, when it came to organizing tools for DIY projects, she needed a little assistance.

Enter This Old House general contractor Tom Silva, with a plan for a size-it-to-your-space tool-storage bench that doubles as a work surface. Though it may look complicated, the construction couldn't be simpler: Tom used plywood to build one large box and two smaller ones, fitted them with shelves, then placed them back-to-back and topped the assembly with doubled-up plywood. See how he and Amy built it using just a few basic tools and materials.


Steps // How to Build a Tool Bench
1 ×

Overview for Building a Tool Bench

 
Step One // How to Build a Tool Bench

Overview for Building a Tool Bench

an exploded view illustration of a tool bench
Illustration by Jennifer Stimpson

Cut List

• ¾-inch plywood top: two @ 38 by 72 inches
• ⅝-inch plywood sides of boxes: nine @ 16 inches by 27¾
• ½-inch plywood back of large boxes: one @ 27¾ by 67 inches
• ⅝-inch plywood bottom of large box: one @ 16 by 67 inches
• ½-inch plywood back of small boxes: two @ 17 ¼ by 27¾ inches
• ⅝-inch plywood bottom of small boxes: two @ 16 by 17¼ inches
• ½-inch plywood shelves: six @ 16 by 16½ inches (if using cleats, cut shelves to 16 inches by 16 inches)
• 1x2 horizontal filler strips: four @ 33 inches
• 1x2 vertical filler strips: four @ 22 inches
• 1x2 plywood rails: four @ 67 inches

 
2 ×

Cut Box Parts

 
Step Two // How to Build a Tool Bench

Cut Box Parts

Tom Silva and Amy Paladino use a router to make <span style="font-family:'Verdana';">&#189;</span>-inch slots for plywood shelves
Photo by Allison Dinner

Using our online cut list and a circular saw guided by a straightedge, cut plywood backs, walls, bottoms, and shelves to size for one large and two small boxes. Use a router to make ½-inch slots on the inner walls where shelves will slide in.

Pro advice: "If you don't have a router to make slots for shelves, you can screw 1x2 cleats to the inner walls of the boxes instead, and affix the shelves to them."
Tom Silva, TOH General Contractor

 
3 ×

Build Boxes

 
Step Three // How to Build a Tool Bench

Build Boxes

screwing the outer wall to the sides of the tool bench
Photo by Allison Dinner

Glue and screw the bottom pieces to the outer walls of the small boxes. Space the screws about 3 to 4 inches apart. Glue and screw the outer and inner walls, spaced at 16¾-inch intervals, along the bottom of the large box.

 
4 ×

Install Rail for Large Box

 
Step Four // How to Build a Tool Bench

Install Rail for Large Box

Tom Silva and Amy Paladino install the rail for the tool bench outer frame
Photo by Allison Dinner

Cut a 1x2 or scrap plywood to the large box's length. After making sure the walls are square, screw the rail across the front to stabilize the box, flush with the tops of the walls. Cut an identical rail to install later across the front of the small boxes.

 
5 ×

Attach Backs of Boxes

 
Step Five // How to Build a Tool Bench

Attach Backs of Boxes

Tom Silva and Amy Paladino attach the back to box walls and bottom
Photo by Allison Dinner

Apply glue to the exposed back edges of the boxes' walls and bottoms. Set the backs in place, and fasten with screws spaced about 3 to 4 inches apart.

 
6 ×

Assemble Base

 
Step Six // How to Build a Tool Bench

Assemble Base

Tom Silva and Amy Paladino assemble the base of the tool bench
Photo by Allison Dinner

Place the boxes bottom up and back-to-back, with the small boxes flush with the ends of the large box. Screw on cleats of scrap plywood laid across where the bottoms meet, using 4 screws on each box bottom. Drive 6 to 8 more screws through the backs.

 
7 ×

Add Casters

 
Step Seven // How to Build a Tool Bench

Add Casters

adding a caster to one the tool bench base's corners
Photo by Allison Dinner

Set casters at each of the base's four corners, about 1½ inches from each edge. Set two more casters in line with the left and right inner walls near the back of the large box, about 1½ inches from the back edge. Secure with carriage bolts through the holes in the mounting plates.

 
8 ×

Install Shelves and Second Rail

 
Step Eight // How to Build a Tool Bench

Install Shelves and Second Rail

Tom Silva and Amy Paladino sliding shelves into the tool bench
Photo by Allison Dinner

Flip the bench right-side up. Slide shelves into the slots cut in Step 1. (If a shelf is too tight, sand its edges until it fits.) Install the rail cut in Step 3 across the front of the small boxes and open base, flush with the tops of the walls.

 
9 ×

Install Furring Strips and Pegboard

 
Step Nine // How to Build a Tool Bench

Install Furring Strips and Pegboard

Tom Silva and Amy Paladino install furring strips in order to mount the pegboard on the side of the tool bench
Photo by Allison Dinner

Flip the bench right-side up. Slide shelves into the slots cut in Step 1. (If a shelf is too tight, sand its edges until it fits.) Install the rail cut in Step 3 across the front of the small boxes and open base, flush with the tops of the walls.

 
10 ×

Mount Power Strip

 
Step Ten // How to Build a Tool Bench

Mount Power Strip

Tom Silva and Amy Paladino mount a power strip to the side of the tool bench
Photo by Allison Dinner

Measure the distance between the mounting holes on the back of the power strip. Mark their locations on the side of the bench, above the pegboard. Install the screws and mount the power strip to the side of the bench.

 
11 ×

Add Top

 
Step Eleven // How to Build a Tool Bench

Add Top

Tom Silva and Amy Paladino install the work surface area onto the top of the tool bench
Photo by Allison Dinner

Drill angled pilot holes through the tops of the bench's sides, spacing the holes about 3 inches from the front and back. Screw together two sheets of ¾-inch plywood; cut to size. Center the top on the bench. Attach with screws driven into the top's underside through the holes.

 
 
 

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