Work table construction

Sherry Lee

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Jun 25, 2002
Phoenix, Az.
To all those fantastic carpenters in HH land:
We are about to start making our work table. It will be 6' x 8'. The plan is to have 4' length storage on two sides for foamboard, matboards, etc. This area is to be slotted......there's the BIG question:

What material have you used or would you use to make the slot seperations? It must be absolutely smooth, oil free, and unwarpable.

Any other design ideas are gladly welcomed!!

Thanks for your always!!
:cool: A cooling trend has hit us - only 100 today!
Ooops....a correction:

Make that "To all those fantastic carpenters in GRUMBLE land"!

Copy/paste doesn't have an 'auto revision' factored in...yet!!!
Vertical or horizontal storage? Horizontal is less efficient because of the need for strength from the shelving (3/4" plywood), and the limited amount of sheets per shelf due to weight.
Vertical storage dividers can be made from any of a number of 1/8"-1/4" panels , mdf, flakeboard, masonite (my least favorite, but economical) and faced with sheets of foamboard. The vertical storage unit I have (made by Bainbridge) uses dowels for vertical dividers and horizontal mdf rails for each "pocket". The ones I built use flakeboard (name brand "Aspenite") dividers and flooring from 1x4 clear pine.
Good luck.
Sherry, here is how I've stored my matboard since I moved three years ago. I highly recommend the system. It's one of the few things that never gives me trouble.
Sherry, if you're going to have your primary matboard storage under your bench, I hope you've got a strong back.

Most nurses I know have back problems.

My back was really screaming this morning, but I had no idea you could hear it all the way to Appleton!!!! :eek:

Your system is awesome!! I MAY have room for such in our "press" room but I must utilize space under the work table to be efficient. We have the "Framers Friend" for our mat cutter table and I store some matboards under it. I'd buy two more units but at $1200.00 I think we can do better making it ourselves. And it will look nicer as well.

Thanks so much for forwarding "Taming The Matboard Monster" - I printed it and will evaluate it for, as I said, the "press room". I need storage in there as well. Oh, I"ll be glad when this is done!!! :rolleyes:

I hear you have many neat ideas in your frame shop - by golly, I'm going to get there one of these days and see it "live"!!
Ron and Sherry...

Sherry, if you're going to have your primary matboard storage under your bench, I hope you've got a strong back.
I have my limited matboard at floor level - and I find if I put the sheets in with the identifying numbers at the top edge facing away from where I stand to search - it works really good. The time my back hurts is when I go to my "orphan" matboard file which is also at floor level... some time I'm going to have to elevate and hopefully do the "Ron" system - it's very nice - I had printed that out last year and have it on my wish list!

Ron - you could write a "how to" book for your numerous systems.... I'd be happy to edit for you!!

My mat cutter (48" Chronomat) was just delivered, and now I need a place to put it. Since I will be building my own work table (Unless someone has a nifty idea for a more cost-effective purchase), I need to know how large a surface I need. I can probably assume that "bigger is better", but would like to know what most people consider a minimum size (and when big becomes too big). Also, what about a comfortable surface height? (I am six feet tall).
I am just getting started in this, and realize that when I have more experience, I will want something else. So, I want to avoid using more material (and floor space) than I need to right now.

I built exactly what you are talking about 16 years ago and still use it in my shop today. It has stood the test of time and the dividers haven't warped, shrunk, bent out of shape, or otherwise taken a turn for the worse.

I have to leave for church now but I will take some closeups of the dividers and post them when I return. These benches have been posted here and on the Aussie Grumble a number of times in the past so you might want to do a search in the archives.

(They were also shown in a feature article in an old Decor on storage areas. Sept. '93, I think.)

I'll bet you're anxious to get that Chronomat set up, huh?

There is an excellent little book called something like Work Tables and Fixtures for the Frameshop. You could probably get it from Decor, the PPFA or maybe even L-J. (Or possibly from Jo-Ann Fabrics.)

4'x8' makes a nice workbench, especially since the 3/4" panels happen to come that size for tops. Not sure about the height. I'm 6'2", and I've never suffered from chronic back troubles while cutting mats, so I'll measure my bench when I get to the shop and let you know.

For the mat cutter, you need the work surface to be certifiably flat, not almost flat. For a while, I used a solid core door for my mat cutter work top. It was flat and moving it around was good practice for moving a CMC or a Vacuseal press.

I've had employees that were about 5'2" and some that were taller than me (and a couple of lefties) but I figured I would be the one constant, so everything is designed around me.*

Turns out that was the right decision.

* Wouldn't it be nice if the whole world was made that way?

UNDEAD THREAD ALERT! Sherry is probably all set since she posted her question over a year ago.

Focus on Joseph now! He's got a new mat cutter and nowhere to put it.
That's correct.....our new studio was opened for business nearly one year ago to date!

MANY Grumble and Hitchhiker pros gave us input, advice, tips and warnings on work table construction. We LOVE the end result. I can't begin to thank everyone, but Ron, Cliff, John, Ellen, Jerry, and others were kind enough to help - even many sent pictures of their own.

If you happen to have the April, 2004 "Framing Business News" hanging around, our work table is pictured and described in their article, "Space, The Final Frontier" by Tricia Bisoux - on page 12. And if you look real close to the picture on the right, you'll see OUR mascot in the door shadow. Yep, Punkin made the papers!!! :D The pictures aren't all conclusive and the walls/carpet colors aren't anything close, but you get the idea.

Joseph, this article has other ideas in it as well, so take a look. They also have a website in which you can look up articles:

Hope this helps a little....OR a lot!!

Thanks for the headsup, Ron. I just popped onto the G before my ride came to pick me up and didn't look at the posting date. Sorry.


If you need any further ideas for kyour table, let me know. One thing, I used a sheet of 1" plywood for my table top and cut another one shorter and placed it on top for an offset to accomodate the mat cutter, if that helps. All of my tables are 4' wide by 6' - 8' long and stand 39" high which is the optimum height for a guy like me who atands 5'11". Ron has a good point about building the tables to suit whomever is going to use them the most.

Also, even with those dimensions, I can still move the tables through a 3'0 exterior door by unscrewing the tops and the kick area under the table and turning the tables on their sides. I have moved them twice now since I built them and had no problem getting them into or out of a building.

I'm in the process of designing a new fabricating facility for what will be a new business adventure. I'm combining my business with a drapery/soft furnishings workroom so I need to build some rather unique worktables for rough woodworking, framing, fabric cutout, fabric ironing, and sewing. Some of the tables will be 6' wide x 16' and 20' long for the fabric fabricators. My side will be 6x8, 4x8 and I think I'll put the press on a 4x6 with casters. (And you think you have problems!) I've decided to use Kee Klamps and 1" black pipe (schedule 40) for the bases on all the worktables. Mostly because I'll need to assemble them fast and they need to be very sturdy. I also want to put casters on most of them so I can reconfigure the workspace fairly easily as we adapt it to suit our future growth or change in work patterns. The undercounter storage will just about have to be horizontal (just fine for rolls of fabric) due to the casters so I intend to use storage units against the wall for mats and glass. When I was in L-J the other day I saw a setup I liked and will copy for myself. They used 4'x6' heavy duty shelving units (like you buy from Graingers or other industrial supply for about $200 each) and drilled holes in the shelves and used electrical conduit (cheaper than dowels) dropped down through them for dividers. Looked pretty good and sturdy enough for boxes of glass I think. They used pieces of cardboard to protect the mats from the pipes. I'll be using carts made from the same connectors and 3/4" pipe for finished framing.

Don't look for any pictures soon....we haven't even negotiated on the location yet (but we did find one this week). Lot's of plans, very little time....
something to think about is making a sytem that can help you in the future. sometimes big bulky tables can be bad for a smaller shop, however two tables that can combine when need be can be a great help. maybe a table with a leaf, or a table that the sides fold down and can be put up for larger projects-think ikea. they have great ideas for small spaces that can be incorporated into a shop space. i might not use their stuff, but i would borrow their ideas to make a shop more user friendly.
Thanks for all the suggestions. Whatever I build will be constructed with an eye towards dismantling/reconfiguring in the future. Right now I want to find that "sweet spot" between "too small to function" and "too big to move around it".


Yes, the industrial shelving units will hold glass. I build storage shelves 8 years ago that way. For HEAVY storage do not exceed the 5 foot sections. Yes mat board as well as glass is heavy. The MDF board shelves should be used with a hold drilled only 1/3 - 1/2 way through the bottom and top shelves based on a 3 shelve system (96" high). I happen to use 5 pipes across (three sections) and 3 deep for my 48" deep shelves. Most of my board is divided using Crescent-Bainbridge boxes the board comes in (7 per divider).

Yes, add on units can be purchased and the system can sometimes be purchased used at factory closing auctions.