Building a Work Table


I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about a table in my entire life.  This table is part of a complete upgrade of my workspace (ahem, garage) that I’ve been planning for months, and so I’m thrilled to finally be under way.  The centerpiece of it all is a 26’X4′ work table.  The table will be broken into three respective sections, and so I will progress down the table as I go from cutting the dry fabric, to wetting it out and cutting it to size, and then finally putting it on the mold and vacuum bagging it.  The table top is made of four 26′ long 8″ steel studs, which are 16 ga thick.  Needless to say, they are very beefy.  The fact that the studs are very straight makes it quite easy to make the entire table flat and level.  The legs and cross members are made of 1/8″ wall 2″ mild steel square tubing.  I welded them up using my little Lincoln MIG welder.  It had been quite some time since I did any welding, and so as these things go, by the time I got to the last few legs, I was happy with my welds.  On the suggestion of Ralph Royer of RCR Fabrication, I drilled all the holes oversize and then inserted bushings into the legs so that the bolts would not compress the steel tube.  I spent a good deal of time trying to decide the best way to make 2″ bushings that would fit a 3/8″ bolt.  What I eventually settled on was to buy some 2″ long, 1/2″ OD, 1/4″ ID zinc plated steel spacers from McMaster-Carr.  Those were perfect except for the ID dimension, which I opened up on a lathe quickly and easily.  By keeping the OD of the spacers to 1/2″, I could use a Irwin #2 Step Drill to drill out the holes in the legs.  Since the #2 step drill ends in a 1/2″ step, it was really easy to open up all the holes in the legs.  Here is what the hardware end of the legs look like:

Here is one of the mid span assemblies from the top and bottom.  The diagonal cross brace is 1″X1″ angle iron:



Here is one of the legs at the table ends.  The steel track added to the end of the table is not intended to be structural – it is just to cap the ends of the studs so I don’t bump into them.  There is a cross bar just like the mid table legs supporting the ends of the studs:


The goal was to keep the table as flat and level as possible with the tools on hand.  A big part of how this was achieved was by assembling the table in place, and never disassembling it.  So, all the holes in the steel weldments were drilled ahead of time, and then once they were clamped in place and the table adjusted and checked with the laser level, the steel studs were drilled in assembly and then bolted.  That way, once the table was set, it stayed set.  The cross beams supporting the middle studs proved the hardest to drill in assembly, since they were bolted into the leg weldments instead of the much thinner studs.  A combination of jobber length drills, extension drills and step drills had to be used to get a 1/2″ hole in the weldments that lined up with the holes in the cross bars.  Once we had a system figured out, it was pretty easy, but it definitely took some thinking.  I can run a square across every stud at every position on the table, and it looks like this:

The width of the laser beam is centered on the hash mark for the 7.  I’ll take it!  Next up I’ll mount the table tops, which will be secured from below so as to leave the tops unblemished.  After that, there’s a whole host of improvements I’ll be making including adding more lights and electrical, totally redoing my fabric racks , installing a compressor and upgrading my resin pump.

5 Responses to “Building a Work Table”
  1. Ralph Royer says:

    Looks fantastic! Congratulations. I look forward to seeing one of the forms too. Cheers – r2

  2. Jeff Miller says:

    Sky, you are leading the charge.

    Great ideas. Great craftsmanship. I for one am going to be building some tables by the end of summer. It is so kind of you to lead the way. Don’t be surprised if my tables look a lot like yours!

    Thanks, Jeff Miller

    • Thanks Jeff! There are a few little things I would have done differently, but overall the design and assembly method worked really well. Let me know if you want any guidance, I’d be more than happy to help.


  3. Where can one find 1/8″ wall 2″ mild steel square tubing? And tell me more about your welder. I’m kind of in the “welder” market! Thanks!

    • Tony –

      Any local metal fabrication shop should be able to supply you with steel tubing. As for my welder, I have a Lincoln MIG welder that runs on 120V AC power. I bought that one since I don’t have 220V in my garage. Home Depot sells Lincoln welders, but beware – they are “cheaper” versions (in every respect) than the ones you would get at a welding shop. It’s costs a bit more to get the “real” Lincolns (Millers are good too) but it seems to be worth it. I would suggest going to your local welding supply house and seeing what they have. If you have 220V where you will be welding, by all means get a bigger welder that can take advantage of that. -Sky

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