Home Improvement : How to Build a Solid Workbench, Step by Step : Do-It-Yourself: A well-planned home work station organizes your tools and provides a hub for home repair.

Michael J. Presutti is a Staten Island, N.Y., contractor and free-lance writer.

How often have you needed a tool and couldn't find it? You looked everywhere and finally found it two weeks later in a milk crate you had stored in the basement.

Master tradesmen and top executives all agree that the key to success is organization. A well-built, well-planned work bench can organize your work tools. It serves as a work station and provides your home with a hub for home repair.

Pick a good location. You should be able to maneuver a 4- by 8-foot sheet of plywood easily into it. For many of us, this may be our garage, and for others, it may be our basement.

The material list for an average bench measuring 6-by-3-by 3 feet is:

--One sheet of three-quarter-inch plywood or particle board.

--Three 12-foot-long, 2-by-6-inch Douglas fir for under the plywood top.

--Two 12-foot, 2-by-8-inch Douglas fir, for body.

--One 10-foot, 2-by-8-inch Douglas fir, for body.

--One 12-foot, 4-by-4-inch, treated, for legs.

--One 12-foot, 2-by-4-inch, treated, for bottom shelf.

--Three 12-foot, 1-by-4-inch, treated.

--One sheet of peg board.

--Three 4-by-4-inch shelf brackets.

--Twelve 6 1/2-by-one-half-inch wide bolts with washers and nuts.

--Three pounds 16-penny common nails.

--One pound 8-penny common nails.

--One pound 6-penny common nails.

You can skew this list to accommodate your own size bench.

Building it will take five to six hours of your undivided attention. Start by cutting all the parts necessary for assembly. Make each of the 4-by-4 legs 36 inches. The 12-foot, 2-by-8 should be cut into two 6-foot boards. Make sure both are equal in size. Let's call these the front and back boards.

Now cut the remaining 2-by-8s into 33-inch boards. Let's call these joists. There should be seven of these. Cut the 12-foot, 2-by-4 into two 69-inch boards. We'll call these shelve boards. Cut the 1-by-4s into 33-inch planks. We'll call these planks.

Now cut the 12-foot, 2-by-6s into 6-inch boards. We'll call these top planks. Finally, cut the sheet of plywood into a 6-by-3-feet rectangle.

Lay the front and back boards side by side, flat on the floor. Mark on 12-inch centers the space for the joist to be attached.

Attach the joist to the front and back boards using four 16-penny nails on each side. Make sure to include a joist on each side of the front and back boards. Once you have this assembled, it should resemble storage shelves that have fallen over.

Now fasten the 4-by-4 legs to the body. In each corner, drill two five-eighth-inch holes through the front or back boards, and one through the side joist. Make sure that the hole you drill in the side joist is between the two holes you drilled through the front board.

Now put the leg in the corner and mark the three holes. Drill these marks through the 4-by-4 leg. Again place the leg in the corner and slip the bolts, washers and nuts into place. Don't tighten them taut. Repeat this procedure with the rest of the legs.

Once all the legs are in place, turn the bench on its legs. Now measure down 2 feet from under the 2-by-8 front and back boards. Make a mark 1 3/4 inch in from the edge of the 4-by-4. This should be the middle. Drill holes through the 4-by-4 at this mark. Do the same to all four legs (see diagram).

Now measure in 1 3/4 inches from each end of the 2-by-4 shelf boards and mark it in the middle. Drill these holes and attach them with bolts, washers and nuts. Now tighten all the nuts and bolts.

Lay the planks along the shelf boards like railroad ties and nail them with 8-penny nails. Nail the 2-by-6 top planks onto the top of the joist with 10-penny nails, then put the plywood atop the 2-by-6 top planks and nail down the plywood work surface with 6d nails.

Add your accessories: a peg board, shop light, other shelves, hooks and hangers.

This is one job that you shouldn't just jump into once you've read this column. You should let ideas enter your head, write them down and then plan your execution.

Remember, when planning your bench and work area that it should be comfortable and conducive to work. It will become a place to organize your thoughts as well as your tools.

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