Skip to content

Closet-Made: A Workbench Wonder

David Willis shares his secrets to a modeling hideaway.

Last year, when I learned that my job would probably necessitate a move, I must admit to a bit of self-centered panic. I knew there was no way that the old wardrobe which contained my workbench would make the move. My brothers and I had virtually destroyed it during my last move, and it was held together with “spit and chicken-wire”, as my dad used to say. I began to fret that my modeling might be relegated to a card table in the corner of the garage. But those fears were unfounded as God blessed us with a house with a spare bedroom. Now the bedroom has been made the official man-cave, and its closet, which has become my modeling space, is the subject of this article.

My first step in getting the closet ready for its “modeling” career, was to refer to the May 1998 issue of Fine Scale Modeler magazine, in which an author converts a coat closet into a work space. Working from that, and from my own experience of putting a workbench in a wardrobe, I started my labor of love on this project.

photo-1The closet that would house my workbench measures 47″ deep, by 45″ in width. I was equipped with a combination shelf/clothes rack, that will serve well as a stash holder, but it didn’t have any electricity. I’m no electrician, so I hired an electrician to put a plug inside the closet. Because the bill included some other work performed around the house besides installing this outlet, as best I can tell, this cost around $30…a small price to pay to have it installed correctly.

Next I determined that I wanted the workbench to be at bar-height (about 36″) from the floor. I used a laser level to connect the marks I made on the wall indicating this measurement. I then proceeded to search out and mark the studs using a stud-finder. Because this is a closet, not all of the wall studs are on 16″ centers as is the norm here in the US, I wanted to do this step up front so that I could better estimate the placement, and size of the bench, as well as any accompanying shelving.

photo-2The next step was to determine the size of the bench top. Because these measurements are relative, I won’t bore you with their inclusion. Instead, I’ll bore you with this sentence. After the wood (1×18 inch board found in the “Projects” section of Lowe’s) was cut to dimension, a test fit verified the placement. With this settled, I began the process of affixing the shelf brackets to the wall with lag bolts. I alternated lightweight brackets with heavyweight, iron brackets in order to allow ample legroom under the bench.

photo-3Before attaching the bench top, I notched a 1×6 inch portion out of the wall-side of the board to facilitate power cords. While there was an overhead light fixture in this walk-in closet, I knew that light would be a potential issue. So before I installed the bench, I took a page from the armor interior playbook and painted the bench bright, glossy white. It makes a HUGE difference. When the paint dried, I attached the top to the brackets from the bottom side using 3/4″ woodscrews.

photo-4I could smell the finish line at this point, and I began to layout a power supply. This was pretty straightforward. I hooked up a heavy-duty power strip, pushed the well-insulated, main cable into the crease between the carpet and baseboard, and placed the outlets right beneath the notch in the workbench.

photo-5This provided ample outlets for my Dremel Tool, and the lighting that I added to the bench top. So far I’ve added an 18″ fluorescent Tru-Light, and two desktop Ott-Lites. This set- up serves to virtually eliminate all shadows on the bench top.

photo-6Other add-ons include my homemade paint shelf, a multi-drawer storage bin, and a 4 drawer laundry room container to hold my chemicals. I also added a sweet, University of Alabama pegboard with strategically placed pegs. I can uncover the logo when they beat Auburn, and cover it up when they stink-it-up like they did in the Sugar Bowl. Last but not least, a gel-seat, adjustable draftsman’s chair with a footrest rounds out this mini modeling get-away.

In retrospect, I think the two best unforeseen benefits of this project are its compact space, and the door. The compact space almost forces me to keep an organized workbench. The door insures that when I don’t want to keep an organized workbench, no one has to know!

Model on!

16 thoughts on “Closet-Made: A Workbench Wonder”

  1. What a timely piece as I am in the midst of putting together my own “man cave” for modeling. I have a similar closet and have pondered installing my workbench in there in order to “hide” the mess when I don’t want to be organized… Great artcle.

  2. Great bench! Now you have to get it dirty! 😉

    Seriously, I like how you were able to plan for power and light for the space. The blank slate really made it easier for you.


  3. Very nice. Looks like a really cozy and peaceful cave. I had something similar years ago..great place just
    LOVING the pegboard….gotta get me a pegboard…must have pegboard.

  4. Thanks Stew and Brad!

    It really was pretty easy, and that’s coming from a person who is NOT, I repeat NOT, a handyman at ALL. If you’ve got any savvy at all related to carpentry it will be a breeze.

    I’ve got a couple of screws I stripped out, at least one hole in the sheet rock where the drill slipped, and a couple of other brain-dead calamities I didn’t include in the article.

    I highly recommend a bench that can be hidden!

  5. Thanks Scott and Dave!

    Yep, the pegboard rocks and it’s so easy to install. Just hung a new Zimmerit tool and some Milliput on it yesterday! Keeps it all right at your fingertips.

  6. Love the idea. I have a whole room that needs to be downsized and that looks perfect. Could you please explain your homemade paint rack? I have tried a bunch of different ways and I’m not happy with any of them.

  7. Thanks for the comments Carl & Roy!

    Painting is relegated to the garage! There is some walled-up expansion space in the house, so a spray booth is on the “long-list” at this point!

  8. Hi there.

    until I saw this little story I thought I was the only one who used a closet. I live in an apartment and I use the storage closet off the living/dining room for my model workbench.

    Its 4 ft by 3 ft I used a roll around shop tool box in the back, a custom built work surface that used to be an old bookshelf, and used some of the same book shelf to make a custom shelf above and a few added storage bins for the rest.

    the links to a old photo of it.. been using it for about 8 years now..


  9. Delby,

    The closet is the way to go. I love being able to hide the mess! Your bench looks great!


  10. Very cool idea. This has got me thinking about doing mine up like that, but I have no idea where I would store the stash. I have been a carpenter several years now, and your comment about the hole in the drywall and stripped out screws made me laugh, it happens to everybody, your just man enough to admit it!

  11. Great job!……….I love these small spaces(had one in a garage closet a few years back……As we can see with a little planning, a great workspace can be created……….

  12. I must say that I. Just happened to stumble upon your site and was quite happy to see a fellow modeler who also likes to scream ROLL TIDE ROLL.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.