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!