What do you do with a discarded kitchen base cabinet from long ago. If you are like me you salvage it for your shop!
That is what I did. After moving into our new residence some five months ago, I pulled this cabinet from the wall in the basement and couldn’t wait to repaint it. The bright red paint slopped on it by a previous homeowner didn’t appeal to my shop sense. Once I did that, I immediately discovered that it was handmade. It has a face frame made of yellow pine along with some hardwoods like birch. The drawers were made from popular. Since the craftsman didn’t use particle board and very little plywood, it got me excited. I was further delighted to see some saw marks from a hand saw. The cabinet is solid and sports rabbet joints and nail construction.
To re-purpose it, I attached a solid wood top made from 3 salvaged 2 by 12s, edge glued, and made the width to be flush with the legs. The top of the bench is 27 1/2″ wide. The top once surface planed and sanded is about 1 3/8″ thick, but okay for my purposes. I’ve seen antique benches that sported thinner tops than the 3-5″ tops being advocated nowadays. To reinforce the base, I built two leg assemblies so each side of the cabinet has a solid mounting for the top. Carriage bolts were used to attach the top to the framing at each end. The cabinets rest on two 2 by 4’s that are half lapped onto the backside of the legs which are doubled 2 by 6’s. The half lapped joints are bolted together with 5/16- 3/8 diameter carriage bolts. The legs at each end are assembled with upper and lower stretchers (2 by 4’s doubled at top and 2 by 6’s doubled at the base. The legs and stretchers are held together with mortise and tenon joints that were drawbored. To stiffen the cabinet assembly I added a piece of 3/4 inch thick plywood that was screwed to the back. I also used steel corner braces inside the cabinet to beef up the structural integrity of the nailed together case work.
For clamping I made a leg vise on the left side of the bench using an antique wooden screw of 2 inch diameter and installed a used Columbia 5″ wide shop vise for the tail vise. I am sure that it will make for a nice bench that is located along the wall. I patterned my leg vise to have a chop of 10″ width at the upper part and then made it progressively narrower toward the base. I used 2″ thick cherry for the chop. This was following the vise chop design that Chris Schwarz sports in his woodworking book on benches. I still need to carefully fit the wooden vise screw to the leg vise chop, add some trim pieces, and then fabricate and add a thick vise chop to the tail vise. The drawers and knobs will be returned to the casework also.
Admittedly, it looks tall in the picture at 36 1/2″ and it is a few inches taller than my other benches. It will be less desirable for some hand planing operation too, but I think it will work for me. In defense of my lofty bench, I’ve noted that some woodworking writers have mentioned bench heights reaching this one or higher, so I though it worth doing. It is my belief that it will be quite useful for some woodworking operations, possibly chair making and woodcarving operations, and to also serve as a platform for some of my sharpening equipment. Maybe this will encourage you to build a workbench using your own creativity and by re-purposing some old cabinets too. If nothing else it will still function as a counter top.