There are a ton of options when it comes to workbench joinery; from pocket holes to mortises with haunched, wedged through tenons.  So which joinery should you choose?  Two qualifiers come to my mind almost immediately; strength and how easy the joint is to make.  Most of the time you will be looking for a balance of those two.  I think I have made a joint that fits that balance quite well.  It’s what I’ll call a mitered rabbet lap joint.  Or I suppose you could call it a mitered dado lap joint.  But the rabbet could refer to the rail and not the leg, so I’ll just stick with calling it a lapped mitered rabbet, or mitered rabbet lap joint.  Okay I’m beginning to annoy myself with all that.  Back to the point at hand.  This joinery method is really nice and to say I’m a fan would be an understatement.  It is extremely resistant to racking because of the two shoulders on the lower dados, one shoulder on the upper rabbets, and the huge amount of glue surface on face grain.  The lower shoulder on both the dado and rabbet give the 2×4 rails a ton of load strength.  Add to that the mitered ends on the rails that not only look good, but also keep the end grain from being exposed to the weather, and you have a heck of a workhorse joint.  I used deck screws to attach the rails to the legs but this joint lends itself to a few options there as well.  Other times I have used hardwood pegs for the complete fastener free experience.  You could make the pegs from a contrasting wood color for some well intended juxtaposition, or use a similar wood species so the pegs end grain is only slightly darker in appearance once finished.  If you are interested in building a workbench or an outdoor bench like this, I have a complete set of measured drawings with cut list available.


So what does this all mean?  It means my wife wanted a work surface for her newfound hobby of outdoor gardening and I took that as my time to geek out about woodworking and make her something that will last her many years.  Speaking of many years, if you have already watched the video you may have noticed something odd getting blurred out on the bottom of the bench.  I’m only addressing it here as I know I’ll get questions about it.  If you have followed me for a while you may know that I am very nostalgic.  Most of the time my taste in furniture is dictated by form following function.  Meaning if it has a certain line, curve, bracket, spacing, etc., chances are that element has a function.  Furniture that gets its good looks from being designed to work well for a purpose.  Pieces like that tend to last the test of time which brings me back to my nostalgic side.  It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside thinking that something I made could outlast me many times over.  If that’s the case, it should have a story, it should have a history.  So what was that blurred out mess?  Simply put, it was an inscription to my wife as well as a provenance.  Sometimes I don’t mind showing what is written on my projects and other times I think it should be kept to whom it is intended for or may see the piece after I’m gone.  Food for thought I suppose.  If you don’t at least sign and date your projects, I highly suggest it.  I know it’s going to make me sound a few eggs short of a dozen, but that final step seems to let me release it so to speak.  It’s the cherry on top or the birth of the soul of the piece.  They don’t all have to be Smithsonian bound pieces of artwork either.  Adding that simple inscription changes it from some glued and screwed 2×4’s to an object with history and a story behind it.  At least for me it does.  Either way, thanks for checking it out and enjoy!




miter saw

Craftsman 10″ Miter Saw

drill set

DeWalt Drill / Impact Set



Craftsman Power Sweeper Blower




bus box



Halcyon Marine Spar Varnish

Clear Marine Varnish


outdoor wood glue

Outdoor Wood Glue


dowel centers kit

Dowel Kit With Dowel Centers


workbench measurements


16 pages of high quality, full color PDF workbench plans as well as the potting bench I made in episode 89.  All downloadable products are non-refundable.  On checkout receipt you will be given a link to download the file.

Product Description

A solid bench to work from is invaluable.  Whether it is in the shop or in the garden I think you will love how this comes together.  The joinery is surprisingly easy to do and rock solid!  This affordable bench design is meant to take abuse and last for many years.

What you get:

16 pages of highly detailed full color drawings

Includes Both:

  • The indoor workbench w/ plywood shelf & top
  • Outdoor potting workbench with slats for the top & shelf

Materials / Shopping list

Complete measured cut list & cutting plan for both plywood & dimensional lumber

Detailed pictures & exact measurements on all the joinery

Tips on workbench tops

Finishing Choices & Tips


workbench plans

You will need Adobe Acrobat reader to view the file.  Most computers already have this installed.  For a free download click here.



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6 Responses

  1. David Moffitt

    Nick, awesome project. I have been thinking about building the same for some time, but I didn’t want to see any of the hardware. The dowels did the trick. Thanks for sharing this in so much detail.

    • Nick

      thanks David – this one took me a long time to put together so I’m glad you appreciate the details – this project comes together really nicely and is a fun build

  2. bob hutchins

    Well done, Nick\! I did something similar years ago including the grill area that lets excess soil fall thru. I was asked later to add shelves above the table top for storing pots and tools. Even later I added a bin on the lower shelf to hold potting soil. I made it tilt forward so that the soil could be easily accessed.

    Alas, I didn’t use white cedar; so it eventually failed in the weather; but it must have taken about 10 years or so. I’m betting that your’s will last a lot longer.

    • Nick

      thanks much – My wife and I have already talked about add-on’s to the bench similar to what you mentioned – I can see myself doing that in the future – I hope this holds up – time will tell on the finish

  3. Daniel

    It’s a beautiful bench! It is easy to see it was a labor of love. I’m glad you showed in detail how to make the mitered lap joint as I had tried to sort it out in my own mind for an earlier project; it didn’t happen. Now I feel confident I will be able to use it in the future.

    • Nick

      very cool to hear that – glad I can help with some inspiration/confidence!


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