A Workshop Reborn

Remaking a cluttered work area into a showpiece with metal pegboard, a heavy-duty workbench and rolling tool storage.

When I first set up my basement workshop nearly 15 years ago, I didn't have much time or money to invest, so I just banged together a workbench out of beams and plywood and mounted a sheet of perforated pegboard to the wall. This rudimentary layout served me wellover the years. The workbench provided a large surface on which to build projects and fi x furniture, and the pegboard kept dozens of hand tools neatly organised and readily accessible. Eventually, though, the system became overloaded. The workbench got buried under an impenetrable pile of old tools,half-done projects and stacks of lumber.

The pegboard ran out of space for any more hooks, and it strained under the weight of my ever-growing tool collection. It was clear that my shop needed a facelift. But rather than just tidying up the tools and clearing off the workbench, I decided to strip the entire space down to the bare floor and walls and start from scratch. My primary goal was to create a better- organised work space, but I also wanted it to look great. So I built it out of materials not ordinarily found in a home shop, including fat black iron pipe, rock-hard maple butcher block and metal pegboard. I couldn't be happier with the results.

Installing the pegboard

At first glance, it may seem that commercial- quality metal pegboard is just too extravagant for residential use. Maybe. But my old pegboard sagged, and hooks came loose as the holes elongated. The diamond plate I used will easily stand up to the rigours of an active workshop.

Besides, it's just plain cool - an important performance characteristic in my book. In South Africa, an alternative to the diamond- plate pegboard is the “Industrial Perfo” available from Metmeister (www.metmeister.co.za ). Its 10 mm square holes are spaced at 40 mm centres, and accessory hooks enable implements to be hung from them.

True, this stuff is several times more expensive than the pegboard I replaced, but it's about in line with other top-quality building materials.

I was able to install the pegboard in minutes. In my case, the panels needed to be fastened to a concrete-block wall. I used a hammer drill and a carbide-tip masonry drill to bore the required holes through the panel and into the masonry (1). The panels come with small peel-andstick plastic spacers that maintain the proper distance from the wall so the the homeowner can insert hooks (2).

With mounting holes bored and spacers applied, all that remained was to drive the fasteners home. I used 5 mm x 6 cm masonry screws and turned them in with an ordinary cordless drill driver (3) - no heavy equipment necessary.

About the only tricky thing that you may have to do is cut the pegboard to fit around outlet boxes (4). I used a jigsaw and a high-speed steel blade with teeth shaped to cut aluminium. The simplest way to make these openings is to saw a U shape and then cut out the corners.

Building the workbench

I like the old-fashioned, robust look of 40 mm threaded steel pipe. Years ago, you had to cut and thread such pipe yourself, but these days, your local builder's supply centre should be able to do the work for you. That made it an easy material for building the legs of my workbench - one that gave me both a solid frame and a distinctive look.

Working with pre-cut threaded pipe is very simple and convenient. I put together two assemblies, each one shaped like an H and made of five straight lengths joined by a pair of T fittings. Four floor flanges are threaded onto the top and bottom of the vertical legs of each H. Each fl ange is nothing more than a disc of metal with a large threaded hole in its centre and smaller unthreaded holes drilled through its circumference.

To dress up the pipe, I individually spray-painted each part with a glossy black paint that has a hammered texture. Before applying the paint, I wiped down the steel with a clean rag moistened with mineral spirits and covered the threads with masking tape. Keeping the threads bare of paint enabled me to turn the vertical parts of the H in and out during the assembly, so I could fine-tune the components and make sure everything was the same height - an especially important consideration on a wavy concrete workshop floor.

From there, I simply had to remove the tape, turn the pieces together by hand and snug them up with a pair of pipe wrenches (5). Then I spun on each floor flange (6). To install the leg assembly, I flipped the top over and used a drill driver to bore pilot holes and drive hefty wood screws through the flange holes and into the top (7). A word of advice if you do this project: don't undersize the pilot holes. The laminated top is very tough, and it doesn't take screws easily. Once the top was installed, I built the tool-hanging backsplash/shelf and screwed it to the top's back edge (8). When everything was done, I rolled two Craftsman tool cabinets into place (8) and put my tools away - in their sleek new home.

View Original Article