Build an Air-Station Assembly Table
A wide variety of air-tools can be used in the shop to assemble projects ranging from small craft items to cabinets and furniture. In most instances, a sturdy workbench or table is needed as a work surface to assemble projects. The air-station shown provides a sturdy work surface as well as storage for air tools and fasteners.
An overhead air supply allows two tools to be ready at all times. A shelf on one end holds glues used in conjunction with air fasteners, or for gluing and clamping projects. The work-surface top extends past both ends and the front providing a place to use clamps to hold materials in place for gluing, sanding or other chores. The air-station is also supplied with electrical power on each end, allowing it to be used as a sanding station as well.
Height is a problem with most stationary work surfaces. A height that is comfortable for working on small projects often isn’t correct for larger projects. The air-station assembly bench shown has dual heights. One-half of one side folds down. When folded up, a 36-by-72-inch work surface is provided at a comfortable 30-inch working height. Folding the one side down provides a 36-by-72-inch work surface that is 18 inches high – a height that is perfect for working on shelves, cabinets and other larger projects. Incidentally, the 30-inch working height is also the same height as the outfeed on my WoodMaster planer, allowing me to also use the work surface as a support for longer pieces being planed.
One section folds down to provide a second “lower” working surface for larger or taller projects.
To create a sturdy, smooth work surface, I used 3/4-inch medium density fiberboard (MDF) panels for the majority of the construction, along with 2-by-4 and 2-by-2 support framing. A cabinet-style facing was applied to support the shelves and finish off the front. You could add drawers and locking doors if you prefer.
Below: Side view (open)
Above: Side view (closed)
Above: Front view
Ends: MDF, 3/4 x 24 x 34-1/2”, 2 req’d.
Front Legs: 2 x 4 x 29-1/4”, 2 req’d.
Rear Legs: 2 x 4 x 14-1/4”, 2 req’d.
Center Divider: MDF, 3/4 x 24 x 70-1/2”, 1 req’d.
Center Divider End Sup. Strengtheners: 1-1/2 x 1-1/2 x 21-1/2”, 2 req’d.
Stationary Top: MDF, 3/4 x 15” x 72”, 1 req’d.
Stationary Top Support: 1-1/2 x 1-1/2 x 68-1/2”, 2 req’d.
Folding Unit Ends: MDF, 3/4 x 13-3/4 x 15”, 2 req’d.
Folding Unit End Strengtheners: 1-1/2 x 1-1/2 x 15”, 4 req’d.
Folding Unit Lower Top: MDF, 3/4 x 18 x 72”, 1 req’d.
Folding Unit Upper Top: MDF, 3/4 x 18 x 72”, 1 req’d.
Folding Unit Horizontal Strengtheners: 1-1/2 x 1-1/2 x 67”, 4 req’d.
Folding Unit Bottom Center Brace: 2 x 4 x 14-1/4”, 1 req’d.
Folding Unit Upper Center Braces: 1-1/2 x 1-1/2 x 10-1/2”, 2 req’d.
Shelves: MDF, 3/4 x 15-3/4 x 68-1/2”, 2 req’d.
Shelf Strengtheners: 1-1/2 x 1-1/2 x 68-1/2”, 4 req’d.
Vertical Front Facers: 3/4 x 2-1/4 x 29-1/4”, cut to fit, 3 req’d.
Vertical Center Strengthener: 1-1/2 x 1-1/2 x 25”, cut to fit, 1 req’d.
Horizontal Facers: 3/4 x 2-1/4 x 70”, cut to fit, 3 req’d.
End Edge Strips: 1/2 x 3/4 x 17”, cut to fit, 6 req’d.
Front Edge Strip: 1/2 x 3/4 x 74”, cut to fit, 1 req’d.
Glue Shelf Bottom: MDF, 3/4 x 3 x 13-1/2”, 1 req’d.
Glue Shelf Ends: MDF, 3/4 x 3 x 3”, 2 req’d.
Glue Shelf Front: MDF, 3/4 x 3 x 13-1/2”, 1 req’d.
Interior Door Butt Hinges, 1 pair req’d.
Screen Door Type Handles, 2 req’d.
Construction begins by cutting the MDF panels to size. Because of their size and weight, it’s easiest to “rough-cut” the panels on a set of low sawhorses. I like to cut them 1/4-inch larger overall. A pair of 2-by-4’s across the sawhorses supports the panels. Set the blade to saw just barely through the panels, cutting slightly into the 2-by-4 supports. A large drywall square makes it easy to lay out the panels for cutting. Once I had all the panels rough cut, I then recut them on a table saw to create perfectly straight and square panels.
Air-station is constructed of MDF and first step is to lay out the pieces using a large dry-wall square.
The Craftsman LaserTrac circular saw makes it easy to “rough-cut” panels to size.
The final cuts to the panels are made on a table saw.
The end pieces are L-shaped. I made the first cuts with a circular saw and completed with a handsaw. Next, cut the 2-by-4 legs. Fasten the end pieces down over the legs, keeping their outside edges flush. Use glue and finish nails. Make sure the nails are flush with the MDF surface.
I partially cut the cut-outs in the end panels with a portable circular saw, and then cut the corners using a saber saw.
Cut the support legs to the correct length and fasten the end panels down on them. Then add strengtheners to the ends of center divider, which is fastened between the ends.
Cut the center divider, which also acts as the back for the permanent high section. Rip 2-by-4’s to create 1 1/2-by-1 1/2-inch stock. Cut two pieces to act as strengtheners on the inside of the case. These are cut 2 1/2 inches shorter than the depth of the sides to allow for 2-by-2 strengtheners along the bottom of the case to support the 3/4-inch bottom shelf. Glue and nail the strengtheners in place. If you prefer to nail from the “inside” on the 2-by-2 strengtheners, use No. 8 nails. I used the new Craftsman utility coil nailer. It’s fast, easy and provides a very strong fastening.
All the strengtheners are ripped from 2-by-4’s.
The next step may require some help in holding the parts together. Stand one end assembly upside-down on a flat, smooth surface and stand the inside divider against it. Assemble with glue and finish nails. One trick to hold the pieces while assembling is to use wood clamps on the bottom edges. Fasten the opposite end piece in place in the same manner. Then carefully turn the unit right side up. It gets easier from now on.
Rip 2-by-2 strengtheners and fasten in place against the upper back and front. Cut the upper top to size and fasten it in place. Note the top fits flush with the back edge of the center divider, but extends past the ends and front. Because the station may be moved around by picking up on the extended top edge, the top is fastened in place with glue and screws down into the 2-by-2 strengtheners and the ends of the legs. The screws are countersunk just below the surface of the top.
Install strengtheners around the top edge of the ends, center divider and front edge, and then fasten the top in place.
I used an air-nailer to fasten the top, followed by screws
on all corners.
Position strengtheners in place on the lower fixed unit, and install the top.
Cut the lower folding unit top to size and fasten it in place in the same manner, using 2-by-2 strengtheners for all edges. Note this lower top extends out past the sides, but not the front edge. Now it’s time to assemble the fold-down section. Cut the “bottom” piece, which will actually be the “top” when folded down. Place this piece on top of the lower top piece and make sure they are both the same size.
Construct the folding unit with strengtheners inside, then hinge it to the fixed lower unit.
Cut the fold-down section end pieces to size. Try-fit them down on the loose top piece and make sure they leave the correct height for the final folding top piece to be flush with the stationary top. Cut 2-by-2 strengtheners and glue and nail them in place into all the center supports. Then fasten the ends down on the folding lower top piece. Fasten the upper top piece in place, again using 2-by-2 strengtheners. Install the hinges to fasten the two pieces together.
Fold down the fold-down section and make sure it works correctly. Note – you will need to have a fairly flat and smooth surface in order for the fold-down section to work properly. Finally, you may wish to install screen-door type handles to help move the folding section.
Rip solid materials 1/2-by-3/4 inches to create a solid wood trim around the top edge where it extends out past the sides and front. This protects the edges of the MDF. Cut the front, bottom shelf strengtheners and fasten them in place. Cut the bottom shelf and place it in position down on the strengtheners. Then fasten the upper shelf in place in the same manner. Cut the front facers and fasten them in place over the front legs, ends and the shelves. Use glue and finish nails. Note that a center (stiffener) facer and strengthener helps support the front of the shelf. Last step in assembly is to make the glue bottle shelf and anchor it to one end.
Add the final trim to the outside edges of the top.
Add shelf strengtheners and install shelves. Notch the shelves to fit around the legs. Note that the top shelf has to be installed in two pieces with a center strengthener added.
Add facings to the front shelves and legs.
Assemble and install the glue shelf.
The electrical supply can consist of electrical boxes and outlets inset in the ends, with a wire running between the two, and a wire with a plug wired-in on one outlet for electrical supply. The simplest method, however, is to simply fasten a corded “surge” protector on each end, or the end you will most commonly be using for electrical supply for your sander or other tools.
When using the top surfaces for gluing and clamping, or gluing and nailing, always cover the surface with a piece of newspaper to prevent glue drips from adhering to the work surface.
A T-fitting is used to provide dual air supply from the compressor, one for the air station, one for other shop use.
The air-station assembly unit is designed to be positioned with access to all sides and ends. Place the unit in the center of the shop if possible. The air supply line can be floor or ceiling run. The most convenient is ceiling installed. Use a solid master hose running from the compressor to the location of the center of the station. Then use a Y air-hose connector to connect in two coil type air hoses. This helps keep the air hoses up out of the way when not in use, but readily available. In most instances, you will probably also wish to have at least one other air hose available for other uses around the shop. The simplest method is to install a 3/8-inch brass plumbing T at the compressor. Then fasten the two air hoses to the T. If you have need for more than two hoses, compressor manifolds with more connections are also available.