I’ve been pondering and worrying how to actually build the open grid that will form the foundation of my benchwork since I started tearing down the old stuff over a month ago.  My old theory was build the stuff to survive WW3, and then oversize by a bit.  Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I think mountains of 2x4s were some significant overkill for the problem.

My new approach, as suggested by many other modelers, is to use good 3/4″ AC plywood ripped into dimensional strips.  My working theory is to build an open grid where the back will be 4.25″ tall, while the front and cross-members will be 3.25″ tall.

The cross-members will be drilled with several (2-4) 1-1/4″ holes for wire routing towards the front and bottom, and will also have four pocket screw holes drilled.  (I was introduced to the Kreg pocket hole jig earlier this week by Michael Petersen.  It was one of those things that as soon as I saw it in action, I knew I had to have it.  It’s the blue thing in the pictures below.)  Then, using wood glue and a 90 degree clamp, we’ll build up the grid.  Once each piece of grid is built (probably in the garage), it’ll be hauled downstairs and installed on the layout.  The back will be held to the 2x4s with one pocket hole screw and one direct (horizontal) screw.  The lowest level will also likely get a 2″x2″ leg every four feet or so.

The grid will be sized such that the outside dimension, front to back, is 1-1/2″ shorter than the planned finished dimension.  This provides room to attach a 2″x2″ chunk on the front every 16″ or so, and the fascia will eventually mount to these.  That leaves plenty of space for installing switches, indicator lights, cab bus plugs, etc. between the front dimensional member and the hardboard fascia.

I tried building a short piece of this tonight just as a test, and it went spectacularly well.  I’ve included a few pictures from the test.  I’ve got some Iowa Scaled work to do this weekend, and a photo train on the San Luis Central on Sunday, but hopefully I can get some benchwork construction done somewhere in there.

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