Sort of like a modular layout, the benchwork was made in eight foot sections (the length of a sheet of plywood) The front edge of the section and the "ribs" were made from 2" wide strips. The ribs were generally spaced 12" apart (while this was great for supporting roadbed, I quickly found it to be a real pain when I wanted to stand up through the bendchwork with my 18" belly). The back edge of the benchwork module was made from a 6" wide piece of plywood. I did this to provide a wider surface to screw into the wall studs. All the plywood pieces were joined with pocket screws; two screws for each joint with no glue used. If you haven't used this technique before, it's quick and strong.
A 2 by 4 curving wall was built through out the room to separate the aisles. The 2 by 4s were laid flat to take up less space. The included photos should show all this better. Each benchwork section was assembled in the downstairs shop and carried upstairs to the layout room.
The eight foot sections were screwed to each other as well as the wall studs. The lower level benchwork was set at about 36" and the upper level at 61". Rail height on the lower level is about 42" and the upper level the rails are about 64". For the lower level, it was easy to support the benchwork with 2 by 4 legs. The trick, of course, is to support the upper level. For the narrow sections of the benchwork, the 6" back edge provided enough rigidity without any additional support. However, the wide sections needed additional help.
I tried to solve this problem using two approaches... by supporting the upper level with support legs from the lower level benchwork. The other approach was to use 1/8" metal rods from the ceiling joists down to the upper level benchwork. (Before the drywall was installed in the layout room, I marked on the floor the location of all wall studs and all the ceiling joists as well as any other special items like electrical and pipes. This provided easy reference later when I needed to find them). The rods are threaded and include a turnbuckle so I can adjust them if the benchwork starts to sag under more weight. These supports will be kept behind the backdrops so they won't show. While the upper level isn't as stiff as I'd like, I think it will be okay, but I may need to take additional steps as the project moves along.
|The center wall from early days of construction. Blue tape on floor marks the edge of the benchwork.|
|Benchwork section showing 2" wide plywood front and ribs.|
|Upper level benchwork. screwed into wall studs.|
|Pocket screws attaching rib to front edge.|
|Pocket screws attachinng rib to back edge of section.|
|Back of benchwork section attached with drywall screws into wall studs.|
|Close up of screws into wall. Benchwork section resting on ledger previously set at correct height.|
|Upper level bracing rising up from top of lower level benchwork.|
|Metal rods supporting upper level benchwork suspended from ceiling joists. Turnbuckles close to ceiling.|