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What material for a budget workbench top?

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  • What material for a budget workbench top?

    I'm wondering if anyone has any thoughts on what materials to use to build a decent workbench for hand-tool use? I know Chris Shwartz recommends framing-sized SYP but that seems to be impossible to find in Ontario... All I can find is SPF which is both soft and splinters. Maple and Ash are possibilities but I'm working with a rather limited budget.

  • #2

    Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

    Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

    Try a double layer of 3/4" MDF topped by 1/4" tempered hardboard. The MDF will give you the mass and flatness and the hardboard will take a pounding but still be easy and relatively inexpensive to replace once it's been beaten up over time. That's what I used for my benches back home and what I'll be using here too.
    www.sppss.com
    "God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts!" Sign outside our Pentecostal church.
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    • #3

      Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

      Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

      Hi Graham,

      I have had pretty good success with heavy duty pallets used to move steel. Most of the times these pallets are vertical grain fir and true 4" square.

      Out here on the West Coast we sometimes have homes which are being demolished and you can grab old growth fir from them as well.

      Built my bench out of 4/4 birch and wouldn't do it again. The amount of money spent on glue and the extra wear on the planer knives wasn't worth it. Not to mention the time

      Just my two cents
      Dan Clermont
      Canadian Festool Dealer
      www.ultimatetools.ca

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      • #4

        Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

        Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

        +1 on an MDF or hardboard top....you can flip it to renew the top when it wears, then replace it as needed. Build a frame around it from whatever you have available cheap.

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        • #5

          Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

          Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

          Check out David Marks or the wood whisperer's videos on Torsion Box Constitution its pretty cool man.

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          • #6

            Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

            Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

            My dad used left-over prefinished hardwood flooring on top of 3" fir for his top. I've always used a couple of layers of MDF with hardboard on top. I'm redoing my bench top and this time I think I'll use some 99¢ laminate flooring over the MDF for the top. I'll glue the sections together to form a big sheet and attach it with some screws. Super durable and it will look good...at least for a while. Easy to change when it gets to damaged.
            the other Ken
            ------
            "Each flitch, each board, each plant can have only one ideal use. The woodworker, applying a thousand skills, must find that ideal use and then shape the wood to realize its true potential" - George Nakashima

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            • #7

              Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

              Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

              If you are actually using the bench for hand tools (ie hand planes) and plan to flatten wood on the bench stick to a material which can be flattened (real wood with grain).

              If your intent is to use the bench to clamp, pound chisels, etc then by all means use MDF or some other man made material and flip it once the one side gets worn

              My Two cents
              Dan Clermont
              Canadian Festool Dealer
              www.ultimatetools.ca

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              • #8

                Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

                Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

                Common 2x4 in. stock covered with 3/4 in. plywood.
                Egon
                from
                The South Shore, Nova Scotia

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                • #9

                  Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

                  Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

                  Originally posted by Dan CLermont in Burnaby View Post
                  If you are actually using the bench for hand tools (ie hand planes) and plan to flatten wood on the bench stick to a material which can be flattened (real wood with grain).
                  I should have specified that I'm looking for solid wood. For a variety of reasons, I'm a hand-tools kind of guy. I do have a small table saw, bandsaw and a jointer/planer for bulk removal but really enjoy working with hand planes, chisels, gouges and rasps. The bench will either be a French 'Roubo' style or a continental European design (Klauz/Frid).

                  My issue with wood sources is that SYP seems to be well suited AND inexpensive in the states... there are plenty of local hardwoods in Ontario that are well suited but prices for 8/4 and 12/4 stock would require me to re-morgage.

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                  • #10

                    Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

                    Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

                    would it be possible to find some hardwood flooring that could be used. Sometimes the end stocks are a little cheaper.
                    Egon
                    from
                    The South Shore, Nova Scotia

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                    • #11

                      Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

                      Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

                      fine woodworking had a pretty net bench set up consisting of mdf and pipe clamps

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                      • #12

                        Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

                        Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

                        I have used soft maple for my traditional workbench. It was not too expensive and I found it easy to work with.

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                        • #13

                          Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

                          Local Sawmill

                          There are alot of small sawmills around. I would keep an eye in the pennysaver and call a few mills up to see if they have anything. Alot of maple has dark steaks in it and they often clear it out on the cheap.

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                          • #14

                            Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

                            Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

                            Use the SPF lumber. It works very well, durable...sure, it isn't as pretty as some of the boardroom tables/workbenches that you may see people make, but you won't feel bad drilling into it accidentally.
                            You can plane them flat with handplanes...what else can I say. Cheap as well.
                            I don't recomend using 2x4s however. Buy 2x10s and rip them down to 3" widths. The 2x10s are straighter and not nearly as wet as 2x4s.
                            -------
                            Cheers,
                            --Rick

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                            • #15

                              Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

                              Re: What material for a budget workbench top?

                              I'm a scrounger and a bit of a pack rat so my three benches were built at no material cost.
                              The first bench I built was about 20 years ago. I used that bench in my old shop and recently set it up in my new shop as a metal working bench.
                              DSCF7716.jpg
                              It's constructed from recycled pallets. I don't know what kind of wood it is but its hardwood. It has sagged about 1/32" in the middle but that may be a result of being stored outside for a couple years. The 2"X6" cap on the end (originally part of the end vice) is what I started with for the whole bench.

                              My other two benches are long narrow benches. The tops are made from a solid core door (found) and covered with 1/4" mahogany ply (reclaimed packing material).
                              All are solid as a rock. The wood one is thick enough to be resurface a number of times if needed and the others I can replace the ply when it gets worn. I would have used masonite(hard board) for the tops but the ply was free.

                              Look around in industrial areas. Particularly if there are any metal working companies around you. They use hardwood pallets. Not skids, pallets. I got my pallets at a metal stamping company. They were all 8' 2x6. The pieces all contained the pith which was ripped out and discarded. The remainder was laminated on edge so the top is all quarter sawn grain.

                              FWIW
                              J.P. Rap Mount Hope Ont.
                              Carpe Ductum (Seize The Tape)


                              "In this world, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. Elwood P. Dowd

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