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Blog entry by LeChuck posted 01-09-2010 04:44 PM 5049 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

As I’m setting up and building my workshop, and seeing all those really nice workbenches built by woodworkers here, I’m thinking that I’d really love to build my own, but how to build a piece that will last me a long time while keeping the cost down on a limited budget.

Hardware will cost money. I’ll have to buy a couple decent quality vises, so I’ll need to keep the cost of wood down.

For the base, I’m thinking that I could go for construction grade pine, as it’s readily available in stores around here in a good array of dimensions. That would allow for building a nice solid trestle base and could probably look nice with a good finish, perhaps some staining. Maybe I’ll find a source for some inexpensive hardwood instead.

Now the idea I’m having for the top is the following:

Several months ago, I bought for about 150€, or was it 100€, about 30m² of really old, super tough oak flooring. It was used in a chevron pattern so the boards are all small, but I’ve got a huge pile of them. The boards were glued down with some kind of tar so many of them still need to be cleaned up. They also have slightly angled sides.

Oak flooring boards

All in all, once cleaned up, flattened (they are already mostly flat, but I’ll lose some thickness cleaning them up, including a slight layer of finish or patina), and cut to size, I would end up with boards that would be about 38cm long, 8cm wide, and 2cm thick.

This means that I could use about 100 of these boards together in a double thickness to come up with a flat workbench top of about 180×60cm, or 70×25 inches, which I think would be good for my room (plus all around apron). It would be 4cm thick, a bit over 1.5”. Seeing how strong and dense (and heavy) this oak is, that would provide for a very solid top.

I’m now wondering how to best join all these boards. The latest FWW issue shows a technique of a 3-board sandwich used by Garrett Hack to make a bench top. I’d be using only 2 boards for the thickness, and would need about 5 of them to make one length. I guess using 3 boards is an option for a thickness but that would make that top incredibly heavy. I need to find a scale in order to estimate the weight of the finished top…

If anyone reading this has some ideas…shoot away!

-- David - Tucson, AZ

5 comments so far

View Jimi_C's profile


507 posts in 4729 days

#1 posted 01-09-2010 05:00 PM

I’d laminate them on edge like a butcher block, doing three boards thick at a time like this:


Where the ”|” is a seam between boards. Then you could take those and laminate them together in widths that’ll still go through a thickness planer (assuming you have one), and then laminate the thicknessed ones together. That way you’ll have a minimum of cleanup to do. This will also allow you to make the bench as long as you want.

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View LeChuck's profile


424 posts in 4557 days

#2 posted 01-09-2010 05:10 PM

Yeah, a quick calculation of weight using the wood’s density shows that it would be heavy but not monstrously so to do a 3-board thickness instead of 2. Laminating them this way is what I was thinking but for strength, I was wondering if it would be good to use the middle board of each “sandwich” to create a tongue-and-groove system as Garrett Hack does, and perhaps do that at the ends of the sandwiches as well, not just along the length.

-- David - Tucson, AZ

View Skylark53's profile


2868 posts in 4555 days

#3 posted 01-09-2010 05:24 PM

I built mine like Jimi suggested 7 years ago. My flooring was 2.25” wide, .75” thick. I cut off the tongues, plugged and glued them in sections, then joined the sections. to add strength, I attached the butcherblock atop a .75” thick CDX plywood, then banded it with .75” X 3” of the same oak flooring material. I think its 24” x 60” completed. I did not have access to a wide planer, but used an 8” disc floor sander to level it up as best I could. Admittedly, it is not as level and slick as I would ideally prefer, but it is some kinda rugged. One end has a veritas double screw vise. If I can locate picture, I’ll send it to you. Wonderful use of recyled oak flooring. I want to see a picture of your finished product.

-- Rick, Tennessee, John 3:16

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 4569 days

#4 posted 01-09-2010 07:27 PM

A few thoughts – -

Where I live it is getting harder and harder to buy soft wood (pine) 2×4s that are straight and true. If I am building something important, I buy wide boards (10 or 12 inches wide) and rip them. The wood in those wider boards is usually much better and, except for the labor, this is very economical.

I’m sure you could use your recycled oak for the top but, in my opinion, there would be better uses for that wood and a better low cost option for the bench top. Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) is incredibly strong, flat and cheap. In my own case, I put down 2 layers of MDF and topped it with a 3rd layer of bamboo flooring. Bamboo is VERY tough. However, I consider the bamboo optional. Lots of guys just use the MDF.

With or without the bamboo, you may want to use some of your oak for a perimeter around the workbench

I illustrated my workbench in the projects section today.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View LeChuck's profile


424 posts in 4557 days

#5 posted 01-09-2010 07:49 PM

Thanks Rich. Your bench looks great.

I do want to make this bench out of solid wood and I have this big pile of oak that I will be able to use only for small projects. I think this is a good use for some of it (I wouldn’t be using more than a 3rd of it really), for the center piece of my workshop and new activity, which I plan to use a very long time and will follow me when I move out.

The advice on the pine is good. The construction pine here is not like the 2×4s in the US. It is usually planed (although it’s also available totally rough), but indeed not always straight. I still have to explore what’s available in terms of wood around here, but I used to do some woodworking out there in Tucson, AZ, and there was so much more available, it’s pretty depressing. Construction pine is plenty, but to find hardwood for furniture…dry…is another matter. We’re not DIY oriented here. Baltic birch plywood is basically not sold unless you have a large business and can buy a truckload (and it’s about 4 times the cost of the same in the US). MDF here is not that cheap, and hardboard (masonite) basically does not exist. No nice birch for shop jigs or furniture, no hardboard for cheap and sturdy drawer bottoms, etc…no real cheap solutions. In fact, quality “manufactured” stuff is often even more expensive than solid wood, and in addition it is practically impossible for me to transport, move in and store sheets.

And this pile of wood has been taking a lot of space for months so I’ll need to use it for some things. I have a bunch of small projects in mind but I think this workbench would be a good one.

That said, nothing has been started yet, and better ideas could come up so we’ll see.

-- David - Tucson, AZ

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