Torsion Box Out-Feed / Assembly Table

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Project by MHarper90 posted 02-10-2014 03:19 AM 47650 views 63 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch

So this is my first attempt at a torsion box design. I’ve seen them all over LJ and have been itching to build one.

I am in my last 3 weeks of civilian carpentry employment before I go Active Duty with the Navy as a Nuke for at least six years, so I definitely don’t need one for myself (yet). I asked the Site and Facilities Manager at the summer camp I work at if he could fund the materials, I would build it in my time off in an effort to give back to this ministry. This would upgrade us from the old warped plywood table someone had quickly thrown together several years ago.

There’s not a lot of hidden secrets to this thing aside from the concealed torsion box framing. I used 2×4’s and 2×6’s for the base frame, and the torsion box is made of 3/4” MDF with a 3/16” hardboard top and 3/4” oak edging on three sides. The final dimensions for the table top + oak edging was 4’-3/4” x 7’-1/8”. This utilized the full width of the available wood, and matched the exact length of the table saw and extension table.

I was very careful to set up a perfectly flat scenario to build the torsion box on, and I also joined the edge of all of the 2×4’s that support the table top and the lower shelf (the shelf is not a torsion box…just a piece of MDF). After testing the table with a long level, I am confident that it is 100% flat (and should stay that way!).

I routed two miter slots which I painted “safety red” to stand out and also to match the SawStop color theme. I also sealed the entire table, including the hardboard top, with two coats of high gloss polyurethane. This table will be used by a lot of different camp staff, so durability was something I really took into consideration with the finish and the oak edging. At nearly 500 pounds, I think this table is beefy enough to stand up to the use it will get. I just hope that nobody drills holes in it!

You can see in one of the pictures that I had to cut a slot in the table to accept the angle iron that runs the length of the back-side of the table saw. Also, I left a portion of the bottom of the table shallower than the rest to accommodate for an access door that swings open on the saw. And I left a cubby in the base frame for the Shop Vac (used with the router table when the JessEm fence is installed). Lastly, I used 700 lb capacity leveling legs to accommodate for the inconsistent hardwood floor on the 2nd level of the old barn we work out of.

This table was long overdue and I’ll be sad to leave it behind in a few weeks, but now the boss wants a 2nd, smaller table, on casters so that it’ll roll around the shop. I guess I better get going!

22 comments so far

View BJODay's profile


528 posts in 3062 days

#1 posted 02-10-2014 03:36 AM

I don’t want to sound dumb, but what is the advantage of the torsion box? Is it just great stability? It seems like a lot of work and a lot of weight. Did you use it because it is for a camp and the expected heavy use/abuse?

Looks great. I would love to have an outfeed table that matched my saw that well.


View MHarper90's profile


94 posts in 2806 days

#2 posted 02-10-2014 03:43 AM

The reason I wanted the torsion box was for a perfectly flat top that will never warp. It was a good bit of work, cost, and weight, but when it comes to assembling joints on furniture and such (we try to custom build all of our furniture on site), perfectly flat is very nice. I used to have to take things over to the machined surface of the table saw to check my joints before glue up.

Although it would definitely hold up to it, if you want a workbench to beat against, a torsion box isn’t worth the effort. If you rely on flat surfaces, this is definitely worth every ounce of effort. The materials for this table ran a little over $300. Not bad for what it turned out to be.

View Hartworks's profile


53 posts in 2717 days

#3 posted 02-10-2014 04:33 AM

Dude…very nice…very solid looking…I would love to have an out feed / assembly like that…good work

-- Gary, California

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

26300 posts in 4225 days

#4 posted 02-10-2014 05:30 AM

Real sweet table. I love it!!....Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Francois Vigneron's profile

Francois Vigneron

263 posts in 3439 days

#5 posted 02-10-2014 11:02 AM

Man that is an awesome out feed/assembly table. It would also be a very nice ping-pong table if you like that sport. ;-) Thanks for sharing.

PS. Sir, good sailing to your ship and shipmates and thanks for your service.

-- Francois Vigneron, Gif-sur-Yvette, France & Altadena, CA

View DonB's profile


589 posts in 3812 days

#6 posted 02-10-2014 12:57 PM

MHarper90: Quite nice. I agree with your reasoning on having a flat surface as long as cost is not a heavy factor. Nuke? My goodness. Lot-a-underway time. If you just want to push a ship go surface, and if you want a brotherly, tight crew, go submarine. Good luck.

-- DonB

View MasterSergeant's profile


1441 posts in 3807 days

#7 posted 02-10-2014 01:00 PM

Great job! This same project is up in my shop right now under construction. I have a very old Sears Contractors Table-saw, I’m currently working out ways to semi attach to.

-- Kelly, woodworker under construction

View Freakazoid's profile


72 posts in 3898 days

#8 posted 02-10-2014 01:06 PM

Very nice outfeed table, very well built.

Good luck in Great Lakes – it is a wonderful time of year to go (I went in March a long time ago and went nuke also).

-- I can complicate anything

View BentheViking's profile


1782 posts in 3683 days

#9 posted 02-10-2014 02:19 PM

i couldnt imagine something that large in my tiny shop

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

View MHarper90's profile


94 posts in 2806 days

#10 posted 02-10-2014 02:25 PM

Thanks for all of the great comments everybody! I never expected a table made out of MDF and framing lumber to be this popular!

I also really appreciate the kind words to my upcoming change in career. I am torn between subs and carriers. I have always loved the carriers and on first impression alone, I want to be on a carrier. My desktop picture is a carrier, and I love watching the PBS series “Carrier” over and over again. But there is something special about the submarine force that strikes a nerve in me for the smaller crew, better chow, unique atmosphere, and that damn sweet dolphin pin. I guess I’ll have to make that decision before too long though…

View bfergie's profile


83 posts in 3435 days

#11 posted 02-10-2014 04:13 PM

Nice table, should hold up for a good long time.

My daughter is also changing careers and is heading to Great Lakes next month, going for Sonar Tech. Good Luck!

-- Fergie in CO

View glen's profile


175 posts in 3672 days

#12 posted 02-10-2014 05:45 PM

This is the exact same setup I was planning to (eventually) build for my shop once I get things going – torsion box assembly out feed off a sawstop. I haven’t decided if i’d put the router table in the extension wing yet, but this is great for me to see. I might bug you in the future for more details… Thanks for sharing – awesome work!

View fivecodys's profile


1740 posts in 2755 days

#13 posted 02-10-2014 09:33 PM

Nicely done!
I love all the colors in the pictures you posted. It must be a wonderful place to work.
It must be hard to leave there.
Good luck in your new career!


-- A bad day woodworking is still better than a good day working.

View MHarper90's profile


94 posts in 2806 days

#14 posted 02-11-2014 01:01 AM

As far as the router in the extension table goes, I love it! We have the JessEm Mast-R-Lift II, and we added the JessEm Mast-R-Fence with the Clear Cut stock guides after I lost part of my left thumb on this router table. We had just been sliding the SawStop fence over to the router, but with no ability to add feather boards, it was not a safe situation and cost me the tip of my thumb. You can see that we routed both the lift and the fence track into the extension table. I love both of them and wouldn’t do anything different there.

The one problem I see now that everything is built and in place is that the new table I built is actually flatter than the table saw/extension table. This creates a tiny lip in the center of the table where stock being pushed past the blade may snag on the out feed table edge. The extension table is just basically melamine with two legs and some pine ribbing. I’m not sure if it has always been like this, or if it’s something that has happened over time since the saw was installed, but the extension table bows down in the middle. It’s only a little bit, but it’s enough to notice, especially when butted up against a perfectly flat table.

If I had more time, or could redesign this table, I would probably throw out the SawStop extension and rebuild that section as a torsion box (designed to hold the router lift and fence). Another option would be to make the extension table a giant L shape to fill the same spot, but you would need to take the angle iron off of the out feed side of the saw (which would actually make the rest of the out feed table easier to build).

Lastly, in having this done for a day, the polyurethane on the hardboard has already started to show scratches. It’s only cosmetic, but if I was to be building this table in a shop where I know it would be respected (e.g. a personal shop), then I would use laminate instead of hardboard. Probably even black to match the SawStop colors!

View Ruh's profile


44 posts in 2771 days

#15 posted 02-11-2014 01:14 AM

First, THANK YOU for your commitment to serve. My admiration is very high for those that sacrifice so much for the rest of us. Next, that table is awesome. I built one very, very similar and can’t believe how much use it gets (glue ups, assembly, outfeed, etc).

Best of luck in the Navy.

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