Workbench top- MDF or Maple/Oak PLY?

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Forum topic by MikeHGA79 posted 12-23-2009 10:05 PM 46168 views 0 times favorited 38 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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7 posts in 3516 days

12-23-2009 10:05 PM

I’m sure this has been discussed at length on the forum but I couldn’t find anything that compared these materials.

I’m starting to plan out my first workbench and I’m trying to decide what to use for the top. I went to Home Depot and noticed they had 3/4” MDF, as well as some Oak and Maple PLY…I think they had Birch as well. I really have little experience with these materials so I would appreciate any advice you all can provide.


38 replies so far

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3970 days

#1 posted 12-23-2009 10:14 PM

I am going to use three sheets on 3/4’’ Birch plywood for my workbench top!

View JAGWAH's profile


929 posts in 3381 days

#2 posted 12-23-2009 10:17 PM

Just for starters the Q is, Will this bench be for utility shop work or show?

As for a uility top getting a lot of use consider your top an item you might have to replace from time to time due to saw cuts holes and excess glue issues. All typical stuff that happens. Make the top of MDF then cover with 1/4” temp or if a cardboard supplier is nearby by sheets as you need them to lay on top.

I do all these and I have a roll of rosin/construction paper at the foot of my bench to drag across and use under my glue-ups or just to draw items to scale on to figure out design issues.

-- ~Just A Guy With A Hammer~

View MikeHGA79's profile


7 posts in 3516 days

#3 posted 12-23-2009 10:17 PM

Wow, 3 sheets?! Is that to eliminate any kind of bend that 1 or 2 sheets might give?

View MikeHGA79's profile


7 posts in 3516 days

#4 posted 12-23-2009 10:20 PM

Well….I would be doing work on it…but nothing hardcore. I’m bascially looking for an area to work on small projects and also have an area to peg board all of my tools and randoms.

View interpim's profile


1170 posts in 3756 days

#5 posted 12-23-2009 10:27 PM

it sounds to me like your looking more for a utility bench.

I have a bench that I use for similar purposes which is framed with 2×4 construction lumber, and topped with a single layer of 3/4” plywood. The top is finished with wax only, and has held up well for the past year. If you want more of a bench to do planing, sawing or chiseling on (requiring the use of a vice) I would recommend using a more stable base construction.

-- San Diego, CA

View MikeHGA79's profile


7 posts in 3516 days

#6 posted 12-23-2009 10:29 PM

OK, thanks for the advice.

I do plan on having a vice bolted to the workbench, or “utility” bench….that would probably be the most heavy duty aspect of the use I can think of.

View JimDantin's profile


16 posts in 3400 days

#7 posted 12-28-2009 02:05 AM

Consider using a top layer of tempered hardboard (Masonite) that can be easily replaced when it gets banged up. I built a utility workbench out of 3/4” MDF with a 2×2 pine subframe. It has a face frame of pine 1×4 (attached with glue and screws through the 2×2’s that sits proud above the MDF and holds the hardboard without any screws or glue.

Prior to starting on my Gluebo bench project, I was going to build a big bench with two layers of 3/4” MDF, a maple face frame, and a hardboard top surface.

-- Jim, Prospect, KY

View BlankMan's profile


1490 posts in 3650 days

#8 posted 12-28-2009 02:44 AM

I wouldn’t use oak or any veneer plywood, from my experience with it the inner plys are soft, especially the stuff HD sells. I discovered that by the round indentation from Bessey clamps.

I use AC plywood and glue 2 or 3 together to get the thickness I want. I then put 1/4” tempered hardboard on the top, when it becomes abused you just replace it and you’re good to go again. All my benches are done that way as is the outfeed table on my UniSaw except it has Formica laminated to it.

-- -Curt, Milwaukee, WI

View a1Jim's profile


117532 posts in 3874 days

#9 posted 12-28-2009 02:51 AM

In my work table it is framed like a floor and has one sheet of 1 1/8” of wafer board with 1/4” top layer of melamine. not fancy but sturdy.

View Taigert's profile


593 posts in 4138 days

#10 posted 12-29-2009 08:06 AM

Jim and Jawwaw and other have the right idea about the 1/4” tempered board.

As for buying from Home depot or Loews, I wouldn’t buy any lumber from them they carry nothing but garbage. Try finding a good lumber yard where the cab shops buy from. You will be much better off going that route.

-- Taigert - Milan, IN

View JAGWAH's profile


929 posts in 3381 days

#11 posted 12-29-2009 06:25 PM


Even my Mom & Pop lumber yard carries imports. You have to be careful where ever you go and ask specific questions.

An Arkansas supplier, Plunkett, I use list their plys and identifys them as domestic or import which helps.

-- ~Just A Guy With A Hammer~

View Derek Lyons's profile

Derek Lyons

584 posts in 3865 days

#12 posted 12-29-2009 08:13 PM

Even from Home Despot you can make a reasonable utility bench, and with care in wood selection and preparation you can make more complex projects as well.

Click for details

This is my utility workbench, made with lumber from Home Depot, and it works just fine.

Click for details

This cart was also built with lumber from Home Depot and the flaws in it are my own from not being careful in selecting the boards.

-- Derek, Bremerton WA --

View Microsuffer's profile


52 posts in 3862 days

#13 posted 12-31-2009 01:48 AM

Think about building a work bench for a while. The tendency is to make mistakes that trouble you for quite a while, but having something also discourages replacing unsatisfactory with anything better. Setting up to do a very flat and wrack resistant bench might sound like too much effort, but it could pay off in the long run. I would browse for this topic and look at a lot of bench work before settling on a design.

-- "Those are my principals, if you don't like them....I have others." - Groucho Marx

View Pezman's profile


17 posts in 3578 days

#14 posted 01-01-2010 08:18 AM

I used 1 sheet of 3/4” MDF. I cut it in half (long way) and glued it together so it is 1 1/2” thick now. I then added an edging made of a pine 1×4 cut to 1×1 1/2” around the side so it doesn’t flake during wear and tear.

I’m a total newbie so you might want to take advice from the other guys over me. I just know my solution was awful cheap.

View Microsuffer's profile


52 posts in 3862 days

#15 posted 01-01-2010 08:48 AM

FWIW I used 3 layers of 3/4 MDF and 1/4 birch ply as cladding. The latter because I wanted a cool looking surface to cover the battleship I was making. And I was reluctant to buy an expensive work bench and then tear it up with some newby mistakes. The biggest problem with that cheap and simple solution it is that it is so good I have difficulties justifying a better bench. But the itch for better is there.

-- "Those are my principals, if you don't like them....I have others." - Groucho Marx

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