Looking for advice for a workbench top

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Forum topic by Bluetech posted 06-25-2019 03:18 PM 640 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Bluetech's profile


8 posts in 492 days

06-25-2019 03:18 PM

Hi, I’m new here, hope I posted this in the appropriate section. Just made a 2×8 frame for a work bench and looking for wood for the top that won’t break the bank. So far I been looking at maple cabinet grade plywood 3/4 inch thick, or MDF, or I thought maybe I could do 1/2 inch thick normal plywood with a 1/4 inch thick maple cabinet grade on top of it. (I was thinking if the top got worn and messed up over time I could just replace the 1/4 in piece) Any advice is always appreciated

20 replies so far

View pottz's profile


11725 posts in 1870 days

#1 posted 06-25-2019 03:49 PM

for my assembly table i built a torsion box covered with 3/4 mdf and on top of that i used 1/4” hard board.the hard board is very durable and will last for many years,and when it does get torn up ill just replace with a new sheet.ive been doint it this way for over 30 years.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View CaptainKlutz's profile


3733 posts in 2380 days

#2 posted 06-25-2019 04:09 PM


Suggest a solid core interior door.
Cheap, solid, thick enough it won’t bend. In about 5 years when it gets banged up, put replaceable 1/4” hard board on top. Still using one I made 40 years ago.

If you use plywood or MDF you want 1.5” double thick panel. 3/4” thick will distort too much, unless it’s on a torsion box core as suggested above.

IMHO – Solid core door is cheaper/easier than 2 sheets of plywood.

Can’t post a work bench help without suggestion to learn more about all different kinds of wood working benches. There are many decent books on topic, one of the most recent is:
Workbenches Revised Edition: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use by Christopher Schwarz
ISBN-13: 978-1440343124


-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View ibewjon's profile


2083 posts in 3678 days

#3 posted 06-25-2019 04:24 PM

Maple plywood is just veneer, too much money and no gain. Hardboard surface layer is great. Use a solid door, or 2 or 3 layers of mdf. Plywood is not straight enough.

View Bluetech's profile


8 posts in 492 days

#4 posted 06-25-2019 04:46 PM

Torsion box might be doable, it doesn’t need to be air tight does it?

View LesB's profile


2627 posts in 4328 days

#5 posted 06-25-2019 04:54 PM

I have used 1 1/8” plywood sub-flooring for a base and then top it with either 1/4” tempered Masonite or 3/4 MDF. The Masonite is just tacked down but I screw the MDF down with recessed screws. When the surface starts to look disgusting I either replace it (masonite) or turn it over in the case of MDF.

In the case of the MDF I also seal it with a couple of coats of shellac, sanded lightly, and then a couple of coats of Poly for durability.

-- Les B, Oregon

View pottz's profile


11725 posts in 1870 days

#6 posted 06-25-2019 05:14 PM

Torsion box might be doable, it doesn t need to be air tight does it?

- Bluetech

air tight-no.go on you tube and you can find a bunch of video’s on how to build one.the wood whisperer has a good one.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View coxhaus's profile


152 posts in 1780 days

#7 posted 06-25-2019 05:43 PM

How about some 2×4s turned on edge. It makes for a strong cheap top. You need to plane the top down so it looks good. I used a hand plane. I also rounded the corners using a belt sander. I don’t have the bench as I left it with a house I sold many years ago.

View Kirk650's profile


680 posts in 1634 days

#8 posted 06-25-2019 11:23 PM

I acquired some Ash, well dried, and cut it into 2” by 2.5” and glued it up 2.5” thick, as if it was to be a huge cutting board. I made a support frame from 4×4 treated, added a drawer and wood vises. It has worked well these past 10 years or so. I coated the top with a water based varnish, which has held up very well.

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1335 posts in 2820 days

#9 posted 06-25-2019 11:31 PM

Anything solid will do it. Don’t spend too much time fretting over it. 3 or 4 sheets of 3/4 anything will pretty much do it. Just don’t use sheet rock…

Mine is a solid core door with one sheet of 3/4 ply on top and it works great.

Careful with the torsion box – If you beat the crap out of your workbenches like I do, a torsion box may not hold up. For assembly and general work though, they are great.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View Bluetech's profile


8 posts in 492 days

#10 posted 06-25-2019 11:53 PM

Thanks everyone I appreciate all the advice and fast responses too!

View farmfromkansas's profile


220 posts in 499 days

#11 posted 06-26-2019 02:27 AM

I had some really low grade oak I used, ripped it 3” wide, and glued it up like a butcher block. Glued it in 2 pieces because of the weight, ran it through the planer, then glued the 2 pieces together. The bench is only 2’ wide. If you plan to use it for assembly, build a little wider.

View BattleRidge's profile


150 posts in 1101 days

#12 posted 06-27-2019 03:24 AM

My combination workbench / assembly table / outfeed area is primarily of 2×6 & 2×4 construction which provides plenty of mass and strength and it doesn’t move around at all during work. The top is 4’ x 8’ and consists of two sheets of 3/4” plywood screwed (not glued) together with a sheet of hardboard that is affixed with double-sided tape and a few brad nails for easy replacement if damaged or worn with a piece of modified oak trim around the edges. The top is flat and level with no flex. There is a 30” x 30” drop down area that I use for my oscillating spindle / belt sander, portable router table, scroll saw and other uses – all of which store in the workbench when not in use. One side has shelving for portable power tools and woodworking supplies and the other side will have multiple drawers for woodworking supplies and such (once I have the opportunity to build them). In addition to serving as a great working area, the storage capabilities has been a huge plus with basically no lost space in my shop.

-- ~Art~

View therealSteveN's profile


6473 posts in 1460 days

#13 posted 06-27-2019 04:04 AM

I’ll probably get stones tossed my way, but if it’s to be a plywood top. I would always suggest cheaper to purchase MDF for lower levels. Just make sure to have supports crossing every 16” or so. Unsupported MDF can/will break/crack/loose the war. Do the glue, then screw from the bottom, that is the best way to “clamp” sheets together, unless you have LONG reach clamps. Once the glue dries remove the screws in case you want dog holes. I will make a harder top layer of ply, and use BB 3/4”

On the very top I am like pottz in that I cover with 1/4” hardboard, and flip, or swap when it shows too much wear. On a ply top you want to make a skirt board around the sides to keep knocks and bangs from tearing up the MDF/ply edges. Leave it just shy of 1/4” on top, so the hardboard just fits, and there is a shadow of the hardboard on top. Lotta years making workbenches like that. I have moved away from 2 that are over 40 years old, and the current owners are still using them.

-- Think safe, be safe

View Bluetech's profile


8 posts in 492 days

#14 posted 06-27-2019 05:05 AM

Ok, so the hardboard seems to be a pretty popular choice, so I think I will go with that, and some plywood underneath, I don’t have a brad nailer atm, so I will have to just screw down the top for now.

View Bluetech's profile


8 posts in 492 days

#15 posted 06-27-2019 05:05 AM

Nice looking shop btw Batttle

showing 1 through 15 of 20 replies

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