Assembly Table Style Opinions

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Forum topic by CarverStreet posted 06-04-2020 02:31 PM 463 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 422 days

06-04-2020 02:31 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question workbench assembly table top

Hello everyone!

First post here but have read a lot. A bit of explanation:

I finally organized and cleaned out most of the garage and attic and was able to grant myself about 6 extra feet of wall space in the garage. Currently, I have a very cheap but sturdy workbench I made with screws and some construction lumber. It’s a bit too small for my liking (18” x 48”) and I find that I never actually use it to work on and prefer my current outfeed table which is a raised plastic folding table… I’ve decided it’s time to make an assembly table which will also serve as an outfeed table and will be mobile on locking casters. After looking around for a couple of months at different designs, I’ve come to the conclusion that I generally use power tools more and would benefit from more of an assembly table design rather than a traditional style bench. I’ve opted to go for a heavier duty frame construction (4×4’s and 2×4’s – since it will be moved frequently) with plywood dividers, shelves, and drawers.

What I’m getting hung-up on is the top. I’ve narrowed it down to three options:

1. Torsion box top: I like the idea of a very flat surface, however; I cannot see anyway to implement a t-track as the top layer is not thick enough. I often see these with dog holes but everything I’ve read said that one layer of 3/4” material isn’t nearly enough to utilize the dog holes with a bench vise (which I currently have on my workbench and would love to re-use).
2. T-track top: This is sort of what I see as the best option simply due to the very many different clamping and work-holding options. I can easily make this with two layers of 3/4” material and do some routing for the tracks and wrap the top in hardwood. The downside is that I don’t think the tracks are secure or strong enough to use in combination with a bench vise and that this system is much more expensive than the alternatives in the other two options.
3. Dog-hole hybrid?: I saw this assembly table and it took my breath away. A very unique design compared to most of what’s out there. This would probably be my preferred top as it has dog holes secured in solid wood runners to provide the proper strength, and I could possibly install t-track in the future if I wanted, but at least I could re-use my bench vise. My problem is, I cannot fathom how difficult it is to “puzzle” together this top to get it as perfect as this guy did. I feel like it would take some serious accuracy to get a perfectly flat top after piecing together so many different materials.

I’m just looking for any suggestions or easier alternatives. Am I overthinking this? Should I make a simple top and see how it goes first before I add holding systems? I’d like to also add that I’m a beginner woodworker and have not yet dabbled in any special joinery techniques beyond pocket holes and lap joints.

I’m just looking for a top that will offer clamping or hold-down ability and it would be nice to re-use my bench vise but I don’t have to.

Any suggestions are appreciated, thanks!

6 replies so far

View Woodknack's profile


13565 posts in 3542 days

#1 posted 06-04-2020 04:19 PM

I don’t have a dedicated assembly table but if I did it would probably have a low base on casters and 2 Ron Paulk style torsion boxes 3’ square that I could stack for different project heights.

-- Rick M,

View clin's profile


1128 posts in 2158 days

#2 posted 06-04-2020 04:51 PM

Concerning a torsion box and dog holes, you would normally add solid blocking in the box where you want dog holes. You would construct the box with the top side attached, flip it over, but before attaching the bottom skin, you would insert blocking that would be secured to the top.

The blocking doesn’t necessarily need to fit tightly to any of the webs. But does need to be secured to the top. If you can make the block the exact same height as the webs, then it would attach to the bottom as well. This would make the block extremely strong. Point is, cut the blocking when you cut the webs so they are the same height.

I would think hardwood blocking would be best use with dogs, but ANY solid wood in a torsion box has the potential to distort the box with humidity changes. That’s why things like MDF make for great torsion boxes. MDF isn’t immune from humidity, but it will tend to react more uniformly than solid wood.

Me, I wouldn’t worry and I would go with the solid hardwood blocking. Just make sure that wood is acclimated to the shop before construction. The blocking would likely be short piece fit between webs, so you wouldn’t get any accumulated twist or bow like you might with a longer piece of wood.

If you did the above, then you could do that fancy assembly table. It wouldn’t look quite as fine becasue again, you wouldn’t have the exposed wood for the dog holes making that elegant look. But in reality, if you use it, it’s not going to stay that pretty very long. Nicks, cuts, glue, paint. It’s going to get on it.

If you did want to use T-track, no reason you can’t with a torsion box, just use a thicker skin. But I think I like the dog holes over T-track just because they should be much stronger.

-- Clin

View sansoo22's profile


1748 posts in 816 days

#3 posted 06-04-2020 07:39 PM

I’m not a huge fan of the paulk style because im not disciplined enough to not have that torsion box top turn into a crap catcher. But I will probably still end up building one because its a very flexible design and where else am i going to stash a nailer out of the way.

My plan is to use 2 layers of 3/4 ply or possible one layer of ply with a layer of MDF over that. That gives your roughly a 1-1/2” top to work with. You can use T-Track and dog holes that way.

For clamps and hold downs im opting for the Armor Tools p7-HH dog hole clamp and the Axiom auto adjust hold down for the t-track.

I wont be going overboard with track myself. Probably just a ring around the outer perimeter of the top and maybe a run down the center of the table.

I’m not worried about having extreme clamping pressure for an assembly table since I have room for booth a workbench and a separate assembly table. If you are combing both together than go with Clin’s idea above for the dog holes.

View CarverStreet's profile


2 posts in 422 days

#4 posted 06-04-2020 08:22 PM

This is why I came here, I knew I could get some good ideas and pointers. I think I just need to realize that this will be an assembly table more than anything and that’s what I need. I might have room in the future for a dedicated workbench but I hardly pull out the hand tools that require one anyway.

Thanks guys, I think I’ll go with a torsion box with two top layers, start with dog holes and see if I want the track later.

View AndyJ1s's profile


485 posts in 917 days

#5 posted 06-04-2020 10:38 PM

Have you considered Micro Jig – MATCHFIT Dovetail Clamps instead of T-track? They now have fixture hardware for the dovetail slots too.

T-slots are better for things that need to slide easily and smoothly (like stops on a fence, etc.). You can route dovetail slots anywhere you want, in any direction you want. And you can have as many slots as you want, for free.

-- Andy - Arlington TX

View rockusaf's profile


181 posts in 1264 days

#6 posted 06-04-2020 11:41 PM

I have a Paulk style bench that I love for keeping all my tools, especially squares, rulers, pencils as well as hardware that typically gets in the way or knocked off the bench. When I made mine I only put holes along the edges and in the center of one half so I can clamp on the edge but still have a good size solid surface. My top is 2 layers of 1/2” because that’s what I had a bunch of already in the shop and it is really solid.


-- Measure Once Cuss Twice

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