Need Best Ideas for Assembly Table Panels

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Forum topic by wilschroter posted 01-16-2022 05:25 PM 367 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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205 posts in 1978 days

01-16-2022 05:25 PM

I’m working on a new assembly table design which will have 4 MDF panels that I will custom CNC to drop in the top as needed. My Axiom CNC can do 24×48 panels so I can design any style of panel according to the project and they will have 4 bolts on the corners that will attach them to my table surface holes below. I also want them to be expendable so I don’t feel bad about driving screws or making cuts in them.

If you could customize an assembly table top any way you’d like, what are some novel panels you’d use?

So far I’ve got -
- 3/4” hole for bench dogs
- Single hole the connects to dust collection port below
- Insert cutout to replace with work I want to use for my Shaper

Would love some more ideas!

8 replies so far

View SMP's profile


5299 posts in 1358 days

#1 posted 01-16-2022 06:30 PM

Something glue resistant for small multiple piece messy glue ups.

View wilschroter's profile


205 posts in 1978 days

#2 posted 01-16-2022 06:34 PM

Ah for sure. I was thinking about treating the panels with some sort of poly or something similar to make them all resistant. I noticed this on a piece of MDF I’m using now with coating and it made things way easier.

View LesB's profile


3457 posts in 4896 days

#3 posted 01-17-2022 05:39 PM

How about melamine coated MDF. Dried glue pops right off.

-- Les B, Oregon

View gbarnas's profile


117 posts in 235 days

#4 posted 01-17-2022 08:27 PM

I’ve used this concept for years to make swappable tool panels. The back wall of my new shop has 3 cabinets with a frame that holds three 24” square panels with 1.5” separation between each. 3 melamine panels for gluing projects, a couple of MDF panels with tools and jigs on them. and 3 sanded plywood panels for rough work – these have 3/4” holes with backing boards to use dogs or Rockler style cookie posts. When these are ready for replacement, I’ll probably use 1/2” ply with a 1/4” MDF or Masonite sacrificial top hot-glued on.

I have one MDF panel with a pocket-hole jig permanently mounted in the front-center with wings to support the panel on each side. There is a clip to hold the adjustment Allen key, and a tray with a sliding cover to hold the bits and drivers. Keeps everything handy on one panel.

Another MDF panel has a pair of 1×2 guide rails with 45-degree cuts, allowing a sub-panel to slide in. My small bench sander, bench grinder, and scroll saw are bolted to bases that slide between the guides and lock into place by dropping a 1/4-20 bolt to a Tee-nut that’s hand tightened. That specific panel also locks into position in the frame via a barrel-bolt from the underside. I need to reach in through the drawer to latch it, but it’s easy to swap out and secure these tools during operation that aren’t used regularly enough to have a permanent home.

I like the downdraft sanding table idea! Add some Tee-slots to secure the work. A panel covered with thin carpet or high-density poly-foam for doing repairs on finished items, maybe?

FYI – my panels are supported on the sides and front edge. There’s an 18” piece of 1×3 glued/screwed to the back edge, centered, extending about 3/4” past the rear edge of the panel. This slides under the back edge of the frame, keeps the back from lifting. The weight of a machine usually is enough to keep it secure, but a 1/4-20 flathead screw on the front edge into a Tee nut could easily lock them in place. I went with 2×2 panels due to their weight and my age.. especially with a machine attached. :) I also have a rolling cart with the same design that has a smaller Miter saw on it, but can easily be swapped for any other 2×2 panel such as the planer.

-- Glenn, Jersey Shore, NJ

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205 posts in 1978 days

#5 posted 01-17-2022 08:40 PM

@gbarnas that’s a super helpful response thank you! If you happen to have any photos it would be much appreciated.

I don’t plan on swapping these often but I really wanted a system that was highly expendable so I didn’t treat the table itself as being “too precious”. I have a 40ft work surface I use now that is all beautiful butcher block and I cringe whenever I mess it up.

View gbarnas's profile


117 posts in 235 days

#6 posted 01-18-2022 12:09 AM

The shop is still under construction – waiting for the electrician to bring power to the sub-panel. I’ll move a few things around and grab some photos tomorrow. Some of the panels I have are still made from plywood from the old shop, and the new cabinet + panel frame is benefiting from a few years of experience and new tweaks. The old plywood panels have warped slightly, hence my decision to use MDF or Melamine for some of them now. Bottom line, for a small shop, these provide a lot of flexibility!

One other advantage of the 2×2 panel design is that I can eliminate the rear tab and put a few blocks in the corners under each panel. These keep the panel from sliding but also allow it to be rotated 90 degrees and set in any orientation. I used to have a router table panel where that was useful when the panel was used in the end of the peninsula-style workbench.

-- Glenn, Jersey Shore, NJ

View squazo's profile


393 posts in 3098 days

#7 posted 01-18-2022 12:15 AM

id make a panel that “is” a square. youve got your dead flat table top and an equaly large flat and square back.

View gbarnas's profile


117 posts in 235 days

#8 posted 01-18-2022 01:24 AM

Before I get photos, here’s some sketches I made to plan the panel frame.
This is a typical panel – 23.875 square

You can see how the rear edge has a 1×3 glued/screwed to the bottom. This fits under the rear of the frame, and the exposed edges are rounded over to allow a smooth fit. There’s also a block glued near the front on some panels to prevent it from shifting forward. It’s either this or a 1/4-20 flat-head screw along the center front edge. Basically, the panel drops in at a slight angle, slides back and drops straight down.

This is how the frame sits on the cabinets. 1×2 / 1×3 clear pine below, poplar above.

I fit 3 panels over the cabinet bases. 1×3 back and sides, 1×2 between the panels. A 1×3 is glued below the 1×2 which creates the “shelf” in the two middle positions, and a 1×2 is glued below the 1×3 on the sides, creating the outer “shelf”. The front of the panel sits on the front cross-piece, which has a Tee-nut centered in each position to secure the panels where required.

This is the floor plan of the shop, with the cabinets and swappable panels toward the back wall (top). Next to the cabinets is a storage unit that holds about 10 of the smaller (height) panels – a few blanks, and several jig and tool mounting panels.

-- Glenn, Jersey Shore, NJ

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