Wood for Workbench - laminated vs solid tops

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Forum topic by georgiaken posted 01-21-2014 09:30 PM 4961 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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49 posts in 2286 days

01-21-2014 09:30 PM

I have a question that I can’t seem to find an answer on…trying to search yields too many results.

Is there a preference of laminated wood (say, glued up 2X4s, 4” vertical), versus solid wood (12” wide X 4” vertical) for a workbench top?

I have a line on some large beams and some individual boards…I’m trying to figure out which will give me the better results.

You can assume that the cost is the same and I don’t mind doing whatever work is required for either solution to work.

I just want whatever will provide the optimal outcome in terms of stability etc…

10 replies so far

View JayT's profile


6327 posts in 2779 days

#1 posted 01-21-2014 09:36 PM

Either is fine, as long as you have enough thickness. The main reason so many go with laminated is cost and availability. My top is laminated 2x construction lumber, but if I could have sourced some 4in thick x 8in wide beams for the same price, you can be sure I would have done that, instead.

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View PurpLev's profile


8553 posts in 4216 days

#2 posted 01-21-2014 09:38 PM

if you can use wider boards – use that. most people don’t have access to it, so end up laminating.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Armandhammer's profile


235 posts in 2194 days

#3 posted 01-21-2014 09:39 PM

Do saw mills charge the same for slabs as they do boards? Just charge based on the amount of BF or do slabs bring a premium price? Just wondering because I’ve wondered about the same thing…solid wood vs. laminated top for a work bench. I guess the easy way would be call a saw mill and ask.

View Bogeyguy's profile


548 posts in 2636 days

#4 posted 01-21-2014 09:50 PM

Generally wider boards will require an additional cost per BD,FT.

-- Art, Pittsburgh.

View Nomad62's profile


726 posts in 3526 days

#5 posted 01-21-2014 10:18 PM

Laminated wood will be better. A solid piece will tend to twist, cup, etc. as the moisture content in the air changes.But if the solid piece is one of many, say glued up 2×4’s, the tension will be different (and weaker) between pieces, allowing for the top to stay straighter.

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

View Nicholas Hall's profile

Nicholas Hall

352 posts in 2674 days

#6 posted 01-22-2014 01:24 AM

Not to muddy the waters but moisture content is a big factor. It’s very unusual to find well dried stock that’s 4 inches thick and 8” wide. It takes 5 years or more to air dry it, and more time in a kiln than an operator will be willing to give it. If you can buy 8”x4” stock that’s in single digit moisture content for the same price as 2”x4” stock you should buy it.

Undried lumber is not a deal breaker, but it will move on you. The thicker, wetter, and wider it is, the more trouble it will be. If I had to choose between undried 8”x4” and well dried 2”x4”, I’d pick the 2”x4” and laminate.

-- Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. -Groucho Marx

View georgiaken's profile


49 posts in 2286 days

#7 posted 02-12-2014 03:37 PM

Seems simple, but I forgot something….

Thanks for the responses…I appreciate the input.

View jordanp's profile


1086 posts in 2508 days

#8 posted 02-12-2014 03:49 PM

Just a tip if you looking to save money..

The lumberyards that cater to the commercial construction contractors and do cut to order.
Usually will deal in 6”x26” Glue Lam Slabs (basically 2×6’s glued up 22-26 wide”) Anyways
they get them in 50’-60’ pieces and then the contractor will order them 44’ or 20’ etc
any pieces around 6-8’ are usually tossed in the dumpster.. also they are usually wrapped in Tyvex/plastic type material.

I have seen this a few different places now..

-- J. Palmer Woodworks - Rockwall TX -I woke up this morning thinking “man, I really hope someone posted some soul scarring sh*t on LJs today.” -- - Billy

View georgiaken's profile


49 posts in 2286 days

#9 posted 02-12-2014 04:02 PM

Well, I came across a guy selling mixed oak and maple pallets…8’X8’, for $30.

That’s 3 – 4X4s all 8’ feet long and 16 – 2X6s, all 8ft long.

I currently have the following on stickers in my garage:

27 – 2 X 6 X 8ft, hard maple boards
6 – 4 X 4 X 8ft hard maple

21 – 2 X 6 X 8ft, mixed oak boards
3 – 4 X 4 X 8ft red oak

All of that cost me $90 bucks…and he threw in another pallet for free, but I just didn’t have the capacity in my father-in-laws pickup…it looked like the wheels were going to touch the wheel wells if I loaded anymore lumber LOL, so I stopped loading.

I will say this…spiral cut nails are the real deal…I used a 6ft pry bar to take them apart…denailing is a whole different story….I bought a Greenlee 515, but that won’t quite get it done…it’s looking like I’ll be purchasing an AP700 Denailer shortly…

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3539 days

#10 posted 02-12-2014 04:04 PM

I built a workbench back in 1984 using 3 1/2” thick x 14” wide, green poplar. Before I knew anything about drying or wood movement or such. That bench taught me a lot. I still have it although it is about 2” narrower and there are some splits in the top that used to not be there.

I have been thinking about taking that old bench apart, cleaning and planing and jointing the boards and building a nice bench from it. It has had about 30 years sitting in my garage to dry out; I think it might be done moving by now.

But, other than very old well dried slabs, I’d rather laminate up a new bench with smaller wood. Or, perhaps one of the new pre laminated, engineered wood products like Glu-Lam or X-Lam, LVL or similar.

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