Suggestions for my workbench - assembly table?

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Blog entry by dustyal posted 12-29-2009 03:21 AM 3107 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’m asking for ideas/suggestions in building a workbench top.

I have an old antique oak kitchen cabinet base—four drawers, door and pull out flour bin in front. Two drawers on right side. Nice condition but it needs a top and a vise so as to serve as my workbench-assembly table. Throw a table cloth over it and it will become just another piece of furniture. (longer story… I removed 7 layers of lead paint from it about 35 years ago; its top got dropped out of a truck during a move and shattered along an interstate.)

The base is 40 inches wide, 30.25 tall, and 25.75 deep.

I’m thinking the overall height to be 32 inches? I need to keep the top overhang in front and on the right side shallow enough for access to the drawers and doors. I can overhang the left side to accommodate a vise and some extra overhang in rear for a little extra depth in top and possible clamping surface. I can pull the unit away from the wall when needed.

First idea was to do a torsion box top but I think a torsion box top would build out at 4 inches high and that would put me at 34 inches high—a bit too tall?

Torsion box would also be too thick for a vise? I’m looking at the Rockler's 9 inch vise as a good vise but it only fits benches up to 2.25 inches thick.

So, double up 3/4 MDF and add a hardboard top with hardwood edging? Or, do they make flat solid wood entry doors? I’m understanding that is another possibility—but I can’t find one. I’d like to have holes for bench dogs and a spot or two for a holdfast clamp. I don’t know what material and what thickness the holdfast does best in.

Anyway that’s the scenario. Ideas? I’m rather new at this so I’m not too inventive on my own. Second, I’m thinking I need to convince Karson to come over and help. He’d have this done before I could sweep up the sawdust—especially if Pete and Pat came along to supervise him. :>)

-- Al H. - small shop, small projects...

8 comments so far

View Karson's profile


35120 posts in 4395 days

#1 posted 12-29-2009 04:40 AM

I’m up for the challenge. I think that a Torson box could be made thinner than what you stated.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View SPalm's profile


5320 posts in 3877 days

#2 posted 12-29-2009 05:11 AM

A torsion box could be quite a bit thinner. But I myself would head over to Karson’s wood store. He certainly has enough of some kind of hardwood that would make a wonderful top. A little jointing, a little thickness planing, a little glue up…...

Ikea makes some hardwood counter tops for not much money.

(I’m in trouble now)

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View jack1's profile


2107 posts in 4022 days

#3 posted 12-29-2009 05:13 AM

A door is really not a bad idea and they do make solid cores. Have you tried an actual door company? One that custom fits/builds.

-- jack -- ...measure once, curse twice!

View dustyal's profile


1293 posts in 3470 days

#4 posted 12-29-2009 06:25 AM

Great ideas… Yeah, didn’t think Ikea. They have a 1.25” top for $40. I can hardly buy material for that.

I was assuming torsion box had to have a little height on the ribs to give it stiffness… see, what do I know?

Windows and doors company just down the road… I can stop in there. Didn’t think of that… I figured if Lowes or HD didn’t have ‘em…

Karson… we can talk at Jan meeting. Maybe organize something… I like the help part the best… :) Peter’s big shop is close buy, too.

-- Al H. - small shop, small projects...

View Derek Lyons's profile

Derek Lyons

584 posts in 3563 days

#5 posted 12-29-2009 07:36 AM

Torsion boxes do need some height for stiffness, but really any added height starts adding stiffness right away, much as a 1/4 piece of MDF is ‘floppier’ than a 1/2 piece.

-- Derek, Bremerton WA --

View Andrew's profile


709 posts in 3193 days

#6 posted 12-29-2009 04:25 PM

I am planning to make a bench to house my router table, miter saw, and a down draft sanding area, the whole thing is 9 feet long, and will have a ton of storage. I am planning on putting a small 2 foot wide butcher block table with a bench vise in between the mitersaw and the DDtable. I am going to use a bunch of leftover odds and ends to put it together, some old cabinet doos, leftover pegboard, old coutertop, old drawers fom my old dresser, a couple of old oak spindels a friend gave me and a chunk of marble, I will have set up for sharpening, but will have covered with hardboard so stuff doesn’t ruin the sandpaper.. I have purcased everything else for $22, some 2×4s and 2×3s a buch of 51 cent cull lumber, and some screws.
Think about what you want to house and how much space you have, then get out some graph paper.
Good luck.
P.S. Have Karson smoke a couple chickens when he comes over.

-- Even a broken clock is right twice a day, unless, it moves at half speed like ....-As the Saw Turns

View hairy's profile


2701 posts in 3527 days

#7 posted 12-30-2009 01:09 AM

If it was me, I’d try to make it double as an outfeed table for the tablesaw. It would have wheels on it,too.

-- My reality check bounced...

View dustyal's profile


1293 posts in 3470 days

#8 posted 12-30-2009 03:59 AM

Good idea Hairy… but I have two different rooms. The workbench assembly table is in the finished living space of the basement and the saw is in the unfinished utility area. Can’t use the saw in the finished side and the workbench base won’t fit in the unfinished area. I made up an outfeed table that is moveable for my portable saw. From there, everything starts to get a bit more complicated…

-- Al H. - small shop, small projects...

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