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Forum topic by Dchip posted 01-21-2010 06:53 PM 7240 views 1 time favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Dchip's profile


271 posts in 3248 days

01-21-2010 06:53 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question poplar workbench

How would poplar work as a laminated top for a workbench? It seems to me that it would have less movement than pine, and thus remain flatter, as well as have comparable durability. I ask this because I have access to some cheap 8/4 poplar and a need for an inexpensive, solid, flat workspace. Thanks.

-- Dan Chiappetta, NYC,

16 replies so far

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3645 days

#1 posted 01-21-2010 06:59 PM

should work as good as pine if not better. still, even poplar is soft, and might get abused as a workbench top

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

View Padre's profile


930 posts in 3485 days

#2 posted 01-21-2010 08:40 PM

I think poplar would be better than pine.

-- Chip ----------- 6:8

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5856 posts in 3190 days

#3 posted 01-22-2010 07:10 AM

For my money, it would be tooo soft for a benchtop. Plus….. it will expand and contract with humidity changes, and might even warp. I’d use MDF if it were me…......just my dime. Save the poplar for other projects.

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

View Dchip's profile


271 posts in 3248 days

#4 posted 01-22-2010 04:33 PM

Hi Rick, Thanks for the input. Would MDF be harder than poplar? Also, would bench dogs hold in MDF? Those are my two holdouts for going with MDF. I know a piece of hardboard could alleviate #1, but I really want functioning bench dogs in my workbench.

-- Dan Chiappetta, NYC,

View JimDaddyO's profile


545 posts in 3075 days

#5 posted 01-22-2010 05:16 PM

I would rather have my bench softer than my projects. If something is going to get banged up by something slipping out of your hand, I would rather the benchtop dent, chip or give way than a project I spent the last week working on.

-- my blog: my You Tube channel:

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3669 days

#6 posted 01-22-2010 05:19 PM

I would use hard maple for the top.

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3645 days

#7 posted 01-22-2010 05:25 PM

to pick up for Rick – 2 laminated layers of MDF topped with hardboard will hold your benchdogs just fine. I personally however prefer to use hardwood for a workbench as it gives the work environment a different vibe (at least in my mind). as for durability, you can argue from here to eternity but that will do little help.

it really boils down to your very own preference. Poplar will work if thats what you have at hand but it IS on the softer side.

another thing to consider – this is just a TOP, and can ALWAYS be replaced later with something else if you choose to, and it’ll give you some practice on a cheaper softer lumber to hone you skills.


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

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5856 posts in 3190 days

#8 posted 01-22-2010 06:25 PM

Greetings Dchip….. MDF is a paper product compressed together to give a dead-flat surface. That’s why it is so much heavier than plywood, but won’t warp like ply or wood. Like PurpLev said, dogholes will work just fine, and easier to drill. You would have no problem with them. I’ve built about 5 benches using MDF for the top, and they still function great, because they are not affected by changes in temprature( from my experience, anyway). I’ve helped 3-4 guys build workbenches all using MDF, and so far, I guess, they are happy with them. Here’s a pixs of my work bench I’m using now. Built about a year ago, it has 2 coats of Danish oil, and 5-6 coats of poly. It is 3” thick (4 layers of 3/4” MDF laminated together….. it’s still going strong….

BWW has a good point about hard maple, but it is very expensive, and hard to get (for me, anyway). Hard maple would make an excellent top just like the old artisans used to use…. high-dollar, though….. later.

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

View Dchip's profile


271 posts in 3248 days

#9 posted 01-22-2010 06:30 PM

Thats a nice looking bench, rick. Is the vice bolted into the MDF, or did you rig up a wooden structure underneath?

-- Dan Chiappetta, NYC,

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

5856 posts in 3190 days

#10 posted 01-22-2010 06:41 PM

Hey Dchip:.....When I mounted the vices, I put a 3/4” piece of oak under the top to use as a “shim” to bring it up even with the top, screwed holes through it for lag bolts, and mounted it directly to the MDF top. The rear jaw of the vices are”buried” in the trim of the top, and a longer wood front added to the front jaw on both. That way, if you want to hold a long board, it will sit flush against the table. Hope this in not too confusing….. but yes…. the vices will hold with no problem….........

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3282 days

#11 posted 01-22-2010 06:55 PM

Poplar would sure be better than Pine, and if you have a cheap source for it, go for it. Poplar would not be my first choice, (I like Hard Maple for bench tops—-But a lot of money) but we all make do with the best and cheapest available. Most of my shop stuff comes from leftover wood that I had from other projects. I usually don’t go buy wood for things like that. Poplar should make a good top, but it does tend to warp quite a bit, so take precautions there. I would laminate it like a butcher block to help keep it stable. I don’t think you would have trouble with a thick top.

I would agree that MDF would make a good top, but I’m really partial to solid wood. —Just my personal opinion.


View WoodshopJoe's profile


99 posts in 3256 days

#12 posted 01-22-2010 07:32 PM

Great discussion on benchtops, I was just about to embark on making a new bench myself and was debating the hardwood VS. mdf question as well. I now think I am going with the mdf and hardboard top, then when it gets dings, dents, stains and chips I won’t feel so bad.

-- Joe Truehart - The Craftsmans Woodshop

View jpw1995's profile


376 posts in 4294 days

#13 posted 01-22-2010 07:45 PM

I like the idea of MDF with a removeable layer of 1/4” hardboard on top as an economical solution. Any time the top gets banged up you just spend a few dollars for a new piece of hardboard. Theoretically you could divide the hardboard up into 3 or 4 removealbe sections and have interchangable pieces to instantly convert your bench to a router table, downdraft table, whatever you want table.

-- JP, Louisville, KY

View SgtSnafu's profile


960 posts in 3268 days

#14 posted 01-22-2010 09:56 PM

Hey Dchip,

Here is a workbench of a new lumberjock member – which is made of poplar. He may have some insight on the movement of the top, depending on how long ago he constructed it …

-- Scotty - aka... SgtSnafu - Randleman NC

View tomcat's profile


28 posts in 3055 days

#15 posted 01-22-2010 10:10 PM

Rick….I like the idea of mounting a power strip to your work bench. Seems to be a good project for this weekend.

-- Tom, Northwest Wisconsin

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