Question about a top for my workbench

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Forum topic by HickWillis posted 08-07-2016 01:01 AM 800 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View HickWillis's profile


114 posts in 859 days

08-07-2016 01:01 AM

Hi all,

Long time lurker here, decided I should finally join the forum and get to posting.

Anyway…I am in the process of building a new workbench. I am using Fir for the whole thing (got it cheap and it works). I currently have the top in 3 sections before gluing those 3 sections together to make a complete top. It is currently approx. 4 3/8” thick so I have room to play around with the thickness.

I ripped 2×10 boards in half to make the top and tried to orient the boards so there weren’t a lot of knots on the top, but in some cases, it couldn’t be avoided. I have 2 questions:

1 – Are the knots really that big of a deal? I plan on thickness planing each of the 3 sections so they are all the same height when I do the final glue up.

2 – If the knots are a big deal, would it beneficial to cover the whole top with a sheet of plywood or some other option?

Any help is appreciated. Thanks in advance.

-- -Will

12 replies so far

View JayT's profile


5960 posts in 2411 days

#1 posted 08-07-2016 01:28 AM

As long as the knots aren’t where you want to put a dog hole, especially if a hole would hit it partway, then they won’t be an issue. My bench is SPF construction lumber and has a couple tight knots in the top. Never even thought about them after getting the bench done and using it.

Best of luck and post some pics.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View JBrow's profile


1366 posts in 1120 days

#2 posted 08-07-2016 01:30 AM


I have no experience with conifer species of wood, but when I plane hardwood containing knots I get mixed results. If the knots are tight, there can be some tear out where the grain changes direction around the knot, but the knot stays put. When the knot is loose, the planer can pull the knot out and some tear out often occurs where grain changes direction.

If the knots are tight, the planer knives are sharp, and very light cuts are taken, I would think decent results would be obtained. Any tear out could be filled. I like glue plus saw dust, but I have seen that other LJs seem to prefer epoxy.

I personally would not cover the top with plywood. The plywood could restrict wood movement of the top and I think it would look bad.

View Tabletop's profile


138 posts in 947 days

#3 posted 08-07-2016 02:20 AM

It’s your bench, if you like it keep it. My work table top is mdf, two 3/4” sheets thick. When one side gets too messed up I just flip it over. It’s like 4 new tops in one. It’s also very easy to work on and doubles as a crude file cabinet. Does anyone else write on their work table? Mine is usually covered with customer names, phone numbers, measuments, sketches and doodles. Haha.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5175 posts in 2693 days

#4 posted 08-07-2016 02:57 PM

I think you’re good to go, but if you have one that’s loose it will pull put eventually. That just means you fill the hole with Bondo or Epoxy wood filler. Like Tabletop said, it’s your bench; the only opinion that counts is yours.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View diverlloyd's profile


3231 posts in 2057 days

#5 posted 08-07-2016 03:03 PM

If you don’t like them place them where you would want a dog hole and drill it out. All of my benches have knots it’s knot a big deal. Such a good pun

View nightguy's profile


213 posts in 862 days

#6 posted 08-07-2016 03:55 PM

IMHO I would fill in the knots with Epoxy, it would lock them in tight, my bench top is less conventional then yours, i laye rof 3/4” OSB, glued and screwed, to a High density particle board work bench top from the BBS 1 1/8” thick, then screwed 1/4” Tempered Masonite on it.

View jwmalone's profile


769 posts in 902 days

#7 posted 08-07-2016 05:57 PM

Tabletop, all the benches and work tables in my shop have chicken scratch all over them. That’s my filing system works for me.

-- "Boy you could get more work done it you quit flapping your pie hole" Grandpa

View HickWillis's profile


114 posts in 859 days

#8 posted 08-08-2016 02:08 PM

Thanks for the replies everyone. When I pass the top sections through the planer, I’ll take my time and take light passes until all 3 sections are the same thickness. I am going to put dog holes, but I’ll place them where the knots are not present…I don’t think I’ll run into any issues as there isn’t a ton of knots. Maybe 10 at the most across the whole top. I’ll be sure to post some pictures when it is complete!

-- -Will

View SignWave's profile


451 posts in 3235 days

#9 posted 08-08-2016 02:46 PM

I have a SPF bench top and left the knots. They’re mostly not a problem, with one caveat. In spite of how level the surface was when I built it, I do have to true up the surface from time-to-time. It’s more stable now than it was the first year or so, but for some time after I made it there was uneven shrinkage of the wood.

I level it periodically with a hand plane, but the knots make that tricky because in this type of wood they’re so much harder than the rest of the wood and as mentioned above, the grain reverses near the knots. Not that it cannot be done, it’s just more of a challenge.

-- Barry,

View DrDirt's profile


4510 posts in 3942 days

#10 posted 08-09-2016 03:17 PM

The material will be fine – it is a workbench top, not the furniture piece itself.

You are going to pound on, chisel into (eventually) etc.

Just one caution – you say you will thickness plane the three sections.
Make sure to check that the edges of the 3 sections are nuts on 90 degrees so that you have your best shot at being ‘flat-ish’ and not need a ton of clean-up planing for the final surface

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View HickWillis's profile


114 posts in 859 days

#11 posted 08-09-2016 04:25 PM

Thanks DrDirt, I will be sure to check and square things up the best I can.

-- -Will

View TheFridge's profile


10718 posts in 1686 days

#12 posted 08-09-2016 04:38 PM

I would worry more about the pith not being cut out than the knots.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

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