best wood for surfacing a workbench?

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Forum topic by mzimmers posted 08-27-2010 12:24 AM 5581 views 1 time favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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143 posts in 3002 days

08-27-2010 12:24 AM

Hi, all –

My workbench is a solid core door (32” x 80” if memory serves). A few years back, I put some ugly vinyl flooring squares over the top to protect it. It’s time to refresh those. While I was poking around Lowe’s home page, looking at vinyl, it occurred to me that I could use some kind of hardwood flooring instead.

I know little about the relative properties of different woods, though. Can someone suggest something hard and durable that might work for this?


-- M. Zimmers

20 replies so far

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 2070 days

#1 posted 08-27-2010 12:31 AM

Hardboard works well.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View mzimmers's profile


143 posts in 3002 days

#2 posted 08-27-2010 12:49 AM

I thought about MDF, but if I’m going to sacrifice the durability and convenience of vinyl, I think I’d at least like it to look nice. Any ideas in solid wood?

-- M. Zimmers

View jusfine's profile


2351 posts in 2012 days

#3 posted 08-27-2010 01:26 AM

I agree with Greg. You could make a hardboard top with a solid wood edge look nice.

Hardboard (masonite) is not MDF, technically, although it is all sawdust, I guess…

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

View Paul2274's profile


330 posts in 2199 days

#4 posted 08-27-2010 02:00 AM

I built a workbench and used old 2×4 for a top foundation and then used 3/4 MDF screwed on top of that.. then a sheet of hardboard screwed down on top of that with the screws counter sunk of course and used a router to ease the edge all the way around. This way if the top ever gets damaged to the point where it has to be replaced I only have to spend the money for the hardboard…
kinda like changing a shirt! :)


View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 2161 days

#5 posted 08-27-2010 02:12 AM

I know I am bias, but I don’t think anything beats bamboo. In my case, I use bamboo flooring. Bamboo is so tough and it can withstand anything,

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View mzimmers's profile


143 posts in 3002 days

#6 posted 08-27-2010 02:48 AM

Yeah, bamboo sounds good. Do the flooring planks butt flush, or is there a little V groove between them at the top?

Now I have to find some that are at least 80” long; the ones listed at Lowe’s seem to be 75”.

Thanks for the idea.

-- M. Zimmers

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 2009 days

#7 posted 08-27-2010 03:40 AM

Engineered flooring works good. Easy to install,easy to repair or replace.

-- Life is good.

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 2155 days

#8 posted 08-27-2010 04:44 AM

I’ve had 3/4” ACX on my workbench/outfeed table for the past five years and – although it will never win any beauty pagents – it’s holding up just fine. I drag a paint scraper over it every year, or so, and slop on a fresh coat of whatever leftover poly I have sitting around.

My benches take too much of a beating to try for the furniture look. – lol

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View bandman's profile


79 posts in 2476 days

#9 posted 08-27-2010 05:22 AM

In solid wood, an american beech, hard maple or an ash top surface could be utilized as a top
and potentiall sides depending on what you would like to have. Pin or Bur oak could also work.

-- Phil

View Moron's profile


4929 posts in 2980 days

#10 posted 08-27-2010 05:26 AM

I like cork flooring

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 2161 days

#11 posted 08-27-2010 04:35 PM

Re bamboo – My bamboo flooring has tongue and groove sides and no special treatment at the end.

I put down 2 layers of MDF, then the bamboo on top of that. I also ran 8/4 oak around the perimeter. It’s VERY heavy, which is what you want . You can see it in my workshop pictures.

It’s not as clean as in the picture any more. It’s been used a lot. It’s is VERY rugged.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View mnguy's profile


183 posts in 2484 days

#12 posted 08-27-2010 05:08 PM

Pretty much all prefinished flooring has a vgroove on the edge, which would drive me nuts on a bench top.

I second the hardboard with a hardwood edging. Easy on cutting tools, cheap and easy to replace. A coat of linseed oil will help prevent glue sticking, water absorption, etc. I tacked mine down with brass screws, set flush, over a solid core door.

View mzimmers's profile


143 posts in 3002 days

#13 posted 08-27-2010 05:36 PM

So, where would I get a hardboard panel to screw to my existing workbench? Everything I see on Home Despot and Lowe’s is in completed doors.

Home Despot does have this:

MDF with vinyl

Though I wonder about the durability, the price is right, and installation would be pretty easy. Thoughts?

-- M. Zimmers

View brtech's profile


775 posts in 2009 days

#14 posted 08-30-2010 05:33 PM

HD has hardboard. It’s in the plywood/MDF/particle board aisle. Look for pegboard (same stuff, but with holes); it will be right next to it.

View rance's profile


4197 posts in 2247 days

#15 posted 08-30-2010 05:49 PM

Whatever is 1) Local, 2) Inexpensive, 3) Hard. Google for Chris Schwarz Workbench. He wrote the book on traditional workbenches. For newer ones, the design is different, but the material qualifications are the same.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

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