Constructing a new workbench top

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Forum topic by siouxdawgs0409 posted 08-31-2010 08:42 PM 6523 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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107 posts in 3092 days

08-31-2010 08:42 PM

I am wondering how some of you folk would do this. I want to make a top that is heavy, cheap, and sacrificial so that I can replace at a cheap price as well. The top will be used for glue up, assembly, light to moderate pounding, and basically as a general work top, as if that was not already mentioned ha. My thoughts were to laminate two sheets of 3/4 mdf, border with some harwood, and lay a piece of 1/4 hardboard on the top. How would you attach the hardboard? Would you build the hardwood boarder 1/4 inch higher and just cut the hardboard to size and let it lay in on the top? Would this produce a relativley flat bench? Would the top move too much? Any other ideas would be welcome as well as long as sticking with the criteria mentioned above.

8 replies so far

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3073 days

#1 posted 08-31-2010 08:46 PM

I invite you to look at my workbench in the pictures of my shop.

I used 2 sheets of 3/4 MDF and then topped it with bamboo flooring (incredible stuff). I also put an 8/4 oak perimeter around the outside.

You could save a little money by using OSB instead of MDF.

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

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2969 days

#2 posted 08-31-2010 09:38 PM

I built my bench top from 4 layers of plywood, banded with 1×4 maple, covered with 1/2” MDF, stuck down with carpet tape. Left a 1” hole through the plywood, near one end, so I could drive a dowell up through it to push the MDF up to be replaced when it needs it. Caution, be sure your first layer of plywood is shimmed absolutely flat and level before you glue the second layer on. It is possible to create a bench top with a twist in it that cannot be removed. I almost did this, but I realized what I was doing in time to get the two sheets apart. Re-leveled, re-glued and now mine is perfectly flat, but that laminated construction is so strong there would be no way to flatten it after the glue sets. I bet you could park a car on top of this thing and it would not budge. I think you could manage just fine with 2 layers of 3/4” plywood; I wanted 4 layers so I could make sockets 3 layers deep to glue my legs into and not have an apron. My top is 25 1/2” x 85 1/2” x 3 1/2” thick and solid and heavyy. It took 2 sheets of plywood and a 1/2 sheet of MDF to make the top. I had planned to cover my top with 1/4” hardboard, but nobody in town stocks that so I went with the 1/2” MDF and painted it with BLO to seal the surface and prevent moisture pick-up; also helps to keep glue from sticking.

View helluvawreck's profile


31082 posts in 2865 days

#3 posted 08-31-2010 10:05 PM

I have had pretty good luck by simply laminating two pieces of cabinet grade plywood together. Each piece needs to be flat or if not then the slightly warped sheets need to have a similar warpage or cup and turn the warped boards where the warps oppose each other. It’s easiest to laminate the pieces together in a way where the edges are together and the bow is out away from center. I clamped the sheets together after spreading the glue and then drove a good many screws through the one that was the bottom. I then used a straight router bit with a ball bearing on the end to flush the edges even with each other and then glued and nailed 3/4 hardwood around the edge. I just made two tops like this for work tables in my shop. They were 2’ x 6’ with the edging and they turned out strait and flat. You can see them in my shop pictures on my homepage. They are on the two cabinets against the wall where the two miter saws sit.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Greedo's profile


473 posts in 2959 days

#4 posted 08-31-2010 10:08 PM

you can check my blog or projects to see my torsion box top assembly table, it is somewhat what you described with a hardwood edge. i also have a normal workbench, but now i do 90% of the work on the assembly table.
you could simply go for laminated boards but that offers no guarantee for flatness or stability.
now that i have used a torsion box i think i will only swear by that for any flat surface in the future.
the top can be mdf or hardboard, wichever is the cheapest in your area.

View Greedo's profile


473 posts in 2959 days

#5 posted 08-31-2010 10:08 PM

oops double post

View Thomas Keefe's profile

Thomas Keefe

131 posts in 3407 days

#6 posted 09-01-2010 09:36 PM

I have a top made of two 3/4” sheets of MDF glued together with the hardwood edging like you mention.
The edging extends above the MDF by the thickness of the hardboard. I simply lay hardboard on the top.
The hardboard does not move around much and it works OK.

However, this approach has some drawbacks. No matter how careful you are, there is a height difference between the hardboard surface and the edging. This causes some problems when I need to clamp something to the bench that will extend out over the edge (e.g., when using hand planes). Also, if you have dog holes
in the bench going through the hardboard and MDF and then replace the top, I think registering the holes in the new hardboard layer may be quite difficult.

To do it again, I would probably give up on the idea of a replaceable top. I never did much damage to the bare MDF surface before I added the hardboard surface. I would be tempted to just add another layer of MDF, if and when I need it.

Just my thoughts. Good luck.


View siouxdawgs0409's profile


107 posts in 3092 days

#7 posted 09-01-2010 10:24 PM

Are the torsion box tops as heavy as a piece of two 3/4 mdf laminated together of the same size? Also will a torsion box top take pounding on with out throwing it out of level? I have seeen these torsion tops just have not really paid much detail to them, I see them used on assemebly all the time since they are flat.

View siouxdawgs0409's profile


107 posts in 3092 days

#8 posted 09-01-2010 11:55 PM

Well if I would of put a little thought into the process of the making of the torsion top, I could of answered that weight wise it would be probably just as heavy considering it is probably about the same size and amount material.

Doing a little research it definitely is in the realm of my making ability. The only thing is that I do not have an air nailer and it seems I would need a lot of nails. Has any one done this using no nails and just glue?

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