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How thick bench top?? 2"? 3"? 4"?

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Forum topic by TwoThumbBruce posted 07-05-2018 03:51 PM 946 views 1 time favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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TwoThumbBruce

36 posts in 3096 days


07-05-2018 03:51 PM

I’m building My Last Workshop, and one of my first projects will be a workbench. Most of the workbenches i see on YouTube use 2×4 or 4×4’s for the tabletop. Is 4” really necessary? It’s not the cost, and just a bit of the extra work, , but wouldn’t 2” or 3” (nominal) be enough? I’ll have wood vises and dog holes.

Someplace I read that working mostly with power tools, as I’ll be doing, doesn’t have the same needs as old school woodworking, I don’t want a table that’ll bounce, but is 4” think tops necessary?

-- Bruce, Florida


28 replies so far

View jmartel's profile

jmartel

8053 posts in 2230 days


#1 posted 07-05-2018 04:04 PM

Not necessary. But more mass is always better. I’d go with 3” over 2” for sure. 2” is a little thin for holdfasts. Can be used, but 3” is better.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

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jmos

847 posts in 2450 days


#2 posted 07-05-2018 04:18 PM

Depending on how you’ll use the bench, the weight of a thicker top is really useful. Mine is 4” thick and 7’ long, and it never thinks about moving when I’m hand planing. The thicker top can also be nice when you’re chopping with a chisel, as a thinner bench top may flex a bit. I’d also say a minimum of 3” if you’re doing hand work.

As you say, if you’re mostly doing power tool work, 2” is probably sufficient. According to a blog on Tools for Working Wood, 2” thick works fine for holdfasts.

If you confident you’re not going to take the trip down the hand tool rabbit hole, you should be fine with 2”.

-- John

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jdh122

1032 posts in 2898 days


#3 posted 07-05-2018 04:22 PM

I made mine out of 2×4s and it’s very solid. But you might want to check out Mike Siemsen’s version of the Nicholson bench, all built out of construction lumber at less than 2 inches thick, with a bit of reinforcement at strategic places. And he’s an all hand-tool guy too.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

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MrRon

4916 posts in 3324 days


#4 posted 07-05-2018 04:22 PM

Weight is your friend so a thick top is most desirable, especially since cost is not a factor.

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HokieKen

5823 posts in 1219 days


#5 posted 07-05-2018 04:31 PM

I’m a hybrid guy myself but most of the work done on the bench is hand tool. My bench also doubles as my assembly table for larger projects. My top is about 3-1/4” thick White Oak. My goals for the top were mass and rigidity as others pointed out. I’m happy with my bench as-is but I wouldn’t want it any thinner for the purpose of weight. Even with the 3+” top, 4×6 legs and 4×4 stretchers, the dang thing will shift occasionally on my slick, concrete shop floor when I’m scrub planing.

Honestly, even for power-tool work, I’d go as thick as you can practically. If you have some good, stable 8/4 stock you want to use, then go for it. But if you’re going the 2X construction lumber route, I’d buy a few extra pieces and go for 3” instead. I’ve heard guys say they wish their bench was thicker/heavier. Never heard anyone complain it’s too thick though. Err on the side of caution when practical…

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

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gargey

1013 posts in 856 days


#6 posted 07-05-2018 04:33 PM

You said “My Last Workshop.”

If that’s the plan, don’t undershoot and wish you’d done better.

It’s not much extra work (or money, if using construction lumber as you suggest).

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bondogaposis

4891 posts in 2431 days


#7 posted 07-05-2018 04:40 PM

I think depends on the style of bench you intend to build. For a Roubo, I wouln’t go less than 3”. The weight and mass is your friend on that style of bench. The other types of benches I’n not familiar with so I’ll let others comment on that. Do you have a style in mind?

-- Bondo Gaposis

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PPK

1095 posts in 890 days


#8 posted 07-05-2018 04:49 PM



Not necessary. But more mass is always better. I d go with 3” over 2” for sure. 2” is a little thin for holdfasts. Can be used, but 3” is better.

- jmartel

+1

-- Pete

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Bill_Steele

380 posts in 1812 days


#9 posted 07-05-2018 05:47 PM

I agree with the other posts—you want a heavy solid workbench. If you’re not dead set on a wood tabletop—you might consider MDF. It’s heavy, flat, and does not change much (if at all) dimensionally. Four layers of 3/4” MDF will get you a heavy and solid work surface.

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builtinbkyn

2619 posts in 1021 days


#10 posted 07-05-2018 05:53 PM



Depending on how you ll use the bench, the weight of a thicker top is really useful. Mine is 4” thick and 7 long, and it never thinks about moving when I m hand planing. The thicker top can also be nice when you re chopping with a chisel, as a thinner bench top may flex a bit. I d also say a minimum of 3” if you re doing hand work.

As you say, if you re mostly doing power tool work, 2” is probably sufficient. According to a blog on Tools for Working Wood, 2” thick works fine for holdfasts.

If you confident you re not going to take the trip down the hand tool rabbit hole, you should be fine with 2”.

- jmos

The 2” they cite does work, but it also depends upon the thickness of the stock being held. I’ve cleaned up my top twice now and it’s approaching the 2” thickness. I find thinner stock isn’t holding as well. Sometimes I need to give the holdfast another whack or two.

-- Bill, Yo!......in Brooklyn & Steel City :)

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BurlyBob

5816 posts in 2346 days


#11 posted 07-06-2018 05:37 AM

Bigger is always better and it suck to build a light duty bench and wish you’d built it bigger. Mines going to be a 5”-5 1/2” top.

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TwoThumbBruce

36 posts in 3096 days


#12 posted 07-06-2018 06:08 AM

Well, THAT was impressive! You guys chimed in cast my doubts away! Quick! Of course, in retrospective, the answer is obvious with the minimal downside being overwhelmed by the much more substantial benefits or potential benefits.

I have my new Laguna Fusion F2 arriving this afternoon and if the Florida heat eases up a bit I’m going to start on my workshop and I’ll try to make a few LJ projects. I hope I don’t embarrass myself too much!

Thanks guys!

-- Bruce, Florida

View bigJohninvegas's profile

bigJohninvegas

474 posts in 1542 days


#13 posted 07-06-2018 06:11 AM

Like others say, It depends on what kind of work you are doing. I love the idea of a 4” thick bench. But that just does not fit my needs. As it turns out, I too for the most part am a power tool woodworker. And with my small shop size, My bench needed to be an outfeed/assembly table as well as a workbench.
In the end I loosely copied the benches from a local school. The top of my bench is two sheets of 5’X5’- 3/4” baltic birch ply wood. And 4/4 poplar, and 1” ply for the legs and base. Flat, and solid as a rock. And when the top gets worn out. Just a new sheet of plywood.
Photo was when bench was brand new, had not added the dog holes yet.

-- John

View jonah's profile

jonah

1820 posts in 3379 days


#14 posted 07-07-2018 02:12 PM

My workbench top is about 3.5” thick, and I like it. Personally, I wouldn’t go less than 3” for a classic hand tool or hybrid bench, but honestly, with the right bracing, stability, and a heavy base, you can get by with a 2” top.

View CaptainKlutz's profile

CaptainKlutz

381 posts in 1574 days


#15 posted 07-10-2018 07:16 PM

Agree with other posts >> If you want hand tool bench:

2” thick is marginal for using hold fasts. Bench dog holes will also wear faster than thicker top.
3” thick works with hold fast, and allows for 3-4 major top re-surfacing as top gets more experience.
4” thick will allow your kids to use the bench after you die, unless are type who abuses his bench top and needs to resurface it every couple years; then best plan for 6 inch thick.

IMHO – For a classic hand tool use, would not start with less 3.5 inch lumber thickness for a new bench.

Do not forget that you have to flatten the top after glue up. It is easy to make glue mistakes or get some warp after glue up that will require 1/4+ inch removal to get long table top flat initially. Before you know it, 3.5 inch top becomes 3 inches. So best to start at least 1 inch thicker lumber than final thickness you want to end up using initially.

Best Luck.

-- I'm an engineer not a woodworker, but I can randomly find useful tools and furniture inside a pile of lumber!

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