Workbench: Fixup or Scrap, What would lumberjocks do?

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Forum topic by MattSEG posted 01-08-2012 11:34 PM 1602 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 2360 days

01-08-2012 11:34 PM

Topic tags/keywords: workbench refurbish

Bought a house a few months back, the lady was sold on the pool, and I was sold on the garage. That said I’m working on going through it and trying to get it up to spec.

The workbench covers a 13 foot length of wall, sticks out about 28 inches, was likely built sometime between the late 50’s and early 70’s. It’s seemed quite solid thus far, heavy, and in the light work I’ve done on it, hasn’t budged. The top was 13’ x 4”ish pine boards that looked like a mix of swiss cheese, battle armor, and a grease trap… those are now gone. I couldn’t bare the thought that anything I’d put on it would get horribly dirty, and scratched from the errant nails.

Now my woodworking skills have been hibernating for the last 16 or so years since junior high shop class (where I was pretty kick butt). The uses of the bench will be varied; I’m mainly a car guy, but intend on getting into wood working, plus the typical honey-do’s.

I’m thinking make parts of the bench. A clean tidy workspace for electronics, wood assembly, etc. A mid area, wood working, exhaust and mechanical parts, and a final area for potting/greasy parts/ etc. Basically the whole thing has to be pretty easy to clean. I was thinking buckets of poly coating.. but I dunno.

...But I digress… here is what I have now. You can surmise the construction, and before I go nuts cleaning, sanding, and painting what I have.. I want some input on if it’s worth keeping. Again, I’m not looking for an objet d’art, but a real working station… which is certainly no slight on some of the gorgeous creations I’ve seen, just that isn’t my personal goal or need. here are pics of the bench as it is, and the mummified string of spiders I found.

Thanks in advance for your help

6 replies so far

View Ben's profile


302 posts in 2356 days

#1 posted 01-08-2012 11:50 PM

Well in my opinion, since it looks pretty solid, I would add a new top and use it. Pretty basic framing, but you could easily add drawers, cabinet doors etc. I reuse anything and everything I can.

-- Welcome to downtown Coolsville, Population: US! --Hogarth Hughes

View muleskinner's profile


896 posts in 2462 days

#2 posted 01-10-2012 04:57 PM

I’m with Ben. Looks like it has pretty good bones. Bolted together, not screwed or nailed. New top, couple sections for drawers, couple sections for cupboards and you’d have pretty much what I built 25 years ago. Serves well for a general purpose work bench.

I used a bunch of 2×4 shorts cross wise for the top and covered it with tempered masonite. It’s held up well.

-- Visualize whirled peas

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4948 posts in 3986 days

#3 posted 01-10-2012 06:11 PM

Look at the weatherproof MDF called Extira. It is very dense and heavy, super stable, and when coated with 2 to 3 coats of shellac, will made a very good top. A pluse—-the shellac is easy to refresh.
I had some of this product left over from an exterior home build, and used/use it for big jigs. Stuff is sweet.


View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 2977 days

#4 posted 01-10-2012 06:22 PM

If it were me, I’d probably put two layers of 3/4 plywood on it followed by a couple of coats of poly and call it a day. You can also put a wood trim on the edge like seen in muleskinner’s photo. (Muleskinner, that username frightens me alittle.)

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2510 days

#5 posted 01-10-2012 06:32 PM

As far as the woodworking goes, if you’re going to be doing any hand tool work I would reinforce the hell out of that top. The 2×4 boards are spaced a bit too far apart for my liking. I would put 1 or maybe 2 more pieces in between the existing supports, and perhaps some smaller pieces running perpendicular to those just for the sake of overbuilding. That’s if you’re going to be doing any serious hammering or chiseling, anyway.

-- Brian Timmons -

View dbhost's profile


5726 posts in 3257 days

#6 posted 01-10-2012 07:15 PM

My big bench, is a Simpson Strong tie job I built literally a decade ago specifically for automotive work. Doing both types of work I can tell you there are some things I would change if I built a new one, and I most likely will…

#1. Do NOT use the same bench for woodworking, and auto repair… No matter how hard you try to keep it clean, car parts get bench tops grubby, that grease and junk ends up in your wood work piece and makes finishing a real pain.

#2. Woodworking and auto repair both use vises, but they are different animals all together. Don’t try using a good woodworking vise to hold your half shaft while you drive the CV joint off of it… You won’t like what happens. Don’t ask me how I know this…

#3. if you can, split it up. Use the bench against the wall, but down a bit, for auto work, and build a proper woodworking bench…

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