Ever buy premade Bench top to incorperate in a work bench?

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Forum topic by KenBry posted 03-09-2012 06:59 PM 3329 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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484 posts in 2412 days

03-09-2012 06:59 PM

I am still trying to come up with a method and the means to build my first REAL woodworking bench. One thought I have been considering is buying a premade maple top. There are several places I can find 2-3” maple tops in various lengths. Ususally at pretty good prices compared to me building one.

Has anyone else bought the top then modified it to be their bench? Was it worth it after you finished?

-- Ken, USAF MSgt, Ret.

12 replies so far

View Bertha's profile


13521 posts in 2658 days

#1 posted 03-09-2012 07:44 PM

I’ve considered this, too. I even considered bolting a bunch of Ikea ones together (gasp, I know). I guess there’s no guarantee about the gluing if you didn’t do it yourself. It would be hard to span with threads. Square dogholes would be a bit$h. I think it’s a pretty workable idea, though. Post some links if you got em.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 2413 days

#2 posted 03-09-2012 07:58 PM

Yes, and no, in order of your questions.

Pre-made tops at bargain prices are rarely bargains. The strips rarely run full length for the full width of the top, meaning you have end-to-end butt joints all over the top. The wood is rarely well matched color and grain wise, so it never looks that nice. I’ve seen more than a few with voids and knots on either the bottom or even both surfaces. As well I’ve seen joints that weren’t tight and simply “filled” using some type of epoxy or filler to make it appear tight.

They do make nice benchtops for something like a cabinet that will be at the side of the shop, but not for a traditional workbench as a woodworker would use.

My father had one in our basement from back when he had his milling machine. He was never happy with it. He made a nice trestle base for it, added aprons down the sides between the trestles and added battens across the bottom. He had applied a nice oil finish on it and kept up with it well too.
Within a few years it started to develop cracks at the glue joints, especially where 2 pieces were butted end to end. He filled them with thinned epoxy, but they just opened back up again in time. That was just the beginning of the issues.

I just don’t think they’re a good call, at all.

You do NOT need hardwood for a good bench, and never listen to anyone who says otherwise, I don’t care who they are or how famous they are, it is not in any way necessary.

You can make a top from rough lumber for much less than a pre-made, even if you do use hardwood. Avoid box-stores and go to a mill or reputable lumber supplier.
I have now got prices on all the wood for my bench, which will be made from a pine species, and will cost me just over $100. And that is with 4” thick top, and 4” square legs.

-- Kenny

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484 posts in 2412 days

#3 posted 03-09-2012 07:58 PM

I have seen the “premade” tops at Lee Valley (veriatas), Grizzly, Woodcraft. Hell even the local Sams has a nice top on some steel legs I thought about.
I can live with round benchdog holes instead of square.
Google Search for Maple Tops

-- Ken, USAF MSgt, Ret.

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484 posts in 2412 days

#4 posted 03-09-2012 08:03 PM

Kenny, Thanks for that insight, I was thinking about making mine out of Doug Fur. But I do like the idea of a hardboard top. I imagine with the top, If you buy a prebuilt one, you get what you pay for. Lord knows if I built my own I could end up with alot of the same problems you discribe (Just not the end gluing).

-- Ken, USAF MSgt, Ret.

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484 posts in 2412 days

#5 posted 03-09-2012 08:18 PM

Oh, on some tops I have seen they take the pieces that are end joined and instead of a butt joint they use a finger joint. Much stronger this way

-- Ken, USAF MSgt, Ret.

View Grandpa's profile


3259 posts in 2641 days

#6 posted 03-09-2012 08:24 PM

What about using a section of bowling alley lane? Take 3 or 4 guys with you to load it. They are maple. They do have nails in the interior of them when you start to cut or drill.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4903 posts in 3926 days

#7 posted 03-09-2012 08:28 PM

Mine is from a bowling alley. Has butt joints. Well, they’re my butt joints—so what. They haven’t failed after almost 20 years. If it’ll work in a bowling lane, why not in a workshop. I used round dog holes, and the work just fine. My hold fasts will clamp anything I want.


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484 posts in 2412 days

#8 posted 03-09-2012 09:02 PM

I don’t have any bowling alleys near me that are tossing their old lanes. That’s really one of those things that if you get lucky and can get it then build it :).

I just E-mailed these guys to get a quote. Maple Tops

-- Ken, USAF MSgt, Ret.

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Bill White

4903 posts in 3926 days

#9 posted 03-09-2012 09:18 PM

Ken, I was lucky. Georgia Baptist Hospital was renovating the wellness center 20+ yrs. ago, and I was able to pick up a hunk. Aside from having to deal with the SS spiral shank nails, I was able to build a great bench. FWIW, my top is 2 1/2” thick and works well with the dogs and holdfasts.


View Steve Peterson's profile

Steve Peterson

371 posts in 3048 days

#10 posted 03-10-2012 05:37 PM

I use two 8’ by 30” by 1.75” maple tabletops for sanders and a small drill press. They work great as benchtops and I think they would work reasonably well for a woodworking bench. Mine have remained flat within 1/32” across a 4’ section for the past 5 years.

I ordered mine from Grizzly. They have a huge range of available sizes at good prices even when you add shipping costs. They have a hard polyurathane-like finish on all surfaces. One side is obviously the top surface with better sanding and no finishing drips. The interior sections have finger joints, but the edges are continous. I think they look great. And they are made in the USA.

-- Steve

View doncutlip's profile


2832 posts in 3521 days

#11 posted 03-10-2012 08:15 PM

I bought a laminated maple top from Grizzly. I live close enough that I could drive up there (Muncy, Pa) and get it. It’s a nice piece of wood, like 3’x6’ but it’s not dead flat. It bows down in the middle. I hear even if you get a flat one that could change depending on the conditions of your shop. I even heard of one fellow who had access to a massive sanding station and got it flattended out that way. I left mine alone, I use it to build on but don’t depend on it’s flatness.

-- Don, Royersford, PA

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Fred Hargis

4954 posts in 2459 days

#12 posted 03-10-2012 10:17 PM

I, too, bought one from Grizzly and like Don’s it isn’t perfectly flat. Since I do have a perfectly flat assembly table I do my assemblies on it and use the workbench for the pounding/planing/sanding/whatever where flatness isn’t critical. I’ve had this one for over 10 years now and isn’t hasn’t cracked/split/broken yet. No butt joints in it at all. It’s a 30” x 72” top. At the time I bought it I remember thinking it was a fairly good price for one, but my memory has played tricks on me about other things as well.

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

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