what to use for the top of workbench?

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Forum topic by isuckatthis posted 06-01-2012 08:30 PM 3631 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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13 posts in 2208 days

06-01-2012 08:30 PM

Topic tags/keywords: workbench

I’m in the middle of building the frame with mortise & tennon joints out of 4×4s and 2×4s. I have no idea really what to do for the top yet?

does anyone have a preference of using mdf compared to wood?

i like the idea of gluing / biscuiting boards together to get an endgrain top.

There are too many options for someone as indecisive as myself.

I also plan on mounting a woodvise, not sure if that would matter with what kind of top I use.

Any suggestions / help would be fantasgreat.

10 replies so far

View jmos's profile


827 posts in 2364 days

#1 posted 06-01-2012 08:41 PM

No joke, but anything you like. I do have to say I’ve never seen an end grain workbench; interesting concept.

As you’ve done the base in dimensional lumber, you could easily continue that. If you can get 6×6 that would make short work of the job. 4×4’s, 2×6’s, or even 2×4 can work well. I’d avoid pressure treated lumber, but some here have used it. Sheet goods can work nicely; a couple layers of MDF give weight and stability, and you can replace the top layer fairly easily if you build the bench to allow it.

I used LVL with maple banding on my bench top and red oak for the base. Many use dimensional lumber, and hardwood is always a sweet, but pricey choice.

Vises can be adapted to pretty much any top. You’ll need to provide more info if you want help really reducing the possibilities.

It’s a fun project.

-- John

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3643 days

#2 posted 06-01-2012 08:47 PM

while the idea is nice – I’d stay clear of making an end-grain top – it would be a real PITA to flatten it, and there is just too much chance for it to get out of flat during construction and down the road…

Other than that it really boils down to your budget, what’s available to you (material wise) and how much work you
d like to invest in the build. a sandwiched top using 2-3 layers of 3/4 MDF will work just fine and be flat and will probably require the least amount of work to accomplish. some folks desire the ‘traditional look’ of laminated top though. functionality both will do just as well.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View dbhost's profile


5708 posts in 3227 days

#3 posted 06-01-2012 08:52 PM

I would start with 2×10s, or 2×12s if you can, face joint them (either with a router, or planer sled), plane them, edge joint then rip to the thickness you want, then get busy with the biscuits, glue, and clamps…

The wider 2x stock tends to be from bigger trees, straighter grain and is far less prone to twisting. Start with the straightest driest stuff you can, and let it acclimate to your shop before taking a single tool to it!

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3063 days

#4 posted 06-01-2012 09:03 PM

Will this be a using bench or a looking bench? I only do using benches and make my bench tops from 3/4” ACX plywood screwed into my bench framework. The ACX designation means that only one side looks decent, but it’s flat and smooth.

My bench tops get sanded and a couple of coats of poly. I give them a scrapdown and freshen up the poly about once a year. They usually last for several years before they get beaten up enough to replace.

Some folks want a workbench that would look fantastic in their living room, but I often wonder if they actually use them. If that’s your goal, just ignore what I said above. – lol

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View isuckatthis's profile


13 posts in 2208 days

#5 posted 06-01-2012 10:04 PM

Wow, you people / this website make things 10xs easier. Thanks for all your suggestions.

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2966 days

#6 posted 06-01-2012 10:12 PM

Do yourself a big favor and look up traditional workbench designs. Threr are several ways to go and each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

An excelent book is “The Workbench Design” book by Chris Schwarz. He illustrates seven (I think) benchs and explains why each is built the way it is.

There is a good magazine on workbenches on the rack at Home Depot right now also.

View willie's profile


533 posts in 2449 days

#7 posted 06-02-2012 03:55 AM

My benchtop is a piece of maple butcherblock countertop that is 25” X 97” X 2 1/4” thick. I mounted three vises to it, one at each end and one on a long side. The base was made from dimensional lumber. It’s been in use for about 15 years and has held up well.

-- Every day above ground is a good day!!!

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3303 days

#8 posted 06-02-2012 04:22 AM

I made my 36”x 96” worktable base with 4×4 posts of Cumaru and the aprons and lower supports out of 1×6 Cumaru. Very solid, dense and very heavy. I used a sheet of 3/4” birch ply for the top and covered it with a 1/4” sheet of UHMW. I have been working on it and gluing stuff on it for over 4 1/2 years and dried glue just peels off easily. Love it!

View MT_Stringer's profile


3168 posts in 3226 days

#9 posted 06-02-2012 04:39 AM

I just started building my work bench which will replace my outfeed table which had become my do-it-all table.
I found a guy “giving away” some commercial solid core doors. I have cut one to finished size of 48×34. It has mahogany veneer on the outside and solid core particle board interior. That is one heavy sucker.

I just finished covering it with white Formica using contact cement. If I need to drill holes, I will. Grooves for table saw sled, no problem. I have a wood vise to mount on one end. I think it will turn out a lot better than anything I have had in the past.

Solid core door for the top. :-)
Good luck

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View Hellfish00's profile


2 posts in 2888 days

#10 posted 06-05-2012 12:55 AM

I used 4 sheets of 3/4 cabinet grade plywood with a birch dog hole strip and skirt.

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