Hardwood Benchdog inserts for low quality bench tops?

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Forum topic by Jaepheth posted 01-16-2013 10:50 AM 2301 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Jaepheth's profile


15 posts in 1982 days

01-16-2013 10:50 AM

Topic tags/keywords: workbench particleboard bench dog holes

Ok, so the story so far is that I’m making my first workbench; I’m at the supply store and in a minute of cheapskatedness I buy 3/4” particleboard for the benchtop because I like the homogeneity, density, and price.

I come to my senses later and realize that this was a poor choice, but since I had to cut the board at the store for transport, I can’t exchange it. (I suppose I should ask a manager to make an exemption since I’d be exchanging it for a pricier product)

Anyway, an idea that struck me was to use my mini lathe to turn some hardwood “pipes” to glue into over-drilled holes in the particleboard to act as benchdog holes. Probably by turning the outer diameter, gluing into place, and then drilling the bench dog hole as normal.

With an inner diameter of 3/4” what would a good outer diameter be? 1 1/4”? (1/4” thick walls)

Would it be better to use a dowel so that the grain runs along the hole (and skip the turning all together)?
Or quarter and re-glue square stock so that the grain runs radially, or concentrically, to the hole?

On a related note, will wood glue on the edges of particleboard cause swelling? Is there a glue that’s better to use with particle board?

Should I just eat the cost of the board and get some real plywood? If so, would the aforementioned inserts still be beneficial?

13 replies so far

View bondogaposis's profile


4765 posts in 2376 days

#1 posted 01-16-2013 01:56 PM

How many dog holes are planning to make? Seems like a lot of work to save a few bucks. Time is money too.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View fatandy2003's profile


262 posts in 2268 days

#2 posted 01-16-2013 02:26 PM

Look past the hand plane in this picture to the dog holes on the back half of my bench. In my early days of woodworking, I made my bench out of pine (the light colored wood). I realized how not durable this choice was so I “inlaid” some pre-made laminated maple countertop (the dark colored wood) into the portions of my bench that contain dog holes. The bench top os 1-1/4 in thick and the maple was 3/4 in thick. This way, I was also able to drill multiple holes into one solid strip of wood, plus, I was able to use the drill press prior to inlaying giving me more accurate holes. Just a thought…

-- -- Andy, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of liberty must undergo the fatigues of supporting it” - Thomas Paine

View JesseTutt's profile


854 posts in 2135 days

#3 posted 01-16-2013 02:36 PM

If you plan to double the particle board (MDF?) to get a thicker top you could follow Andy’s suggestion and cut the top piece to allow hardwood strips where the bench dog holes will be.

-- Jesse, Saint Louis, Missouri

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3183 days

#4 posted 01-16-2013 02:41 PM

I’d so NOT use the particleboard. MDF is a different story.

-- jay,

View bondogaposis's profile


4765 posts in 2376 days

#5 posted 01-16-2013 04:27 PM

Another thought here. If you are dead set on using the particle board how about sandwiching it between a top and bottom of hardwood?

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Jaepheth's profile


15 posts in 1982 days

#6 posted 01-16-2013 05:22 PM

I was thinking of marking out 2 rows of holes with about 6-9” between centers (planning for a vise with ~12” of travel), but only cutting them as needed.

Just to be clear: this is particle board, not MDF.

I may just use the particleboard to make some shelves and go back to get some 3/4” hardwood plywood (doubled) for the bench top.

View fatandy2003's profile


262 posts in 2268 days

#7 posted 01-16-2013 05:30 PM

If you have the money, I would re-purpose the particle board and get a better material for the top. My suggestion was just thinking of a way to salvage the particle board as a top…

-- -- Andy, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of liberty must undergo the fatigues of supporting it” - Thomas Paine

View brtech's profile


1029 posts in 2947 days

#8 posted 01-16-2013 08:16 PM

No one is answering your questions. Part of the problem is that we don’t know if you plan to use one, or more than one layer of particleboard. A 3/4” top is usually not enough, and certainly not enough for dog holes.

Let me assume you plan to layer 3-4 thicknesses of particleboard. You might consider layering some hardwood flooring on top of that. Consider MDF on top of PB if you don’t use the flooring idea. I wouldn’t substitute plywood for the PB. If you were going to scrap the PB, I’d use laminated 2×4s or better yet, 2×8s cut in half and laminated. Lots of great benches are made from 2×4s like that.

To your issue of how to get the dog holes reinforced. I think that a collar of wood will work, however you choose to make it. I’d probably be thinking of 1/2” wall thickness, but 1/4” would probably work. Don’t think it will matter much what direction the grain is running for this application if you use a good hardwood.

Glue and PB work fine, no swelling that I know of. Titebond, or Titebond Extend would be a good choice. Don’t need TBII or TBIII for this application.

If you are indeed using 3-4 thicknesses, you could consider cutting the PB into strips, using square hardwood blocks with the dog holes in them, and building up the top with the strips around the blocks. Just alternate the direction of the strips in each layer, and you should end up with a decent top.

View shampeon's profile


1775 posts in 2208 days

#9 posted 01-16-2013 08:48 PM

If you’re going to go through the trouble of building a decent workbench, I’d just eat the cost of the PB and laminate up a thick top with dimensional douglas fir 2×4s. That should keep the costs down, but provide a better work surface that you won’t have to worry about. Laminating the 3-4 layers of PB is a pain, and surfacing it flat will be difficult.

You can use some of the PB for shelving underneath the bench.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View MT_Stringer's profile


3172 posts in 3256 days

#10 posted 01-16-2013 09:55 PM

@OP – what is the table top size you are planning?
I used a solid core door (36×96) and cut a piece that is 30×48. It is heavey, 2 inches thick and I laminated a piec of Formica on the top.

Here is my “workbench ”

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View Jaepheth's profile


15 posts in 1982 days

#11 posted 01-17-2013 01:45 AM

The table is only 23”x62” I was going to glue 2×3/4” panels together to make a tabletop 1.5 inches think

I would laminate 2×4s together, but one reason I’m putting the table together in the first place is because I don’t currently have a method of clamping boards for planing other than bracing it against my leg at a 45 degree angle and pushing down toward the floor. (I’m very limited in space. I’m basically restricted to a single 10’x9’ workspace which is already populated on 2 sides by desks and a folding table)

So I think I will:

A. Go ahead and temporarily use the particle board as planned, and use that table to build a better table top from laminated 2×4s or 2×8s


B. Use a solid core door as Stringer suggested

View MT_Stringer's profile


3172 posts in 3256 days

#12 posted 01-17-2013 02:30 AM

I forgot to mention that I used some oak for an edge trim around the table top. My table is flat and level with my table saw. I have drilled 3/4 inch holes in various places to allow the use of bench dogs and to work with the vise on the end of the table. The top is two inches larger than the frame so I can use clamps to hold stuff in place.

BTW the top is so heavy it is not fastened to the frame! It is all I can do to move it around when needed, as when I attached the drawers underneath the other day. I made a saddle from some 2 inch pieces of mdf and screwed them to the underside of the top so the top just sits in position. No need to fasten it to the frame.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View Woodknack's profile


11777 posts in 2405 days

#13 posted 01-17-2013 04:30 AM

The nice thing about particle board is it is relatively heavy and flat but I would consider topping it with hardboard for durability. Just screw the hardboard down and you can replace it in a few years if necessary. Yes wood glue will swell particle board but not so much you couldn’t sand it back down. Contact cement might work, a polyurethane glue like Gorilla Glue may not swell it as much though I’m not sure. Your idea of using dowels and drilling through them should work fine.

-- Rick M,

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