Material Recommendations for workshop cabinet countertops

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Forum topic by GerardW posted 07-22-2013 03:42 PM 1597 views 1 time favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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44 posts in 1787 days

07-22-2013 03:42 PM

Hey! So I purchased some used kitchen cabinets to add into my garage workshop, which has already been a great boon for my organization/sanity. They aren’t intended to be my primary workspace for woodworking- I have an assembly table and a workbench, but they will be used for storage, tinkering, setting glue ups, etc. I’m also planning to build a spot for my mitre saw to be recessed a bit between two of the cabinets so that they can serve as workpiece support, and maybe even eventually have a t-track for stops in there.

The big question I have is what material should I shoot for to create a nice working surface, that’s still affordable? My first thought was to do 3/4 MDF laminated to 1 1/2” and edged with hardwood, but that’s just because that’s the same material on my assembly table. Any other suggestions? Is the double lamination overkill? Should I just go with a nice single layer of plywood? Or mixing materials somehow to give me the best bang for my buck?

Thanks for any input you have! Pics below of the cabinets to give you an idea (organization is a mess because I had to pull everything out to hang the cabinets. As a bit of a side note, gloat that all 15 cabinets came to me for just $275 bucks!)

-- Gerard in Bowie MD

10 replies so far

View waho6o9's profile


8163 posts in 2541 days

#1 posted 07-22-2013 04:03 PM

Maybe still available, good luck now.

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

7937 posts in 2293 days

#2 posted 07-22-2013 04:03 PM

I also have recycled kitchen cabs in my shop for storage and organizaton.

I used 1” birch plywood for the coutner tops and then put a strip of 1/2” thick maple as edge banding, and a painted pine 1×4 as a “back splash” to cover the gaps at the back.

Rock solid top….. I stained and coated the top with poly and it’s holding up very well.

-- It’s the knowledge in your head, skill in your hands and motivation to create in you heart that makes you a woodworker. - Mainiac Matt

View shipwright's profile


7965 posts in 2762 days

#3 posted 07-22-2013 04:11 PM

I’ve used birch plywood for bench/ shop countertops for years, either single or double 3/4” depending on the use but my real suggestion is for finish. I apply about four coats of varna thane water based diamond coat. It is really durable, glue chips off the surface without leaving residue and it looks good. Every year or two I just sand them down a layer or two and recoat. They will look like new for years.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View bondogaposis's profile


4682 posts in 2315 days

#4 posted 07-22-2013 04:41 PM

Double layer of MDF topped w/ formica makes a great surface and fairly cheap.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2654 days

#5 posted 07-23-2013 01:28 AM

White Formica is my favorite. Glue won’t stick and it makes a great surface to make pencil notes and drawings. Pencil marks are easily erased or just wipe off with alcohol.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View NiteWalker's profile


2736 posts in 2541 days

#6 posted 07-23-2013 01:36 AM

+1 on white formica.
A big advantage is the light it reflects. Keeps the work area nice and bright.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View NormG's profile


5931 posts in 2968 days

#7 posted 07-23-2013 01:40 AM

White Formica board again

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View distrbd's profile


2252 posts in 2411 days

#8 posted 07-23-2013 01:52 AM

A member from another woodworking site used 2×4s ,about 20 of them all cut to 6’ long,jointed on the narrow sides(2” side) and face glued them so you would have a table top about 30” wide 6’ long and 3.5” thick,very solid ,he later on added a removeable top out of hardboard (arborite) so if it got damaged it could easily be replaced,not a bad idea if you ask me.

-- Ken from Ontario, Canada

View GerardW's profile


44 posts in 1787 days

#9 posted 08-03-2013 04:30 PM

Thanks for all the replies! In the end I went with melamine coated particleboard. It was cheap (though incredibly heavy) and available at my local store. Plus it came in 49×97 sheets which meant I only needed one. Also edged with hard maple so it will hold up a bit better!

-- Gerard in Bowie MD

View Handtooler's profile (online now)


1541 posts in 2096 days

#10 posted 08-03-2013 05:21 PM

Nice! You’ll certainly enjoy that. Being whits I REALLY like the light reflrction that it emits, as I am blind in my left eye so depth preception and paralax can present a problem sometime for me.

-- Russell Pitner Hixson, TN 37343

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