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Forum topic by Notw posted 02-12-2014 05:16 PM 1423 views 1 time favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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633 posts in 1718 days

02-12-2014 05:16 PM

Topic tags/keywords: pine

I am building a new workbench and have decided to build a solid base out of 4×4 SYP post ripped to 3” with mortise and tenon joinery. As I don’t want to spend a lot on my bench i have decided to go with a MDF and plywood top. The way I have the base built I can always replace it with a sturdier maple top in the future. I am planning on using a 3/4 plywood bottom layer and then (2) layers of 3/4” MDF to make up the top, with hard wood edging, possibly oak or poplar. So I have two questions, first should I glue and screw all of the layers of the top together or will the weight of the layers and the hardwood edge be enough. Second should I add a layer of 1/4” hardboard to the top as a replacable layer when the top gets aged and beat up? Thanks for any suggestions or ideas I haven’t thought of yet.

9 replies so far

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2935 days

#1 posted 02-12-2014 06:17 PM

I built my top out of 4 layers of 3/4” plywood then a replaceable MDF top.

Three very important things to consider.

1. You will need the force of clamps and cauls, or screws to hold the layers together till the glue sets.

—I used screws on 8 inch centers both directions.

2. You must be absolutely sure the top is flat, not sagging or bowed, and most importantly not twisted.

—I set up on saw horses and shimmed the entire assembly, before glue, using winding sticks and levels.

3. You will be sorry if you don’t remove the screws after each layer has set up, before you add the next layer.

—Wish I had this advice before I left the screws in mine. I screwed up two drill bits putting my dog holes in.

View shipwright's profile (online now)


7965 posts in 2762 days

#2 posted 02-12-2014 06:35 PM

That is good advice. One more tip would be to position the pieces accurately and screw them together with at least a few screws, back out the screws until you can separate the pieces, and then add the glue and re-tighten the screws.
This will totally eliminate ” glue slide”.

I have two benches with different styles of plywood tops. You can check them out if you want. Both have build blogs.

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

View Notw's profile


633 posts in 1718 days

#3 posted 02-12-2014 07:23 PM

Crank, I think screws would be easier, running around getting the clamps tightened and hoping nothing shifts sounds like a comically frustrating event.

Shipwright, very well made benches and a logical approach to making them, I really like the idea of a split top with laminated plywood.

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2935 days

#4 posted 02-19-2014 06:44 AM

I had forgotten it until Shipwright mentioned it, but I did run about four screws in and then backed them out before spreading the glue.
Another thing I did to help with alignment and handling during the assembly process was when those first 4 screws were in, I applied a couple of 12” long strips of Gorilla brand “Super Duct Tape” to one side; it worked like a hinge.
When I backed the screws out I just folded the book open and had a prop to hold it up while I spread the glue. Then removed the prop and closed the book back together. Ran the four screws back into the holes they had already been in before. The rest of the screws followed to tighten the whole thing up.
I was working with the top turned upside down and had a grid drawn on each sheet to know where the screws would need to go.

View TheGermanJoiner's profile


847 posts in 1602 days

#5 posted 02-19-2014 07:29 AM

Torsion box top with replaceable hardboard skin. Woodwhisperer has some info and there’s a few other sites online

-- Greg - Ferdinand and Son Construction: Do it right the first time. Like us on Facebook

View Notw's profile


633 posts in 1718 days

#6 posted 02-20-2014 08:46 PM

So I am now back to being indecisive again. I was all set on the idea of using MDF for the top because it would be strong and flat and at a reasonably low price. I was going to use a layer of 3/4” plywood and (2) layers of 3/4” MDF glued and screwed together with a hardwood banding around it. However, now I am thinking I may use a kiln dried 2×10x144 kiln dried SYP board and rip it down to 2-3/4×1-1/2×60” and laminate them together for the top, with this method I should be able to get a 24” x 60” top out of 3 boards. My question is without a jointer or a planer am I going to be able to get a nice smooth flat top? I have no worries about my table saw ripping the boards down and I assume I could always get the top close to flat and then make a router jig to get it even flatter. Just can’t decide which route to take. I would appreciate any suggestions or experience.

View TheGermanJoiner's profile


847 posts in 1602 days

#7 posted 02-22-2014 01:41 AM

To get it flat you’re gonna have to hand plane it either way. Unless you have a 24” thickness planer. :) it’s not to hard. I think it’s jords workshop has a pretty cool and simple bench build. He’s an Aussie and shoes you how to flatten the top.

-- Greg - Ferdinand and Son Construction: Do it right the first time. Like us on Facebook

View bondogaposis's profile


4682 posts in 2315 days

#8 posted 02-22-2014 01:53 AM

You can very easily hand plane the the top to get it flat and level. All you need it a jack plane and a joiner plane.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View richardwootton's profile


1699 posts in 1919 days

#9 posted 02-22-2014 02:02 AM

Use cauls when you glue it up to make sure it’s as close to flat as possible, then you can get that bad boy flat and true in no time at all. I did that with my last bench top then decided to re-do it and go with an oak bench.

-- Richard, Hot Springs, Ar -- Galoot In Training

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