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How thick should a laminated woodworking bench top be

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Forum topic by JohnMcD348 posted 07-29-2014 02:32 AM 1079 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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JohnMcD348

48 posts in 342 days


07-29-2014 02:32 AM

Hello all. Looking for advice on this and haven’t really found an answer yet. I’ve been reading a few books and looking at a few things online and decided to use Yellow Pine for my first bench top. I’ll be getting it from the local Lowes/Home Depot spots since it’s plentiful and it’s my first bench so I really want to do it right, but cheaper than building it with Oak, Maple, Mahogany, or one of the other more expensive hardwoods.

I’m planning on building the bench to about 5ft long and between 28-32in wide. I know 2×4 would probably be too thin and I’m thinking that 2×8 would be too wide and create too thick of a bench and would require longer clamps to hold things on the edge. Problem is, I don’t see any 2×6 SYP lumber in either one of my stores. They sell 2×4,8,10,12. I thought about using 2×12 and ripping in half and using the cut ends for the top.

My thinking about the larger size lumber is that using a 2×8 would be too large and not let me use hold fasts and such. Am I wrong on this? Would using 2×8 be better? Would it make a difference?

Thanks
JTMcD.


20 replies so far

View TheWoodenOyster's profile

TheWoodenOyster

1032 posts in 680 days


#1 posted 07-29-2014 02:58 AM

My bench is 2 3/4” or 3” thick and I have never needed or wanted it to be any thicker. On thing though, I don’t use benchdogs, and I do know that the thickness of the bench will affect the performance of those – hopefully a hand tool user will chime in on that. But, other than that, I see no reason to go any thicker than the width of a 2×4, unless you are just trying to add weight.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

2136 posts in 996 days


#2 posted 07-29-2014 03:06 AM

I built my bench of 2×4s turned on edge after slicing off the rounded ends. The finished top is just under 3” and it works well with dogs and holdfasts. The bench is stable when hand planing. Good luck with the design and construction of your bench.

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1479 posts in 1106 days


#3 posted 07-29-2014 03:24 AM

A workbench is for working on. I have two benches, both of which are topped with 2×4’s on the flat with 3/4 ply screwed on top of that. The ply has been replaced once on the twenty year old bench. They work just fine.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View Richard Hillius's profile

Richard Hillius

155 posts in 425 days


#4 posted 07-29-2014 03:48 AM

I used some 4X6’s for my bench. You can get the clearer select ones from some lumber yards if you ask for not much more than the big box store prices and it really cuts down on the glue lines. 3” or so is plenty thick enough for a bench and will last you a lifetime. The most important thing is the bench top is stiff so it doesn’t sag or flex when your pounding on it and that your choice of holding fixtures works in the top. Bench dogs won’t have a issue at 3” neither will hold fasts. In fact much thicker and some of the holdfasts won’t hold as well and you will have to drill a oversized hold on the underside of the bench to allow the hold fast to sit at enough of a angle to grip.

The biggest problem’s I have had with big box lumber is it tends to be wet and warps like no tomorrow and has a lot more knots than some of the clearer grade stuff you can get from lumber yards. There is nothing wrong with sticking with yellow pine for a bench top just do yourself a favor and get it from a lumber yard.

View JohnMcD348's profile

JohnMcD348

48 posts in 342 days


#5 posted 07-29-2014 11:47 PM

Thanks for the replies. My problem is that there really isn’t any other lumbar yard places around my area that I know of. The best I could get is the main stores and other than 1x and 2x, the only 4x’s they sell are 4×4’s and they’ve all got rounded edges so, by the time I cut them off flat, it’d be more like a 3×3. I guess I should start googling and driving around the area and checking our places.

View Bogeyguy's profile

Bogeyguy

494 posts in 813 days


#6 posted 07-29-2014 11:57 PM

No matter what you use you only have to trim the round edges from the top side. Stick stack the lumber in your shop to let it dry evenly before glue up. 2X4 will be plenty strong enough.

-- Art, Pittsburgh.

View TheWoodenOyster's profile

TheWoodenOyster

1032 posts in 680 days


#7 posted 07-30-2014 12:31 AM

I think it is pretty unanimous from everyone that 3 inches thick is a great thickness for a benchtop, so 2×4’s will work for you just fine. I really don’t think it is worth the trouble to make it any thicker than that. 3” thick will do everything you want.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View CharlesA's profile

CharlesA

1929 posts in 542 days


#8 posted 07-30-2014 02:03 AM

Yup—3” is very usable—I made mine from 2×4” ripped from 2×12” SYP. After planing, down to about 3” thick.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View bigblockyeti's profile

bigblockyeti

1784 posts in 465 days


#9 posted 07-30-2014 03:13 AM

If you want to get the full 3 1/2” from a 2×4 you can rip or plane the faces off giving you a board roughly 1 1/4” thick, but you’ll have 20% more glue lines across the top.

View richardwootton's profile

richardwootton

1459 posts in 700 days


#10 posted 07-30-2014 03:51 AM

Even though my current bench top is just a hair under three inches and has worked just fine for what it has been. On my Roubo bench build, the top is going to be roughly 4-5 inches thick (haven’t decided which yet) red oak. Overkill? Probably, but it’s also something that I want to excede my lifetime to become an antique.

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

View JohnMcD348's profile

JohnMcD348

48 posts in 342 days


#11 posted 07-30-2014 05:01 AM

thanks for all the input. I guess I’ll take another look at the basic 2×4 instead of the larger boards. I kinda like the idea of shaving the boards from the wide side instead of the narrow. It would give a larger glue up surface while leaving the total size of depth of the table at 3 1/2 inches. And, the narrower boards would give me a couple of additional boards in the same width of table top. It’s after midnight and I’m not up to figuring the totals right now but roughly 2-3 more 2×4’s added into a 30ish inch table.

This will be my first real “heavy duty” table so I’m sure, somewhere down the road, I’ll use that table to help build a different one.

Thanks

View crank49's profile

crank49

3506 posts in 1716 days


#12 posted 07-30-2014 09:07 AM

I would humbly suggest you reconsider the 30” wide idea.

I read the workbench books by Chris Schwarz and followed his recommendation to make the bench ~24” wide;
never regretted this decision. My bench is actually 25 1/2” wide by 84” long.

My top is 3 1/2” thick and I do have trouble getting holdfasts to grip sometimes. Wish I had made it 3” thick.

-- Michael :-{| “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” ― A H

View CharlesA's profile

CharlesA

1929 posts in 542 days


#13 posted 07-30-2014 04:47 PM

I, too, followed the Chris Schwarz specs and found them very helpful. A couple of more comments about thickness.

I know some folks on LJ have built workbenches like works of art—they are stunning. I am jealous. On the other hand, I am not the type that could do justice to that type of workbench. I will spill finish, bang it with a mallet, drop something on it, etc. I don’t want a bubinga/zebrawood table that I’m scared of using. I used Ash to sandwich my SYP on the vices—that’s as exotic as it gets.

Second, I also found Schwarz’s suggestion that workbench tops were something one reengineered every few years according to your needs. I built mine a couple of years ago and already want to go to a split top. I don’t have that much invested in my top and I could make a new one pretty quickly.

Further, since I made my 3” top I can’t ever remember thinking to myself—this thing isn’t substantial/stiff enough for my needs—it is rock solid. I don’t know what I would gain with a thicker top—and mine works with hold fasts.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View mramseyISU's profile

mramseyISU

103 posts in 290 days


#14 posted 07-30-2014 07:36 PM

I really respect what Chris Schwarz has to say about benches but I did deviate from his advice a bit with my benchtop. Mine is a sheet of 3/4” MDF glued down to a piece of 3/4” plywood I have a twin screw veritas vise on the front with a set of 3” x 6” white oak jaws. I have an apron around the rest of the bench that is a 4×4 post with a 1/2” white oak face covering up the layers. The 4×4 apron was added about a year after I finished the bench to stiffen things up.

-- Trust me I'm an engineer.

View JohnMcD348's profile

JohnMcD348

48 posts in 342 days


#15 posted 07-31-2014 01:11 AM

I’ve not really decided yet on the actual depth yet. I know I want it larger than 24” but not something hugely out past 36”. I know how high I’ll build it but I’m constantly looking at and measuring different tops. This past weekend, I was checking out the length/width of bedside tables at the hospital. They’re about 32” and I can reach from end to end very easily when about waist high. I’m 6’3” with long arms. I’m probably leaning toward about 28ish inches.

On the idea of wood.

As CharlesA mentioned he split down 2×12’s into 2×4’s. Would doing that be better than using precut 2×4’s? I read a lot and see the comment many times that getting the widest and longest boards are usually the better way to go as they are typically better quality.

Would doing something like this increase, decrease, or make no difference on how the wood settles and seasons over times after it’s been cut and made into a bench? Just asking for my own knowledge.

Thanks

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