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Thoughts about a new workbench

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Forum topic by Joel_B posted 01-11-2015 04:56 PM 1123 views 2 times favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Joel_B

294 posts in 841 days


01-11-2015 04:56 PM

My workbench has been for some time our old kitchen table which is oval, not flat and not heavy enough.
I cant really mount vises on it, so I am forced to use clamps which is getting old.
So here are some thoughts about a new workbench:

Budget – I can’t spend a lot of money on it. Somewhere in the $500 range is what I am thinking. This pretty much rules out buying an already made bench as the ones in that price range don’t seem worthwhile (maybe I am missing something here)

Building my own – I don’t want to make this a huge project. I just made my own router table and stand and part way into the stand I was wishing I just bought a metal one, but in the end it turned out pretty good. So I am willing to put some time and effort into it.

Materials – I don’t have access to free or low cost hardwood. I don’t have access to a huge sanding machine to make it flat. I don’t want to do a huge glue up for the top. So I am thinking of buying a maple bench top like this:

https://www.grizzly.com/products/G9914

I could make a support structure out of DF 2×4s and MDF and then put an edge around it.

Would like hear if I am on the right track and what other approaches I should consider.
Are there any books or other resources I should look at as far coming up with a good design?

Thanks

-- Joel, Encinitas, CA


24 replies so far

View bobasaurus's profile

bobasaurus

2657 posts in 2644 days


#1 posted 01-11-2015 04:58 PM

You could buy that top and make a base out of cheap construction lumber. I have similar plans for my new workbench. You could also just laminate the top out of construction lumber, making it thick enough to be sturdy.

-- Allen, Colorado

View Charlie's profile

Charlie

1100 posts in 1746 days


#2 posted 01-11-2015 05:20 PM

Get ya some doug fir 2x. Usually…. around here at least… the borg has like 2×10 and 2×12 doug fir as opposed to 2×4 made of “white wood” which is basically any crappy pine they can get a board from. :)

Rip the doug fir and laminate a top. You’ll be out a LOT less than the $175 for that store bought maple top.

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Joel_B

294 posts in 841 days


#3 posted 01-11-2015 09:08 PM

I was also wondering about the possibility of using solid hardwood flooring on top of MDF.
Not sure sure how flat it would be or how to attach it.
It is pretty cheap around $3 to $4 per sq ft.
I did some searching and didn’t come up with much.

-- Joel, Encinitas, CA

View bandit571's profile

bandit571

14536 posts in 2143 days


#4 posted 01-11-2015 09:17 PM

Go and buy the one from Harbor Freight, add a 3/4” thick plywood panel on the legs at each end, and maybe a solid shelf between the ends…..oh, and use the coupon for more savings…

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View newwoodbutcher's profile

newwoodbutcher

552 posts in 2310 days


#5 posted 01-11-2015 11:24 PM

My first work bench was a book case turned on it’s side 2×4 legs attached and two layers of 3/4” plywood for the top. It was only a temporary fix. I attached a Record Vise in short order. 25 years latter it’s still being used almost every day and is has served me well. I’m finally getting around to my “real” bench, a Roubo with Benchcrafted vises. I might actually get it built in the next few years. In the mean time, and since I built it the old bench has served me very well. My skills, tools and projects have improved consistently to the point that I consider myself to be a good woodworker with a well equipped shop, except my work bench. It’s not perfect, or even close, it needs to be replaced but it’s fine for now. There are so many other projects I want to do and that old bench isn’t the problem. I’m just saying.

-- Ken

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crank49

3980 posts in 2431 days


#6 posted 01-11-2015 11:26 PM

Here is a link to the Handyman web page with the article to build this. Cost is less than $100.
http://www.familyhandyman.com/workshop/workbench/build-a-work-bench-on-a-budget/view-all

They used 2×4s, but I find 2×6 or 2×8 much better grade lumber in the Home stores because they are usually used for rafters. You just have to rip them down to the width you want for the thicknes of the top.

-- Michael: Hillary has a long list of accomplishments, though most DAs would refer to them as felonies.

View Joel_B's profile

Joel_B

294 posts in 841 days


#7 posted 01-12-2015 03:47 AM

What I found after reading reviews of the maple butcher block tops is that they are not flat.
So I don’t think it is worth buying one.
So my question right now is how to get a flat top without access to a large sander?
Should I be looking for a cabinet shop that can sand it flat for me?
Is hand planing with a long jointer plane doable?

-- Joel, Encinitas, CA

View Mark Kornell's profile

Mark Kornell

1061 posts in 1990 days


#8 posted 01-12-2015 06:57 AM

Yes, hand.planing is a good way to do it. With a softwood, it goes pretty quickly. Probably faster than the time needed to make a trip to a cabinet shop for a sanding session.

You had asked about books. Chris Schwarz has written two. Scott Landis and Lon Schleining have each written one. All are good reads. In one of his books (can’t remember if it isn’t he blue or red.book), Schwarz has several examples of solid benches that can be built on a budget.

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

View Joel_B's profile

Joel_B

294 posts in 841 days


#9 posted 01-12-2015 05:46 PM



Yes, hand.planing is a good way to do it. With a softwood, it goes pretty quickly. Probably faster than the time needed to make a trip to a cabinet shop for a sanding session.

You had asked about books. Chris Schwarz has written two. Scott Landis and Lon Schleining have each written one. All are good reads. In one of his books (can t remember if it isn t he blue or red.book), Schwarz has several examples of solid benches that can be built on a budget.

- Mark Kornell

I looked into those books, guess I should buy one $20 is probably a good investment and I am no expert on work benches.
My latest thought is to use ripped 2X? DF and make a jig to drill several holes in each one. When I glue it to together I can put a long threaded rod through each set of holes with a nut and washer on each end to pull it tight. Its a challenge to find good quality DF, I can get go to a real lumber yard and pay more for kiln dried clear. I did that on my router stand and I think paid $35 for the lumber and it came out pretty nice.

-- Joel, Encinitas, CA

View JayT's profile

JayT

4772 posts in 1671 days


#10 posted 01-12-2015 06:00 PM

DF or other softwood makes a perfectly usable softwood bench. You don’t need to spend for the clear stuff either, just pick through the wider (2×10 or 2×12) boards at the lumberyard to find the ones with the best grain and make sure that any knots are tight. I spent less than $200 total on my bench that is mostly SPF construction lumber from the BORG.

Click for details

-- "Good judgement is the result of experience. A lot of experience is the result of poor judgement."

View bandit571's profile

bandit571

14536 posts in 2143 days


#11 posted 01-12-2015 07:16 PM

Or, just go to pbs.org, and look up the Woodwright’s shop. Then watch and listen as Roy Underhill makes a couple..

Mine was done on a sunny Sunday afternoon

That I salvaged from a Dumpster…Biggest expense was a box of 2” long screws…

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View Douglas's profile

Douglas

414 posts in 2020 days


#12 posted 01-12-2015 07:30 PM

Joel, read Chris Schwarz’ book. He explains how to get good lumber out of cheap 2×12’s from the big box store, and make a great bench inexpensively. I did, and here’s mine. Buy one or two of those books, give them a read, and go to it!

-- Douglas in Chicago - http://dcwwoodworks.com

View Joel_B's profile

Joel_B

294 posts in 841 days


#13 posted 01-12-2015 07:34 PM

I was reading about a $175 workbench where they suggested gluing the top in sections and running then run them through the jointer and then glue the sections together. I have access to a 6” jointer so could glue sections of three 2×3 together and run each one through. I also have a planar so if I could cut and glue the 2×3 flat enough i could do wider sections and skip the jointer and just run through the planer.

-- Joel, Encinitas, CA

View BasementShop's profile

BasementShop

69 posts in 760 days


#14 posted 01-12-2015 07:48 PM



Budget – I can t spend a lot of money on it. Somewhere in the $500 range is what I am thinking.

If you want a design already completed, the Harbor Freight option isn’t too bad given your budget: http://www.harborfreight.com/60-inch-workbench-93454.html. As was mentioned earlier, get your 20% off coupon out of the paper and away you go!

Good luck!

View bondogaposis's profile

bondogaposis

4020 posts in 1811 days


#15 posted 01-12-2015 07:54 PM

Save your money for vise hardware. 1 3/4” thick is pretty wimpy for a work bench, 3” is much better. The top is the easiest part of making a work bench, You can level it w/ a hand plane. Make it out of construction lumber.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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