New Shop Addition Requires A New Work Bench, Thoughts, Suggestions and Opinions Needed

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Forum topic by Blackie_ posted 04-25-2015 11:27 AM 1137 views 1 time favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4883 posts in 2750 days

04-25-2015 11:27 AM

Now that my shop addition is almost complete it will need a new workbench to replace the old bench, the one I currently have now is a standalone that stands around 41 to 43” in height, not sure why I built it so high, the new one I’m wanting to lower to around the 36” height give or take to my body height, I’m wanting to make it a permanent structure to the building with cabinet doors and slide out trays behind the doors, I already have the hardware for the pull outs.

It will stretch across one 11’ 6” wall on the gable end of the building minus 4 feet to allow for a 4’ formica counter top that was given to me, it’s to be used for my box glue ups.

With all of the workbenches out there I am overwhelmed with the type of framing I’m wanting for the new workbench be it 2×4 framing, plywood framing or both I’m, also considering substituting the ply for OSB as they are both equally sound and strong, with the OSB costing less but weighing more.
I’m thinking of using Masonite for the top surface applied over the top of to two sheets of either ply or the OSB as the underlayment. I’ve also considered using melamine board for the top surface but have heard it can be very slick when trying to hold projects down.

I will also be building a second workbench (stand alone) centered in the shop for sanding, clamping, vising etc.. which will be a bit lower for the bending over and working with more pressure on projects easier on the back.

-- Randy - If I'm not on LJ's then I'm making Saw Dust. Please feel free to visit my store location at

10 replies so far

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

21961 posts in 3343 days

#1 posted 04-25-2015 12:27 PM

Hi Randy. I know most wood workers prefer a wood top workbench with holes for dogs, but I like having a laminate top on mine. It makes a smooth surface and glue can be cleaned off of it real easy. You’ll want one or two vices on it too.The ones that are on the front or the end that are under flush of the top surface so they are out of the way for big stuff.
Bench dogs are a must for working against so plan for them.
I like having outlets under mine for quick connection to power for sanders, router etc.

Leave about 2” overhand past any aprons for clamping room, too. Take your time on this one. List all the options you want and then get to designing them in.

Cheers, my friend…....................Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Blackie_'s profile


4883 posts in 2750 days

#2 posted 04-25-2015 01:09 PM

Hi Jim, yes I plan on building a second bench for the bench dogs, vice etc… it will be center of the shop.

-- Randy - If I'm not on LJ's then I'm making Saw Dust. Please feel free to visit my store location at

View Tom Clark's profile

Tom Clark

88 posts in 3259 days

#3 posted 04-25-2015 01:10 PM

Only opinion I will offer is to forget building a workbench out of OSB. It does not take fasteners well. My shop cabinets/workbenches all hardwood plywood. Only a few bucks more and lasts forever. Here a a few photos for ideas:

First shows my regular workbench. Solid wood top, yet all tools are right at your fingertips. Holds a ton. 30 years old…

Second is an assembly table. Two layers of mdf with replaceable 1/4” Masonite top. Super work table.

Third is a storage storage cabinet. 18 drawers hold most of what is in the shop.

Last is a typical smaller bench. Special drawers are 30” deep. Small cabinet on left uses wooden slides for holding small lighter parts.

-- Tom

View Boxguy's profile


2779 posts in 2505 days

#4 posted 04-25-2015 02:11 PM

Blackie,this is more information than you want, but it is what came to mind today.

Since you are wiring, I suggest a drop down 4 hole outlet from the ceiling box above the center table to power a couple of power strips or plug into the outlets around the table. Otherwise you are walking on the power cord.

As to plugs along the table. I like to have an overhang beyond the 2×4 frame. It makes clamping easier and you can put electrical boxes under the top and out of the way. Plug-ins at the back of the bench are not useful, it mean that the cords are always in the way as you work.

Put plenty of boxes all the way around the center work table. Say three on a side and two on each end. It will take some time, but it is not that much expense. Boxes, wire and outlets are relatively cheap. It makes your table into an easy place to plug in all types of tools with little bending.

If you add a vise, be sure the back jaw edge lines up with the edge of the bench top so you can have longer clamped pieces that can extend down to the floor. Clamp a board in the vise and just line it up with the edge of the workbench.

I like making my bench legs out of paired 2×4s and for stretcher joints I just cut one of the vertical boards to accommodate the stretchers and essentially notch it for a lap joint. Glue and nail them. If you run the jointed edges through the planer it will neaten the look. I like to route the corners and the trim rim with a 3/4 inch roundover.

For the top I too prefer plywood. It doesn’t crack when you pound on it. A bench is a long-term investment. Spend the money.

A 3/4 hard wood trim/rim around the bench will dress the plywood up and you can let the rim extend 1/4 inch above the table top (round the outside edge so it is easier to work on), and let the hardwood rim “frame” your masonite so it keeps it in place without fasteners and makes it easier to flip over or replace the masonite top. Round the corners of the trim too so it will hurt less when you bump into them. On your center bench consider putting a square of HMW plastic on the bottom of your legs. These “gliders” will let you move the bench if you have to and will not have the wobble that wheels often have.

I find that lots of open shelves at the back of the bench along the wall are a good way to store hand tools and keep them handy and visible. Put the top shelf as high as you can reach over your bench. Start your shelves a foot above your bench so you don’t lose the bench space. Vary the sizes of the openings for sander, drills, routers, saws, etc. I prefer to have my larger tools on a visible shelf instead of a drawer. They are easy to see and easy to use and put back. Drawers work well for small tools and accessories like bits, sand paper, and attachments. When planning drawers, I often buy used mechanics toolboxes and use them instead of making lots of small drawers. Label your drawers so you put the right things back and so helpers can find tools to bring to you. Be sure to put a back strip on your along the wall bench to keep small parts from rolling back there and falling down behind the bench.

My rear bench shelves are 12 inches deep. 1/12 shelves with a trim strip along the dado joints that support the shelves. The 1/2 inch trim strips cover the joints and really neatens up the look. The trim also holds the shelves in place without nailing the shelf in place. My shelves are made of sink cutouts so they have laminate on the top side to take the wear and tear and let the tools slide in and out easily.

I have eight 220 outlets in my shop for cyclone, belt sander, planer, table saw, bandsaw, drum sander, compressor and jointer. The planer needs a 30 A circuit. Plan ahead now. You may need more circuits.

-- Big Al in IN

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3546 days

#5 posted 04-25-2015 02:36 PM

Randy…I always end up clamping pieces of work to the outer sides of my workbench with various clamps and find having a 4” overhang all the way around to be invaluable for this purpose. I have several power outlets recessed into the worktable rails on each side and if sure is convenient.
There are so many options available for workbench tops. I ended up using plywood and covering it with a sheet of 1/4” UHMW. it has seen years of glue drops, spilled finishes and who knows what else…and what I like most about it is the ease of keeping it clean.
A good shop layout and workbench design takes as much thought and planning as possible to think of every need that might arise in the future

View DocSavage45's profile


8734 posts in 3080 days

#6 posted 04-25-2015 05:16 PM


I read a lot of planning books about workshops. I’d now ask: What am I going to use this for most of the time? Sounds like it’s for assembly? What will you assemble on it? If it’s going to be larger pieces, how high and how heavy are the pieces? Are you going to add more shop tools that are large?

OSB has its purpose, as does MDF. I’d go for a higher grade of plywood because you don’t want future failures due to stress?

I thought one of my fixed benches, which i later re-purposed into a woodworking bench was going to be for metal work. I under planned how much and how big my equipment has evolved. Still have a large lathe I’ve yet to use?

Now all shop tables, benches and support cabinets will have extra strong casters.

As many here have commented “never too many convenient outlets…LOL! Oh yeah…Don’t take any advice from Murphy!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View rwe2156's profile


3230 posts in 1718 days

#7 posted 04-25-2015 06:12 PM

Tom Clark is right. OSB is not a good substrate for a bench top.

What you’re really building is a countertop, not a workbench so the normal standards don’t apply because it is not re freestanding.

I like Clarks set up and I have something simla.

My suggestion is just build some base cabinets and put a countertop on. It will work fine.
You’re not gonna regret the storage.

MDF is a good choice as underpayment forMhardboard it you go that route.
I have a couple countertops just 2 layers of MDF coats with BLO.
I also have a couple MDF with hardboard.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View redSLED's profile


790 posts in 2130 days

#8 posted 04-25-2015 11:59 PM

My strict opinion on benches, for myself anyway is . . .

1. Working on the piece(s) before final assembly and finishing. No staining, glue-ups, painting or clear coating on a bench! (My personal rule.)
2. Disassembly of small furnishings/parts or small projects
3. Tool sharpening and maintenance
4. Occasional use as an outfeed surface.
5. Putting your beer down after a job well done.

Since the workbench must always be available to work the next project piece or sharpen a tool or outfeed some work, you cannot have glue-ups or some varnished pieces drying there – those should go to the ASSEMBLY TABLE.

Personally I like a sealed solid wood or MDF dog-holed surface augmented with quick-grip clamps vs. using t-tracks/hardware – for a WORKBENCH.
Conversely, I would go with a plain or t-track setup and laminate/melamine/Formica/sealed MDF/hardboard/Masonite surface for an ASSEMBLY TABLE.

Please also include my vote for NOT using OSB.

-- Perfection is the difference between too much and not enough.

View Blackie_'s profile


4883 posts in 2750 days

#9 posted 04-26-2015 12:31 AM

Great advise from everyone, my now demolished old bench was actually built with two layers of 3/4” ply with a masonite on top so sounds like I need to stick with what works, I’ll scrap the OSB idea.

Alan thanks for the advise on the leg casters for the center bench, I like that, as for as shelving on the wall counter top bench, I plan on enclosing it with cabinet doors and then behind the doors having pull out trays for easy access to all the hand tools etc.., for the over head I’m going to install prob a couple wall cabinets and then center shelves sandwiched between both wall cabinets.

great advise on the receptacles around the center bench.

Tom, you definitely have a well oiled shop with plenty of storage.

Tom, its mainly going to be used for glue up and assembly.

-- Randy - If I'm not on LJ's then I'm making Saw Dust. Please feel free to visit my store location at

View Roger's profile


20965 posts in 3042 days

#10 posted 04-26-2015 02:31 PM

Oh yea! It’s gettin close. You’re gonna be happy happy happy very soon. lol

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

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