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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm going to build my own woodworking bench, and was maybe considering some solid Aspen panels for the top. Lowes' has these 3/4x24x72 finished panels for $34 a piece. I'm thinking I could get 3 or 4 of these for my top. I'm wondering if anyone out there has used Aspen for a bench top. They are nice looking, but was wondering about the durability? I'm also considering solid core doors, but would have to cut them down a bit, to fit my small working area. Any comments on this?

Thanks,
j_ls
 

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Are you aiming for functional....style....or a mix of both?



I'd go with 2 or 3 layers of 3/4 ply or MDF with a top layer of hard maple......or even a top layer of Masonite for durability and ease of replacement down the road. Aspen is a bit soft for my liking on a bench.
 

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I like 2 sheets of 3/4" plywood and a replaceable Masonite top. Not familiar with Aspen. :)
 

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I usually go with 2 x 6's for a subbase then a sheet of 3/4" cabinet grade plywood for the top. I rip a piece of something I have lying around to make an edging for it. Looks good and holds up well.
Mike Hawkins;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Workbench Tops

Thanks for the replies guys. I think I'll be using plywood or MDF after exploring the characteristics of Aspen. Sure was a nice looking panel though !
Thanks again
j_ls
 

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I use solid core doors for bench tops since they are heavy, stay flat/stable when sealed and slightly damaged ones can sometimes be found at big box stores or lumber yards for less than the cost of 1 sheet of "good" plywood (you could probably find a used one on craigslist even cheaper).
 

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I use solid core doors for bench tops since they are heavy, stay flat/stable when sealed and slightly damaged ones can sometimes be found at big box stores or lumber yards for less than the cost of 1 sheet of "good" plywood (you could probably find a used one on craigslist even cheaper).
Are the solid core doors MDF? Are they trimmed on the edges with wood? If so do you know if they have any metal in them? The reason I ask is that I would like you use one, but I would like to rout channels for t-track.
 

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Are the solid core doors MDF? Are they trimmed on the edges with wood? If so do you know if they have any metal in them? The reason I ask is that I would like you use one, but I would like to rout channels for t-track.
The ones I am using have a dense particleboard substrate with solid wood around the perimeter. I also made my bench "legs" and low assembly table from birch veneered solid core doors and didn't run into any metal when cutting them.
 

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In some circles, there is much debate over what is best for a bench top. I see it as: it really depends on what you are going to be using the bench for.

If you are a hand tool user, you may want to go with a softer material for the top. reasons are, the softer top will help grip the work piece when clamped to the surface when a hold fast is used. also when the work piece is dropped on the bench, the bench will take the dings and not the work piece (in theory). Also it is easier to reflatten with a hand plane if it is a softer material. these are just some of the theories behind the softer side.

the hard sides have advantages too. looks, durability. bragging rights. the hardboard tops are good if you plan on having to replace the top in the future,

plywood, MDF, solid core doors are all suitable tops but keep in mind that these tops are only temporary. once they get abused enough they will have to be replaced / repaired. but they are drastically cheaper then a true solid wood top.

Its a catch 22. damned if you do damned if ya don't, what ever your personal preference is and your budget can afford.

personally, I think the best bench top is the one that is used and has stories to tell. and the scars to prove it!
 

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Lots of good advise but you need to understand that your workbench is going to be your favorite tool. I can feel the passion of posters advising you to do what they did and although they differ, all think their bench is the best. We all get attached to our benches and it doesn't matter if you bought it cheap or expensive, or if you built it on a budget or with financial backing.

Of course I'm leading you to my bench built on a budget but very versatile and functional for my small shop
http://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f2/versatile-small-shop-work-bench-unique-40361/
http://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f2/versatile-small-shop-work-bench-unique-40361/
 

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Lots of good advise but you need to understand that your workbench is going to be your favorite tool. I can feel the passion of posters advising you to do what they did and although they differ, all think their bench is the best. We all get attached to our benches and it doesn't matter if you bought it cheap or expensive, or if you built it on a budget or with financial backing.

Of course I'm leading you to my bench built on a budget but very versatile and functional for my small shop
http://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f2/versatile-small-shop-work-bench-unique-40361/
We do not "all" get attached to our work benches. My work bench(s) are a place where I place other items while I work on them. I have no particular like or dislike for these benches.

For many of us out here a workbench(s) is just utilitarian.

George
 

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Open question:

If you are going the MDF route, what are your opinions on a laminate top layer such as Formica?
 

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I usually go with 2 x 6's for a subbase then a sheet of 3/4" cabinet grade plywood for the top. I rip a piece of something I have lying around to make an edging for it. Looks good and holds up well.
Mike Hawkins;)
Do you glue or screw or glue/screw the edging? It also looks like you mitered the corners. Is there any problem with movement?
 

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Open question:

If you are going the MDF route, what are your opinions on a laminate top layer such as Formica?
My experience with laminate is that things tend to slide easily on it.

My experience with benches is that it drives me crazy when things slide all over when I'm working on them.

I'd say that a laminate top would be terrible for me on a workbench, but acceptable on a glue-up table or router table. My other concern would be damage to the top: marking knives, chisels, and saws of any kind can do a lot of damage to laminate, and there's not a good way (that I know of) to repair it.
 

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My experience with laminate is that things tend to slide easily on it.

My experience with benches is that it drives me crazy when things slide all over when I'm working on them.

I'd say that a laminate top would be terrible for me on a workbench, but acceptable on a glue-up table or router table. My other concern would be damage to the top: marking knives, chisels, and saws of any kind can do a lot of damage to laminate, and there's not a good way (that I know of) to repair it.
I'd second that. The only way to fix laminate is to either sand and laminate on top, or strip it off and replace it. I prefer plywood tops.
 

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I make commercial cabinetry by day, and my boss gives me free reign in the shop on off hours so all my woodworking is done there. And then I started to be drawn toward hand tools, which will allow me to bring some of my shop time home :)

Anyway, I've been planning a workbench build for my basement and settled on a top made up of laminated 2x4's. This will give me a nice heavy plane-worthy bench top that will finish out at about 2.75" thick x 30" deep x ~72" long. I figure spruce will give me the benefits of a soft top (planes out well, softer than workpiece, easy to resurface, etc), its cheap, it won't need ugly Masonite or plywood or anything like that, and it will be somewhat visually attractive when its done. If all goes well, that is...

EDIT: My bench at work is a layer of 3/4" flake board with a layer of 1/4" Masonite on top of it (all on top of 2x6 framing) and I absolutely hate it. The top relies on the framing to keep it flat. Therefore it is not flat at all. Sucks.
That's a big reason why I want to make a top that will be flat & true in and of itself. It will simply be supported by the legs & stretchers.
 

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Incidentally, and more on the original topic:

My bench has a top made of four layers of 3/4" plywood. The bottom three were glued together, then edged with 1x4, and the fourth piece is simply trapped in place by the 1x4. It's flat, it's heavy, it's rough enough that things don't slide around on it, and when I've finished destroying the top layer, I can replace it trivially and cheaply. My only complaint is that my power drill died, and drilling through three inches of plywood with a bit brace sucks, so making holes for holdfasts doesn't really happen.
 

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Incidentally, and more on the original topic:

My bench has a top made of four layers of 3/4" plywood. The bottom three were glued together, then edged with 1x4, and the fourth piece is simply trapped in place by the 1x4. It's flat, it's heavy, it's rough enough that things don't slide around on it, and when I've finished destroying the top layer, I can replace it trivially and cheaply. My only complaint is that my power drill died, and drilling through three inches of plywood with a bit brace sucks, so making holes for holdfasts doesn't really happen.

Sounds like a good design.....
 

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Anyway, I've been planning a workbench build for my basement and settled on a top made up of laminated 2x4's.
I am almost done with building a English style bench out of Schwarz's book (I'll get some pictures up this weekend once it is done, hopefully) and just wanted to mention that he recommended buying wide and long boards and ripping them down rather than using 2x4s as the wood in the larger boards is from the center parts of the tree and more stable, better quality, etc.

I don't know if you have 2x12x16 of fir around, but that's what I used on mine, except in SYP.
 
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