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Thread: Best product for extension/infeed/outfeed table surfaces?

  1. #1

    Best product for extension/infeed/outfeed table surfaces?

    Alrighty, I'm getting ready to build myself some shop accessories, starting with an extension table for the ancient unisaw I acquired with 52" rails, but no extension table. I've heard of folks using melamine coated MDF, which I did find a source for, ~$60/8x4x3/4 sheet, phenolic coated baltic birch, which I haven't found a source for, and some other folks recommending taking either MDF or baltic birch and using either high pressure laminate or formica and veneering it yourself. I haven't done any veneering before, so I'm a bit nervous about rolling my own, especially in the case of a sizeable surface which I want to be absolutely (thousandths hopefully) flat. What do creekers recommend? I understand that MDF does not do well with holding screws- how flat can you rely on with baltic ply?

    Also- I'm in northern california, any sources on these products folks can recommend would be appreciated. The source I found for melamine-coated MDF was a local cabinet shop who said they had a supplier out of sac they could get it for me from.
    Last edited by Ross Becker; 08-02-2015 at 12:17 AM.

  2. #2
    I'll chime in- laminating will give you very good service and not that hard to do, there many good videos on Youtube to get you comfortable with the process (do buy a J-roller). I would definitely go with MDF and for strength and flatness just stack a couple of 1/2 inch or 3/4 sheets if you want to be extra strong. I guess you could also stack a piece of MDF on top of birch because of the screw strength concern. One more thought is to add a piece of aluminum or steel angle stock to the sides to help keep it from sagging over a long expanse. Melamine is not a durable enough surface for a woodshop IMHO. Lowes sells laminate sheets for like $60-80 depending on the look.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Between No Where & No Place ,WA
    I shop-fabricated a new extension table and table top for my 52" Uni-fence rails. Table top is 3/4" MDF with a 1/4" tempered Masonite screwed down and heavily waxed with Johnson paste wax. Did the same when I made the outfaced/assembly table. Quick, easy to replace, still flat, and so far has held up very well..

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Atlanta, GA
    I used 3/4" birch ply. Gave it a light sanding with my ROS [120g maybe?], then a couple coats of Johnson's floor wax.

    Smooth enough. Slick enough. Use it for a work table for clamping glue-ups, varnishing, and so forth.

    Have not retouched the surface after 8 yrs +/-. Any noticeable impediments from glue or varnish glops, just a quick whack with a card scraper or a wide chisel. Works just ducky. Probably could use a wax refresh, but what the heck - - maybe one of these days.

  5. #5
    I used Melamine edged with hardwood for my recently completed outfeed table. I picked up a 4x8 sheet for $31 at Home Depot

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Doylestown, PA
    I made a jig for my planer to feed 1 X 3s at an angle to make clapboards. I started with a borg sourced melamine shelf and it wore through in pretty short order. The infeed roller exerts quite a bit of down force so there'd be much more wear than just pushing boards over it like you do with a table saw. I rebuilt the jig using strips of laminate and that held up fine. I'd probably fasten a couple angle irons to the bottom of whatever sheet goods you choose with construction adhesive and screws to make sure everything stays flat.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Krawford View Post
    I used Melamine edged with hardwood for my recently completed outfeed table. I picked up a 4x8 sheet for $31 at Home Depot
    Ross, I did the same as Ken. My PB/Melamine edged with ash has held up very well, 15 years so far. I ran ash supports [1x3] underneath spaced ~12" apart. It is still flat, and I do glue-ups on it because the melamine is easy to clean.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Lake Gaston, Henrico, NC
    3/4 birch here with Formica

  9. #9
    Not all melamine is created equal. Better ones will feel similar to a plastic laminate (Formica), while cheaper ones will feel like a hard paper.


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    In the foothills of the Sandia Mountains
    I used melamine covered particle board with a hardwood frame underneath for my outfeed table. It has stood up well to my occasional use but probably would not stand up to daily commercial use.
    Please help support the Creek.

    My wife asked me to take her to one of those restaurants where they make the food right in front of you. So, I took her to Subway and thatís how the fight started.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Camas, Wa
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom M King View Post
    3/4 birch here with Formica

    This is what I did.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Blog Entries
    Wide range of opinions on this, no surprise ;-) Laminates look great and take quite a beating. I have run plain MDF, shellac'd and waxed for years without issue. I made an MDF right extension for an old hybrid saw I used to have. Used it for years then sent it to a good home. I saw it the other day, surface still looked fine. Granted, some shops have employees that handle stock the way the Samsonite Chimp handles luggage but, if you're not in that camp, do what pleases you. I also have service tempered hardboard surfaces that I made "replaceable". I have yet to replace one and so no longer add this feature when I build.
    Take me to the hotel - Baggage gone, oh well . . .

  13. HDPE is a tough flexible Polyethylene that nothing sticks to. I got a 1/4" 4'x8' from a local Piedmont Plastics and if I remember it was about $80. It lays flat and stays in place with edging trim on my assembly table. I never tried any adhesives to fix it to the table and doubt they would bond. This stuff is a great surface that takes quite a lot of punishment.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Upland CA
    The Delta extension table that came with my '80's Unisaw was particle board with a formica surface. It did not have anything on the back side, and is still in service. Formica is much harder to scratch than even good melamine, and you can usually find a sheet at the borg that has a broken corner for a large discount. I picked up several for future use years ago. I got lucky and found some in grey, like the original.
    Rick Potter

    DIY journeyman,
    FWW wannabe.
    AKA Village Idiot.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Cache Valley, Utah
    You can make what ever is handy work. MDO board is great if it's available. Melamine. Plastic laminate. Even cheap ACX plywood with three coats of poly will work fine. If you use particle board or MDF, make sure you put some braces under it so it won't sag.

    Or you can get the current issue of FWW and build a combo workbench/outfeed table.

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