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Thread: Work Bench Top Material

  1. #31
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    I suggest building a bench that is handtool friendly even if you don't initially plan to use hand tools. Drill dog holes and add a vise or two and the utility of the bench grows exponentially.

    Cheap but hardy:



    If you mainly want a horizontal surface to work and assemble on I suggest building a torsion box top so it is a remains flat. I would add an easy to remove and replace sacrificial top of masonite.

    A workbench is a seemingly simple beast and you can just build a table, but with a little planning and some research (there is TONS of info on benches) you can build one on the cheap that will have tons more utility than a simple "heavy table".
    Of all the laws Brandolini's may be the most universally true.

    Deep thought for the day:

    Your bandsaw weighs more when you leave the spring compressed instead of relieving the tension.

  2. #32
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    Build a bench out of southern yellow pine. It is quite hard, heavy and works great. There is a youtube vid out there by a guy who built the exact same bench from syp and a hardwood. He likes the syp bench better for a bunch of reasons. I have a solid maple workbench, but I got the top for free. Building a good workbench is time consuming, you might as well not waste your time building something with a top that will need to be replaced, over, and over, ad nauseam.

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Reischl View Post
    There is a youtube vid out there by a guy who built the exact same bench from syp and a hardwood. He likes the syp bench better for a bunch of reasons.
    It is the same guy as the video I posted, Jay Bates.



    If the wood was free, or all the same price, SYP would not be my choice BUT when price is factored in it is hard to beat for someone that isn't a big handtool user. Often for handtool users the bench is a rite of passage and new iterations are built until their last magnum opus which will initiall look and be finished like a fine piece of furniture.

    BTW just because I posted two of Jay's videos he is by far not the only place to research a good woodworking bench, the amount of good information is awe-inspiring and the cost and complexity of the bench are only limited by how far you want to go down the rabbit hole. The $110 bench of Jay's is just a good solid easy to build bench that will be useful for any woodworker.
    Of all the laws Brandolini's may be the most universally true.

    Deep thought for the day:

    Your bandsaw weighs more when you leave the spring compressed instead of relieving the tension.

  4. #34
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    Most Lowes stock 72" x 39" x 1.75" Baltic Birch butcher block tops. Little on the thin side for a hand tool bench that would take a lot of pounding but fine for a for a general use type one.

    Reasonably priced at $270.
    https://www.lowes.com/pd/The-Baltic-...rtop/999931664

  5. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Huskey View Post

    If the wood was free, or all the same price, SYP would not be my choice BUT when price is factored in it is hard to beat for someone that isn't a big handtool user.
    Huh? There is a guy, a really, really, REALLY big hand tool user that uses a southern yellow pine workbench. Christopher Schwarz. Whether a bench is syp or hard maple makes no difference when it comes to using handtools. In fact, since syp is so much cheaper a person can actually build a thicker top, bigger legs, huge stretchers and at the same time not skimp on size because of the price factor.

    My bench is hard maple because I got a glued up butchers table that was 8' long, 4 inches thick and 32 inches wide for free.

    Recently I built my wife a heavy duty bench for her shop. It is out of syp. My bench has 4.5 X 4.5 legs and stretchers. Her's are 6.5 X 6.5. Her top is 4 inches thick. It does not move, it does not even think about moving.

    I do not delude myself with all this "rite of passage" hoopla that goes on. Not after seeing several older antique workbenches being used for plant stands, potting tables and being asked if I could take the vises off and plug up the holes cause they were, well, ickey. Most good workbenches die a slow, miserable, lingering death at the hands of motorcycle mechanics, gardners, a son-in-law, etc. The lucky ones go out in a blaze of glory if they are lucky.

  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Reischl View Post
    Huh? There is a guy, a really, really, REALLY big hand tool user that uses a southern yellow pine workbench. Christopher Schwarz.
    You could have used Peter Sellers as well. I didn't mean to suggest hardwoods were BETTER for handtool work (that debate is for a different forum) but it is my experience that primarily handtool users tend to build nicer and nicer and more complex benches than power tool users. The Schwarz wrote a blog about it recently and his point was simple is better, which has been a theme of his since the Anarchist Tool Chest.

    Again if the wood is free I am not using SYP, I am going to make something more aesthetically pleasing to me, I think many handtool heavy users care more about the aesthetics of their benches since it is the focal point of their shop, I don't care enough to spend 4 or more times as much on the wood but I do care about my surroundings when I work (play) There is absolutely nothing wrong with SYP for a bench, after all, it is what I recommended...
    Of all the laws Brandolini's may be the most universally true.

    Deep thought for the day:

    Your bandsaw weighs more when you leave the spring compressed instead of relieving the tension.

  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Huskey View Post
    The Schwarz...
    Whoa. I know he has a large following, but being referred to as "The Schwarz" is seriously COOL!


  8. #38
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    I know that you probably meant "That Schwarz wrote a blog" but sometimes these things are just too fun to pass up.

  9. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Zellers View Post
    Whoa. I know he has a large following, but being referred to as "The Schwarz" is seriously COOL!

    Actually, I did mean The Schwarz, it may be too inside of a joke. It started about 10 years ago when Marc Spagnuolo started calling him The Schwarz. I seem to remember there may have been more adoration after that in Tshirt, mug ect form but I can't exactly remember. So I always think of him as The Schwarz. I was in law school with a guy that went to Johns Hopkins undergrad and he always said THE Johns Hopkins (despite most of us there having similar level educational CVs) So every time I hear Johns Hopkins I actually hear THE Johns Hopkins in his elitist tone.
    Of all the laws Brandolini's may be the most universally true.

    Deep thought for the day:

    Your bandsaw weighs more when you leave the spring compressed instead of relieving the tension.

  10. #40
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    HA! Did not know that. Wonder if it's a Spaceballs reference.

    May the Schwartz be with you!

  11. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Zellers View Post
    HA! Did not know that. Wonder if it's a Spaceballs reference.

    May the Schwartz be with you!
    Actually, I meant to include that in the post, it is ABSOLUTELY a Spaceballs reference. As you probably know Marc is a big comic/fantasy nerd.
    Of all the laws Brandolini's may be the most universally true.

    Deep thought for the day:

    Your bandsaw weighs more when you leave the spring compressed instead of relieving the tension.

  12. #42
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    New England
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    Shame on me for even questioning it.

    It is pretty obvious.
    Last edited by Dave Zellers; 06-28-2018 at 10:56 PM.

  13. #43
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    I have looked at the replys here and think there are some nice ideas, good ideas, and great ideas. Now my two cents worth. I have my shop divided by a wall where I have all my large power tools on one side and have cabinets and hand tools on the other. I built my work bench about 17 years ago and it still serves me well. It is on the hand tool side I built it so I can use non powered hand tools and it also works well with routers, sanders and other power hand tools. When I started building it I wanted it heavy and sturdy for obvious reasons. I was lucky enough to have some white oak 2 by stuff so I used it for everything execpt the actual smooth surface of the workbench for that I bought a peice of flooring that is used for flooring over-the-road van trailers. It is a laminated piece that is hard, flat and very durable. I think the piece I bought was 12 inches wide. So I built the rest of the table around this. I used the white oak on one side to fabricate the dog holes and attach my vice's to it and used pine and MDO for the tray on the opposite side. Now I will do some work that may have grease or oil on it so I just cover the table with another small piece of plywood. I do glue and clamp to the table and occasionally use an orbital sander to clean it up, with light passes to keep the surface smooth! All the other parts are similar to others described on here so I won't go into that. But one final observation, the cabinets I have in that side of the shop have 3/4 plywood tops with the side trim coming 1/4 inch higher than the top. Then I cut and lay fiber board in there to make a smooth disposable surface.
    Hope this isn't to windy, and like I said my two cents worth.
    Last edited by Jim Fuller; 07-06-2018 at 8:19 AM.
    Jim Fuller Lineville, Al

  14. #44
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    Sound advice

    Quote Originally Posted by glenn bradley View Post
    Just for an alternate experience. There are different types of MDF. I have never had a dog hole fail in use. Here's a previous bench showing an area where a lot of work is done near the vise at an age of about 8 years.

    Attachment 388343

    This one was 4 layers of 3/4" MDF. The top and bottom were treated with BLO, let cure a week or so and then paste waxed. It would get re-waxed every year or so; whenever I noticed glue wasn't popping right off anymore.

    I liked the MDF work surface so much I used it on my next, and current, bench. This one is 2 layers of 3/4" ply for sag resistance and 2 layers of 3/4" MDF for a dead flat, inert top.

    Attachment 388342

    Same treatment for the top, BLO and wax. I built this one in the summer of 2015 and I don't baby it. I did manage to drop a small steel door on it from the rafter area. I just filled this ding with epoxy the next time I was using some. In general you can really work a surface prepared this way hard without issue. I do love it that spills stay on the surface for clean up and glue drips pop right off.
    Very sound advice. Although my single workbenche is solid hardwood purchased almost ready to use 25 years ago, I have a couple of contacts with exactly same Glenn experience.

  15. #45
    Thanks Jim. I'd love to see pictures of your shop some time.

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