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Thread: What's your favorite bench top material?

  1. #1

    What's your favorite bench top material?

    I'm setting up a new shop and going to build some benches. These will just be the horizontal surfaces that collect stuff--not so much an assembly surface. I'm pondering my options on what material to use. What did you do? What would your REALLY like to do?

  2. #2
    Something cheap. Workbench surfaces that incur pounding should be a wood like hard maple or beech. Surfaces that are basically shelving have very little requirements in terms hardness or other performance. Go with what you like the looks of (and is cheap).

  3. #3
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    I like Melamine since the dust blows off nice and easy. If you do end up using them for glue ups or something like that, the squeeze out can be scraped right off after its dried as well.

  4. #4
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    For incidental surfaces I use simple MDF. I put a coat or two of BLO on it and I'm done. I recently tore out my old, massive miter bench...the surfaces were MDF and were is excellent shape after nearly 15 years on the job.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  5. #5
    Plywood, topped with 1/4" hardboard (Masonite.) Screw it in place, so it can be replaced. Edge it with hardwood, pocket screwed in place from TOP side. This way when edging get banged up, it's a simple replacement.

  6. #6
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    A small marble tile is nice for soldering.
    why do we cal lit a "bench". I never sit down on it.

  7. #7
    Assembly and other surfaces that don't het pounded on usually I use MDF or double layer MDF and then I cover them with Wilsonart Platinum high pressure laminate. Glue just lifts right off and it is less prone to scarring than melamine covered particle board.

    On another note, if I could find a source for Phenolic film covered plywood I think that would be a really good option. I know that Menards carries 4x8 sheets with black phenolic, but the nearest Menards to me is 2 hours away. I haven't yet found a source for full or half sized phenolic film covered Baltic Birch sheets, (60x60 or 30x60), which is available in multiple colors. I really want some of that stuff. It is wonderful stuff.

  8. #8
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    I second plywood topped with hardboard. My assembly table is MDF for flatness, but topped with hardboard, so I can replace it when it gets junky. I just glued it light in each corner and a spot in the center. The miter saw station is screwed down. I would also suggest coating it with a finish, I used formby's tung oil because that's what i had on hand.

  9. #9
    It depends on the intended use of the bench.

    My Scandinavian style bench has the expected maple top, which works well with pounding and the occasional chisel ding.

    My assembly bench is a torsion box skinned with particle board and topped with laminate. That stays nice and flat and works well for scraping off finish, glue, and whatever else I get on it. The white laminate makes it easy to see, and I can draw plans on it easily.

    My sharpening bench has a laminate top because I am always slopping water and swarf on it.

    I have another bench that is mostly used to set things on while I work on the other benches; that just has a piece of plywood on it because it was handy and the right size at the time.

  10. #10
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    I use two layers of MDF, bound on all sides by solid wood to protect the edges. MDF is very flat and dimensionally stable. On my work bench, the solid wood banding extends about 1/8" above the MDF top. This creates a recess that holds a sheet of 1/8" hardboard. The hardboard is more durable than the MDF. It's also easily replaceable should it become too nicked up. The hardboard is kept in place by gravity. I've not seen the need for glue, nails, or screws. So far, after more than 15 years of use, the original sheet of hardboard is still in use. There are a few stains, but that's about it.
    David Walser
    Mesa, Arizona

  11. #11
    Join Date
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    Being a garage shop my only permanent work surface is a 3x6 assembly bench. It is topped with a thin sheet of pre-finished plywood. Glue spills etc come up easy. When it gets too bad I just flip it over and use the other side.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Seemann View Post
    It depends on the intended use of the bench.

    My Scandinavian style bench has the expected maple top, which works well with pounding and the occasional chisel ding.

    My assembly bench is a torsion box skinned with particle board and topped with laminate. That stays nice and flat and works well for scraping off finish, glue, and whatever else I get on it. The white laminate makes it easy to see, and I can draw plans on it easily.

    My sharpening bench has a laminate top because I am always slopping water and swarf on it.

    I have another bench that is mostly used to set things on while I work on the other benches; that just has a piece of plywood on it because it was handy and the right size at the time.

    I'd be interested in any info on your assembly table... what you're mentioning is what I'm planning and I'd like to skip landmines if possible
    - Bob R.
    Collegeville PA (30 minutes west of Philly)

  13. #13
    Thanks for all the great ideas. I think I might take up the masonite on ply idea. Ran across this stuff in a YouTube video. https://www.atlanticplywood.com/brand/valchromat/ I'm sure it's expensive, but I thought it was kinda interesting.

  14. #14
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    I love Massaranduba hard wood. It is the material I choose for my workbench to use both manual and power tools.

    It is a very dense wood, three or more times more dense than typical construction pine, but at the same time it is not hard like a stone surface. It is something resinous and I use linseed on it. It has a strong dumping effect. It is difficult to describe the sensation to work on that surface but is the best I have from a number of alternatives I tried in the last decades.

    Unfortunately that wood is difficult to plan for its inter crossed grain and even when completely dried it can let some resin in the tooth blade from your saw...

    I do not know the wood species available to you but I recommend very dense hardwoods.

    All the best,

  15. #15
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    Jan 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Wrenn View Post
    Plywood, topped with 1/4" hardboard (Masonite.) Screw it in place, so it can be replaced. Edge it with hardwood, pocket screwed in place from TOP side. This way when edging get banged up, it's a simple replacement.
    I like this method too. It is exactly how I did the top of my miter bench, but mine isn't screwed down. Other than one corner on the far end against the wall it all sits flat. When I do replace it though, I need to seal it with something first.
    Last edited by Jim Fox; 02-21-2021 at 1:24 PM. Reason: typo
    If over thinking was an Olympic event, I'd win Gold every time!

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