Woodworking Bench - Advice & ideas

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yan89

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Hi guys

First post here, save for my introduction post – hopefully it’s in the right place!

As title suggests, I’m wanting to build a general purpose workbench in my garage having just finished a beginner’s woodworking course. The bench will ideally have a vice, capacity to install another side vice and dog holes at later stage, have storage beneath the main space for chisels, planes etc

I've already got a full wall in the garage with pegboard for tool hangings, and a couple of scaffold board shelves up, so the bench is predominantly intended for use as a work surface.

As luck (or perhaps not – we will see) would have it, a neighbour was doing his house up and was getting rid of some internal doors which he said were solid pine so I nabbed one of those from him to use for the basis of the top. It’s 196x67.5cm and felt heavy enough, so I’ve nipped to B&Q and got some 18mm hardwood ply to attach to it, which would make it flat and give it a bit more balance.

Trouble is, I’ve just got it home and whilst moving the ply into the garage, have dropped it on it’s corner onto the door, which has made a small crack in the door (absolutely no damage to the ply though!). Having now looked a bit closer and knocked the door in various places, it seems the shallower bits of the door are more hollow sounding than the dull thud I hear when knocking the outside bits and the decorative framing. I think I've attached pictures of the door and of the damage, along with the plywood I bought earlier today, and a couple of bits I grabbed from the offcuts bin on the way out.

My question is twofold:

1. Is there much use persevering with this door or should I just look for a better base for the worktop? I know solid core doors for instance are only £90ish new, so suppose I could find something similar if I look hard enough? A lot of the old woodworking benches I see available online seem to have really thick tops (I include a picture of the workbench I used on the course for example), which lends itself nicely to the bench being used for years and over time developing it’s own story without the need to replace.

2. Assuming I use the door, will I be able to attach a record vice easy enough, or will it being (or seeming) hollow in places limit me in terms of where I’m able to attach it?

As a side note, I was also wondering whether hardwood ply was the right choice, or whether MDF would have been better? I thought ply was better than MDF because it’s supposedly stronger, but have since seen a lot recommend finished MDF for the top of benches. One obvious drawback is the fibrous nature of ply, which is also a problem I have with parts of the inside of the old door, but I presume I can fix edging on to that to prevent my clothes catching on the face edge?

In case it matters, I am completely happy to spend money on the bench, whether that be on materials for the building of it, or buying a bench from someone. I actually looked at gumtree and ebay before deciding to make my own, but when the door came up, it was a really good size and I assumed it would work out alright.

Any advice or help, or even a link to a youtube video or a guide to build one, would be really appreciated!

Thanks in advance!
 

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Spectric

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I would not try and use that door, sounds like a modern semi hollow one that is easily holed. First I would search on these forums for workbenches and see what comes up, you will find a lot of info. Are you a power tool type or a handtool type because with handtools it seems you need a very solid and sturdy bench that can take a real beating. There are also some good online videos about various bench designs and it depends what you want.



a multifunctional portable design

A clever a well built bench from Dennis

Another concept from Microjig

and a modern version of a vice / mounting system https://youtu.be/dA-d2aVHgg4

this should get you thinking because there are so many ideas and designs around and it will give you some ideas as to what you may want to build.
 

Jameshow

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I'd cut out the panels of that door and laminate up the rails into 75mm thick timber to use as legs and rails.

Then either a plywood bench if you want a mft style bench or 2x2 laminated on top of the ply with a middle tool well if using hand tools???
 

yan89

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I would not try and use that door, sounds like a modern semi hollow one that is easily holed. First I would search on these forums for workbenches and see what comes up, you will find a lot of info. Are you a power tool type or a handtool type because with handtools it seems you need a very solid and sturdy bench that can take a real beating. There are also some good online videos about various bench designs and it depends what you want.



a multifunctional portable design

A clever a well built bench from Dennis

Another concept from Microjig

and a modern version of a vice / mounting system https://youtu.be/dA-d2aVHgg4

this should get you thinking because there are so many ideas and designs around and it will give you some ideas as to what you may want to build.

Yeah it’s mainly hand tools, but I do have a couple of machines. The stronger the better!

I’m just out currently but I’ll have a watch of these tomorrow and have a look through the forum too.

Thanks a lot!
 

yan89

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I'd cut out the panels of that door and laminate up the rails into 75mm thick timber to use as legs and rails.

Then either a plywood bench if you want a mft style bench or 2x2 laminated on top of the ply with a middle tool well if using hand tools???
Good shout! Will definitely need to put some thought into it, as I did want the tool well but assumed I’d be able to build up off this base.

Back to the drawing board!
 

Phil Pascoe

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There are loads of threads on bench building if you search. I wouldn't use MDF for the simple reason that if it ever gets wet it'll blow.
You'll get as many opinions as there are members - the best move I made was getting rid of the well.
 

okeydokey

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At one time I had a workbench top made from a solid fire door with varnished mdf on top, the legs and the rest of it came from 2x4 joists from a demolition site. So if budget is an issue see if you have a demolition yard near you might be worth a look.
 

Molynoox

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Good links from spectric - you might want to also check out the 2 or 3 options from Paul sellers, he does detailed tutorials on how to build them. His plywood option is pretty neat as you need less time and skill to build it.
 

Ttrees

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This might be one of the simplest solutions, say if you want to use hand planes well and have a flat assembly surface.
Yes, tis a bit short for something needing laterial rigidity for planing against the wall, (note Mr Hunter uses Eastern style planes if you watch)
should one not have space to butt something else against the wall for a western planes then might be worth clamping the floating top and putting some weight onto the base, say if you decide to incorporate a strecher(s) at a later date.


Screenshot-2022-7-21 Shop Tour Andrew Hunter - YouTube.png
 

Jameshow

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If on a budget

I'd cut out the rails and stiles out and place the rails in the middle and the stiles clamping everything together. This will give you a 6' X 18" worktop. You could use the panels to make a tool well?

Then make some legs out of fence posts or simalar and your good to go.
 

Ttrees

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Can you acquire more of the solid wood doors?
You can get quite a lot of wood from them as James says.
I'd take them all unless you spot some hardwood (usually iroko) ones for free elsewhere, good sized windows likewise.

Keep the MDF cover for when you need do household stuff on the bench.

Tom
 
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