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Work bench top material....

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morrisminordriver

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Having (quickly!) determined that a solid beech work bench top is out of my financial reach , Im pondering alternatives and would welcome suggestions / comments etc.

On the previous thread, Gill suggested OSB topped with hardboard and SDA kitchen work top.

I was thinking of something between the two of these. I want the bench to be approx 2" thick minimum, and the hardboard top idea seems good as it could be changed when scuffed. It occurs to me that laminating some man made boards and edging them with a hardwood would do the job. But what boards to use?. I will be mounting two large Record vises (front and side) along with round bench dogs - Ive got the Aminster ones, and may well get the (Veritas?) 'screwuppable' dog too. The options seem to be:
- OSB
- Kitchen work top
- plywood
- MDF
- chipboard

My thoughts are that OSB is a bit agricultural for this (no offence Gill!!) and the kitchen worktop will be too narrow (600mm). Plywood seems good but is the pricier option, which leaves MDF and chipboad.

Anyone got any thoughts on what would do the job best?, theyd all be very much appreciated.

Thanks

Mike
 

Alf

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Mike,

Just stop and think about how you use a bench for a moment. Generally it's the first 12" (?) of surface that need to be tough enough to take a pounding, yes? The rest is there to aid assembly, give you somewhere to put the tools etc. Even if you have the bench in the middle of the w'shop you still only need the meat of the bench on the side with the vice. So, do what the old timers did and make the front bit of the top out of good hardwood, and use lesser stuff to make up the rest. F'rinstance, the Shaker bench featured in The Workbench Book (all 11ft 9" x 38" of it!) has laminated maple for the first 16", 3 3/4" thick, then oak or chestnut for the next 9 1/4" and the rest in knotty pine, both 1 3/4" thick. In FWW not long back Mike Dunbar made a bench in a similar manner, but with a sheet of ply to make up the back bits. And both these benches are used from both sides what's more. Just maybe an option to consider instead of abandoning the beech completely.

I'd think hard about the support structure underneath if you use MDF or chip, as neither have any lateral strength and will be inclined to want to sag. Another option is bog standard softwood, although you'd need to select your pieces carefully, and well in advance to allow them to dry out. I'd also be weary of using hardboard, even though many people seem to swear by it as a sacrificial top. I find a light coloured top to the bench makes life easier for seeing what you're doing. Yet another thing to consider... :roll:

Finally, you're familiar with BugBear's workbench page I hope? Lots of opinions and alternatives in there. :wink:

Cheers, Alf
 

samlarsen

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Mike,

Just a word of warning here: I built two benches last year when I moved house, a metalworking one and a woodworking one, both all wood.

The metalwork bench top is made of chipboard layers glued together, about 2 inches thick in total. It has had engines/gearboxes oil petrol on it with no detriment and is v solid and cheap.

The woodwork bench was a similar thickness of ply sheets and has seen a few lighter projects.

Problems have only occurred with the ply top. Since the boards were not thoroughly dried out prior to bonding together the top warped very badly and made it impossible to plane flat surfaces. I did store the boards for a while before use, but i think the problem is more likely to be related to the wide range of moisture conditions my drafty garage goes through throughout the year? If you have a workshop like mine be careful bonding materials together - particularly if you use more than one type of material.

in the end i had to brace the top from beneath with stout boards and bolts the pull the bow back.

I suggest you select you top carefully and save yourself the redesigning effort later. I like the sound of the fire door idea - except both my benches are longer than a standard door!

cheers, sam

PS my last bech was made out of 200 year old teak floorboards made up into a 3" thick top, salvaged from a hall being refitted - the wood was going to landfill! Now that was a bench top.
 

Gill

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Hi Mike

I'm not at all offended by the suggestion that my solution is agricultural 8) !

The point about sag might be valid (of course it's valid - I wouldn't dream of contradicting Alf :) !) but I wouldn't know because of the way my workbench is constructed. It's got plenty of braces underneath the OSB and the bench top itself is recessed into a wooden dado that I fastened on a wall. Dead sturdy, but it makes it impossible for me to use timber that overhangs the far side of the bench when I'm working on it. Since I rarely get involved with large scale projects, I don't find this a problem.

Yours

Gill
 

Alf

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GillD":33997w1v said:
The point about sag might be valid (of course it's valid - I wouldn't dream of contradicting Alf :) !) but I wouldn't know because of the way my workbench is constructed. It's got plenty of braces underneath the OSB and the bench top itself is recessed into a wooden dado that I fastened on a wall.
Aww, go on Gill, contradict away. You've not sold your bunker have you...? :wink: The braces were pretty much what I had in mind when I used the fancy term "support structure". Okay, so I admit it. I couldn't remember that "brace" was the word I was looking for. :oops: Heck, that's something to bore a hole with anyway isn't it..? :lol:

Sam, the teak bench sounds fantastic. Not likely to go walking across the workshop in a hurry I imagine :shock:

Cheers, Alf
 

frank

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mike my bench has two sheets of 18mm mdf for the top its cheap and will take a bit of rough use , base is made of softwood with 10 drawers it is solid and it wont move ,there is a picture of it on uk w/working


frank
 

Chris Knight

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All my replies are being deleted or simply never show up. They appear at first but when I revisit a thread they are gone - any ideas?
Chris
 
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Anonymous

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Just a word on kitchen worktops I'm sure you can get them wider than 600mm I've seen them around 1 metre wide. Don't know the price though maybe special order which meens expensive :roll:
 

Signal

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Hi Chris,

dunno mate though the one about postings vanishing
seems to still be there, try postig a note to charley
in site errors.

Take care

Singal
 
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Anonymous

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I like samlarsen's comment on this one regarding his last bench.

Why not try a reclamation yard and top it off with 1/2" or 3/4" ply.
 

Neil

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Chris's firedoor blank suggestion (in the other thread) is excellent. I used one for my bench top and it has been brilliant, but it is only 610mm wide so I guess it won't be any use to you. Very cheap though - I got one with slight damage on one face (which I put downwards) and it cost less than £5. My workshop is very prone to changes in humidity (being in Ireland...) and the bench top hasn't distorted at all.

NeilCFD
 

Philly

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Hey All,
I built my last bench from a hardwood fire door blank-these are edge laminated from some kind of mahogany and veneered on the faces. I bought a 8 x 4 foot door blank from Howdens joinery for £69- a bargain. The blank is flat as a die as well, nice for a work surface. I then trimmed the top with 4 x 2 inch Iroko and added the vices ( or is that Vie?)

http://groups.msn.com/ukwoodworking/sho ... otoID=1285
http://groups.msn.com/ukwoodworking/han ... otoID=1268

These links show some photo's of the finished bench. I am really pleased with the top-especially it's flatness.
If you need any more details give us a shout,
Philly
 
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Anonymous

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I made myself a simple bench last weekend from two layers of 18mm ply glued and screwed together, with a bardboard sacrificial layer tacked to it. A vice was set flush into it on Saturday, and I srewed it to a 4x2 constructed (braced) stand on Sunday. The idea was adapted from a plan free in one of the mags last year.

It cost me less than twenty quid for the lumber from Jewson, and the ply was cut up for me from a full sheet at Homebase (so I could get it home in the car). Forty quid in total for a basic 6'x2.5' bench that will get me by.

Your bench need not be a work of art after all. Mine was a good practice for making lap joints and reminding me of all the things I had forgotten from my half a year of wordworking classes at school all those years ago....
 
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