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Workbench tops what material HDF?? MDF Ply

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Knotty Norm

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It is a case horses for courses I imagine, but I do consider this to be one of the most beautiful benches around - and great for the 'modern' machine woodworker.
 

tradesman

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Hi - yes this is awood only workbench - no bikes I suspect.

I have a compromise - 1 end MFT birch ply - but im now stuck ona reasonable priced router solution - these are going £150 to £350. All I want to do is be able to access the bit and raise and lower from the top - any ideas. My small shop i will build a rough assembly area along one wall where i have the cross cut ( on wheels of course ) all the same height ( great idea ). the mft for chisel planing and fine work

does this sound sensible?? I think the router on the end is a great idea
 

Ollie78

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I used to have to turn my standard MFT top over every year.
I don`t think I ever had one last more than about 3 months per side. But I treat it as sacrificial for on site work.
For a workshop solution I guess budget is less of a worry.

Ollie
 

pe2dave

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Has no one come up with a sacrificial solution? Perhaps not for site work, but for the home workshop?
I was thinking of embedded 3|3mm beading.
Wondering why the 3mm ‘dogs’ don’t solve this issue?
 

DBT85

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Has no one come up with a sacrificial solution? Perhaps not for site work, but for the home workshop?
I was thinking of embedded 3|3mm beading.
Wondering why the 3mm ‘dogs’ don’t solve this issue?
It all depends how careful you are setting the depth of your blade. If you put 3mm protectors on but set the depth overly deep you'll still mark it.

I know @petermillard routes a groove in his to put some sacrificial 6mm MRMDF that can be replaced. I just moved my top over to the left by 150mm and used regular MRMDF for that last 150mm of the bench. That does nothing for the cuts along the length of the top though.

At the end of the day any work bench is a workbench, It's going to get dinged. Build it, make it look pretty and then take a chunk out of it so that it's done and out of the way.

As you said earlier in the thread, if you want to wail away with hammers and chisels an MDF topped bench like these will work but you'll probably soon wish you'd build something with a bit more backbone. If you are using mostly power tools then a top like this is fantastic.
 
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Spectric

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Hi all

Just a thought earlier in the day, has anyone looked at what they use to make the panels for the delivery vans and BT wagons? It is laminated and must be reasonably durable so anyone know of firms that build panel vans and the like onto chassis cabs could forward more info. Also you get these vans in salvage yards so the potential for cheap sheets of decent material.
 

mg123

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Thanks for the tip, I'm just passing far too many wet days looking on the internet, researching and saving useful ideas but I need to come back to reality as I have the workshop to build first!
I'm in the same situation, too much procrastination. The Internet, and in particular for me, YouTube, offers far too much content, ideas and designs that constantly change my plans.
 

petermillard

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It all depends how careful you are setting the depth of your blade. If you put 3mm protectors on but set the depth overly deep you'll still mark it.

I know @petermillard routes a groove in his to put some sacrificial 6mm MRMDF that can be replaced. I just moved my top over to the left by 150mm and used regular MRMDF for that last 150mm of the bench. That does nothing for the cuts along the length of the top though.

At the end of the day any work bench is a workbench, It's going to get dinged. Build it, make it look pretty and then take a chunk out of it so that it's done and out of the way.

As you said earlier in the thread, if you want to wail away with hammers and chisels an MDF topped bench like these will work but you'll probably soon wish you'd build something with a bit more backbone. If you are using mostly power tools then a top like this is fantastic.
Yes, setting a strip of easily replaced 6mm into my MFT tops makes them last a fair bit longer, but at they end of the day an MFT top is a consumable item to most people. I don’t think I’ve ever used one that wasn’t MRMDF, but if you feel the need then Birch ply would be a good option. Looks pretty, too - though I’d still inset a sacrificial strip, personally.

It’s easy to do and costs next to nothing, so I do it as a matter of course - I showed the process in this video just FYI.

HTH P
 

pe2dave

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Treating MFT tops?
Has anyone treated a top (MDF or ply) to address damp conditions?
Something to soak into the wood.
The holes (tight tolerances) bother me. Thinking of a roller, thin coats and 'something' to
clean out each row of holes as I pass?

Any experience doing this please?
 

Ollie78

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£300 fur the router lift. I'm just looking to fix it and raise the bit!
aren't i
Thats £300 for the lift and the motor.

You will find that if you put a standard router in plate with no lift that it will be super annoying in a very short time as you are fighting against the springs on the router.
Also you need to check the way the collet works on the router you plan to use as some have spindle locks which are very hard to operate once in a table setup.
Triton do a router with a removable spring and a rack and pinion handle which is somewhat better, I used to have this setup.
The problem is having to reach awkwardly under the table trying to accurately move the bit say half a mm.

There are many home made ways to solve the issue like using a car jack or things like that. You can get other router lifts with handles that go in the top like Jess Em and Incra but by the time you bought a router and the lift mechanism the £300 for both is pretty decent value.
I have re done my router table many times and tried all sorts, I have had the one in the link for several years, set up with an Incra fence and it is the best so far. Not perfect but good.


Treating MFT tops?
Has anyone treated a top (MDF or ply) to address damp conditions?
Something to soak into the wood.
The holes (tight tolerances) bother me. Thinking of a roller, thin coats and 'something' to
clean out each row of holes as I pass?

Any experience doing this please?
Yes, I have tried this. On one I tried a oat of Osmo oil which was ok, on another I tried sanding sealer this shrank the holes quite a lot which surprised me, they loosen back up after using them though. I wouldn`t bother treating the mdf again.
I would not use plain MDF again, green MR mdf is much better but the winner is Birch ply with a wipe of sanding sealer.

Ollie
 

Sideways

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Treating MFT tops?
Has anyone treated a top (MDF or ply) to address damp conditions?
Something to soak into the wood.
The holes (tight tolerances) bother me. Thinking of a roller, thin coats and 'something' to
clean out each row of holes as I pass?

Any experience doing this please?
Yup. I waxed one to make it easier to scrape off glue spill. Nightmare ! It got into the edges of the holes and made them swell up and the dogs wouldn't fit.
I use it as a glorified peg board for storing stuff on the wall now.

I now make my own tops using the parf guide. MRMDF and sometimes seal them with thinned (wiping) varnish but this is done before boring the holes.
 

Ollie78

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Just a thought earlier in the day, has anyone looked at what they use to make the panels for the delivery vans and BT wagons? It is laminated and must be reasonably durable so anyone know of firms that build panel vans and the like onto chassis cabs could forward more info. Also you get these vans in salvage yards so the potential for cheap sheets of decent material.
Thats Phenolic coated birch ply, it is good stuff but not cheap I think I paid £90 for a sheet last time I had some. If you can get some salvaged then it is good stuff.
The one they use for shuttering is probably better as it has a smooth surface rather than a grippy pattern.
You can get solid Phenolic board too but that is crazy expensive as well, its what worktop jigs and things like that are made from.

Ollie
 

Sad Pangolin

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That original post specifically uses Valchromat. I'm not sure it's classed as HDF or MDF --- it's similar in production etc to regular MDF, but very heavy and relatively moisture-resistant. It's a Portuguese product (Portuguese Youtube channel Make Hands Dirty regularly used it, which made them offer it for free, so she's using it more) and comes in a range of solid-through-the-mass colours.

On the continent Valchromat is relatively easy to get your hands on, but with a good markup and limited choices I've seen them on sale in the UK within a half-county radius (as in, you'll have a drive but not excessive for a one-off trip). The black is great for showing off on instagram, but I'd image bad to find your dark metal washers etc.

Limited in space myself, I've made a more solid version of Paoson's
but with a very different top. All 70x100x90, I've made a very solid all-drawers unit (with flat face drawerpulls and a moxon tailvise and a frontvise), one more flimsy half-drawers the other half has half-shelves at the back (so as at a normal desk, your legs are under it). Together I can clamp 8ft stock, the combined tops working as three superlong bar clamps; separately I do drawing and electronics work on the 'flimsy desk' and bashing on the 'sturdy bench'. I'm finishing my third, most-mobile bench (short offcuts and spraycans) which is mostly to be used as infeed/outfeed/support and as natural home to drill press and eventually bandsaw; and planning my last containing tablesaw and router. If I need to break down a full 4x8 sheet I just move the two lightest in line with my heaviest, cover in scrap, add sheet, and tracksaw. Each is small enough to move out of the way as needed, and the lighter ones I can easily move out of my (narrow-doored) shed (with steps); the two heavy ones I'd need a mate. On eBay I bought four sets of identical 500kg levelling castors, less than £10 per wheel with 15mm travel.

His drawers vary obviously from his first version (which was roughly 200cm wide), I suspect on the basis of

The only person I know that worked professionally on a solid concrete bench wholeheartedly agreed with that last video, "it's a dream". Just like you can upgrade a 3D printer to be more precise & much quieter by putting them on a paver, your bench is a soundbox/ it deadens resonances.
 

Spectric

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You will find that if you put a standard router in plate with no lift that it will be super annoying in a very short time as you are fighting against the springs on the router.
Hi

I am using the big orange triton router and have removed the spring, just a single screw to get it out and with this router you can adjust lift from above the table. There is also a knob that allows a quick raise so that you can easily change bits, it locks in the highest position. If you want to go further you can also remove the interlock that normally switches it off in the locked position and use a remote on/off switch to save fiddling under the table. BIG BUT , you need to always ensure the bit freely rotates by hand before turning it on, something I always do but is essential. Adjusting speed is still a fiddly task but requires a mirror.

The router lifts using AUK motors and speed controllers are a good solution, this is not a cheap option and you may then want to buy a decent fence so more expense and use a muscle chuck to make bit changing easier, although not as powerful as the Triton you may just have to take a few more lighter cuts.
 

Ollie78

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Hi Spectric

I also had the Triton router in a Jess Em plate with an NVR switch, while it was much better than the Makita that I had in there before it is in no way as easy to use as the setup I have now. Which is basically the AUK one but branded differently .
The motor is no less powerful in use than the Triton router as far as I can tell.
I do think the Triton is a good solution, though not quite a standard router, but if I had to start again I would just skip straight to the motor lift combo.

Ollie
 

Spectric

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Hi

Is there any conclusions to the original question about what material for a worktop? MDF is unstable in it's base form but what do people like Kreg do that overcomes the issues, it looks like they encase it in something. Then Valchromat is really expensive for coloured MDF, is this because it is something different to MDF and it's properties are such that justify the cost, is it because it is not common in the UK so supply & demand or just that it falls under the so called designer label.

Hi Ollie I think my biggest concern with the AUK type routers is that once you go down this route you have a single option lift plate, Peter mentioned the Jessem prestige which is the same lift mechanism but allows the use of std routers which is the direction I am now looking at. The Trition is ugly, orange, hopeless handheld and bit of an oddball but as a motor assembly it is good and cheap. I am currently looking at extracting the speed control module and mounting this in an enclosure along with the on/off switch and then it will deliver everything the AUK can. The only issue to address is the routers own lift, this may need to be fully compressed when fitted to a Jessem lift plate in which case the locking mechanism would need to go and a muscle chuck fitted.
 

mikej460

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I bought an MDF MFT top from one of the CNC suppliers .... wish I'd paid the extra £10 for the plywood version - the holes in the MDF are susceptible to cold and get slightly smaller as the material expands (my workshop isn't damp, just a bit cold) - I've sorted the dog fit by some very gentle reaming of the top edges of the dog-holes.

The coming week's tasks involve insulation and plasterboard for the ceiling of the workshop!
Could I ask where you bought it from?
 

Ollie78

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Spectric

Valchromat is higher density than standard MDF and I think it has a different glue resin. It just feels like MR MDF to me.
I think the original festool tops are made from it or a similar grade product. It is quite common but more in production workshops often flow finished with UV curing etc, I am sure they are not paying the retail price that you would be quoted for one sheet from lathams or wherever.
I see nothing to beat birch ply for strength and stability.

I see your point about the motors in the AUK type thing but I suspect they are a "standard" motor size and not hard to find. Peters suggestion of the Jessem prestige is good of you already have a spare router to use.
Instead of extracting the speed controller perhaps you could use a rheostat type controller so you dont have to butcher the router.

I think the ultimate router table setup would be a VFD controlled 3kw water cooled spindle, mounted on a linear guide ( like a CNC machine Z axis ) with stepper controlled ballscrew actuation for height control.

Ollie
 
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