Budget workbench makeover...

I have one of those ready-made "construction site" type workbenches made out of dimensional lumber screwed together. I bought it to get something up quickly, and cheaply, and it has never been particularly well-suited to woodworking.
Now that I'm getting into Neandering, and now that I have a front vise, I'm really seeing the need for a few things.
* needs to be a few inches higher, so I don't kill my back stooping over to get up close to the work
* a *flat* top instead of a bunch of boards at slightly different heights and levels of twist
* dog holes
I currently have one end of the bench given over to metal working. I used to use it a lot, but I don't use it much anymore. I've swapped out my nice big piece of track with "Illinois 1966" cast onto it for the short cutoff left over from making the counterweight for my trebuchet. That gives me 48" from the edge of my anvils to the far end of the bench for my retrofit top.
I definitely want to keep my shop vise on the bench. I've seen ideas for mounting it so that it can be clamped in the front vise, but I don't think that would be very stable for the sort of abusive beat the hell out of rusty things work I do with the vise.
So I'm thinking about building a 2'x 4' supplemental top, fastened to the existing top. That would leave a ~6" recess at the back at normal workbench height, and that could serve as a tool gutter.
Sound reasonable so far?
That begs some questions. First, how to level it? I can't readily flatten the existing top because it's impregnated with swarf and little pointy sheet metal cutoffs. I could use some thoughts for how to attach the new top so that it's flat, instead of following the irregular contour of the top below it. I could also consider replacing the entire top, or turning the boards over so I can plane the relatively clean bottoms flat. The thinking behind the add-on top is that it adds weight, and adds height, both of which I need.
Now on the top itself, I'd rather spend my wood budget on something else right now. A pre-made $200 maple deal is out. Buying maple and doing it myself is out too. I really don't want to spend that much on a retrofit of a bench that was never really designed to do this job in the first place, and would rather save all that for some eventual day when I have a bigger shop and can build a well-planned bench for it from the ground up.
I don't particularly want to buy plywood or MDF or such like either. All are expensive, unwieldy, and did I say expensive and unwieldy?
I have a waterbed frame I've been trying to find something to do with for years. It's "hard yellow" pine. Probably ponderosa. I have two pieces 48" x 8.5" x 1.75" and two pieces 108" x 8.5" x 1.75.
I realize that pine isn't as good as many other things, but it's free. I think using it is a good plan. I can always face it with something harder eventually if I have to, like maybe a layer of hardwood flooring for even more height. (Or actually, that might be worth considering from the get-go. It wouldn't be that expensive to buy eight square feet of unfinished hardwood flooring.)
So with wood of the above dimensions, finished on all six sides, what would be the best way to glue up a top approximately 24" x 48"?
The easy thing to do would be to cut a couple feet off of one of the 9' long boards, joint the edges of that one and the two short boards, dowel them, and glue the three of them into one panel. That might not be the strongest thing to do, or it might be OK. These boards are all cut from the center of trees, so the rings wrap around on either side of the center line, with a little bullseye of heartwood running down the middle. Is that good or bad?
Ripping that stuff straight on my little Skil 3400 or trying to come up with a 48" straight edge guide for ripping with a circular saw are not exciting prospects, incidentaly. If I *could* get by without doing that, I'd prefer it.
Thoughts so far?
Currently my big vise with the pop-up dog isn't in service. I've got a "dog block" clamped to my little $12 front vise, and my "dog" for holding work is a butcher knife stuck into a gap between two boards. This works, but it sucks. I need a new top soon.
--
Michael McIntyre ---- Silvan < snipped-for-privacy@users.sourceforge.net>
Linux fanatic, and certified Geek; registered Linux user #243621
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On Mon, 27 Oct 2003 09:29:41 -0500, Silvan

How much space have you got ?
If you have lots of space, why not make a new smallish bench from scratch or recycled timber, and keep the old one as an assembly table? If you're really just using your new bench as a clamping and chiseling rest, then it can be pretty small. This also helps with reducing timber consumption and improving stiffness. Construction softwood and a sandwich top of 2 x 3/4" ply and 4mm MDF is enough, then a cast iron face vice and plenty of dogholes. Add a screw-worked tail dog(s) if you wish.
-- Die Gotterspammerung - Junkmail of the Gods
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Andy Dingley wrote:

None left. My shop is *tiny*.
No money either, really. I need lots of other things more than I need to build a new bench from scratch. That's why the idea of making this one do a little better job on an extremely limited budget is so appealing.
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Michael McIntyre ---- Silvan < snipped-for-privacy@users.sourceforge.net>
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I like JOAT's idea of a door. If that is not suitable, how about a sheet of hardboard to smooth out the top? Easy to replace when it get banged up. Ed snipped-for-privacy@snet.net http://pages.cthome.net/edhome
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Edwin Pawlowski wrote:

up.
A door could work, but I have no idea where to get one, and no budget.
Hardboard wouldn't help my existing bench much because I have other problems to solve. It needs weight, and I could really use some extra height. I could just raise the legs, but then I'd have to totally re-do my pegboard.
If I put a thick, heavy supplemental top on, and drill dog holes, then I solve three problems at once.
I like my waterbed frame idea just fine. It's pine, but it's a lot more durable than the "white wood" stuff the current top is made out of. I can't not use it for something some day (the McIntyre gene prevents me from throwing something away that could be put to some use), but I want to get rid of the stupid thing because it's heavy, and I'm tired of moving it around to get to the wood I do want to use.
I just don't know what the most suitable way to use it to accomplish this would be. I've never glued any sort of table like thing together before. I've always bought pre-glued-up stuff at the BORG.
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Michael McIntyre ---- Silvan < snipped-for-privacy@users.sourceforge.net>
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Silvan wrote:

I have a hollow core door taking up space in my single-car garage shop in Bowie, MD. I got it from a neighbor's trash during his remodeling, and it's been used across sawhorses for an assembly table. My plan has been to put a top on it & make it a workbench but I don't have the space. If you want to drop by & pick it up it's yours. One corner is slightly bunged up but that hasn't been a hinderance.
My email address is easily unspamified. Drop me a note if you're interested.
-- Mark
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Mark Jerde wrote:

Mighty nice o' ye, Sir... :)
I'm not too likely to end up in your corner of the world with extra time to spare anytime soon though, and I live about 10 hours away from you, round trip.
--
Michael McIntyre ---- Silvan < snipped-for-privacy@users.sourceforge.net>
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On Tue, 28 Oct 2003 01:27:26 -0500, Silvan
There are three of them in garages near me, all of which came as scroungings for free from construction work. Keep your eyes open - they're out there.
-- Die Gotterspammerung - Junkmail of the Gods
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Check out the local Lowe's and Home Depot for damaged doors that they sell off cheap. I was at the Lowe's near you just yesterday and they have damaged stuff near the door by the treated lumber. I don't remember seeing any flat doors there, but worth asking. Check with Reed Lumber also. Just go in and ask them if they have any damaged doors that would be suitable for a bench top. It will cost you something, but a lot less than a perfect door. I have a bench made from a door I got from Heavener's years ago.
Bill Ranck Blacksburg, Va.
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Silvan wrote:

A lot of bench angst, a subject not wholly unfamiliar to myself. Yo Michael, You say you already have a decent face vise. That's a sold start. I just this weekend put the finishing touches on my "bootstrap bench," seeing as my good bench is "in jail," pending a property settlement. I invested maybe $150 in materials (not including the vise) and 16 hours. the only prep-work I did on the timbers (green douglas fir), was to make sure to pick real straight ones at The Borg.
The Saga: http://www.klownhammer.org/proto-bench
O'Deen -- http://www.klownhammer.org/ - Home of the World-Famous Original Crowbar FAQ
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