I'm kind of with Lew on this one. If you shop for relatively cheap wood
(common rather than select and 5/4 rather than 8/4 stock) you will have
alot less invested in a top than vises.
Not to say that there is anything wrong with a bench made from recycled
material, I applaud that. It just seems a bit inconsistent with the
"For years I have been threatening to build a legitimate work bench."
LMAO!!! I peed a little.
No offense to the OP, because we are all like that are sometimes, but it
reminds me of the posers in Nashville who post ads for "professional
musicians" who inevitably have no budget to pay them.
"Playing is not something I do at night, it's my function in life"
;~) My whole idea of using Baltic Birch over solid stock is to hopefully
speed up the preparation of the materials for glue up. I am not really
looking for a cheaper way out although it seems it would be significantly
cheaper with new Baltic Birch plywood over solid stock.
My thinking is if I buy solid wood stock and rip it to width for glue up
there is going to be some bow in some of the pieces after being cut and that
will have to be dealt with. Baltic Birch on the other hand should stay
straight after being cut and should eliminate some of the problems that
solid wood present from the equation during assembly. It's the stability of
the product that I am interested in more so than saving on expense.
I'm preparing to re-top my primary workbench in the spring. It is 2' by 6'.
I'm going to extend the top by a foot. I'll be using a layer of 3/4" ply
and then a 1 1/8" thick butcherblock countertop from Ikea. The 1 foot
extension will give me a place to install at least one vise (that I already
own) and probably a 2nd going the other way and allow a cutout for tools at
the opposite end. It'll start out with a good solid flat top and I'll be
able to resurface it at least 2 times (and probably a couple more). It'll
be easy to remove that countertop layer and replace it if and when the time
Well if its about saving time and effort, not money, it's hard to do
better than when the wood has gone to the trouble of already
assembling itself into a top for you.
But I really can't see where ripping the plywood into strips and
gluing up is going to save you time. There is no way you're going to
get it all aligned perfectly to be *flat* without surfacing it after
glueup anyway, versus just stacking three 3/4" sheets together which
will be plenty thick and heavy and flat and stable. You could even do
ply-MDF-MDF-ply if you want to get it silly thick and heavy, and the
ply at the top and bottom will take most of the abuse in the dog
Assembly tables usually want to be bigger than workbenches, but don't
need to be as sturdy or heavy.
Well there is that to consider and one of the reasons I am not sold on a
sacrificial top. Having said that however the Baltic Birch plywood top
would be all solid hard wood. I think ultimately it would be stronger than
the same sized solid wood slab and less likely to be affected by climate
;~) Being in the "BiZ" I have a lot more labor in the price than 65-70% of
the price. Typically on the skinny side my labor is at least 75% of the
total price and more often closer to 80%. And then again it all depends on
whether I am building fine furniture or a fence. ;~) I am really not
trying to save money in this situation so much as building a top that would
be just as strong as a top with all the wood grain running in the same
direction, and perhaps easier to actually cut up and glue.
Thanks for the reality check.
Baltic Birch harder than vertical grain maple pieces laminated
Which makes any material savings achieved by material substitution
Don't know what size table you want to build, but consider a 2'x6'
Make the primary surface from 3/4" x 2-3/4" maple vertical grain
Surface both sides of the glue-up with a drum sander to about 2-1/2"
Rip a 5 x 5 x 3/4 BB panel into two (2) 24x60 and two (2) 11-3/4x60
pieces which get laminated on bottom side providing a 4" finished top.
Epoxied together, be tougher than a bull's pecker in fly time.
I picked up a used kitchen table with an Oak top and put two layers of
The table top was the standard country style top with running bond
blocks of Oak. Cut the table to width and used the remainder to edge
band everything, if you didn't look underneath you would think it was
3" thick Oak.
I used cauls to clamp the layers flat using the TS as a backer and
ended up with a damn flat top.
I've built a couple of benches over the past 20 years and the best top
was made from a hunk of bowling lane I picked up when one of the local
establishments went out of business. I regret the day that I decided to
leave that bench in the basement of a house we were renting.
I think it's going on four years ago that I built mine with a three-
layer MDF top. Someone had given me two really nice vintage quick-
release vises, I had a load of rough-cut oak 2x4's (two inches by
four, real measurement) I got cheap, and I had some MDF from some
shelves I'd taken down. I finally decided if I didn't make it out of
what I had, it wouldn't get built for years, so I laminated three
sections of MDF together, and edged it all around and built the bottom
frame with those oak two by fours. Round dog holes and retractable
casters. Finished it with Waterlox.
I figured the dog holes would deteriorate but when they did I'd drill
a bigger hole, plug it with hardwood and drill a new hole. Turns out
so far I haven't needed to. Maybe because I don't pull the dogs in and
out a lot. They've held up pretty good. The whole bench has. I thought
I'd have built another by now but this one keeps doing what it's
It's nice and heavy. Stays put when it's not on wheels. (It's kind of
frustrating when I forget that) It sure has stayed flat. But if it
ever goes out of flat I won't try to fix it. I'll make a hardwood top
now that money's not quite so tight and I've found a couple good
Any wood will work. My benchtop is glued up 2x4 pine studs, finished
with danish oil. Spent lots of time flattening the top. I redo the
top every 3-4 years. A good bench should be large, sturdy and
Thats what I made my first bench out of but I ripped the things into
2x2's and glued them up. Still going strong after 30 years but that was
my very first wood working project. I've since learned it's much better
to use 2 x 6's as they are about as cheap, easier to find higher quality
boards than the studs, and glue up is simple and fast.
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I got lucky when I worked for a builder.
We had some glue lamb beams that were ordered wrong and couldn't be
returned ,they were 2 ft' x 10 ft' ,it made one hell of a work bench.
You can even glue up 2x 4's with P L 400 construction glue.
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