Workbench Top

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Having now sorted out domestic arrangements I have now decided to convert part of a garage to a permanent workshop and have started making the frame for a workbench. Any ideas from the team on the best way/material to make the worktop.
Many thanks.
Malcolm Webb
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Malcolm Webb wrote:

There are those amongst us who went to the store and bought a solid core door. In our heads we used the thinking that this would be a good "get by" but after a couple/few years we joined the fraternity of Door Benchers.
UA100, Door Bencher since 1988...
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I've been thinking about using a door -- but a hollow one. Hollow? But, wait! The reason for the hollow door versus solid is that a solid door will not stay flat -- that is, flat enough to be a good glue-up surface. Or that is my concern. A hollow door will stay flat -- in theory, as it is akin to a torsion box -- and, to keep it from being pierced, I was thinking of wrapping it with 2" thick wood and then laminating 1/2" mdf top and bottom.
So, question: Has your solid core door stayed flat enough for a good glue-up surface? My thinking is that a hollow-door will stay flatter than a solid core door.
I am also thinking of the laminated hollow-core door approach as a stable-flat base for the "Ultimate Tool Stand", http://christophermerrill.net/ww/plans/UTS/Tool_Stand_1.html rather than building the torsion box from scratch. Unlike using a solid core door as a top -- and the frame of the table can help keep it flat -- in this tool stand the "door" has to stay flat even if unevenly supported. -- Igor
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I have used hollow core doors and laminated 3/4 MDF to both sides. My current bench is 15 years old. I glued up 4x6 D Fir to make a top 33 inches wide and 7 feet long. I have a pattern makers (Emmert) vise on one end and two Wilton quick release vises on the other. Before I glued it up I cut bench dog slots (1 x 11/2) in two of the edges that line up with the Wilton bench dogs. The top was then run through a wide belt sander (both sides) which cost me $25 to have done. The bench has been resurfaced twice in 15 years and is dead flat and weighs a ton so it won't move. Total cost back then was $100. It is a beauty and gets lot's of compliments. I do use an oil base poly on top so the glue never sticks. max

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"igor" wrote in message

My "solid core" door benchtop has stayed flat for a few years now.
Your idea of using a hollow core door, which uses a principle known as "stress skin" construction to maintain flatness, should work well providing you overcome the lighter weight issue (you generally want a heavy benchtop, which the solid core door gives you) with additional "skins", as you describe above.
Let us know how is works out.
--
www.e-woodshop.net
Last update: 11/06/04
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igor wrote:

I'm thinking that one maybe didn't get baked quite long enough.

I haven't a clue. Back in the day we used to make plastic laminate tops with 1 1/2" hollow core metal substrates. I have one of those that's 3' X 5' that I use for an assembly table top. It's very flat.

I think you need to look at torsion boxes.

Again, I think you need to look at torsion boxes.
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In your post above I thought you said you indicated you used a solid-core door as a benchtop. That's why I asked.

application between a torsion box and a typical hollow-core door -- especially after 1/2" or 3/4" mdf is added top and bottom. I don't have any hollow-core doors in my house to try torquing. I can surmise that 3/4" mdf as the internal grid in a torsion box could help resist torquing better than the honeycomb inside a hollow door, but maybe the mdf is overengineered for this - again, compared to a hollow-core door sandwiched between 1/2" or so mdf. -- Igor
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igor wrote:

Sorry about that. I do have the Door Bench and mostly use it to pile crap on. The assembly table is mostly where most work gets done. That and the outfeed table for the saw but I'm working on a New Year's resolution to not be doing that/leave it alone and let it be an outfeed table.
By the way, I meant to ask, why do you feel it's so important to have a "supeflat" surface for glue ups? Reason I ask is I'm pretty certain that most clamps with out do anything you put into flattening a top. This of course is not to say I'm recommending that you use the drive way for glue ups, just that I've never given it much thought/if I do I'm pretty certain I'd be right back where I am.
UA100
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As I'm on the early part of the ww learning curve, my concern is based on some reading & research. For example this article on torsion boxes: <http://www.diynet.com/diy/shows_wwk/episode/0,2046,DIY_14350_26946,00.html and this one on a rollable tool bench: <http://christophermerrill.net/ww/plans/UTS/Tool_Stand_1.html
There is max's post in this thread which suggests an additional confirmation of my concern. And, it makes some sense to me, especially when gluing up cabinet boxes. Anyway, my sense is that there are MANY variables when woodworking (as with many other things) and so I try to reduce the variables where I think I can. For example, doing a TS tune-up to a few thousandths of an inch, even though being off by 100th of an inch is probably OK when it comes to many TS cuts. If you are asking if I've had some experience that has taught me the need for a "superflat" top -- not yet. -- Igor
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I will frequently glue up stuff on winding sticks. You lay two straight sticks (key word, straight) on your bench and glue up on top of the sticks. It doesn't matter if your top is cupped. The sticks work well. max

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igor wrote:

OK, I'm with where you are but I can't help but to think a thing or two about all of this. Firstly, wooddorking ain't rocket science but one thing I do know is you ain't born knowing all the variables that come into play (1).
OK, stop scratching your head and wondering, "Is he about to go off on some ramble/when can I stop paying attention?". I'll get there.
Torsion boxes are a great thing but aren't absolutely necessary (2). I would start with a good and stout work surface first. Two layers (or for a couple few dollars more three layers) of MDF will make a fine surface to work from. To that I would build a good base beneath it. Four by fours and some aprons/rails going around or full blown cabinets (storage/adds more mass), what ever you want/need. In the end you are concerned about bowing/cupping/twisting you can shim from underneath/pull up/push down until the top is flat(ter). The point here is to have something that won't go rolling around the floor.
As for tolerances, I'm of the opinion that you take a string, pull it taut across the surface and get it trued up by eye. Anything after that is working in the hunnerts of an inch and not worth finding yourself puking up in the corner of your shop over.
Now, something to think hard on, to "successfully" build a torsion box you'll find that it's better/easier if you have a flat surface to start with/build the torsion box on. I'm not saying it can't be done without it, just that it will be harder/you'll be fiddling with it a whole bunch more.

I'm going to interject a thought here on box assembly. *Normally* a box isn't too huge. We occasionally do a big item though really most projects aren't. When you assemble a box you will/should be checking the parts and pieces as they relate to each other, not to the assembly surface below. In other words, are the sides square to the bottom/top? You can have a gap big enough to drive a Buick through in the table below but that doesn't matter as long as you are squared up.
This is not to say it doesn't help/you shouldn't care, you really should, but...
Now, having said all of that, boxes flex/have some give during constriction. An example. You can put two sides together along with the tops and bottom and depending on the size of the box you can be out of square by a half an inch. It's probably not going to matter because you'll go to fit the back and pull it all to true during that phase of things.
Please do not think for a minute that I'm advocating bad construction/it'll be fixed in the end, just that this is one of the variables you will be thinking of during assembly.

There are two arguments on machine set up. One is that wood moves enough to make any sphincter puckering machine set up not worth the time and then there's the "I would prefer to remove as many variables as I can from the equation/it's my $150 and I bought a TS-Aligner JR so go piss off". I prefer the latter over the former though I can't tell you that all my processes are at zero, just that I'm as close to zero as I can get so I'm not off in the corner of the shop puking my guts up.
(1) Whole books have been written on the subject/a life's time could be spent studying it/I can't right off hand think of a better way to waste my spare time.
(2) Torsion boxes are best suited for spanning long unsupported lengths or when something needs to be light(er) weight. They are fun to make and in the end you'll find yourself showing them to anyone who will stop for three minutes to hear you go on about them.
UA100, who really is agreeing with you more than you might think but thinks that "dead flat" isn't anything to lose sleep over...
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wrote:

(1.) "A man walked along contemplating suicide; at that very moment a slate (roof) tile fell and killed him...."'
Soren Kierkegaard.
(2.)"Current plate movement can be tracked directly by means of ground-based or space-based geodetic measurements; geodesy is the science of the size and shape of the Earth. Ground-based measurements are taken with conventional but very precise ground-surveying techniques, using laser-electronic instruments. However, because plate motions are global in scale, they are best measured by satellite-based methods. The late 1970s witnessed the rapid growth of space geodesy, a term applied to space-based techniques for taking precise, repeated measurements of carefully chosen points on the Earth's surface separated by hundreds to thousands of kilometers. The three most commonly used space-geodetic techniques -- very long baseline interferometry (VLBI), satellite laser ranging (SLR), and the Global Positioning System (GPS) -- are based on technologies developed for military and aerospace research, notably radio astronomy and satellite tracking."
http://pubs.usgs.gov/publications/text/understanding.html
(3.)"You can observe a lot just by watching."
Yogi Berra.
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Tom Watson wrote:

Roaring Chicken.
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wrote:

and will forward to friends' kis of the age where a geo report is needed for school. Some gov't agencies do great stuff.

You can miss a lot just by watching.
Igor.
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[snip]

Agreed. And thanks. -- Igor
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Unisaw A100 wrote:

Tom Plamann, admired & envied by many of us, uses these. ;-)
http://plamann.com/sys-tmpl/intheshopiii/view.nhtml?profile=intheshopiii&UID 003
-- Mark
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On Sun, 21 Nov 2004 01:03:25 GMT, "Mark Jerde"

specializes in high-end projects." If his clients pay enough for him to have granite work tables, I s'pose so. (As if the photos of his work did not provide enough evidence.) More power to 'im. -- Igor
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igor wrote:

From your earlier post in this thread,

Plamann thinks a flat surface is good. <g> Wanted you to know you weren't alone.
OTOH here are a pair of Workmates.
http://plamann.com/sys-tmpl/intheshopiii/view.nhtml?profile=intheshopiii&UID 017
-- Mark (Yes, I have spent a lot of time at TP's site. ;-)
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On Sun, 21 Nov 2004 01:30:40 GMT, "Mark Jerde"

Yes, in spite of the subtlety that is granite, I think that photo does suggest the importance of being flat.

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Well, they're not free, but if you have a quarry nearby, sometimes they sell granite sheets with defects for a discount. But why not just glue up a thick hardwood top and plane it down periodically? I can't imagine that your benchtop flatness needs to be within .001" unless you're making jet engines out of maple or something. I made do with a bench made of 3/4" pine plywood and some 2"x4"s from the Borg for several years, and it worked all right for just about everything. I had to screw it to the wall to keep it from sliding around when doing certain things, but once that was done, it was just fine- and it's still flat, even after being moved a couple of times. Total cost was about $40. Aut inveniam viam aut faciam
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