On occasion, I'll go to a local cabinet shop. Most of them use mobile assembly
benches that vary in height (18" to 24"), with space under for the odd tool.
I've never seen a torsion box used there, nor a piece of granite. Tops are
often plywood on the larger, MDF on the smaller and are reasonably flat. Some
are even covered with carpet, a trick I like to use when assembling expensive
woods or finished pieces. The flatter an assembly bench top is, the easier it
is to keep everything square, but a lack of even .01 flatness is not going to
cause a massive out-of-square condition for a careful woodworker. And a
careless woodworker isn't going to get a square assembly no matter what he or
"Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of
My latest bench, completed a couple of months ago, has 1" MDF topped with 1"
European birch laminated panel. It's edged with 2 x 3/4" white ash. Cost
approx $100. It looks nice (to me, anyway!) and weighs a ton, which is
exactly what I wanted. Actually, I haven't even fastened the top to the base
properly, but it's OK to plane on, if the plane is razor sharp. As a result,
I think I'll just pop some large rounded-over dowels into the base and drill
holes in the MDF, so that the top remains forever easily removable...
Check office remodels and Habitat for commercial 2" solid doors. They are
good for everything except heavy hammering and a ply top takes care of that.
For a small shop, split one to 18" and get two benches.
Depends on your needs, price, and patience. For many things, a 1" sheet
of MDF(a pair of them gives you a 2" top if you desire), 3/8" maple
surface if you are ambitious, 4" maple edges then vises, etc and you are
done. It is even possible to skip the edging and have a decent benchtop
for the price of the MDF
Malcolm Webb wrote:
my main bench serves duty as outfeed for the table saw and as
assembly/ general purpose bench. the top is a full sheet of 3/4" MDF
with a full sheet of 3/4" melamine on top of it. the frame is fairly
heavy timber locally milled pine- 4x6, 4x8 and 1+"x8 rough sawn, a few
years dry when I got it.
Here is one last vote for the "Solid Core" door bench.
I picked up a couple of blemished gypsum core "solid" core doors 12 years
ago. I built my "temporary" bench from the 48" wide door and it has served
me well for all this time. The frame around the door is 2 x 4 under the
edges and around the perimeter. The base is 4 x 4 southern pine, untreated
done in a trestle configuration bolted together within the dadoes. It is
heavy, it is flat and it is strong..... and yes it is pretty dinged up at
this point in time. But, I will retain the base and replace the top perhaps
with hardwood this time.
The other door I picked up, has been used across saw horses as a great
take-down assembly table / workbench. While it is heavy to move on and off
the horses, it stores against the wall until another day.
I built the bench with the 3 layers of 3/4" MDF that woodsmith published
a couple of years ago. I'm sure it isn't as nice as a maple bench, but
it is dead flat and takes all the abuse I've thrown at it. I do
refinish the top every year with a new coat of tung oil and some shellac.
I even have put in holes for bench dogs and they have held up nicely.
I mostly build furniture and needed a large bench. A smaller bench
wouln't be nearly as expensive to make out of maple, which would have a
much larger "OOOO AHHHH" factor.
email@example.com (Malcolm Webb) wrote in
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