Workbench top

Someday...I hope to build a real classic workbench, ala Christopher Schwarz, however, just now I wish to explore an intermediate solution.
I picked up (dumpster diving) a commercial work bench top. It is stamped "Hallowell Shop Top" It looks (end view) like several wood strips glued up with the top and bottom surface coverd with a particle board covering. If I go to the company website
http://www.hallowell-list.com/workbench-adjustable.php
they describe the top as "Layered highdensity particleboard offers superior screw holding characteristics. The top and bottom layers are sealed to resist conventional spills. The nonconductive, splinter- proof top is 30 % harder than maple."
Cosmetically, the top I got looks terrible, however it is very flat, heavy with no serious gouges. It measures 72" x 30" x about 2" and, as I said, is heavy. I will probably reduce the width to 27" and hope that this is solid through and through and not a torsion box.
So, here's my question. I want to cover the top and (if needed) the bottom with a hardwood to make an attractive work surface. One that I can re-flatten and renew as needed. My first impulse is to get some maple flooring, however I am worried about wood movement. If I glue the flooring to the top, it may break free. I could fasten one edge and let the other one float, but I'm concerned that if I put dog holes through the top and benchtop underneath, the top hole may become offset from the substrate hole. Of course, I could be over-thinking this whole issue.
I wish to hear recommendations for covering the benchtop and whether or not I need a layer on the bottom.
Bill
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"Bill Leonhardt" wrote:

Based on your description above, sounds like you have a laminated top rather than one described above.
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I'd repair the top by filling any gouges with epoxy fairing putty, then when cured sand flat.
Cut a piece of 1/4" hardboard the size of the top and fit to the top.
Add retaining fiddles around the edges to contain hardboard in place from some 1by2 strips.
Beat the hell out of the hardboard making things and when it gets so ugly you can't stand looking at it, pick it up, thow it away, then replace with the next piece of hardboard.
Have fun.
Lew
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Lew Hodgett wrote:

+1
Benches are to use, not to sit there and look pretty. If it *is* particle board as opposed to laminated hardwood and if you put a top on it you need nothing on the bottom. If it is hardwood strips, don't put anything on either side unless it floats.
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If it's layered and heavy, I would think it is not of torsion box construction.... and dog holes should be no problem.
Maybe sand down the "ugly" top and reseal it. Maybe contact Hallowell and ask what it is sealed with, for resealing.
*Sounds like the top is in reasonable shape, just looks terrible. Does the top look terrible because of some sort of contaminate/toxic chemical? Maybe try to find out if the previous shop spilled some toxic product on the surface, making it look terrible (and toxic), and that's why they discarded an otherwise reasonable work top.
Sonny
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If you have to cover it and cannot work with the existing top, you might try screwing some oak or maple plywood to the top. Then drill your dog holes through the plywood and bench top. Screw it from underneath. Maybe drill oversize holes from underneath halfway through the top and then fit smaller screws into the holes you drilled.
On Thursday, November 15, 2012 11:41:15 AM UTC-6, Bill Leonhardt wrote:

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Can you just flip it over and give it a little sanding and move on? It is a ~work~ bench. You oughta see mine...It's an old stave core door from Cornell U. and I sanded it and slammed some dog holes in 'er. I been working on it for years and ocassionally sand it lightly and put some shellac on it so the glue won't stick. It has plenty of character. My boys are gonna fight over it when I croak.
RP
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...

Several people have made suggestions about hardboard or other tops, with the idea that "it's just a bench; it's not supposed to be pretty". And there is nothing wrong with that approach--you certainly don't want to waste time to make a good looking bench for rebuilding lawn mower engines or doing rough woodwork. But you asked about using hardwood to make an attractive work surface, and that is a legitimate request.
BTW, I have a 20-year-old "beater bench" made from a solid core door and a 10-year-old woodworking bench that I use solely for hand-tool work. If I had to have only one, it would be my beater bench--but that's just me.

I don't think so. You are thinking right. I'd first level the substrate as Lew suggested. Then attach the top rigidly along the line of dog holes (I'm assuming a line of dog holes parallel to the front edge. If they go across the grain, then you might want to slightly enlarge the holes in the surface layer for those holes that are not along the rigid attachment line.)
Near the front and back edge, you would want to attach the top in a way that holds it down, but allows horizontal movement. One way would be screwing from the bottom, through a slot in the substrate.

In general, that is a good practice. But I think it would be a waste of wood here. If you "float" the top, it is not creating stresses on the core, and the difference in moisture movement would probably not be significant--just slap a coat of shellac on the underside.
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Thank you to all who gave me different suggestions. I understand your different approaches as, to some extent, I have experienced them already.
I inherited a bench from my dad. It was just 3 2x10s laid flat side- by side and it was pretty chewed up. I covered that with a layer of partical board and then a sheet of hard board. This served me for many years but, it became, as some have described, a beater bench. As I took on more challanging and sophisticated projects, I found not having an adequate flatness was a real drawback. I also want to hone some of my hand tool skills and learn new ones, so I drilled some dog holes and they are a compromise since the current bench construction didn't allow me to locate the holes in the most efficient place. Still, I learned a lot and am ready to upgrade.
I will build a new set of legs and under support members because, after all, my main goal is to get and keep a flat top. I wanted to avoid (but may still use) a hardboard top since I want to get some experience in trying to flatten a top with hand planes. I also felt it best to stay away from plywood since I don't think even the hardwood plywoods could stand up to pounding. (I could be wrong here.)
I think, for what I want to do now, I will get some maple 1X boards and edge glue them. I will then attach them to the top with screws from below making a tight bond at the front edge and letting the middle and rear edge "float" horizontally. I will drill round dog holes (mostly along the front edge) and, if expansion becomes an issue, I'll ream the holes.
Other things I want to try are (going off topic here) building a leg vise and a tail vise, although I may use my current quick release front vise as a tail vise. Also, I will build this bench considerably lower than my current bench to see if it really helps with hand tool techniques. I can always add spacers under the legs if needed. I'm thinking 33" top height (I'm 72" tall).
Thanks again for everyone's input. My fantasy is to have the time just after Christmas to start this. I'll report back if it turns out well.
Bill
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In article

I used a solid core door, and glued maple flooring to the top. It's going strong nearly 12 years later.
Details at <http://www.flickr.com/photos/balderstone/sets/72157632030400691
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On Saturday, November 17, 2012 1:16:23 PM UTC-6, Dave Balderstone wrote:

Hah! Nick probably did all the work. ^5 Nick, nice looking work table.
Don't see those (black) Cresent nail pullers too often, the one hanging on Nick's peg board. Good handy tool. My uncle introduced me to that tool 40 yrs ago and I still find reason to use it often, especially lately. One should be in everyone's arsenal.
*Long ago, a favorite girlfriend's son, Nick (age 6), was a real go-getter. Always wanted to help, get involved, etc., etc., and did. aka "Slick Nick"! Your Nick brings back good memories.
Sonny
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On Nov 17, 2:16pm, Dave Balderstone

Dave,
That looks really good. Can't argue with 12 years experience. Did you use any special glue? Did you nail as well?
Bill
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In article

Good old yaller glue. A few nails to hold things tight while the glue dried, but just a few.
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