Workbench tops

I'm sure this question has been asked many times before. I'm new to woodworking, and building my first bench. I want to do it right the first time.
For the top, I am kinda lost, I hear so many things. I was thinking maybe a solid core door, but don't know weather that is heavy enough. Woodcraft sells nice (and expensive) maple ones, is that the way to go?
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Greetings,
You have asked about a well discussed topic. Checking the google newsgroup search for workbench things in the rec.woodworking group should produce a lot of good information.
As for your particular questions. A good top has the correct size for what you want do, a very flat surface, a surface you can clamp things to (e.g. it overhangs the base by a few inches), and does not flex. Lots of things will meet this criteria.
Also, you will build more than one workbench, no matter how perfectly you try to make your first bench. You will do better to quickly build a simple one and use it and then build a second one, than to try to carefully design and build the first one.
Have fun.
Sincerely, Bill Thomas
Chris S wrote:

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Chris, I second Bill's advice in spades. I'm in the process of building my second bench, which I still consider to be a prototype. The solid core door on a crude but heavy construction-grade lumber base that was my first bench is serving me well and will continue to be used for tailed tools and as an assembly table.

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Edsal makes a pretty nice maple top. Grainger sells the 30x72 for about $200. You can't buy the materials to make one for much less than that.
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I used a solid core door, and laminated t&g maple fllooring to it, then banded the edges with hickory. Used 4x4 for the legs. It's plenty heavy.
You can see the process here:
<http://www.balderstone.ca/workbench/
The shop looks a LOT different now. Hard to believe I had that much space back then. <s>
djb
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On 20 Oct 2003 13:05:13 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@explorect.com (Chris S) wrote:

It really depends on how the bench will be used. Try it out and see how it works for you. I have a solid pine workbench top--not the best, but it works for me. I found that the heavier then bench, the better.
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On 20 Oct 2003 13:05:13 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@explorect.com (Chris S) wrote:

Not a hope ! The only time anyone is ever finally satisfied with their workbench is when they're being laid out on it.
You'll be wanting a copy of "The Workbench Book" <(Amazon.com product link shortened)> Most libraries have this. "Workshop" and "Toolbox" are worth it too.
Most people build a couple of workbenches over their first few years woodworking, until they get moderately happy. It's hard to build one straight off, just because you don't really know what you want. There are lots of gadgets (and types of vice) that you don't know whether you'll like until you've actually used them.
My first decent bench built from scratch is the Tage Frid design with a top of 2" oak. Even then I'm still not happy with the shoulder vice, and I wish the frame was more rigid.

I built one a few years ago (friend is still using it) from an extra-large firedoor that I got cheap because it didn't have the current markings on it. The frame was just 2x4's in some metal folding trestle brackets. I wouldn't like to spend all day chopping mortices on it, but it worked fine for router work. Build a frame underneath and it would have been quite a decent bench.
-- Die Gotterspammerung - Junkmail of the Gods
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I'm just about set to start building my first proper bench as well. I actually built a more utilitarian bench which used construction lumber and a solid core door for the top. It actually works quite nicely and I think is very sturdy.
For the "woodworking" bench, I'm going with Sam Allen's joiner's bench design from his book about workbenches. For the top it is going to be 3 layers of 3/4" MDF glued and nailed together and then a top surface and edge-banding of masonite, applied with contact cement. The base will again be construction lumber. The vises are where I'm spending my $$ for this bench - with a Veritas twin-screw full-width end vise and a Record 52 1/2 face vise - as well as bench dogs and accessories from Lee Valley. The vises alone set me back over $300, so I had to be realistic about the bench itself. Anyway, you should check out Sam Allen's book, it has a lot of good information and designs.
Mike

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Mike in Mystic wrote:

Yup, it's a good'un. I was just reading that today.
I finally got a face vise myself. It's a really cheap ($12), crappy one, and I *love* it. I use it a hundred times a day. I can't believe I did without for so long. I definitely see its limitations, but even this dinky thing is *so* much better than nothing.
I might be following in your footsteps eventually, though I doubt if I build any of his designs straight up. I'm thinking of putting a new top on my crappy bench, using the existing framework, and fitting it out with at least one big vise and a buncha dog holes.
I really have to look into electro-whatzit rust removal. I have a vise with 9" wide jaws and a dog thingie but it's locked up tighter than SWMBO's... Um, nevermind. Anyway, that and a big twin screw and I'd be set.
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Mike in Mystic wrote:

Which Mystic? Connecticut?
Anyway, why nailed? I've gone though a bunch of books and plans in the last week and don't see anyone of them recomending screws or nails when laminating a top together. One plan showed putting everything, including the kitchen sink on top while the glue dried.
Better get that Record vise now becuas Record is no more
jw
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1/2
Yes, that would be the one.

Why not? I'm going to follow Allen's instructions and lay out grid lines to mark where the dog holes will be so as to avoid putting any nails where I have to drill, but other than that there isn't any reason to avoid fasteners in the underlying layers of the laminated top. Basically, having a pneumatic nail gun at my disposal it only makes sense to use it to hold the MDF sheets together while the glue sets. The top layer is the 1/4" masonite, which is fixed in place with contact cement, so there won't be any nails on the surface, if that's what you were worried about.

I already have the Record and the Veritas twin-screw vises, as well as all the parts to build the bench. I just have to find the time! My son turned two months old today, so I've been otherwise occupied much of the time lately.

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Mike in Mystic wrote:

A couple days from now you'll wake up, and he'll be in fourth grade.
They're more fun in the shop when they get big enough to reach the workbench though. :)
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Silvan wrote:

And a couple days after that he's off to the Army. Less than a week now... :-(
-- Mark
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Mark Jerde wrote:

I'm already starting to worry about what he's going to do for a living. Both of them, really. This place isn't exactly swimming with opportunity. Encourage them to stay above all, or tell them to fly away...
I'm trying to be neutral about it, but I secretly hope they stay. Of course, I haven't seen either of them as a teenager yet, so that might be subject to change very shortly. ;)
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j wrote:

Are they completely gone, or just subsumed by the Corporation Corporation?
There was some note in the Lee Valley catalog about Record == Irwin Industrial.
I noticed my new "Vise-Grip" Quick-Grip clamps say "Irwin Industrial" instead of "Vise-Grip" so I assume Irwin is some mega corp that's going around acquiring everything in sight to buy up brand recognition and start releasing total garbage under time tested names, the way Hasbro (those bastards) has done with Tonka.
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I built my first benchtop out of used oak flooring, replaned and glued up, butcher block style. Nice in that the flooring came from a house being demolished, so I paid $.50 a square foot for the wood. This was remilled, glued up vertically, then mounted on top 3/.4" mdf as a subtable. Very heavy, very cheap, but nice oak.
Yea, it took a little bit of work to remill the flooring, but at the price I paid, who cares. Tough as nails...hard as a brick...You may want to check with bowling alleys and trucking companies, both of whom use hardwood for lanes and truck beds....you may get lucky and not pay a dime!!!!
.

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C Carruth wrote:

I was thinking all kinds of thoughts about how to score some truck bed wood, since I'm a truck driver, and then I had a thought.
Who knows what might be embedded in it. Anything and everything including all manner of the world's most hazardous, toxic substances. Plus glass, sand, gravel, various metals, asphalt, tar... There could be a thousand reasons to avoid truck bed wood.
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Yep, and as for using bowling alley wood, there's a few oldtimers here on the wreck who can fill you in on what that's like. (Hardened spiral nails every 8-12", for example.) IIRC, by the time they were done trying to turn that stuff into benchtops, they were willing to *pay* someone to come take it off their hands.
Back to the original question: It wouldn't hurt to make your first bench from SYP or some such. Most folks here seem to think that you will make more than one anyway, so the first one can be a learning project made with cheap wood.
I built mine out of SYP a couple of years back, and I have been more than happy with it since. It cost me about $100 including all the wood and the leg vise.
Chuck Vance
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