Due to shop space restrictions I need to build a combo woodworkers/general
purpose shop bench. I have been researching shop bench design for well over
2 months now trying to determine the best set up for my needs. It has been a
torturous learning experience. I have a 14 foot wall available for the
backdrop and want to build a bench about 6 feet wide and 32 inches deep.
This will give me 3 sides to work from with 4 feet available at each end. I
want both a face and end vice with dog holes available on the bench going
both directions. In other words a true woodworking bench from that stand
point. I also hope to use this same bench for other projects by laying a
piece of hardboard on the surface during those times and securing it with
dowels into the dog holes as found on Terry's site (Thanks Terry for a
fantastic idea). I have decided on a good design for the base of the table
and will be using regular old pine as it is easy to work with, inexpensive
and readily available in my area. Being somewhat of a newbie, I would like
to use a solid door for the top as it is "flat" and "sturdy". I believe this
will work for my purposes quite well.
Now for my question. Will the door itself at 1 3/4 inches be thick enough
for the job or should I laminate MDF or plywood to the bottom for extra
strength? If so, how may sheets of what? For some reason I am having trouble
making a decision on this aspect and seek the wisdom of this forum.
Also any pros and cons to this line of thinking will be welcomed with open
arms. My shop is only 14.5 X 17.5 and I must budget my space carefully.
Many thanks in advance.
There are numerous message threads around about building workbenches.
If you use a door as the bench top, you need to ensure it is a good solid
core door. The flat surface doors which are available at the likes of the
HD or Lowes are frequently not solid core.
In earlier message threads a lot of people, including myself made homebuilt
workshop bench tops from two 3/4 in pieces of MDF glued together. This can
result in as flat a surface as a good solid core door, but for less money.
I made mine with 2in x 3in hem/fir edging arranged with the 3in nominal side
vertical to give me better strength and also to enable mounting a vice,
which will typically need around a 3in edge depth.
I routed a 3/4in deep by 3/4in wide slot in the edging and made the top MDF
piece narrower than the bottom by 3/4in on each edge. This made fitting the
edging much easier.
For my legs I used an adjustable leg set from www.adjustabench.com which is
not cheap, but I saw this at a woodworking show and thought it was a great
I padded out the area where the legs and vice attach by glueing plywood
underneath the MDF, since I prefer to screw into plywood than MDF.
If you use MDF I highly recommend some type of finish. I used Minwax Stain
preconditioner to seal the MDF and then several coats of water based
varnish. Once this dries it provides sufficient protection from drips etc.
when glueing items.
My workbench serves as an outfeed table for my router table/drum sander. At
times I want the height to be higher for certain tasks. With the
Adjustabench I can change height in a second and then return to exactly the
outfeed height in the same time.
If you are close to a Grizzly warehouse location, they have some maple
benchtops which should be considered. I came close to buying one of these
but decided to make my MDF version just for the practice.
Good point. It is smart to buy the vice (or at least check the specs.)
before finalizing the top and putting it in place. My benchtop of 1 1/2"
thick so I had to build up the underside for the vice mount. This is done
much easier working upside down rather than laying on the floor.
However, mark the vise position while the top is in the proper, upright
position. Otherwise, you _may_ have to either reposition the vise to the
correct place, or live with the face vise on the wrong side. DAMHIKT.
Regards the door for a bench top: Find a fire rated solid core door in the
mistake pile at a good door shop. I bought three for $30. Each is
sufficiently heavy that moving it into place by myself is a strain on my
back. But it doesn't flex! They will also have them in a range of sizes
(widths), such that you should not need to run it across the table saw for
a rip cut - a somewhat awkward move with such a heavy piece, on most home
It is said that building a bench is a rite of passage for a woodworker, and
that you will always see opportunity to improve your design. That's true.
Also consider that the type of work you do will likely chage over time, for
a variety of reasons. Leave yourself some flexibility, in work space and
And have fun. Start this week.
I made my work bench from 4x6 pieces of VG Doug Fir about 15 years ago. It
is 7 feet long and 33 inches wide. I cut rectangular dog holes on the edge
of two and glued the hole thing up with 3/4 x 2 inch wide splines. There is
an open trestle base. I put electrical outlets under the top on the legs so
my bench gets plugged in and I am hot. One end of the bench has two Wilton
vises that line up with the dog holes. I don't use them much because on the
other end is my most prized tool. My Emmert's Pattern makers vise. I have a
"Turtleback" model which is pre 1905. I love this vice!!!!!
I have added stuff to the bench over the years such as a set of drawers
underneath, a slide out shelf to put tools when the top is covered, a whole
through the edge to hold a pencil etc etc. I don't have web space but I can
send a picture if any body is interested.
A solid door makes a decent workbench. I suggest you start there, and
see how that works for you. A heavy bench is good thing, but there
are ways to weigh it down if there is not sufficient mass by putting
drawers, tools, sandbags, stored wood, etc on a shelf or stretcher
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