I'm rebuilding and re-sizing my workbench. It was originally a home made
drafting table that was 48 x 96. I took it home and cut it down to 40 x 72.
It is still too big for my use and now it is 32 x 72 and I can even reach
the wall in back of it.
The original top is 3/4" plywood that has been beat on for many years. My
plan was to put an addition 3/4" MDF on top. Now, I'm thinking plywood can
look nicer that MDF but it is not as dense. Will it be a major difference?
I mounted a 7" vice I bought from Lee Valley and just have to put the top in
place and drill some dog holes. Any comments?
On Mon, 3 Jan 2005 06:24:51 -0500, "Mike Marlow"
......and in reply I say!:
remove ns from my header address to reply via email
I tend to agree with you, Mike. But there is a lot of posting apart
from the one I queried saying MDF will be as good or better. One post,
and I may not have asked.
As far as I am concerned, thickness for thickness, ply craps on MDF.
Weight for weight, it's no contest. I even wonder about dollar for
But I am thinking of more "free" designs (boxes etc). I wondered if
benchtops were an exception.
Somewhere along the line I recall hearing that plywood, while stiffer
and lighter than MDF, tended to give more of a 'bounce' rather than
absorb the impact and/or vibrations, which might not be desirable on a
Any truth to this from y'alls experience?
I know more than enough *nix to do some very destructive things,
and not nearly enough to do very many useful things.
Don't know about that, but it becomes a moot point if you properly brace the
benchtop. For a benchtop, the span from front to back is so small and if
you brace it every two feet to support it along its length, any bounce is so
negligible that you'll never experience it. MDF is not going to absorb any
amount of impact or vibrations that you'll benefit from. Except of course,
when it breaks...
Why not skin the top with masonite? That will give you a nice smooth
finish. If you don't like the dark brown, overlay the masonite with
Formica. For a few more dollars you can get the Formica with the color all
the way through so any scratches are the same color.
About the time I had mastered getting the toothpaste back in the tube, then
I have made three work tables over the years, two with plywood tops and the
latest with MDF. I used normal pine ply for the first two.
Of the ones I made, the plywood is not as flat, even after being coated with
The MDF is as flat as I can get at home for such a large surface. I also
varnished the MDF, which is highly recommended to minimize absorbing all
sorts of stains with the kind of tasks I do on this bench.
For the latest work table I cut a 4ft x 8ft sheet of MDF into two 2ft x 8 ft
pieces. One piece was 1.5 in narrower. I then glued the narrow piece on
top of the other piece and finished off the edge with pieces of 1.5 in x
2.75 in fir (a 2x6 cut in half) mounted with long side vertical. I made a
3/4 in groove in the edge to accomodate the wider piece of MDF.
I considered screwing the top piece of MDF so I could replace, but decided I
wanted the stabiliy of the glue. I promised myself to make a better top if
ever I need to replace this one.
I would recommend putting some real wood edging on an MDF top. This will
prove more practical since it is less prone to chipping.
If I were to build another top out of plywood, I would probably use
underlay. This is designed for high compression loads and so has the knot
holes filled it. I am not sure of the type of wood for the surface layer,
but it seems to have a finer grain than pine.
Did similar. Two pieces of 3/4 MDF face glued, with screws to lock the faces
together for the glue. Hardwood edging around. Built a solid frame separately,
then screwed down the top which allows me to replace it when/if needed. Sealed
with several coats of poly, just letting it soak in without much of a surface
film. Did same process on several other benches, and they last well. By making
sure the frame is flat first, screwing down the top helps flatten it a bit
Every so often I sand lightly with an orbital, then apply another coat of
poly. Either poly or varnish do nicely, as they're resistant to most
I did something similar, using a ripped 4x8 of 3/4" MDF. Decided after
having it ripped at the orange box that I wanted a slightly wider
workbench, so I ripped two additional 6" strips to make it 30" wide. The
seams are on opposite sides on the top and bottom layers, with the top
seam in back. The bottom layer was screwed and glued to a rectangular
apron of tuba sixes, then the top layer was screwed (from below) and glued
to the bottom layer. The legs are doubled-up tuba fours, screwed with big
honking #12 screws into the corners of the apron. Just above the floor is
a shelf made of tuba fours and a single layer of MDF.
After it was finished, I realized that it was a couple inches higher than
my table saw, which would make ripping large pieces somewhat tricky (in
my tiny little shop, the saw and workbench are about 2 feet apart). The
design enabled me to unscrew one leg at a time and cut it down a bit.
Had to chisel a rectangular hole in the apron in order to mount a vise, a
problem I didn't think of when I designed it.
My only complaint is it tends to move a little bit when I do things like
hand planing (which I do less often than I perhaps ought to admit). Might
add some diagonal bracing to deal with that.
-Chip Olson. | ceo2 at thsi dot org | remove the 2 to reply
The bench I built is free standing with a three layer top. The outside layers
are 3/4" MDF and the center core is 3/4" ply. It is blind screwed from the
bottom as well as glued. If I had it to do over, I would have added a layer of
masonite to the top surface. I can still do that when the MDF becomes worn
beyond serviceability. But not yet...there are other things that are more
pressing in my agenda.
I might mention that this is the first "real" workbench that I have ever built
and it has served me very well.
Did I mention that it is very heavy? I did not want it to move and it doesn't.
New Eagle, PA
Any secondhand office supply places nearby?
You can buy 2 inch thick counter and table tops completely finished for 20% of
the cost of the materials in my neck of the woods.
I bought 3 30"x72" tables arborite, 1.5 inch MDF, each with 4 solid oak turned
legs for a grand total of $20 each.
Not only that the legs are set in two steel full length tracks that would cost
this much alone.
If you're going to combine plywood and MDF then make a sandwich either of
MDF between two layers of ply or ply between two layers of MDF. Otherwise
it's likely to end up warping on you--while MDF and ply are both fairly
stable they are not completely so and so you can run into two different
issues--variable moisture content across the thickness because one side is
shielded and different expansion rates due to the different properties and
compositions of the two materials. Making a sandwich gives you a balanced
structure in which this is much less an issue.
Reply to jclarke at ae tee tee global dot net
All good idea.
The general consensus is that MDF is OK, no big advantage to plywood.
Considering hte potential to warp or otherwise misbehave if mating the two
mateial, I'm goin gto screw them together from underneath. If it does move
it will be easy to remove it and go to plan B. The sandwich is a good idea,
but I'm kind of commited size wise right now and the extra 3/4" will prove
to ba a PITA.
My bench top now is painted white. I'm probably going to poly the top but
will consider white paint or something remvable and easily replaced.
Thanks for the comments.
At Thanksgiving time, we needed some temporary tables, so I went to the
door shop of the local, really good contractor's lumber yard.
For $30, I got three really nice, birch veneer fire-rated doors, which had
suffered minor installation errors.
By Friday after the feast, one of them had become a new bench top in my
garage/shop. The second, a narrower one, is now the bench top in my dad's
garage. I'd give you the third one, but you might not want to come to
California to pick it up.
Lotsa mass. Looks really pretty, at least for now. Cheaper than I could
buy the stock to build it from. The door shop was really happy to move
something off of their bonepile. They would likely have been happier if
I'd had exact change, and could have avoided the register... ;-)
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