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Posted: 4/25/2009 4:21:50 AM EST
Our house came with a nice 30"x100" workbench in the garage. The surface is rough 2x10 lumber currently. I'd like to level out the somewhat irregular surface and apply a smoother, more durable, easily cleanable top surface. I was thinking MDF, or even plastic. I would be using it for reloading, soldering, painting small parts, general bench work. Any thoughts?

Thanks!
fiz

Link Posted: 4/25/2009 4:38:46 AM EST
Can you post pictures so we can see how its built? I post a guide on leveling a slab top workbench, but I'm not sure it will work for you.
Link Posted: 4/25/2009 4:48:26 AM EST
Originally Posted By Holloway:
Can you post pictures so we can see how its built? I post a guide on leveling a slab top workbench, but I'm not sure it will work for you.


Nice writeup! I'll try to get pics up later today. The boards are horizontal, not vertical like in your writeup. (They are well braced from below, however, so there's no flex.) The router technique you show would work great for leveling mine as well, I think. In addition, I would like some kind of sacrificial top-surface that would resist staining, etc.

Maybe just some heavy polyurethane is the way to go?
Link Posted: 4/25/2009 5:49:49 AM EST
How about epoxy floor coatings like for a garage? Build up successive layers to the desired thickness.....
Link Posted: 4/25/2009 9:28:14 AM EST
[Last Edit: 4/25/2009 9:29:27 AM EST by thebeekeeper1]
Link Posted: 4/25/2009 9:42:42 AM EST
For a softwood bench top (fir, pine, etc) I find that a 50/50 mix of turps & BLO will give you all the protection you need. Spills wipe right up. If you really really want, give it some wax after the finish cures.
Link Posted: 4/25/2009 10:00:40 AM EST

Masonite.

Link Posted: 4/25/2009 10:25:47 AM EST


My workbench top is nice birch plywood with a few coats of tung oil. I was initially planning to go MDF, but the birch ply was no more expensive and looks nicer. I figure the tung-oiled ply should be pretty durable, sacrificial as needed, and easy to replace if needed. Plenty solid for anything I can imagine doing.

Tip - if you use the ply, leave a 3-4" overhang on the front (and any accessible sides) so you have something to clamp to as needed.

The ply on my bench sits on a slab of laminated 2x4's like the top of Holloway's bench (but not nearly so pretty). I used a belt sander w/ 50-grit belts and a straightedge to level out the top; obviously didn't have to be perfect since the ply will cover minor variances. I wish I would have come up with something like that router jig instead though...
Link Posted: 4/26/2009 3:14:42 PM EST
MDF is tuff, but if you get moisture in it, it will swell locally and won't be level in that particular spot.
Ask me how I know.
BTW ... there is nothing you can seal it with that will prevent this if it is a real "work"bench.

Stay safe
Link Posted: 4/26/2009 7:27:01 PM EST
Nothing beats hard maple, but you'll pay for it. Steel is incredibly cheap right now. A sheet of 11ga would probably run $150ish in a 5x10 sheet. I don't like plastic work bench tops. We always used this soft white plastic at one tool shop I worked in, mostly because some of the stuff we worked on was so small it was nice to look at it with a white background, but it scratches easily and the scratches capture dirt and oil and grease.

Link Posted: 4/27/2009 1:24:58 PM EST
I have a workbench that is 20+ years old...the top and the lower shelf are cut from a sheet of 3/4" plywood, birch if I remember correctly...I have soldered on it, beat on it, worked on weedeaters and chainsaws, all kinds of greasy, oily, dirty stuff over the years. It would look much better if I recovered it, but it is still intact and quite useable as it is.

When it is time to redo it I will probably attach a new piece of plywood right on top of what is there.




Bryan
Link Posted: 4/29/2009 3:41:03 PM EST
formica..easy to install and easy to clean up. I had a 4x8 catch table with formica on top pretty tuff stuff but it can scratch easily.
if you want to make a decent top do this.
use 3/4" mdf and put another piece of 3/4" around the border preferably 2 inches wide glued and screwed to strengthen.
now put a 3/4 thick by 11/2" along the exposed edges or just the front. make sure it is flush with the mdf top. finish nail and glue to edge.
then if needed belt sand the edge of the oak to flush it off with the mdf
now your ready for the formica.
get some dowell rods and set them aside for a few minutes.
use formica glue (or any good contact cement) and spread on the backside of the formica set this aside and glue the table top A paint roller works decent for this or you can sponge brush it. make sure you have plenty of ventilation and dont use near an open flame or smoke around it it;s highly flammable.
after the glue has set and becomes tacky place the dowell rods on the table top spaced about 12 inches apart give or take. then with an assistant place the formica on top of the dowell rods square it up then working from one end to the other pull the dowell rods and press the formica into place.
trim the edges then beltsand, and finally stain and seal or paint the edge adn you have a nice new work bench....it can be done in a few hours and pretty cheap to build check out lowes/home depot for the all the materials you might even find some damaged formica sheets at a discount I have even bought countertops that way..ie..and cut off the chipped part
Link Posted: 4/30/2009 1:27:33 PM EST
[Last Edit: 4/30/2009 1:41:19 PM EST by RI0T]
Here's a oic of my workbench that I flattened with hand tools. It's perfectly flat. Hand planes were made for this kind of work and with a very sharp blade, they can do it quickly and pleasingly.


Link Posted: 4/30/2009 1:32:16 PM EST
MDF is a good way to go for the simple fact that it's easy to work with and cheap to replace when it gets too banged up.
Link Posted: 4/30/2009 4:15:52 PM EST
Originally Posted By AW37:

Masonite.



+1, depending on your bench, you could put some trim around the edge letting it stick up the thickness of the masonite, cut your piece of masonite a tad smaller and let it be. When that piece gets banged, painted, cut or what ever else you can do to it, lift it out and put down a new piece. Has worked great for me.
Link Posted: 4/30/2009 6:09:54 PM EST

Originally Posted By PBIR:
MDF is a good way to go for the simple fact that it's easy to work with and cheap to replace when it gets too banged up.


Sealed with epoxy, it is very durable, stable and level.
Link Posted: 5/1/2009 9:10:50 PM EST
[Last Edit: 5/1/2009 9:11:37 PM EST by Admiral_Crunch]
Sheet metal works great for me. Just make sure it stops a tiny bit before the edge of the table to avoid having a sharp edge.
Link Posted: 5/3/2009 4:48:28 PM EST
Originally Posted By RI0T:
Here's a oic of my workbench that I flattened with hand tools. It's perfectly flat. Hand planes were made for this kind of work and with a very sharp blade, they can do it quickly and pleasingly.
http://i562.photobucket.com/albums/ss70/T0IR/WorkBench005-1.jpg



Dude, that needs to be in your kitchen, not your garage. That's beautiful.
Link Posted: 5/4/2009 5:16:03 PM EST
Good topic I have some 3X4" oak timbers I salvaged from a giant skid I am going to glue them together and use 5/8" threaded rod to pull them together and borrow a floor sander to put a nice surface on top.
Link Posted: 5/4/2009 5:22:30 PM EST
Mine is made of the laminated oak planks they use to make the floors of semi trailers with. I have a buddy that drives truck and once a week he has to go to a company that builds trailers. He picks up their cutoffs and mistakes real cheap. They are about 12 inches wide and inch and a half thick. I cut several off at about 12 feet and glued them together. Real nice and sturdy.
Link Posted: 5/4/2009 5:23:18 PM EST
Originally Posted By Keith_J:

Originally Posted By PBIR:
MDF is a good way to go for the simple fact that it's easy to work with and cheap to replace when it gets too banged up.


Sealed with epoxy, it is very durable, stable and level.


True. That's what I used for the workbench I built for my mom. For my own I used an old solid core door, which has been excellent.
Link Posted: 5/4/2009 5:28:05 PM EST
Masonite...
Hard, thin and easily replaceable.

Link Posted: 5/4/2009 6:41:31 PM EST
I drug home a solid core fire door that I cut to width and trimmed the hinge pockets off...Just for good measure I ran the router with a 1/2" round around the top edge after installation to know the edge down. I figure when I trash it beyond repair I will just drag another used door home and do it again. Of course it helps that I work in the construction industry and they are always throwing used doors away...
Link Posted: 5/6/2009 4:55:26 AM EST
My wife and I just built one. It's approx. 9' long. The entire bench is well braced with boards. About 7 1/2' or 8' is a piece of oak that my wife put on several clearcoats of poly. The remaining is a metal street sign. I'll see if I can get a picture.
Link Posted: 5/6/2009 5:05:29 AM EST
I got a picture, how do I attach it?
Link Posted: 5/6/2009 5:53:44 AM EST
[Last Edit: 5/6/2009 5:53:57 AM EST by thebeekeeper1]
Link Posted: 5/6/2009 8:09:25 AM EST
[Last Edit: 5/6/2009 8:11:14 AM EST by TheRealSundance]
HDO or MDO plywood.

Link Posted: 5/7/2009 9:05:59 AM EST
If you want something cheap, easy and simple to replace the top when it gets messed up: glue and screw 2 layers of MDF together. Coat all sides and edges with poly. Then cut a piece of hardboard to match the top and trim out with a strip of hardwood like maple. The hardboard only needs to rest on the MDF and inside the frame. You can use a couple of small screws to hold it in place or some strips of double sided tape. When the hardboard gets beat up you can simple cut a new piece and replace. This design will have enough weight that it will be very sturdy if you've got a decent frame.
You can sometimes find sections of bowling alley for sale that make great bench tops (check CL) and you can buy maple tops from a wide variety of sources.
Personally I've got one Sam's Club maple top bench with a steel frame and one handmade woodworking bench with a Jatoba and Maple top.
Link Posted: 5/7/2009 10:48:24 AM EST
Originally Posted By Kuraki:
Nothing beats hard maple, but you'll pay for it. Steel is incredibly cheap right now. A sheet of 11ga would probably run $150ish in a 5x10 sheet. I don't like plastic work bench tops. We always used this soft white plastic at one tool shop I worked in, mostly because some of the stuff we worked on was so small it was nice to look at it with a white background, but it scratches easily and the scratches capture dirt and oil and grease.



If you want to go the steel route - Go find an old steel entry door that someone is throwing away (free)

Link Posted: 5/7/2009 11:35:23 AM EST
I went the 3/4" birch with oil finish route. The 10 or so coats of tung oil really makes clean up a snap. Right now, I'm using a piece of Reynobond composite as a couter pad for doing some messy chainsaw repairs. It's 6mm thick with composite(think hardened hot glue) sandwiched between two thin sheets of aluminum. We've got a bunch of it at the shop, so I'll just replace it when it gets too ugly.
Link Posted: 5/11/2009 12:56:05 PM EST
A coworker builds his tops by building concrete forms and pouring ones. He even dyies it to a color. Heavy top that must be supported though and needs some help lifting into place.
Link Posted: 6/15/2009 5:07:02 PM EST
the best top I've used had 2x4's standing on edge with 3'' stainless wood screws every 6''
lay the first one down ,put another on top of it and put in the screws–––– keep doing this until it gets the right width.
use clamps to bend the boards to provide a flat top surface or just screw it together and use the belt sander and straight edge to put a flat surface on
I use this as a reloading table in my shop. Think it through ––-where do the legs go? leave spaces to put ever how many legs you think you need in- then cut the legs BEFORE you screw the next board on.
This makes a heavy table that will support full tool boxes, big vices, large reloading presses, ––––––you name it this table can do it all, CHEAP.
You may also want to put drawers in under the top,and maybe fasten it to the wall it you need it to be rock solid
just the way I did it , to each his own.
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