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Thread: How to build flat infeed outfeed tables?

  1. #1
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    How to build flat infeed outfeed tables?

    OK, I'm getting close to starting the multifunction station wall units for the shop. For background, this will be 2 cabinets, each 121" long and 21" to 23" deep. The in/outfeed tables at the front of the cabinets will be 13" deep, then a 4" or so bump up for a built in fence with T-track embedded into it for stop blocks and tie downs, and 8" to 10" surface back to the wall. (I have a 6" DC pipe that comes down the wall and goes into the cabinet to port the many different tools that will reside in the 3 1/2' gap between the benches.)

    Will a double layer of 3/4" MDF with a skirt on the outside edge, and a 3/4" MDF stiffner daddoed and glued to the middle stay flat enough? Or should I build a torsion box with 3/4" MDF on the skins, and 1/2" MDF as the internal structure? Can I get away with painting the underside and back edges to seal it, or will I need to use laminate surface on all edges to keep it from moving? I'm leaning toward the torsion box design as I think it will solve some of my design problems for how to brace and adjust the top to keep it flat. (Like virtually eliminate the need for it) My cabinet structure will be 3/4" plywood panels cut to the profile of the bench shape (front to back) with 2X4 material daddoed to form a frame around the plywood. Kind of like a wood I-beam is constructed, only enclosing the ends as well. (I've used this to build platforms in the van to raise dog crates up off the floor for storage with great success. Strong and lighter weight than anything else I could come up with.) I will use doubled 3/4" plywood to join these individual frames and give a relatively flat surface for the top to sit on. If I were to use the doubled thickness MDF, I'd want some sort of screw adjustable leveling method that starts to get real complicated, but can be done.
    So, any ideas? What have you used that has stayed flat over the years?
    Thanks! Jim.
    Coolmeadow Setters...
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    Home of Irish Setter Rescue of North Texas
    When Irish Eyes are smiling, they're usually up to something!!
    At a minimum, I'm Pentatoxic...but most likely, I'm a Pentaholic. There seems to be no known cure. Pentatonix, winners of The Sing Off, season 3


  2. #2
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    There you go again overthinking it.

    If your going to build cabinets & their going to be shimmed to the floor & fastened to the wall & the MDF is going to set on the cabinet ends & partitions just use 1 1/4" MDF & 2" tall edges & rabbet the edge to to fit underneath to give it more support & glue & nail it on. It will be just fine. Now if your going to put it on castors you can build it like I did mine it is a little over 7' long built like a bridge.

    The reason I say no is Dad had probably 30" of bench built of 2x4 frame & legs open to the floor with 5/8" plywood top along 1 wall for his RAS bench which was leveled & fastened to the wall that we used to cut material for custom cabinets for about 25 years & it was still nice & level & flat when we removed it to remodeled the shop . There is such a thing as more labor than necessary & going into over kill.

    My tool cabinet is built this way because I know it won't stay where it is this is only a temporary home & it has all my mechanic tools in it as well as a portable planer, spindle sander, CMS, mortiser & small drill press in or on top of it. Being on wheels & not supported along the bottom by the floor made it necessary to have a strong support. If the top is supported by the wall & floor you should have no problems.
    Last edited by Bart Leetch; 05-27-2007 at 03:13 PM.
    "Forget the flat stuff slap something on the spinny thing and lets go, we're burning daylight" Bart Leetch
    "If it ain't round you may be a knuckle dragger""Turners drag their nuckles too, they just do it at a higher RPM"Bart

  3. #3
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    Jim,
    YMMV, but given the option I would go with torsion boxes, overengineered Marty style. For that matter, look at Marty's quick and dirty LVL benches as well. I built two of these years back. the torsion box is on the bottom because I had commercial benchtops 1" thick laminate covered particle board. If I were to build my own tops I'd go the mdf route. The torsion boxes are 1/2" b/c ply with syp grid internal. glued and screwed about every 6". When my then shop partner John Shaffner and I were setting up shop, I literally climbed on top of these to hang lighting. Think that's strong enough?




    those are some hefty benches 10' long? wow! you say infeed/outfeet at the front, I don't get the 'image' of where they're going to be attached, or will they be freestanding? sounds like a fun project though.
    -Ned

  4. #4
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    Jim,

    A couple of years ago I built a router table out of rwo layers of 3/4" MDF, laminate on both sides, and screwed to a wood frame. It has stayed very flat. I do not know what would have happened if I had just painted the underside. Not as much humidity there in the Fort Worth area to deal with.

    A couple of months ago I built a couple of 4' x 6' torsion box assembly tables, one out of MDF and the other out of sandply. They are both extremely flat but have not stood the test of time. The thing that I ran into with the MDF one is that I had to preplan where I wanted to attach things to and fill that area with wood so that the screws would hold or so that I could bolt though them. No such problem with the sandply one. For that reason alone I would build my bench tops with plywood, not to mention that if you ever get any water penetration into the MDF you are dead in the water. Might as well build them all over again.

    If you do not have a supper flat surface to build your torsion boxes on the first one will be the hardest. After I built my first one I used a router sled to make the top perfectly flat and built the second one on top of the first one. It was much easier to build the second one.

    I vote for torsion boxs and some really good, flat type of plywood for the table tops.

    Bart, Before I built my tables you said to use plywood and so far I think that you were right.
    Last edited by Allen Bookout; 05-27-2007 at 03:27 PM.

  5. #5
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    Wow Ned do you have to shim a leg if the floor isn't flat. I would imagine given the small size of the bench & its stoutness if the floor wasn't flat at least 1 leg wouldn't touch the floor.
    "Forget the flat stuff slap something on the spinny thing and lets go, we're burning daylight" Bart Leetch
    "If it ain't round you may be a knuckle dragger""Turners drag their nuckles too, they just do it at a higher RPM"Bart

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allen Bookout View Post
    Jim,

    Bart, Before I built my tables you said to use plywood and so far I think that you were right.
    One of the things I need to remember & remind others is my shop is in a insulated heated space so the temperature doesn't change much through out the year maybe 10 - 15 degrees at the most. The only top that has changed just a little on my is my table-saw right extension .
    "Forget the flat stuff slap something on the spinny thing and lets go, we're burning daylight" Bart Leetch
    "If it ain't round you may be a knuckle dragger""Turners drag their nuckles too, they just do it at a higher RPM"Bart

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bart Leetch View Post
    Wow Ned do you have to shim a leg if the floor isn't flat. I would imagine given the small size of the bench & its stoutness if the floor wasn't flat at least 1 leg wouldn't touch the floor.
    Thankfully that wasn't an issue, the shop had concrete flooring and was nice and flat. The uprights were/are hemlock glued/screwed together. I built that nice and tall, it is 42" high. I'm 6'3" tall, so I put it just below elbow height. A little tall for hand tools, but I may adjust that when I put everything back together.

    Oh, I forgot to mention, I built my bench like that as a modification of the 'Ultimate' tool stand. I still like that concept, and I am actually thinking of changing how I rebuild my bench to use more of that style of construction. I plan on having my bench along one wall, well secured with a tool well in the center. I will have several tools which will drop in there, Planer, router table insert, scroll saw and possibly Drill press. (Doubt it, as my DP is a 'benchtop' only in the length of the shaft, it is full weight and featured otherwise). Jim if you'd like, I have the Ultimate tool stand web pages saved, I can email them to you, though I think they are still archived on the web. American Woodworker long ago pulled them down from their site of course.
    Last edited by Ned Bulken; 05-27-2007 at 04:37 PM. Reason: more thoughts
    -Ned

  8. #8
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    Jim, when we first came to NM and we were setting up our shop, LOML worked for a countertop manufacturer. They had several already-made tops sitting in the back that had been rejected by the buyer because of the "wrong color" laminate, so hubby asked if he could buy them. The owner gave them to us, and they turned into our TS outfeed table and bench top. They have been there for about 13 years with no sag, no warp, no problems. The outfeed table is held up simply by bolting to the back of the Unisaw and four legs.

    Try checking with a local countertop shop and see if they have something similar--it won't hurt to try.

    Nancy
    Nancy Laird
    dandnspecialties@msn.com
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  9. #9
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    Good information everyone!
    Bart, these will be free standing. I have a bunch of leveling feet that are very heavy duty units that I will have under the cabinet. 2 every 2', 1 front 1 back. So 12 on each 10' bench. I used these on the built in bench I did recently, and they work great. I say built in, although it's not attached to the walls anywhere, you can barely move it. Added information, this is going on a wall, exterior dimension of 24'. I have a box bay window in the middle so an SCMS will slide to the "outside" part of the shop to save floor space.
    And yes, I DO tend to over engineer things, but don't seem to ever have any issues with things I build that way. You should see what I did to the 2 ceiling joists I had to cut out to run my cyclone inlet pipe.
    If I knew I could make everything else perfectly square, I'd just use a double layer of MDF and go on. That was my original thought. But I'm thinking the torsion box might be good insurance, and not much more in materials (although a lot more in labor!). The ones I built for my shop doors that are 7' tall, and 5' wide times 2 have held up great! Jim.
    Coolmeadow Setters...
    Exclusively Irish!
    Home of Irish Setter Rescue of North Texas
    When Irish Eyes are smiling, they're usually up to something!!
    At a minimum, I'm Pentatoxic...but most likely, I'm a Pentaholic. There seems to be no known cure. Pentatonix, winners of The Sing Off, season 3


  10. #10
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    I built mine using 3" strips of 3/4" SandePly plywood from HD. This is 7 layer plywood that I use for all my shop projects. The top is 1/2" sandeply with formica laminate top. The bottom shelf is same construction.

    Attachment 9080

    I used my Kreg pocket hole jig.

    This has served me well.

    Here is the Link to the web album with all the pictures.

    Hope some of this helps...

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