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Thread: Flat bench top on the cheap?

  1. #1
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    Flat bench top on the cheap?

    I have my jointers bench wihich is solid wood, hand planed flat. I have a second all purpose bench that I do all manner of things on. I never intended for it to be very flat but now I find I keep wishing it was.

    I have been thinking of building another solid wood top, adding dog holes, vices etc. that is not what I really need. So I am looking for a cheap and fast idea. What I need is flat surface to work off of. Do assembly, glue ups ect. I will cover it with a sheet of tempered Masonite and wax it so the glue doesn't stick. I don't want to build a torsion box, again I am looking for something quick.

    I have toyed with the idea of putting a hollow core door down and then attach a sheet of MDF on that. But I have never worked with MDF enough to know if that would stay flat? My existing top is 8' by 3'. Assuming a 2'6 x 6'8" door there is not a lot hanging off unsupported.

    Open to any other cheap ideas too.
    God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway,
    the good fortune to run into the ones I do,
    and the eyesight to tell the difference.


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  2. #2
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    I don't know if there are building material salvage places in your area, but a salvaged solid core door would probably work well.

    Ken

  3. #3
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    My workbench top is 4 layers of MDF well supported and it has stayed flat. I built it with the option of adding a replaceable layer of 1/4" hardboard but have not found the need to add it so far. MDF treated with BLO and then paste wax bears quite a beating. Glue pops right off the wax as well.

    My "all around" work surface does have a replaceable hardboard top but I've beat the hoo-ha out of it for 3 years and it hardly shows a mark. Now, where I hit the oak trim with the skilsaw . .. yeah, that shows.

    P.s. the surface you mount MDF to needs to be flat and well supported. The factory support frame on my router table let the MDF sag over an unsupported span of about 20". Never though it would happen. I guess what I mean is that if your surface is not decently flat before you attach, the MDF will eventually deform.
    Last edited by glenn bradley; 10-03-2007 at 06:12 PM.
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
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  4. #4
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    Can't find a door that big Ken. It would do great if I could though. My bench top is 3' x 8'

    Interesting Glen. I don't do much on the bench that would damage it except glue. So treated MDF is probably fine. Just need a simple way to support it and keep it flat. Thats the main goal here.
    God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway,
    the good fortune to run into the ones I do,
    and the eyesight to tell the difference.


    Kudzu Craft Lightweight Skin on frame Kayaks.
    Custom built boats and Kits

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Horton View Post
    I don't want to build a torsion box, again I am looking for something quick......I have toyed with the idea of putting a hollow core door down and then attach a sheet of MDF on that.
    Hmmmmm.......

    Well, as we all know, a hollow core door is a torsion box. I wonder, if you laminated two hollow core doors together and then topped it with MDF .
    You'd have a bench top that is nearly 4" thick and should resist sagging and twisting pretty well. And best of all, cheap and fast.

    Like I always say, Cheap - Fast - Good. Pick two.
    Host of the 2017 Family Woodworking Gathering - Sunken Wood

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  6. #6
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    Jeff,

    Have I got a solution for you!!!

    Have a peek in Craiglist. Here's a workbench, 8' x 3', solid maple top, with compartmentalized storage below.

    Needs cleaning up, but might be something to consider...?
    - Marty -
    Fivebraids, Inc.
    When you earnestly believe you can compensate for a lack of skill by doubling your efforts, there’s no end to what you can’t do…

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Horton View Post
    Can't find a door that big Ken. It would do great if I could though. My bench top is 3' x 8'

    Interesting Glen. I don't do much on the bench that would damage it except glue. So treated MDF is probably fine. Just need a simple way to support it and keep it flat. Thats the main goal here.
    Mine is here but I see you've posted on that thread. Anyway, I have 1 1/2" x 3" supports front to back 'about' every 14" over a 5 foot span plus front and rear rails side to side.
    Last edited by glenn bradley; 10-03-2007 at 08:24 PM.
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    - Arthur C. Clarke

  8. #8
    A good frame and a piece of 3/4 MDF is my utility bench. You can beat the Poo out of it and it still is flat and nice. I trimmed the leading edges with some Oak strips Biscuited to keep it straight. Double thickness along the edges (same as kitchen counter tops are constructed. Holds bench dogs well, (secret is to let the holes soak up some sanding sealer to stablize the edges of the cutting.) That is where MDF fails is when it absorbs moisture and the edges fray then it starts splitting apart at the edges. Good sealing will eliminate that fault.

  9. #9
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    Marty,

    The description of that bench is pretty amusing: "Original condition with puke green paint" Yikes!

    If someone figures out a cheap, fast, *and* good way to a flat bench top, be sure to let me know...

    Thanks,

    Bill

  10. #10
    Join Date
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    I would love to have that bench top, but
    1. $300 isn't cheap at my house.
    2. I have no use for puke green gym lockers. :-)

    I bought a maple(?) bench top a couple of weeks from the local salvage place a couple of weeks ago for an island in our kitchen. A little scarred but it will clean right up. They are in an old factory building and suspect it was part of the factory years ago. Anyway it's to small for my bench and my wife would beat me with some walnut scrap if I did.

    I agree the MDF would do fine for what I want. I have a proper bench so dog holes are not even a consideration on this one. What I want to know is how you keep it flat? What kind of frame? Spacings, sizes, details!!
    God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway,
    the good fortune to run into the ones I do,
    and the eyesight to tell the difference.


    Kudzu Craft Lightweight Skin on frame Kayaks.
    Custom built boats and Kits

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