Work bench top

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  • #470505
    Lou Shane
    Participant

    Has anyone made a laminated plywood top? If so—- pos & cons!
    Lou
    [email protected]

    #549675
    David Webber
    Participant

    Hi, I considered this and went with Paul’s 2×4 laminated top instead and I’m glad I did. Main reason is that plywood can’t be flattened or resurfaced because of the layers. Also, it would be very difficult to glue sandwich the ply. However Paul did approve premade glulam in the comments section of one of the workbench videos.

    #549736
    Michael Campbell
    Participant

    I did a few years ago, but I topped it with hardboard as well–I use it for my finishing bench and for some other work that my main bench shoulder vise can’t handle. I built the main bench this past winter because the plywood bench was too small. Both are good, but I prefer the main bench top which is laminated yellow pine.

    #549746
    harry wheeler
    Participant

    I’ve built a lot of benches with plywood tops over the years and they’re fine for some things. I’ve got several in my shop today but I use them more like base cabinets than actual work benches. The major drawback using plywood for a work surface for me is lack of durability. From experience, I can tell you that it’s very easy to peal up a piece of the top layer of plywood. You can do that just trying to scrape off a drop of hardened glue that you didn’t see. Repair options are limited to Bondo or something like that and in a short time, the top will be in pretty rough shape. I have a 2’x4’x38″ bench with a 1 1/2″ plywood top that I use as a combo sharpening station/main bench extension/clamp storage rack (place to set my beer) and it works great for that.

    For a bench like the Roubo style Paul makes, plywood is going be a problem when it comes to attaching the skirt boards, tool well, etc. You won’t have much (if any) success trying to glue anything to the ends of the plywood sheets, nor will fasteners hold very well if driven into the ends of the plywood. Anything glued to the plywood surface is only as strong as the first plywood lamination/glue joint and that isn’t very strong. Just knowing the kind of wear and tear I put on my main work bench, I would avoid using plywood for the work surface. There are just too many drawbacks. It makes a great shelf underneath the bench though.

    Harry

    #549756
    Ed
    Participant

    It’s not ply, but I plopped a piece of MDF on top of a late 1800’s dining room dresser, hung a vise and called it a bench. I hate it, except for the drawers and storage cupboard. It’s too bouncy and doesn’t hold a holdfast. I do like the size and where I put the vise and I’m absolutely dependent upon the drawers. Every time I’m faced with spending a week building a bench vs. spending the week building a piece of furniture, the furniture wins. So, my bench still stinks. I think I’m at the end of my patience, though.

    You could rip 2 1/2″ strips from the play and laminate them. That would address some of Harry’s concerns since the plies will now be perpendicular to the work surface, but I think leveling and joinery would be no fun since half of everything would be end grain. Also, I suspect there is real benefit to having the long fibers of solid wood running the length of the top, which you’d lose.

    Hmmm….just noticed we are answering a posting that is half a year old. I wonder if @LSHANE2319 is even still interested?

    #549758
    harry wheeler
    Participant

    The answer to your last question Ed is probably not – I noticed the same thing but I saw another comment from this morning before I looked closely at the original. Still, I’ll bet that others have had the same thoughts about plywood. If you look at the edge of common plywood, you can see small voids in the layers – at least the stuff I get always has some of it. They aren’t large voids but they’re there. I think it’s where the edge of the strips forming the layers don’t match up exactly or aren’t put together tightly enough. The only stuff I’ve found that doesn’t have that is the Baltic Birch plywood I get for drawer bottoms and the like and that stuff is costly. So I’m not too sure what kind of mess you might have with a vertical lamination using regular C/D plywood?? A top with a lot of small holes in it I suspect. Solid wood laminated bench tops take a bit of effort, but isn’t that part of the fun?

    Harry

    #549759
    btyreman
    Participant

    my first ‘rat bench’ was made from plywood, it was a horrendus thing, racking, rocking and horrible to work with but somehow I managed to make a few pieces on it, that’s when I made the sellers workbench and I used redwood pine for the entire thing, including the top, it is miles better than the plywood rat bench and is rock solid, his free workbench series, especially the recent mark 2 version is very hard to beat, the only investment you need to make is in the vice, my bench total costs including the vice was around £150-200, which is nothing for a bench that will last you a lifetime.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 2 months ago by btyreman.
    #549765
    Ed
    Participant

    Harry, we’re on the same page favoring the solid wood. I was thinking out loud to see if there might be a way to do it with ply, but I don’t think it’s worth it. I don’t think the voids leaving holes in the top would be a real problem, but I’d still not take this route, even if you wanted to pay for the baltic birch. Honestly, the ply we have around here, other than the expensive high grade stuff, is so rough and wavy that I’m not sure you could laminate it with anything other than construction adhesive. It’s just not a good direction.

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