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  1. #1
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    Default PLYWOOD vs MDF for workbench top?

    We are about to build the top of our workbench, and want to use either several layers of MDF or Plywood, depending on what is better, i am having a hard time finding out which is the best to use.

    The workbench is actually made out of 4 cabinets that we bought for $20 each at a habitat for humanity restore- they are VERY sturdy cabinets that were from a doctors office. they are all glued and screwed together, so the base is VERY sturdy.

    We are not planning on moving this around, so weight is not a concern.

    We ARE planning on mounting a couple vises and i am wondering about the best way to do that as well-- if we end up using MDF will the MDF hold screws or should we bolt it through a couple layers and countersink the bolts?

    Thanks, any input is appreciated... exp if you ahve used ply or mdf and can let me know what you like / dislike about each.

    Thanks
    Joe Lenhard
    Buffalo, NY

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  3. #2
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    Hey Joe.......... okay I had to get that in being a Jimi fan. Sorry.

    When I finally get around to building a proper bench against the wall I was going to use two layers of 3/4" MDF topped by a piece of 1/4" tempered hardboard with hardwood edging all around. If the surface becomes seriously marred you just rip out the hardboard and set a new piece in there. If you just go with the MDF alone provided it's sealed with a coat of poly and/or paint on all exposed edges it'll be very stable and cost less than ply plus the surface is likely to be a lot smoother unless you go with cabinet grade ply to start with and right there your cost is almost doubled.

    By the way, don't blame me for the Bills!

  4. #3
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    Several of us on the forum have used recycled timber for the bench top. Cost is comparable to mdf or ply (sometimes even free) and the older wood is usually very stable and tough. Will take more work, and a planer/thicknesser is a good tool to have for the job, but you may end up with a thick, solid wood bench top for little cost.

    Tex

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    hi joe.

    i'm planning on making a bench based on a design from Making Workbenches by Sam Allen. In that he laminates three 3/4" sheets of particleboard, and then covers the top and sides in 1/4" hardboard. He also says that if you'd prefer a more "wood-like" finish, a 1/4" hardwood ply can be used. This is the option I'll be taking.

    He attaches a typical 9" iron vice to the this top using bolts, which are counter sunk into the particle board before the hardboard cover is put on. That way the bolt heads aren't visible on the finish bench top.

    Hope this helps.
    Tom

  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by joelen View Post
    if we end up using MDF will the MDF hold screws or should we bolt it through a couple layers and countersink the bolts?
    I would bolt it through whether it be Ply or MDF.
    I like the smoothness of MDF but if money was not a problem I would opt for Plywood but having said that, I have a bench with just particle board top and it has stood up quite well to the abuse I have given it over the last 8 years.
    Reality is no background music.
    Cheers John

  7. #6
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    Guys I think I should point something out about building anything with particle board in Joe's and my neck of the woods. He's on one side of the lake and I'm on the other. Unless he's got a basement shop then he's looking at as much moisture as I am which was why I mentioned sealing the MDF if that's the route he goes. Summer or Winter it's very wet here and in some parts of Buffalo nearest the lake and the Falls you can feel the water in the air all the time. Particle board does not last long here, especially the cheap crap HD and Lowes are flogging. It's almost like being in FNQ!
    Now that I think of it if you are close to the lake/Falls Joe I'd go with the ply. More likely to hold up to the local conditions.

  8. #7
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    Splash out and get yourself a bit of formply, water problem solved and solid as

  9. #8
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    Default Update- further question....

    OK- we decided to go with 2 sheets of 3/4 inch MDF and 1/4 inch hardboard/masonite, bolted thru the cabinets. for trim around the edge, we have a lot of scrap white oak, and my wife is making 1/2 inch molding to go all around the outside- 1/2 inch thick, 1 3/4 inch tall, probably just a roundover bit on the top.

    What would be the best way to attatch the oak trim to the edge of the 2 sheets of MDF?

    Thanks for all the input...

    Joe Lenhard

  10. #9
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    Joe personally I'd use Titebond III to attach the trim and either just clamp it in place or clamps and a couple of brads/pins fired in at an angle to bite the mdf. That glue works in the worst of conditions and sticks like snot to a blanket!
    For the corners of the trim you could use biscuits to strengthen the joint or even make it all purty like and use keys - dovetail or straight - using a contrasting wood. I've seen that done on a couple of local benches and it really does look the goods. It's something I might go with when I finally get around to building my bench just for the experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by Elill View Post
    Splash out and get yourself a bit of formply, water problem solved and solid as
    It's not called formply here mate. I fell into that when I was asking about it at Peacock Lumber. They just stared at me like I was from another planet.

  11. #10
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    I have done a similar thing.
    http://www.woodworkforums.com/showth...mobile+benches
    Zelk

  12. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Expat View Post
    It's not called formply here mate. I fell into that when I was asking about it at Peacock Lumber. They just stared at me like I was from another planet.
    Well you were from another planet, Planet OZ.

  13. #12
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    Hi joe,

    My workbench is made of solid wood. But if I had to make another workbench then I would definitely make one out of MDF. It would be at least 3 inches thick and I would glue a thin layer of solid wood on the top and sides. The top would be supported a base out of solid wood.

    The vice would be bolted through (like your described) and the bolts would be covered by the solid wood.

    Have fun.
    Visit my website at www.myWoodwork.com.au

  14. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wongo View Post
    Hi joe,

    My workbench is made of solid wood. But if I had to make another workbench then I would definitely make one out of MDF. It would be at least 3 inches thick and I would glue a thin layer of solid wood on the top and sides. The top would be supported a base out of solid wood.

    The vice would be bolted through (like your described) and the bolts would be covered by the solid wood.

    Have fun.
    Why is that Scott? Warping driving you nuts?

  15. #14
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    The particle board that used for templates on a huge shaper where I worked was black & is extremely durable & wears tough like iron.
    As for glue I personally would use sumo glue its waterproof.
    If using screws be prepared to snap a cheap jobber drill bit & maybe a few screws use square drive phillips heads will stip.
    Wax the screw threads good or the screws will scream like a siren & snap leaving a nasty mess.
    Countersink every hole no exceptions otherwise the threads will lift the particle board like anthills on the lower board & make the 2 halves uneven.
    I have 1 1/2" thick bench top with no flex.
    When the top becomes worn & nasty I simply flip it over.
    When both sides become worn and nasty its time to glue another layer for a beefy 2 1/4" bench top that will handle most anything bolted onto it.
    I will eventually glue up to 3" thickness so I can use bench dogs.

  16. #15
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    I used three layers of 19mm MDF and a sacraficial masonite top for my bench with tassie oak aprons all round.

    I found that when i went to tighten the through bolts up (to mount the vice), the MDF would start to compress even when using washers. I countersunk through the hard top layer of the MDF for the bolt heads so was into the softer stuff, so thats probably the reason for this occuring.

    Something to keep in mind when designing your top if you're going to use MDF.

    Steven.

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