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Newbie question - using solid core door as workbench top

adriangptx's picture

Hello everyone! I'm totally new to woodworking. I'm building my first workbench using plans at of a magazine. The plans suggested I could use a solid core exterior door and 1/2" plywood as the wear surface but it didn't specify how to attach the two pieces. I want the top to be nice and sturdy but more importantly dead flat. How should I attach the 1/2" plywood to the solid core door so that I could change it out down the road once it gets beat up? I plan on drilling dog holes and attaching a vise. Thanks in advance for the help!

roc's picture

You deserve better. (post #169216, reply #1 of 11)

There are some determined souls here who build "master pieces " on a rickety old mess of a bench made from a door.  Some , I believe, even claim to use a hollow core door.  A a a a l l l  right.  I suppose it can be done.  There are those who say a flat surface is for babies and build "master pieces " on a lumpy old twisty bench top.  A a a a l l l  right.

Each time I hear these things I think . . . why do you treat yourself this way ?  What did you ever do to yourself to make you hate yourself so much ?  If a guy, or gal , is going to build nice stuff why not build nice stuff on top of nice stuff.  If you know what I mean.

But plywood for a bench top ?

Nah, dude , nah.

Here is a link to one and there are many discussions in this chat room on plywood bench tops.

http://forums.finewoodworking.com/fine-w...

If you are going to start out cutting corners like this why not just have someone else build your furniture for you ?

OK you need SOMETHING to start working on top of you may say.  You may be better off buying a butcher block counter top , plane it flat and put it on some saw horses while you build a base for it.  Better yet build the butcher block top your self from 2x4s glued side by side the thick way and use that to build a better bench top.  You will learn a lot and you will have two benches when you are done.  Can't have too many work surfaces.

roc

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. Abraham Lincoln ( 54° shaves )

RalphBarker's picture

plywood (post #169216, reply #2 of 11)

Like Roc, I'd suggest against using plywood for the "working surface" - plywood isn't really solid enough, and is likely to have voids. Unlike Roc, however, I'd say a good solid core door can make a reasonable base for a beginner bench. Not all "solid core" doors are really solid, though. For a replaceable top surface, Masonite (tempered hardboard) may be a better choice than plywood. If you already have a good solid core door, that's one thing. If you are buying it new, check the benchtops at Grizzly (http://www.grizzly.com/index.aspx) before doing so. Remember, the surfaces of a solid core door are just veneer, so there's not much material there to allow for flattening.

"Dead flat" is really a relative phrase. The closest thing to "dead flat" is a machinist's granite surface plate. Good ones will be within a few ten-thousandths of being dead flat. A bench-sized one, however, will cost several thousand dollars, and will bring with it numerous other issues. "Reasonably flat" is a better objective for a woodworking bench.

CedarGroves's picture

Both posts have raised some (post #169216, reply #3 of 11)

Both posts have raised some good points - now for my $.02.

If you already have the door it wouldn't make a bad secondary work surface, but I wouldn't reccomend it for your primary bench. I built my first bench using 4 layers of 3/4" MDF on a simple base (Woodsmith did a version that was very similar to my bench last year I believe). It was quick to build, cheap, and worked OK but there were many drawbacks to using the MDF for the top. The #1 problem is that you cannot flatten the top, so if you dont get your base perfect or something went wrong during the glueup youre pretty much stuck with it. My second real beef with the MDF is the durability of the dog holes - using any holdfast with enough force to barely hold down my work would cause the surface to mushroom (and I fear this will be a problem with your door as well).

As far as flatness goes, a good flat bench will make EVERYTHING easier. My rule of thumb is if no light passes under the edge of my Bailey #7, thats good enough for me. I re-flatten my bench once a year to keep it fresh. 

All in all I constantly wished I had gone with a real wood top, right up to when I made my Roubo bench and gave the MDF one to my father. 

-Ian

TLROWLAND's picture

Hey bubba.  Congrats on your (post #169216, reply #4 of 11)

Hey bubba.  Congrats on your new hobby.  It's one of the most rewarding you could ever have in my opinion.  If you're new, I say use what you have and what you can afford.  There will be plenty of time later on down the road to build another bench if you don't like this one.  I remember my first bench.  It was made out of 2x4s and a sandwiched MDF top soaked in Danish Oil.  Used some scrap wood to build some make shift drawers.  That was 5 years ago, and  I still use that bench.  Looking back on it now, I know what I'd do differently.

You'll have plenty of time to perfect your craft over the years, and you'll learn what works best for you through trial and error and your own hands-on experience.  Afterall, it's not the tools that hone our skills, but rather our skills that hone the tools as they say. 

You'll get a lot of great advice here at FW, as you already have from the other comments.  If you want a refresher top, plywood isn't really a good choice.  1/4" hardboard is decent I hear.  But you could always use just the door if it's good and sturdy, so long as it's nice and straight.  Just make sure you use a good finish to protect it.  Take care!  -TL

stantheman's picture

AI know the OP is two weeks (post #169216, reply #5 of 11)

AI know the OP is two weeks old, but just in case you are still going this route, I might point out that the non-hinge side of the door likely has a bevel of a few degees ( to make it easier to close), and this will throw you off if you use that edge for reference or attach a vise or something to it.

 

I think the door rout makes an OK and cheap surface for a homeowner's workbench, but it is not strong enough or flat enought  for woodworking purposes.  I would consider leftover laminate counter tops if you want cheap and flat.

jfsksa's picture

2 options (post #169216, reply #6 of 11)

Option 1 - go for it, make the top out of a solid core door.  Attach the sacrificial top with screws.  Be sure to countersink the screws so they don't scratch your workpieces.  If you are trying to do quality work, over time you will probably find this bench lacking and resolve to build something better.  However, the work you did making and using it will prove invaluable when you design and build the proper bench.

Option 2 - Buy the door, make some sawhorses or utility legs to make a "quickie bench" because you 'need a bench to make a bench'.  Use this to make a proper workbench with a proper heavy top.  Then repurpose the door as a side table or outfeed table for your tablesaw.

Ray's picture

Benchtop (post #169216, reply #7 of 11)

My first bench top was edge-glued 2X6 and 2X8 construction lumber, 2 pieces of each.  I used it for a lot of years.  After rebuilding a car engine on it, I had to turn it over when I made new kitchen cabinets.  It met all the cirteria, heavy, stable, and I could plane it flat..

Mike_D's picture

Workbench top (post #169216, reply #8 of 11)

Oh heck yes!  What you want to do is GET STARTED!  Shortly thereafter, you will begin to lust for more and better tools.  Your workbench one of your primary tools.  You will NEED a better one soon.  But you don't have to seek workbench nirvana immediately.

I have a perfectly servicable workbench whose top is 3 mdf 4x8's glued and screwed together.  DO countersink your screws.  Contrary to popular belief, if you did countersink your screws, you CAN flatten an mdf top - it's just that it's hell on your hand plane irons - makes them right dull, right fast.  Use 'em anyway, just sharpen them often during the flattening process using your belt sander - that will be fast and plenty sharp enough for mdf.  This is HERESY and the hounds of war will be unleashed upon me, but do it anyway - it works, and a belt sander held upside down in a vice with a 120 grit belt on it was good enough for Krenov (an old guy, now deceased, in California who made cool stuff from wood.)

This 3 sheet workbench can be your 2nd workbench.  Put a good, solid framework under it.  Eventually, you will read enough articles to become convinced that you that you REALLY REALLY TRULY NEED a Rubo style bench.  The rationale is tht at that point you will have made a piece of furniture using mostly hand tools and will find that you NEED the part-holding capabilities of a fully tricked-out Rubo to fully express your craft.  You will be worthy, and the gods of the universe will not cause you to drop a newly sharpened firmer chisel on your toe for having the effrontry to build yourself a Master's tool while still an apprentice.

 

jsfarmboy's picture

    im currently using my (post #169216, reply #9 of 11)

 

 

im currently using my first workbench. its not fancy, its 2 layers of birch plywood scewed together on legs made of laminated 2x4s. if the job title for a workbench is to raise your work off the floor it does it very well, but its not heavy and flexes more than i do. i can manage for now but after im done making shaker boxes and cutting boards for a local Christmas market i will be building something much better. it still wont be a 4" thick hard maple top on ancient barnwood beams, but it will be an upgrade. a solid core door bench top will do you fine for a while unless your going to be doing lots of handplaning, but you can use it to later build a new bench and you can also keep it around as an assembly table for glue ups and even finnishing

Jigs-n-fixtures's picture

The solid core door will work fine. (post #169216, reply #10 of 11)

My first bench had a solid core door for the top.  It is still out in the shop.  The newer bench has an appearance grade, (no knots), 24X6 doug fir glulam beam on it as a top.  Mostly because there is a plant heare in town that makes the beams, and they will sell you beams pretty inexpensively.  The old bench is still in the shop, and still flat.  The down side is that they solid core, which is particle board, will not hold dogs, and it is hard to attach vices to.  I got around that by installing two 8-foot pieces of t-track length wise, that I screwed down through the top and into the frame to hold them in place.  For years I got along with out a vice, by using the t-tracks, stops and wedges. 

If you are going to use a solid core door as the top, you need to concentrate on a good solid base to go under it.  It will stay as flat as the frame under it lets it.  If the frame has any warp to it the door will drift to match it. 

As to attaching the plywood surface:  Put a perimeter of hardwood around the door, and leave a lip that matches the hieght of the plywood.  As to the plywood, us mdo.  The smooth surface is easier to clean up, and the panel is free of voids. 

DuaneR's picture

i was lucky enough to be (post #169216, reply #11 of 11)

i was lucky enough to be onsite when a hospital was eplacing patient room doors. i used these doors for all my bench tops. mine are almost 2 inches thick 7'x 4' and had high pressure laminate on both sides.i have a 12" overhang from the base cabinets. they work well and the price was right.