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Plywood top for workbench, hardwood trim.

madra's picture

First of all I have to laugh at the idea of me posting on a 'Fine Woodworking' website. What I am doing is as far from fine as you can get. Maybe this is a lot of text, so I have bolded the important bits I need help with.

Anyway, I am trying to build my first workbench and am moving onto the top stage. It has been a challenge so far as I don't have many tools apart from a circular saw, a few crappy hand saws and a handheld drill.

I have a number of things I need advice upon. My top will consist of two 3/4" plywood pieces glued together and a hardwood trim around the edges.

Problem is I don't know the best way to go about this.

First of all, how do I get the plywood edges need to be exactly flush before trying to put the hardwood edges on. (I have sized them up togerher, and the edges along the saw line are uneven slightly.) What is the best way to do this? Would I need a handheld router? If buying one helps me to finish these steps then it would be worth it.

Here is the bit that is the biggest challenge for me. I need to make a trim out of this big plank of hard maple that I bought. I don't have a table saw so I was relying on cutting rough strips with a circular saw.

Should the board be planed before I cut the strips? I have no hand plane so will have to buy a second hand one somewhere. Which planes at an absolute minimum do I need to plane the rough board? Is there any way to get away with sanding it, the reason I ask is that buying an orbital sander would still be cheaper than getting a couple of decent hand planes. Or what about an electric planer? I just need to get this bench finished before I can do what I want to do, which is use hand tools. If using electric planer helps me at the start then I could get one.

Do I cut the strips to be slightly higher than the bench surface and then plane down after fixing them or is there a better way?

Is there a way to do all this with a handheld router?


Is it a bad idea to add on top of the two 3/4" plywoods, a 3.2mm veneered plywood piece? Would gluing this to the top of the plywood slab be secure enough?

Sorry about all the information but I need to figure out the easiest way to go about this as I am very limited regarding tools and this is turning out to be quite challenging because of my lack of knowledge. All the tutorials and plans just say the likes of "attach a hardwood trim all around" without actually going into details. The plans that go beyond this are all aimed towards proper woodworkers unlike me, who have table saws, etc.


I am really looking for someone to lay out the steps and minimum tools I need to go about this, and then I can plan to do it properly, even if it takes six months due to cost.

jfsksa's picture

Get a router (post #178813, reply #1 of 3)

Get a router and a bearing guided flush trim bit.  The bearing follows the plywood and trims the edging off flush.  Dewalt makes a great one, for not too much.  A word of advice, think about what projects you are going to do.  if you plan on using a chisel and other hand tools, you will notice some bounce in the plywood.  Also be careful in getting it flat.  You will laminate two pieces of plywood which bends easily.  I did exactly what you did and ended up with a benchtop with a crown in the middle.  Another option is to find a salvage yard and get a solid core door.  Get an old one - they have real wood cores.  The new ones sold are filled with some sort of fiber junk.  Purists will say the doors are not "dead flat".  OK, but they are pretty flat and pretty solid - much more than two layers of plywood.  Use if for a while and decide what features your bench should have.  Make a new one and reuse the door as an outfeed table or something.

Good luck


ashleyjohn's picture

Did you use a handheld (post #178813, reply #3 of 3)

Did you use a handheld router? 

user-5247954's picture

I would trim the plywood top (post #178813, reply #2 of 3)

I would trim the plywood top with your circ saw after you assemble the top. This includes your 3.2mm top piece. This will give you flush edges.

I would put that hard maple board aside for later. Go buy the trim pieces.