Steel Top: heavy 12 gauge steel with no holes on the work surface – withstands hard shop use for years. Definately a skill-building project 🙂 But at the same time it’d be nice for it to hold up for 5 or 6 years 🙂 The nearest ‘big city’ to me is Savannah, GA, I’ll have to see if there is a lumberyard that I could use in the area. Using pre-drilled holes, screw the top to the grid below, you can use nice brass or bronze screws and let them show for a nice contrast.
Hardwood will dent slightly, but not at all like standard plywood or, even worse, just pine lumber. I recently picked up a surplus laboratory table frame on which I want to put a nice top for a workbench. I think the $1500 ruobo’s that people put together and look like a piece of fine furnishing are hot, hot, hot but I’d be afraid to put a nick in the top.
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration. To get the rigidity and weight of a hard wood without having to be overly concerned with damaging an expensive worktop, you might consider attaching an MDF or plywood layer to the top of a hard wood base. If I were wealthy, or really gave a damn about class, I would probably build a fine, traditional maple or birch bench.
A 3/4″ x 12″ apron sits flush under the top at the front of the bench & coach screwed to the legs stops wracking, and with 3/4″ peg holes, it also supports long work pieces ( in the so called English style”). The problem that I am most concerned about with bench dogs in a workbench made of MDF is the inevitable ripping out of the bench dog holes in the MDF.
Also, buy sheets of Homasote to lay over your workbench when you’re staining, gluing or painting. I recall as a boy using Russian redwood from virgin forests that was just stunning and with growth rings 1.5mm apart in 12″ wide boards 16′ long and clear of knots. A workbench needs to be heavy enough that it doesn’t move under you while you’re working, and stiff enough that it doesn’t rack itself to pieces under the forces that will be placed upon it. It doesn’t take many hours of planing a board or hammering a chisel for a worktable made of nailed 2x4s to come apart.
I’m thinking of making my workbench from Ash and curious if you know how many board feet I should be purchasing. I have used one of my benches for almost 20 years and never had to replace the top. Assembly took me about 2.5 hours from opening the carton to sliding in the drawers & tightening down the remaining screws. I would rather have the flooring wood trim, but I don’t have the tools to do that correctly.