October 14, 2021
A workbench top may be constructed from any type of plywood that you can find on your marketplace. However, specific plywood provides features you don’t need at a price you shouldn’t have to pay. Additionally, plywood materials like particleboard and OSB (also known as wafer boards) on the opposite end of the spectrum aren’t sturdy enough to serve as a workbench top.
When it comes to most workbenches, medium density-fiberboard, sanded softwood plywood, marine plywood, phenolic board, Baltic Birch, Appleply, or Baltic Birch are the finest choices for plywood.
If you want to keep the cost of your workstation to a minimum, use softwood plywood with a top layer of either tempered hardboard or medium-density fiberboard. You should choose medium density fiberboard or marine grade plywood if you plan on constructing a woodworker’s workbench and are worried about gaps in the board, which may create an issue for vices and bench dogs.
Benefits of Using Plywood for Workbench Top
You can use almost any kind of timber when building workbenches. The essential considerations in selecting a benchtop material are the bench’s purpose and the intended outcome. The cost of building a laminated hardwood workstation, particularly for a carpenter, may easily exceed $1,000. This is because you can construct one using a butcher’s block’s worth of hardwood and laminating it together. Unless you’re a skilled carpenter, though, it isn’t easy to justify the price of such a workstation.
Plywood gives your workbench top a seamless, smooth surface that won’t flex or warp. Because it’s dimensionally stable, your workbench won’t look different every time you use it. It may be constructed to be as sturdy and able to support the load you need it to. Plywood’s strength-to-weight solid ratio makes it an excellent choice for structural applications like flooring, formwork, shearwalls, and flooring.
Plywood, as opposed to solid wood, has consistent strength across the grain, independent of the direction of the grain. Along with the use of high-quality veneers and adhesives, it helps plywood withstand a wide range of damage while in use. Because of this, it is a highly long-lasting engineered wood product. Despite its high strength, plywood weighs less than half as much as a piece of solid wood. As a result, plywood is even more suited for use in furniture construction. However, when it comes to furniture making or other industrial services, heavier solid wood may be a real pain to work with. When it comes to plywood, standard sheets have lengths of at least 1800mm and widths of 1200mm. When it comes to large engineered wood items, the possibilities are almost endless.
Plywood is made by fusing many layers of thin wood veneer. Each piece of plywood is parallel to the previous one, making them entirely highly robust and very durable. Because of this, plywood workbench tops are the most common choice.
Plywood is renowned for its durability, offering a smooth surface that won’t flex or warp. As a result of its versatility, plywood is perfect for a wide range of projects, from carpentry to a simple crafter’s table.
Plywood also provides excellent value for money. Based on the scale and diameter of your construction, you may construct a good woodworking workstation for about $100-200 in plywood. This pricing range is very reasonable, particularly if you are searching for a general-purpose workstation.
Plywood is utilized in a wide variety of building projects because of its versatility. It is often used for the following purposes:
- To construct an outside wall or a light-weight partition
- To make formwork or a wet concrete mold
- To carve and sculpt furniture, particularly kitchen and bathroom vanities and desks
- When it comes to the installation of flooring systems
- For packaging
- To lighten the shutters and doors
But the main incentive to construct out of plywood is affordability. Softwood plywood or medium-density fiberboard may be purchased for around $100 to $200, depending on the exact material you select and made into a very competent woodworking workstation. Low-cost general-purpose workbenches with a thinner top are available for less than $100.
Making a Plywood Workbench Top for a Woodworker
Compared to other workbenches, a woodworker’s workbench is primarily a clamping mechanism for retaining wood parts while being operated on, including for clamping and gluing complete projects. Except for the most cost-effective models, they all feature two carpentry vices, one on each side. The one at the very end may sometimes be as long as the workbench itself.
Bigger workbenches have a wide range of sizes to suit a wide range of woodworkers’ requirements, as well as their available space and budget. Workbenches of this kind have been as large as six feet broad by eight feet long, although the majority were much smaller.
There are two reasons why the top should be thick. In the first place, you want to make sure it doesn’t warp, which isn’t a problem with plywood. Bench dogs may also be utilized for one of the vices to give firm support. Even while a three-inch-thick tabletop can withstand more pressure, a bench dog run into it will be less effective. It’ll be more inclined to slant out of the one-inch hole in the tabletop.
Despite this, we can construct a helpful plywood woodworker’s tabletop if we put our minds to it. Use a 4′ carpenter’s level on a tabletop, retail store, or table saw table to check for flatness. Don’t worry about checking for levelness now; make sure it’s flat. We’ll also need a few weights to act as clamps, keeping the plywood sheets together as we screw them together.
Hardwood plywood isn’t required for this kind of workbench top, but you may use MDF or another hard-surfaced plywood for the top layer. 3/4-inch softwood plywood is used for the various layers. Three layers would be ideal, but if you’re tight on cash, you could get away with only two and a quarter inches of final thickness by utilizing just three layers.
Building Crafter’s Benches with Plywood Top
Crafter’s workbenches are usually more compact and tailored to a particular set of needs. Make the top of your creation out of 3/4-inch plywood, then cover it with whichever top material you want to use. A thin metal sheet should be fastened to the plywood before being used for metalworking and other hot operations. A piece of old carpet glued to the top of a delicate piece of art is a good idea. Cover one half of the floor with rugs and the other with plywood, bonded and stapled to create a pleasant, smooth working surface if you need it to have a soft corner and a hard side.
Even if you’re a skilled carpenter, you’ll still need a workbench top for everyday purposes. It gives me 14 feet of workstation area. I have two of them in my workshop! However, other than serving as a staging place for components and small things, these two seats have no actual use other than to hold pieces as I carve them before putting them together.
Unlike a woodworking tabletop, these workbenches aren’t going to be clamped and glued together, so they don’t have to be as thick and robust. Connecting the workstation to a workshop wall will make it much more stable and less likely to move. If the workstation’s frame provides enough support, a single sheet of 3/4″ plywood will suffice to construct this workbench.
This kind of workstation is typically 24″ deep by whatever width you have available. To make two workbench tops from a single sheet of plywood, you’ll need the 24″ size. A workbench with a depth of more than 24″ is usually difficult to use.
In most cases, the top of the workbench will be 36″ from the ground, the same level as the kitchen counter. However, I raised mine to 42 inches above the ground and discovered that this allowed me to work more comfortably since I didn’t have to bend over as much. That’s great for doing minor repairs and carving small, ornamental pieces, like jewelry.
Using 2×4 timber and 3/4″ thick BC quality softwood board as indicated in the above-left picture, you may construct this kind of workbench top quickly and cheaply. A superior workbench is made with a little more effort by cutting a rabbet in the 2×4″ and cutting the edge, as seen in the right-hand photo above. The material will protect your arm from being scratched by the plywood’s exposed edge.
Any way you slice it, the supporting framework must have enough crossbars to sustain the weight of whatever is put on it. Crossbars every 16″ would be ideal, in my opinion. Doweling those crossbars is another something I’d suggest since it’ll create a much stronger connection than just screwing or nailing it in place because you’d be drilling or hammering into the end grain.
Liam is a 37-year-old woodworker and interior designer who loves to make every furniture project an art piece. He is very experienced in furniture design and woodworking project planning.