October 6, 2021
Not so long ago, I was building a second workbench in my workshop, and one of my concerns was about which top material I should use for my workbench. Such a concern when making a workbench is crucial, given the heavy beatings that the benchtop would usually get. Hence, if you were like me before, building your workbench at present, you should carefully consider the materials you should use for your workbench top and go for quality materials. Your workbench top, of course, should be strong, firm, and can last for years. It should also be convenient for working.
You can use almost any good sheet or lumber for your workbench top. Yet, it will be best to make a wise choice by learning the great options at hand and the crucial factors to consider when choosing a material for your workbench top. You can also consider the extra protective materials that you can use for your workbench top. Such protective material can provide your workbench top the needed protection when you engage in heavy workloads that entail cuttings and beatings on your workbench top.
12 Best Materials for Workbench Top
The best materials for workbench tops should have the capability of withstanding marring, impacts, and heat exposure. The materials should be capable of taking heavy beatings, aside from having beautiful wood surfaces that could wow those who visit your shop. Moreover, the materials should be resistant to scratches, dents, water, and other liquids penetrations. But given the myriads of materials to choose from, you will surely get confused about which to choose. Thus, it will help to check the following most recommended wood types by the experts for workbench top:
Hickory is perfect for a workbench top if you want to have a vanity bench for your workshop. It is within the expensive range of materials. It is very durable and comes in cream or reddish shades. Of course, it can surely withstand the test of time. Choosing hickory for your workbench top will give you a nice-looking workbench top that is both tough and durable.
I got a hickory workbench in my workshop too, and it looks great and heavy. I purchased the hickory for installing it as a workbench top. The legs of my workbench, of course, are of Red Oak. Well, it is delightful to look at and is durable. Moreover, it is excellent as a workbench top.
You can find pinewood anywhere in Canada and the United States. Since this wood is pretty much available, it is also not expensive. Thus, you can use this wood without worrying about whether it is endangered or not.
You can quickly work on this wood with ease, for it takes screws and nails pretty quickly. If you intend to give your benchtop a heavy beating and pounding, you should use pinewood. Besides, it is an excellent choice for your workbench top.
Plywood comes in different qualities and thicknesses. It is a combination of layers of wood veneer glued together using adhesives. The plywood is solid and can take a beating. Besides, it is almost impervious to cracks.
You can easily buy wide sheets of plywood. Moreover, it is easy to install and offers a good platform for your woodworking activities. Many woodworkers also prefer plywood when making their workbench top because it is cheap and durable.
4) Hard Maple
Hard maple is another excellent option for a benchtop. It is comparable to hickory in quality, but it is less expensive. It features a smooth and light grain that provides its surface a pleasant look. Nevertheless, this wood belongs to the hardest timber varieties in the U.S. If you opt for this wood, you can get something durable with a fantastic look at a reasonable price.
Teak is another wood that is worth considering for your benchtop. It grows in the Pacific Coast and Asia. It is costly, of course, and it comes in various grades. Nevertheless, it can provide you with a sturdy and durable workbench top.
Its tone ranges from a rich dark brown to that of a golden brown. Moreover, this wood is remarkable for its durability and ability to withstand the test of time. It is resistant to rot or attacks by insects due to its natural oil. Besides, you can easily cut it and screw it with ease.
Teak is versatile. It remains constant in the world of change. Its high oil presence has made the teak favorite for outdoor and indoor usage. So, it will also be an excellent choice for workbench tops.
6) Douglas Fir
Another excellent option is the Douglas Fir. You can find this tree in Eastern Asia and West Coast. It is a cheaper alternative too for a workbench top. Moreover, it is pretty resistant to rotting and is soft. If you are a crafter, you will find this material perfect for your benchtop.
7) Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF)
The Medium-density fiberboard (MDF), as an engineered wood, is not natural. Moreover, wood fibers and sawdust get fused together to create MDF. It doesn’t have grains. However, it provides a homogenous and smooth surface, perfect for some types of workbench tops.
MDF is not actually a type of wood. It is artificial, and you can use it for a variety of purposes. Besides, you can quickly recognize the MDF in your home improvement store, for it comes in packs of uniform and smooth wooden panels. It is easy to cut because it doesn’t have grain nor knots. Moreover, you can cut it in any direction.
Nevertheless, working with MDF can be risky to your health because it undergoes a process that uses urea-formaldehyde. The low concentration of this compound gets released into the ambient air. This released urea-formaldehyde can irritate your respiratory tract and eyes.
8) Steel Workbench Tops
You can also opt for steel workbench tops. When it comes to durability, nothing can beat this material. It can last for several decades of heavy usage. If your works entail rugged and heavy-duty loads, you can always opt for this type of workbench top. It can handle more loads and won’t crack or splinter. Besides, it can withstand much pounding.
If you intend to toy with oil or solvents, steel would be your best option, for it is resistant to these materials. It is also perfect for cutting works.
9) Melamine Workbench Top
If you often work with chemicals that could taint or dirty your workbench top, you can always opt for a melamine workbench top. Melamine is such a good material that is not that expensive. It is a manufactured wood, and several materials get combined to create melamine.
Such materials include particles of wood, paper, and resin. These materials are combined using extreme pressure and heat. Afterward, the surface gets laminated with thermally fused paper or coating.
The use of melamine comes with many advantages. First, it is not expensive. Second, it is stain-free, and you can use it as if it is a whiteboard. It also offers a visually pleasing appearance. Besides, it is smooth to touch and durable. It is also moisture and fire-resistant.
10) Vanity Benches
The workbench is the primary equipment of woodworkers. As such, woodworkers treat it with great care. Sometimes, they make themselves vanity benches. These benches come with slot-in drawers and raised panels. They also come with a carbide wheel accessory and cutting tools. These vanity benches are equipped with the best tools and accessories, and they are indeed pleasant to look at.
11) Thin Metal Sheet
You will also find workbench tops made of thin sheets of metal. If you are a crafter, you will indeed find this kind of benchtop material excellent for your needs. These workbench tops come with a durable base.
The base could be a 3/4″ plywood sheet on which the thin metal sheet is superimposed. You can attach the thin metal sheet using screws. Besides, you can attach a piece of carpet onto the surface for use in some delicate tasks or crafts.
If you want a scrappy workbench top, you can use lumber as your workbench top material. To create a workable benchtop, you can attach up to six lumber frames on top of your workbench. Moreover, you can nail these lumber frames.
Additional Protection Sheets for Workbench Top
If you’re a bit confused about which material to use for your workbench top, you can quickly check out the abovementioned options. In this way, you will know your options and determine which is best for your needs. However, it will also help if you know the following additional materials you can use to protect your workbench top:
1) Plywood Sheet
If you have a workbench top that is not sanded, you can always add a plywood sheet on top of it. This plywood sheet can serve as thin protection. It is also affordable. Besides, it is also easy to install.
2) Laminate Sheets
The laminate sheet is probably the most common additional material you can use on your benchtop. It allows for easy cleaning. Moreover, it is easy to install. It can also make your workbench top clean and pleasing to look at.
3) Rubber Mat
Another excellent material that you can add to your workbench top is the rubber mat. A rubber mat, of course, is perfect for adding extra protection to your workbench. It can protect your benchtop from scratches and damage, especially if your work involves heavy cutting and beating. It can also protect your materials from accidental dents and damage.
You can use a cutting mat for its durability and protecting capability. Thus, if your benchtop is of MDF or plywood, you can cover it with rubber mats. You can also protect your vanity workbench with something like a rubber mat.
4) Masonite Sheets
Masonite sheets come in thickness of 1/4″ or 1/8″. This material can provide your workbench top with a polished surface. It will also protect your benchtop from damages when you’re working on your workpiece.
5) Silicone Mat
Another excellent option is the silicone mat. The silicone mat has remarkable properties. It is easy to set up and remove once you don’t need it anymore.
This mat comes with a few magnetic parts that can hold metal tools and pieces. In a way, you will find the silicone mat an appealing option if you are looking for extra protection for your workbench.
6) Utility Mat
The utility mat also comes in handy if you’re looking for extra protection for your workbench top. It comes with some boxes for working tools. It also offers a resistant surface against the glue and other liquids. With this mat, you can work without worrying much about the usual issues hounding a workbench top.
Your workbench is the central point of every woodworking task you engage in as a woodworker. Thus, it behooves you to carefully select the materials you would use in making your workbench. The workbench top, of course, consists of the surface on which you will do most of your woodworking tasks. As such, it should be durable, long-lasting, capable of absorbing the beating and can handle heavy workloads. However, your choice of materials for your workbench top would depend on the kind of works you will usually do on the workbench.
You can make a wise choice of materials for your workbench top if you know your options at hand. Besides, if you are cognizant of the crucial factors to consider when choosing materials for your workbench top, you can quickly zero in on the ideal materials for your workbench top. Remember that the more you are familiar with your options, the better your choice will be.
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.