pdovy

Reference surface for first workbench

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I'm outfitting my first workshop in my basement after having done my previous woodworking at a school with all the fancy tools and plenty of space to do everything.  Doing it at home is a bit more difficult, I have adequate tools but no shop furniture.

 

My next project was going to be building a workbench, a hardwood frame with a top made of three pieces of laminated 3/4" MDF.  My question is, what is the best way to accurate assemble this without having an legit assembly table, or really any usable reference surface other than the top of my TS?  I just finished building the outfeed table from Marc's video and I had a tough time getting things square and flat trying to assemble on the floor / sawhorses.  It's good enough for catching wood, but I think I need a better system for the workbench, especially to make sure that the MDF lamination comes out as close to dead flat as possible.

 

Is there some easy solution for a temporary reference surface?  My other thought was to give up on an MDF top and make it out of hardwood that can be planed flat, and try and just do assembly on top of my TS.

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You dont need a reference surface. If you build your base with all the cuts square it will be square. The top can just get set on the base for lamination. 

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A quick and easy solution is to set up two saw horses. Add two pieces of wood that are equal thickness to support the middle (like a bridge), then add some little pieces connecting those long pieces together that are also the same thickness.

This gives you clearance all around for clamps.

I got the idea from Bob Langs workbench DVD.

Takes longer to type than it does to make :) I hope that makes sense.

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You dont need a reference surface. If you build your base with all the cuts square it will be square. The top can just get set on the base for lamination.

+1. Build your base, assemble, and then start the top.

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I would suggest not going with an MDF top, I just don't think its a viable option for a workbench. The MDF will not hold up very well under the normal abuse that workbenches are use to and I think you will find yourself replacing the top in couple years. I would recommend using xcounter tops from Ikea, that is would I did about 3 years ago for a work table that I built. The Ikea tops are made out of beech and are surprisingly flat and lamination was easy. I think the Schwarz is coming out with a video for PWW where he uses Ikea counter tops for a workbench. If you don't live near an Ikea you can order a top from Grizzly. If you have a jointer I would find the straightest 2x4s you can, joint once face and one edge, then square up the other edge on the table saw but just cutting off enough material to remove the round over on the 2x4. Make sure that the jointed face is face down on the table saw. I would not worry about running them through the planer but you can if you want too. I would take those milled 2x4s and put them on saw horses, check them with a level and them laminate the two countertops on the saw horses and 2x4s. I would then start building the base. The great thing about laminating the table tops first is that its quick and now you have surface to work on to build the rest of the bench. 

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I didn't see the video on building an outfeed table.  When I built my lightweight one, I used two aluminum angles lengthwise, and made the legs adjustable. One 2x something that fits on top of the Biesmeyer back rail, clamped to it with a couple of DeStaco clamgs for quick removal.  It's just one sheet of 3/4 Birch.  This is the portable one, so weight was an issue.  It has Formica on the top.  I don't use a sled on this one, so it doesn't have slots.  It's some years old, and still works fine.

 

No rule says you can't use metal angles to maintain straight.  For more stationary tables, we use two layers of 3/4 Birch with old wood crosses. Variety of wood isn't as important as having enough age so it's done what moving it's going to do.  Winding sticks and nothing more than wedges under legs will get it flat.

 

I like Formica for a work surface.  I might rebuild a chainsaw on the same surface I assemble cabinets on, or put a big surface plate on it that's going to get sloppy wet, because it's easy to clean.

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PB hits the nail on the head! But formica, you monster  :D. Solid wood baby, even if it's softwood  

 

The nice thing about formica is it stands up to chemicals. If we were talking about one of those fancy benches wood is great. Assembly tables and places where your messing with lots of glue and finish they are to much hassle to keep clean. I can spill glue and lacquer all day long on my table and at the end of the day it wipes right up with lacquer thinner. Looks brand new with just a cleaning.

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PB hits the nail on the head! But formica, you monster  :D. Solid wood baby, even if it's softwood  B). Pdovy it might be worth checking out P Sellers workbench build. Even if you don't like the style it shows you only need basic gear to make a good bench. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ru2ZiNs_Wek

Paul Sellers workbench build is a very good series.  

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Built the Basic Built tool table (Wood Magazine?) a few years ago.  Laminated 2 layers of 3/4 MDF.  adjustable feet, so the table can be leveled regardless of my skill in cutting "square" the stock.  (it's not square.  just square enough.)  Then shimmed the top to the frame with some of the pieces I trimmed from the frame.

 

I built the frame in sub-assemblies (as instructed), and while the sub assemblies were drying, I laid the MDF on top and laminated them.  Added screws to clamp the glue still while it dried, set it on end so the glue would dribble out onto the floor (kept the glue light on that end of the top on purpose), and let the glue dry for a day.  Came back and trimmed the last 1/4" off the MDF top, and mounted it to the finished frame/base.  Then decided to move it to it's location and level.  I'd recommend putting the frame in place and leveling before attaching the top, if possible.

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