Some workbench questions
#11
  
My current bench is inadequate to the next few projects I want to tackle. I'm contemplating building one, but haven't committed. I may try to just get by, it depends mainly on whether the wife is serious about wanting to move back to Virginia.

I have three main questions on workbench design:

1. What are the pros and cons of building the main bench top surface out of MDF? Everything else being equal, I would want to build my bench top out of MDF with a wood trim/frame, purely for aesthetic reasons (I'm envisioning painting the MDF). Yet I don't really see anyone building out of MDF, even for the top where it seems like a pretty logical choice based on my extremely limited knowledge.

2. Why are work benches so narrow? I feel like the bench needs to be about 4 feet deep to do the assembly of the relatively modest size projects I want to do--a console table, a dining room table, a door, stuff like that. Do we not normally do assembly on the workbench? I don't really have room for a dedicated assembly table in addition to a bench, and I'm old enough that I don't want to be crawling around on the floor (which isn't flat or level, anyway).

3. If I build the main top out of MDF, does that cause me difficulties in doing things like installing a tail vise? I guess that's really a subset of question 1, rather than a separate question.

FWIW, I respect tradition, but I'm not beholden to it. I'm wondering about the practicalities such as cost and the relative strengths of the materials. I assume there are good reasons why experts have been building 2 foot deep workbenches rather than 4 foot deep workbenches for centuries. I just don't know what those reasons are. Likewise, I assume there are reasons people nowadays are still building benches out of wood despite the availability and relative inexpensiveness of manufactured wood products. But again, I don't know what those reasons are. But, to the extent that those reasons are "tradition," then I wouldn't let that influence me in my bench design.

TIA for your thoughts.
If you're gonna be one, be a Big Red One.
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#12
  Re: Some workbench questions by MattP (My current bench is ...)
A bench for handtool woodworking in my mind is another tool, a fixture by which you hold your work.  You need vices, holes for dogs and holddowns, a means to mount a long board for jointing, etc.  It's not meant to be an assembly table, you want to be able to reach across it, hence the narrower construction; it should be heavy, mass is good for stability when sawing, planing and chopping mortises.  It should have a thick top, 3" or so, for the dogs and holddowns; I'm not at all sure that MDF will support such fixtures for very long.  Many a good bench has been made from doug fir, laminating a top out of 2x4s, so you don't have to get fancy with wood.  SYP is also good if you can source it easily.  Build a stout base for the top, 4x4 legs.  There's a lot that has been written about all types of bench design, the above is my preference, but there's a few books out there and plenty of opinions.  I'm sure others will chime in.
Elvem ipsum etiam vivere
No Evaporust was used on these tools.
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#13
  Re: Some workbench questions by MattP (My current bench is ...)
I just built a 4'x8' bench out of baltic birch plywood.  

Was told by a couple of people that 4' is too wide, but after using it for a while, I'm thinking why didn't I build it sooner.


Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away. - Philip K. Dick

Mark

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#14
  Re: Some workbench questions by MattP (My current bench is ...)
Agree with Admiral, but if you want the look of an MDF top with a hardwood border, there's an easy way.  Laminate 4 pieces of 3/4" ply and build your hardwood border around 3/8" proud.  Then, lay in a piece of 1/4" MDF (or Masonite) as a sacrificial top.  Admiral was the one who suggested I just tack it in place with a few brad nails and it's not budging.

The (almost) 3" thick plywood will secure your holdfasts and dog holes.  I used Baltic Birch plywood.  It's only 5' long, so when I laminated the top, I made sure to stagger the seams.  Bench isn't going anywhere.

I thought I would hate it, but the Masonite top really works.  I'm sure MDF would work, but my understanding is that Masonite is denser.

Good luck.
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#15
  Re: Some workbench questions by MattP (My current bench is ...)
In my head, it was several (3?) thicknesses of MDF thick, so your suggestions, Steve, are only a minor modification. I'll look into using plywood and Masonite (never heard of masonite before).
If you're gonna be one, be a Big Red One.
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#16
  Re: Some workbench questions by MattP (My current bench is ...)
The one thing I see which might be bad for using MDF is if you drill dog hold down holes, then after a while of pounding the dogs down the MDF within the hole where the dog touches the MDF will become soft and start to flake off. Thus your dog holes will begin to expand at the bottom. Might want to do a test piece of laminated MDF pieces and see if it holds up to the stresses of the dogs.
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#17
  Re: Some workbench questions by MattP (My current bench is ...)
(01-09-2017, 05:52 PM)Dayle1960 Wrote: The one thing I see which might be bad for using MDF is if you drill dog hold down holes, then after a while of pounding the dogs down the MDF within the hole where the dog touches the MDF will become soft and start to flake off.  Thus your dog holes will begin to expand at the bottom.  Might want to do a test piece of laminated MDF pieces and see if it holds up to the stresses of the dogs.

I'm not married to the idea of MDF exactly. If plywood, OSB or anything else would work better, I'm certainly open to suggestions on alternative manufactured wood products.
If you're gonna be one, be a Big Red One.
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#18
  Re: Some workbench questions by MattP (My current bench is ...)
Worked on an mdf bench before, all of Rob Cosman''s student benchs are made from mdf, believe it's 3 sheets of 1" thick glued together then heavily coated with possibly BLO to prevent rubbing and scratches (my memory is not that great).

They each have an end vise and dog holes, Only a few hundred bucks to build including vise hardware. Did not realize it was mdf until he told me.

It's a fine bench on a budget and works well....would not be my fire st choice but it is an option.

Contact Rob via his website, sure he would be happy to share the plans with you tell him Andy Nichols told you to contact him about the student workbench.

Or I'd be glad to send you a set of BC bench plans, or share my build info, ended up not using the BC plans, but spent many hours mulling them over while dreaming about building a bench.

Andy
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#19
  Re: Some workbench questions by MattP (My current bench is ...)
(01-09-2017, 06:09 PM)Adnick Wrote: Worked on an mdf bench before, all of Rob Cosman''s student benchs are made from mdf, be,ieve it's 3 sheets of 1" thick glued together then heavily coated with possibly BLO to prevent rubbing and scratches  (my memory is not that great).

The each have an end vise and dog holes, Only a few hundred bucks to build including vise hardware.  Did not realize it was mdf until he told me.

It's a fine bench on a budget and works well....would not be my first choice but it is an option.

Contact Rob via his website, sure he would be happy to share the plans with you tell him Andy Nichols told you to contact him about the student workbench.

Or I'd be glee to send you a set of BC bench plans, or share my build info, ended up not using the BC plans, but spent many hours mulling them over while dreaming about building a bench.

Andy

Thanks, Andy.

Budget isn't my main concern causing me to think about using MDF or plywood. My main concern is aesthetic. The design I want to build is something like a big expanse of bench top painted black or dark gray, possibly framed with maple like an inlay strip proportioned to a workbench, so maybe 1 or 1.5 inches, all of which is framed by a couple, three inches of mahogany. I just think it would look super cool.

I don't want to use and then paint real wood, because I don't like painting wood.
If you're gonna be one, be a Big Red One.
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#20
  Re: Some workbench questions by MattP (My current bench is ...)
Matt,

You idea sounds cool and I like the thin sacrificial top, because you get to keep it looking neat.  Just one suggestion.  I made my border out of 4/4 maple and I wish I had made it thicker - at least 8/4.  It not going anywhere, but I always feel like if I hit it too hard, it's going to break off.

Plus, with a border, think through your vises.  I wanted the face of the border to be in line with the legs, so I mounted a steel quick release vise on the front, but installed it before putting on the border.  I wanted to notch the border to slide over the rear jaw of the vise, but since I only used 4/4, it would have only left around 1/4" of material covering the rear jaw - too thin for me to notch it by hand without breaking through.  So I just cut out for the rear jaw and used a separate piece of wood to cover the rear jaw.  If I used 8/4, the notching would have been easy.

Steve
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