You can make a workbench top from almost any type of wood. However, you need to aware of certain factors that can dictate the type of wood that would best-suit your workbench top. The primary consideration for choosing workbench top material is the purpose of the workbench.
Therefore, a workbench can be a makeshift arrangement of lumber hastily put together. Or you can have a sophisticated hobbyist workbench that looks professional and which will attract potential customers.
Before we go into the best types of wood for a workbench top, let’s have a look at the different types of workbenches. Depending on the function of your workbench, you would have to select the appropriate wood to make it.
Types Of Workbenches
Whether professional or amateur, many woodworkers start their first project as the bench upon which they plan to work. A vanity bench is a multipurpose bench. Although you will be likely to use it roughly, you would want it to be made of the best possible wood. This type of workbench would be preferably made of a variety of hardwoods. It would have drawers, raised panel doors, and strategically-placed shelves.
This type of bench serves well for a weekend woodworker or professional carpenter who is more bothered about functionality than looks. A carpenter’s bench has a base of solid wood, but would ideally have an MDF top. Using MDF ensures quick replacement when the top becomes too nicked and scratched. You can also add a coating of wax, to keep it from staining too much.
Here, we have a more specialized type of bench. The crafter’s bench usually comes with a plywood top of about ¾“ but could be thicker, depending on the requirement. If you work on heat-related crafts, the top could be covered with a metal sheet. If you deal with fragile materials, you can add a carpet or rubber sheet to the top. Or, you can partially cover it.
A garage bench is another general-purpose workbench. Typically situated in a garage or basement, it will be used occasionally for various types of jobs. Garage benches tend to take a lot of beating, so they need to be rugged. These benches usually have 2-by-6-inch lumber planks arranged across the top of the workbench.
Best Types of Wood for a Workbench Top
You can use hickory for your workbench top if you will be using it as a vanity bench which is also going to be subjected to a lot of wear and tear. Although on the expensive side, hickory is durable and has a reddish and cream shades. Hence, you get a workbench top that is both good-looking as well as tough.
Pinewood can be found all over the United States and Canada and in several other countries across the world. You can use this wood freely, as it is not an endangered species. Since this wood is so readily available, it is cheap as well. This wood is easy to work on and takes nails and screws quickly, making it an excellent choice for a workbench top.
If you are looking for a workbench top similar to hickory but at a more reasonable price, a hard maple is a good option. This wood has a smooth, light grain that gives the surface a pleasing effect, but the wood is one of the hardest varieties of timber in the United States. Hence, you get a durable workbench top that is pleasant to look at but at a reasonable cost. Workbench tops made of hard maple will last you for a long time.
Douglas fir, which is available on the west coast and eastern Asia, serves as another cost-effective option for a workbench top. It has a fair degree of resistance to rot but is one of the softest varieties of wood. For this reason, Douglas fir serves well for crafter benchtops for working with fragile and delicate items.
Teak grows in Asia and on the Pacific coast as well. Although it can be costly, there are various grades of this wood. Therefore, if you are looking for a sturdy workbench top, you can select some of the cheaper categories of this wood for your purposes. Teak has a rich, dark brown to golden brown color and has a high degree of durability. It has a high resistance to insects and rot due to the natural oil that it produces. Teak cuts well and takes nails and screws quickly.
Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF)
Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) comes under the category of “engineered wood”. It is similar to another type of engineered wood, particleboard, but is superior in quality. MDF is manufactured by the process of fusing glue, sawdust, and wood fibers. Since MDF is composed of wood fibers, it does not have a grain. Therefore, it has a smooth, homogenous finish which makes it suitable for various types of workbench tops.
Plywood comes in various thicknesses and qualities. We create this wood by combining multiple layers of wood veneer, gluing them together with an adhesive. The direction of the wood grain is perpendicular to each successive veneer layer. This makes plywood extremely strong, and it is almost immune to cracking. We get plywood in very wide sheets. Hence, another advantage is that you need not get any joints in a workbench top made of plywood. Therefore, plywood offers a popular choice for a cost-effective and durable workbench top.
Building a workbench involves careful selection of the wood to use for the workbench top. There is no universal type of timber for a workbench top. It all depends on the kind of work that you are going to do on your workbench.
We discussed a few different types of workbenches that you are likely to encounter. Then, we highlighted some of the best types of wood for a workbench top that you can get. Now, with this information in hand, you need to carefully consider what you are going to do with your workbench. Once you decide on the purpose of a workbench, you can select a suitable type of wood for the workbench top.
Featured Image by Mark Hunter