View Full Version : workbench top
08-30-2001, 07:11 AM
I have been looking at purchasing a workbench and I discovered that the one that I was looking had a top made of fiberboard. It is made by Sears. I like the size and design of it but I am concerned about the fiberboard top swelling if it gets any water or dampness on it. Is there is anyway to seal this top or can I put some other type of material on top of it to protect it? Any help would be appreciated.
08-30-2001, 08:45 AM
Here's a couple of ideas you might consider. Since you're worried about moisture causing problems with the original top, you could seal it with something like polyurethane. I'm not sure I like this idea that much though.
Another thought would be to cover the top with a piece of 1/4" tempered hardboard. It could be attached with either drywall screws or double sided carpet tape. When the first side gets beat up looking, you can always flip it over for a fresh side and get more bang for your bucks.
Hope this helps,
08-30-2001, 09:02 AM
Thanks for registering and giving us a 'profile'. It always helps to 'know' (?) who we're talking with!
Welcome to the Forum. (This is beginning to sound like Greek to me.) -Barb S.
08-30-2001, 09:07 AM
Gobert- Welcome to Women In Woodworking. Your Sears benchtop sounds like an easy and quick set up. If you are doing finishing projects and light craftswork, it would suffice nicely. Are you doing handmade woodworking, with planes and chisels? My concern would be the leg set-up, and if the bench is shaky or stable as it is used. It kind of depends on what type of woodworking you'll be doing with it. If you do buy it, and seal the top, be sure to seal it on both sides, so its reaction to moisture in your shop is equal on top and bottom (and edges.) -Barb S.
08-30-2001, 09:32 AM
Thanks for the welcome. I wondered in here earlier this morning and read through some of the posts. Looks like a great group of folks here.
Actually, I feel right at home here in a way. I participated in the beginning over on AOL when the old AW Magazine set up their Friday night women woodworker's chat. I later migrated over to the Wood Central site when Jim and Ellis started it. I believed then as I still do that there needs to be a special place for the women to exchange ideas and share their experiences in a comfortable and safe forum. This seems to be such a place.
I look forward to stopping in to learn what I can and try to help when possible.
08-30-2001, 09:39 AM
Barb S. What should I seal it with? I personally like building furniture. Sears had the workbench setup in the store and it seemed very stable.
08-30-2001, 09:46 AM
almost anything, really. I'd paint it; two coats all around. That might be slick for some things, but you could put down a piece of rubber shelf lining to hold things in position while working if you need to. Dave's idea of putting a 1/4" hardboard top on it is a good one; then when it gets messed up or stabbed with knives or dripped on, you can replace the top easily and still have a clean bench to work on. Do you live in an area where wide swings in humidity is a concern? If not, it would probably be fine as is, unless you are using it in a damp basement or where it would be exposed to water. Many possibilities.
08-30-2001, 10:22 AM
I don't know if anyone else here has ever tried this, but I think that my next benchtop will be edge-banded melamine.
Particleboard-core melamine is readily available, cleans very easily, gives a smooth, flat surface for work, is tough, and as long as the edges are covered with something to keep moisture out of the particleboard part, it's very, very resistant to moisture, chemicals and abrasion. During very rough operations and such, go with David's idea and put down a 1/4" of hardboard to protect the melamine top. The product typically can be purchased at home centers and lumberyards for less than $25 a sheet and is melamine coated on both sides; when one side is too badly damaged, flip it over and there's a fresh melamine surface waiting for you.
It can be cleaned with acetone, lacquer thinner, naptha, mineral spirits, Ajax, Clorox bleach or any household or industrial cleaner you can get, for the most part. Glue doesn't adhere to it very well, except for the one-part polyurethane glues, which you need to clean up with lacquer thinner before they cure. Once cured, they scrape off easily with a chisel, putty knife or paint scraper.
In all, it's a great surface for this, and additionally, provides a reflective surface in the shop to help distribute light and brighten things up. It's not quite as inexpensive as MDF, but it offers lots of benefits that MDF can't, also.
The downside with both these products is tensile strength over the span of the product; make sure you have adequate support from beneath the sheet goods, or it may cave in under heavy pressure or stresses.
For what it's worth, that's my input. Good luck, and God bless!
"Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable." - Sydney J. Harris
At work we use melamine for the work bench top but we do not bother to edge band it. Moisture does not seem to bother it any. The current tops have been in use for over two years now, they get beat up and abused a lot with the constant use. Have to support the tops carefully, even near the edges as it is very easy to break the corner off.
Good bye and work safely
08-31-2001, 11:33 AM
I have losts of MDF and fiberboard tables in my shop. (RAS table and extentions tables, a sears workbench, router table, TS outfeed table) The advice i always hear is to generously dab all sides in Watco oil or some similar product. This is to prevent moisture problems, etc.
That said, I've always neglected to do this, so far without problems in a basement shop with dehumidifier. In other places the oil treatment may be more critical. I certainly woudn't take much time to do it.
I'm a big fan of tempered harboard covering sheets on these surfaces. Except for my melmine covered TS outfeed, all my other fiber boards have the hardboard on top.
11-09-2001, 10:10 PM
Try using what is called "Orange Shellac." In the construction trade when laying down a subfloor made out of wood particles like the board you are talking about, we use orange shellac. Exspecially in bathrooms where there will be alot of moisture. It does not let water thru nor will it crack like poly would.
11-15-2001, 01:35 PM
i've never been too terribly impressed with fiberboard, particle board, and similar materials, myself......
and....i've never been very impressed with any of the equipment sears sells.....too little quality for too much money, usually....
the simplest and most cost-effective option, in my opinion, is to find a used industrial workbench at a salvage dealer's store, or from an advert in the local paper.......they will often be found for almost nothing.....sometimes free for the hauling, sometimes as much as $100ish for really nice ones with laminated maple tops and drawers.....
or.....call any local firm who deals in machine tools....often, they buy out machine businesses to get the machinery, and will throw away the benches from a shop, as the benches are of relatively little value to them.....likewise, many schools have closed down their machine and woodworking shops, and a call to the person in charge of disposing of surplus property for the local school district may do some good........if you're lucky, you may be able to get one of the really nice woodworking benches built for school shop use, with drawers and vises and dogs and all.....a "long shot", maybe, but it never hurts to try.....
the usual or common sort of industrial workbench will have either a crummy particleboard top, or a sheet steel top.....simply cut a piece of 3/4" or 1" plywood to go over the existing top, fasten it down with a pattern of screws from underneath, and you'll have a good serviceable basic workbench with a minimum of time and money invested.........use any good varnish or shellac on the plywood.......
11-15-2001, 11:35 PM
I made the mistake of buying a Sears workbench. It was a waste of money. The vises are so flimsy they are simply useless. The top is not level. The bench is too light for planing.
I have two small Sjoberg benches from Woodcrafters. They have nice vises although they, too, are too light for planing.
This summer I am going to take a one-week course in building a top-notch workbench.
There are lots and lots of plans available for building a sturdy bench. I have seen them in every woodworking magazine I take and in a number of books. Building your own would be a far better way to go. If you don't want to glue up a maple top, consider ordering a top (Amazon.com (http://Amazon.com) has some good deals as do some of the other suppliers).
I also like the idea of checking out used ones. Whatever you do, be sure the vise is really top notch -- a good one runs about $100 new. I like to have both a face and a tail vise.