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How to cover a wooden bench top with a steel sheet

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Steven Vine22/08/2017 23:05:11
340 forum posts
30 photos

I have nearly completed the workbenches for my new workshop and I want to cover the tops with steel sheets.

I always end up with deep scratches and chemical and oil stains on wooden tops, so I want to cover these new benches in steel. I know I can simply replace crapped out wooden tops, but that never happens. Besides, it would be a pain to replace these tops in the future.

The new bench frames are constructed from 94mmx44mm 4"x2" PSE Redwood. The frames are substantial, and fully support the bench tops with little or no chance of much sagging anywhere.
The bench tops are 18mm chipboard.
The bench tops are 500mm wide, and there is a total length of around 10.5m to cover.

I do not have to bend the steel sheets to cover the front edge of the worktops. I will be putting some wooden sacrificial edging on the front edges of the worktops.

I cannot decide on the thickness of steel to use?
I am unsure of how to adequately secure the steel sheets to the chipboard tops?

I don't have much in the way of steel sheet to test things out.
I have some small 1mm sheets, and these appear to be a bit on the thin size, and seem to lift and rattle easily.
I have a larger sheet of 2.5mm, and this seems ideal at the moment. It seems heavy enough to remain flat and does not appear to want to rattle too much.
I have a feeling that 2mm or 1.5mm maybe adequate, but am not too sure.
I would like to keep the weight and the cost down if I can, and so get the thinnest size I can get away with. I am trying to keep the weight down as much as I can, because the benches are sitting on a wooden floor. Perhaps I should forget cost and weight and just go large and be done with it?

I am thinking of using some type of glue to stick the sheets to the wooden tops, and then using countersunk screws to hold things down. I am worrying that if I end up using thin sheets then I may have problems screwing the sheets down, due to the thinness of the metal ( I don't want the screw heads standing proud of the surface). I have also thought of tack welding some short lengths of studding to the underside of the metal sheets, and securing the sheets to the wooden top via the studding, using nuts and washers on the underside. Again, I am unsure of how to proceed for the best, and really could do with some advice and suggestions here.

If any of you have had experience of securing steel sheets to wooden bench tops then I'd be very much grateful for your input on this.



Edited By Steven Vine on 22/08/2017 23:06:18

MadMike23/08/2017 00:02:54
196 forum posts

I would certainly use countersunk screws and glue. Increase the diameter of the CSH to allow the heads to be flush or if they protrude carefully grind the tops flush. I would be more concerned with the use of 15mm chipboard for the tops frankly. I don't know what type of work you do, but I would not consider a top thinner that 1 inch. Indeed on my bench tops I have 2 inch thick timber tops. I just cover mine with heavy duty vinyl floor covering. Easy to keep clean and mostly non-staining. If it wears then it is very simple to recover. HTH.

Ady123/08/2017 00:47:52
3463 forum posts
513 photos

Snips might cut your chosen sheet but I would consider a hand held angle grinder for a big job, I use one for 3 to 4mm plate with those 1mm wheels and they cut through it like butter

Edited By Ady1 on 23/08/2017 00:53:21

XD 35123/08/2017 01:46:44
1352 forum posts
112 photos

I'm thinking of doing something similar to my bench ( steel frame , form ply top ) as i found the form ply film surface damages easily although it handles chemicals fairly well and is easy to clean .

I'm thinking of using 2mm steel ( maybe galvanized ) but was also entertaining the thought of using a sacrificial ply cover of 3 - 5 mm thick that is cheap and easy to replace. If i use steel i will use the vise and bench mounted roller/ guillotine unit mounting bolts to hold it in place but if needed a few discrete screws on the corners will stop it moving I'm not using glue as i want it removable if needed ,The thin ply cover would be held down by a few small screws on each corner .

I'm still undecided which way i will go as i like the noise dampening ability of wood but also like the durability of steel but i will cross that bridge in a few weeks after i finish my new drill press / bench grinder / material storage bench .

The 18 mm particle board will be ok provided it is well supported by the bench frame , it also depends on what sort of weight it needs to bare and if it is going to have a lot of weight in a concentrated area i would switch to 1" + ply or solid timber .

You are definately going to need to use a grinder with a cutting wheel to cut anything more than 1mm thick ! Unless you are the Hulk that is !

If you must use glue then the stuff they stick linoleum flooring down ( contact cement ) would do just make sure the steel is clean so there is no oily residue on it .

Roderick Jenkins23/08/2017 07:08:59
1780 forum posts
459 photos
Posted by XD 351 on 23/08/2017 01:46:44:

...If you must use glue then the stuff they stick linoleum flooring down...

Actually, in my experience, genuine linoleum makes an excellent bench surface: whether it is cost effective these days is a different matter since it has become a premium product with an environmental cachet.


Hopper23/08/2017 07:47:30
3735 forum posts
76 photos

Best benchtops I have found are made from kitchen benchtop material. 40 or 50mm thick very dense MDF or similar high density chipboard covered with that heat stick laminex type stuff, not sure what they call it these days. The tops are solid and strong and that covering stuff is durable as. Made mine out of some old kitchen benchtops scrounged at a yardsale.

For your bench, going with steel, you might want to add a layer of plywood, 12 to 20mm thick etc for strength then I would use something like 2mm steeel with glue and a few CS screws ground down flush after the fact.

Lambton23/08/2017 08:09:19
685 forum posts
2 photos

+1 for genuine linoleum -if you can find an off-cut.

Modern vinyl floor covering about 3mm thick makes an excellent substitute.

I find these materials to be superior to steel or aluminium as for covering wooden benches.

+1 also for modern kitchen work top materials - off cuts of which are always available from kitchen fitters.


Hillclimber23/08/2017 08:48:29
153 forum posts
34 photos

I use 3mm rubber sheet from ebay. Roll it out, secure with double-sided tape, trim with Stanley knife.

Nice and quiet, and workpieces dont suffer damage from the surface itself.

Ady123/08/2017 09:21:58
3463 forum posts
513 photos

I got a couple of bits of linoleum from B+M a few years ago, for puppy emergencies

They had big rolls of it in one corner of the warehouse and you unrolled it and cut it off

pgk pgk23/08/2017 09:29:11
1464 forum posts
285 photos

It comes down to what abuse you plan for the worktop.. welding or high heat soldering and wood/rubber no good. For chemical spills steel may not be the best choice. Cost factors in too. I found the price even for cheapo B&Q worktop was to be avoided on my DIY job which i built out of two layers of 25mm MDF. the bottom layer made up of several offcuts and the top layer from leftover good sheets then painted.

It's good enough or what i do and dings etc can get fixed with filler and repainted ocassionally and the top sheets can be changed if just screwed rather than glued.

I have an ex dining room table with a sheet of MDF loose laid on top as an 'assembly' table. The size of sheet on a smooth table means it doesn't slide around just laid there.. I can screw temporary supports to it etc and draw lines on it..once it gets too messy then fill the holes, sand lightly and a new coat of emulsion.

If deciding on steel then 2mm sheet 500mm by 2metres sections is going to weigh enough that again it probably doesnt need screwing down at all - it's going to weigh towards 20kg and you can always make the edging 1mm proud of the underlying surface to retain it.

You could also consider large smooth floor tiles and skim epoxy grout level.. needen't cost that much if making it up from end of line assorted colours and would add serious mass to the bench - always a good thing.

Douglas Johnston23/08/2017 09:32:27
627 forum posts
32 photos

Aluminium sheet is another possibility. I have a large sheet of 3mm aluminium on top of a stout wooden bench with my mill mounted on top. The aluminium came with a hard wearing white coating and is still in perfect condition after about 15 years of use. The main problem however is cost since all sheet metal is very expensive unless you can find a good second hand lot.


Steve Pavey23/08/2017 09:36:44
280 forum posts
32 photos

I favour hardboard - it already has some sort of oil impregnated into it, but in any case it seems to be pretty well unaffected by oil that gets spilt on it. Extremely cheap, and very easy to replace, so it really doesn't matter if it suffers a bit in use. I use it because I have seen it surviving in use (and abuse) covering school bench tops. A few panel pins will fix it to a wooden bench top, though I have to agree with others that something more substantial than 18mm chipboard is needed. For cheapness, secondhand kitchen worktop or s/h fire doors work well.

Hillclimber23/08/2017 09:50:55
153 forum posts
34 photos

Yup, I used 18mm exterior ply - but cut in half by B&Q, and then glued and screwed on top of each other. So 36mm really. WIth that rubber sheet taped to the top....

Equally, I have the luxury of an additional folding, tilting, height adjusting welding table for hot work. How can these be made and delivered for £65?

JasonB23/08/2017 10:05:09
16411 forum posts
1736 photos
1 articles

My main bench area is from recycled 54mm fire doors, the areas where I work the most I have a a couple of bits of 18mm MR MDF on and just change that every few years.

Unless you are doing a lot of heavy engineering metal over all the benches seems overkill, maybe the area around the vice and where you may be welding or grinding would be enough. Metal is also a bit cold on the arms if sitting doing fine work.

ChrisB23/08/2017 10:26:10
413 forum posts
168 photos

The benches I'm building are steel framed with a 19mm marine plywood top, the area I'll be using most, ie 2ft around the bench vice will cover with a 6mm steel plate. Good for welding and hammering. The top will coat it with yacht varnish, should give it some level of resistance to oil and other spills.

Martin Kyte23/08/2017 10:51:16
1498 forum posts
24 photos

Trespa **LINK** works well for oil and chemical resistance. You can cut it with a circular saw and rout the edges. No good for welding benches but far superior to wood for general use.

regards Martin

Edited By Martin Kyte on 23/08/2017 10:51:35

Mike23/08/2017 11:21:30
713 forum posts
6 photos

Before I moved to Scotland my bench top was covered by 0.7mm galvanised sheet, stuck down with impact adhesive if memory is correct. In the era a local metal supplier had an enormous guillotine, and could supply sheets cut exactly to size, so I didn't have any snipping to do. I don't think the steel has to be very thick, providing the underlying boards are really rigid.

Bikepete23/08/2017 11:46:42
225 forum posts
16 photos

Unless heat is involved, +1 for kitchen worktop, there are always bits coming up cheap on ebay and gumtree.

Vic23/08/2017 12:53:24
2290 forum posts
11 photos

I've always liked the industrial Lino topped work benches I ordered for work. When it came to setting up my home workshop I made my own benches and lined the plywood tops with Lino and they've proved to be very durable.

Roger Baker 223/08/2017 13:08:05
15 forum posts

Thin steel sheet will "stretch" wherever you hit it with a hammer, imperceptible at first, but it will be cumulative. Whatever you use , make it replaceable.


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