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What to use for New Worktop?

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James Alford20/03/2020 07:06:43
377 forum posts
73 photos

I am currently fitting out a new garage workshop and wonder what other people use for the workbench top.

Previously, I have used kitchen worktop, but I wonder whether there is anything which is preferable, affordable and readily available.

I shall be using the bench for general car repair work, woodwork, light model engineering and the 1001 odd jobs that can never really be categorised. It needs to be oil, solvent and water resistant.




Edited By James Alford on 20/03/2020 07:07:24

Speedy Builder520/03/2020 07:30:11
2009 forum posts
141 photos

I would go for a wooden worktop if you love carpentry and my choice would be solid beech, ash or oak. You need something solid so that it doesn't 'bounce' around when you are chiseling etc. Then have a 3mm aluminium alloy plate that you lay on top for everything else. I just have an oak worktop which gets heavily abused with oil, acid and stuff. When I have a major carpentry job on, I just run the orbital sander over into clean it up. The worktop is 2" thick, so like a butcher's block, it will last my days out. A cheaper alternative is to buy an 8 x 4 sheet of 3/4"ply, cut down the centre and glue both sheets together to make a nice thick work top.

Other cheaper ideas are builders planks, planed on one side only.

Matt C20/03/2020 07:32:16
24 forum posts

James, this has been discussed previously.

Type bench covering into the keyword box at the top of the page.

This will bring up some previous threads on the subject which may give you some ideas.



David George 120/03/2020 07:35:27
1226 forum posts
415 photos

When at work we used solid planks about 2 inch thick and about 8 inch wide and they had a piece of oil tempered hardboard on top which was replaced every year as run down to Christmas and the clean up. But in a home workshop, not working on up to 5 tonn tooling, kitchen worktop is adequate for me but if any heat is involved it is soon damaged by hot metal or a blow torch going awol. If you are going to have a large vice to hold parts it is better fitting it to a wooden top or a section reinforced to take the pulling and hammering a vice may get. You only build a bench once look at the storage underneath as well and what you need to store and still find what is there in a few years. Try and look at pictures of benches that others gave made or bought.


Former Member20/03/2020 07:51:47

[This posting has been removed]

Douglas Johnston20/03/2020 09:33:19
689 forum posts
34 photos

Thick kitchen worktop is hard to beat, you can sometimes get slightly damaged ones at a good price from local diy outlets ( I am often amazed at how many they seem to damage during transit or inside the store ). Good sturdy wooden framework under the top, don't use the flimsy kitchen units. If mounting a small lathe, a concrete or granite slab on top of the worktop gives a very good rigid base on which to mount the machine.


martin perman20/03/2020 09:58:08
1828 forum posts
78 photos

I used a worktop I was given by a neigbour, I covered that with a sheet of steel to protect from severe damage.

Martin P

Vic20/03/2020 10:01:27
2500 forum posts
14 photos

Where I used to work I bought Lino topped work benches for my print department and they proved to be very good. When it came to setting up my latest workshop I decided on two pieces of 18mm ply glued and screwed together and then topped with some nice grey Lino. Given the choice I wouldn’t hesitate to do this again. If I had the space for it I would like a steel topped bench as well - say 1/4” plate but I don’t have the space.

SillyOldDuffer20/03/2020 10:21:39
5789 forum posts
1232 photos

Hard to beat Kitchen Worktop for affordable suitability. It's about the right depth, fairly hard-wearing, and is oil, solvent and water resistant. Might even be free from a skip! Available in several colours - I go for plain white because it makes the stuff I do easier to see. Others might prefer dark.

What may matter more is what's underneath. Thought it takes plenty of weight when properly supported kitchen worktop won't bridge wide gaps without bending.

Mine has a slight lip at the front which is both annoying and useful. The lip stops small parts rolling off, but I can't lay big stuff flat on it.

Some people like a sheet metal top, and Bill's hardboard suggestion is good for temporary work. David George mentions an oiled hardboard top that's changed every year. Yes!

Always worth asking what the worktop is for. Beyond the obvious that a proper woodworking bench is unsuitable for clockmaking, and vice-versa, what's your goal? My workshop is entirely utilitarian. It's a mess, full of inexpensive tools that get used. Though I clear the decks for safety reasons and when space is needed, and tools are kept where they should be, I don't care what my workshop looks like. To me tools are disposable; provided they do what I want, that's good enough. Others enjoy tidy, clean, workshops and expensive heirloom tools. Some worry about who makes the best spanners in the world and keep them in glittering professional-grade tool cabinets. In an extreme case, the hobby consists of pottering in a wonderful workshop without actually using it.

Nothing wrong with people indulging themselves however they please - it's a hobby. My point is, choosing a worktop might be more to do with individual opinion rather than raw practicality. The second-hand kitchen worktop that suits me could be utterly hateful to my best mate. I might think he's daft spending good money on solid beech, but it's none of my business. We're dancing to different tunes.

What's the reason for asking? If your kitchen worktop failed for practical reasons, it should be possible to suggest alternatives. Other suggestions if the reason for wanting to upgrade is cosmetic. Either way it's likely the alternatives will more expensive than kitchen worktop...


Bazyle20/03/2020 11:39:23
5226 forum posts
201 photos

If mounting a lathe, mill or car engine make sure there is real wood under a kitchen worktop as the chipboard can give way suddenly. No point in using expensive hardwood if it is going to be covered. I have the hardboard cover mentioned by others over skip find planks and ex Victorian rafters from a neighbour's loft conversion. Keep the top under 3 in thick or you will need bigger G-clamps.

Not quite on topic but I've recently seen adverts for woodworkers benches with hardwood tops and two vices. You probably have seen them too. They are utter rubbish. I bought a lathe last year from a small company and it was on one of these benches. They had obviously broken the vice part and relegated it to the little used metal lathe. The top is only 1 in thick laminated blocks and the vice support rods run directly in the timber edging. It kind of looks fancy though so it is getting an additional 2in of seasoned scraps under the top and proper leg framing. It will still be light enough to move around so not a serious bench.

ega20/03/2020 11:44:19
1714 forum posts
150 photos

Has anyone mentioned MDF?

A friend gave me a couple of sheets of 18mm material which in double thickness and finished with PU varnish have made made quite a decent bench for woodworking. Ideally, you would use the moisture resistant or other superior grade of MDF.

Derek Lane20/03/2020 12:08:18
325 forum posts
73 photos

When I made my bench for my workshop I added a sacrificial hardboard top which is cheap enough to replace should the need be. This means that I could make the bench from pine if I so wished with an oak border which is also hard wearing as well as hold the hardboard in place.

norman valentine20/03/2020 12:31:08
232 forum posts
35 photos

In my recently built workshop I used 8x2 pine topped with 6mm mdf. With sufficient support it is more than enough and changing the mdf when it is damaged is not that expensive.

Former Member20/03/2020 12:31:37

[This posting has been removed]

Brian H20/03/2020 12:53:00
1642 forum posts
108 photos

My worktops came from a reclamation yard. They were used as shuttering for casting bridges etc on local road building projects and appear to be an exterior ply with a coating to prevent the cement from sticking. Mine have the trademark "PERI".

Perhaps we have a member who works in the construction industry who could elaborate.


jimmy b20/03/2020 12:54:21
638 forum posts
38 photos

I use plywood and top that with cutting mats


HOWARDT20/03/2020 13:53:57
558 forum posts
15 photos

My main worktop in the shed is three six foot lengths of 6x4 I think beech on three supports. I think the whole thing is probably around seventy years old. My father, who built it originally, worked in a pattern making firm all his life, except for six years in the RAF during the war. He used to say that the factory floor was covered in teak planks as that was used as ballast on returning ships after the war. Hopefully the bench will get handed on when I am ready.

Howard Lewis20/03/2020 14:25:23
3276 forum posts
2 photos

Normal worktop should be fine, from the strength point of view, as long as it is properly supported. But for metal work, I would suggest a sheet of Aluminium or steel, of about 18 gauge, to minimise damage to the worktop, and debris getting into the workpiece.

If you want to cushion a workpiece, you can always lay it on a piece of hardboard or ply.


Ian Johnson 120/03/2020 15:27:41
265 forum posts
81 photos
Posted by Brian H on 20/03/2020 12:53:00:

My worktops came from a reclamation yard. They were used as shuttering for casting bridges etc on local road building projects and appear to be an exterior ply with a coating to prevent the cement from sticking. Mine have the trademark "PERI".

Perhaps we have a member who works in the construction industry who could elaborate.


PERI are a German construction company specialising in Formwork and scaffolding. The photo shows their formwork system on the Mersey Gateway central pier under construction four years ago.

2016-04-20 20apr16 central pier.jpg

And I would think ithe shuttering would make a very good worktop too!


lfoggy20/03/2020 15:59:13
146 forum posts
1 photos

Some very good suggestions.

I am about to install a 2.4m wide workbench and have purchased a new 40mm thick solid beech kitchen worktop as the top surface. £165 for a 3m length. Solid oak is not that much more.

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