As I was considering my bench dog question (linked here) I had a thought and I'm wondering if it is realistic. The problem that I am most concerned about with bench dogs in a workbench made of MDF is the inevitable ripping out of the bench dog holes in the MDF. So, the thought process goes, if I were to eliminate MDF as the top of the table, I could have holes that won't tear out while still being able to enjoy a thick but inexpensive workbench.

MDF is generally cheap where I am located, but hardwoods are somewhat expensive if buying from the big box stores. Could I conceivably make a 1" thick oak or maple panel, then sandwich in between several sheets of MDF, then perhaps cap the top with an additional 1" maple panel? My assumption would be that the layers would be glued together, but I'm curious whether this idea would be even remotely stable for a workbench I'd expect to last a long time.

3 Answers 3


Exterior doors for homes are made out of MDF with a lot less than a one inch hard wood veneer. It is reasonable to expect your table design would hold up to normal work bench usage.

A better choice might be to rescue some used hardwood flooring. Not the engineered type that is sold new today, but the kind from the 1950's and earlier that really was solid hard wood. You should be able to find it advertised locally or at used house parts store.

  • Should be easy to tell the difference but my house was built in the 50's and my wood is soft.
    – Matt
    Mar 25, 2015 at 14:49
  • I'm saving reclaimed 2x4's to turn them into a workbench
    – Matt
    Mar 25, 2015 at 15:03

Such a bench would work well. Mine is three sheets of laminated MDF edged with a band of red oak.

There is a philosophy out there (although not common) that a workbench is just a tool and its appearance or resilience is not relevant. It is there to enable your woodworking and if it looks ugly or gets chewed up, then you can build another and on top of that, it is an indication that you use it a lot.

Having said that, I do tend to avoid messing mine up too much. It is showing some age but I try to avoid overtly sawing into it or hitting it with a chisel.

  • Yeah, my workbench top is stained to heck and back; I don't worry about its aesthetics but I do definitely worry about its utility. I wouldn't want to do something that caused it to wear out faster than I was anticipating. Thanks for the answer! Mar 27, 2015 at 20:14

I would guess that if you put a hard wood top on the bench it would be enough, that would be the place that would take the most abuse and you would then minimize it. If you are worried about the bottom, then attach a 6" board along the bottom aligned with the holes, this would minimize your hardwood needs. If you REALLY want to minimize them, just have a 6" wide board on the top too, and level it off with MDF, but I think having a hardwood top is great soo...

  • Only layering real wood onto MDF on one side is risky, since MDF is inert but the wood isn't. You should have it sandwiched between two layers of the same wood (with grain in the same direction), so any forces that come from shrinkage won't warp the plate. Warping probably won't be a lot of fun for a material like MDF (being scrap glued together, it suports high pressure, but not nearly as much tensile strain or bending).
    – Damon
    Mar 27, 2015 at 19:28

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