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Work bench question

Old 12-03-22, 12:04 AM
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MarcusT
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Work bench question

I am restoring an old table to be used as a work bench. It's fairly long, so there is enough space for for customizing. I am going to cover the top in rubber matting, but a friend suggested that part of the table top (where the vise will be mounted) should have steel laminate for heavier jobs.
Has anyone done this or have input on this plan?
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Old 12-03-22, 12:23 AM
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I too am a fan of steel topped work benches. It's more durable, and easier to keep clean.
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Old 12-03-22, 12:29 AM
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Metal laminate? You can make a laminate with metal but it's kind of unusual. Usually "metal laminate" is formica that is surfaced to look like metal. You can buy benches made of 12 gauge stainless (solid sheet, not laminate). Durable. Bad for welding if you plan on welding. Surface can be a liittle bouncy. You could build a bench using solid maple (or more likely 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 strips glued together and planed and sanded. Very stiff. You could put the stainless sheet on top of the maple to give a very strong table with a rigid surface that wears well. If you are welding stuff the best table top is an old drill press or mill table of cast iron (or a new Acorn surface). This is because weld spatter sticks to stainless and carbon steel pretty bad.

Frankly, I'd go with a rock maple top for bike stuff. It will likely be very durable for most uses. Most bike stuff won't wear out a table like that for years. If you do stuff that starts wearing holes, add the plate.
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Old 12-03-22, 07:19 AM
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I think the table will be fine for bike work.

I don't see many tables that are heavy and stable enough to support a big tough cheater-bar pulling and grunting job. Unless your table is that heavy, I wouldn't go for a metal top.
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Old 12-03-22, 07:59 AM
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Best work tables are from industrial auctions for pennies on the dollar.

​​​​​​https://www.bidspotter.com/en-us/auc...-id-bscas10020
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Old 12-03-22, 08:05 AM
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I prefer wood and a topping if occasionally necessary.
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Old 12-03-22, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by MarcusT View Post
I am going to cover the top in rubber matting
Rubber? Why??

A section of metal is fine (though for bikes, unnecessary). I’m building my bench now, and plan to put my vise on a corner so I can rotate it 90 degrees. Every shop I worked in had wood (or Masonite) bench tops. Paint them white so you can see small parts. I also edge my benches with aluminum angle “iron.”

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Old 12-03-22, 09:32 AM
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I like a wood top with a masonite surface that I can replace as needed due to wear or fluid soaking
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Old 12-03-22, 09:45 AM
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I used to work as an engineer in a small shipyard. When I bought my house, I bought a vise and had the drafter who coded the plasma cutters model me a square the depth of the table and provide holes for the vise out of 1/2" steel. I loved it! Weighed about 100 pounds and that vise was rock steady. (House came with a work bench but it was old and tired; 60 yo house at purchase.)

Edit: a plus for wood surfaces - you can put sharp tools on it without thinking about it. Also cut items directly on the wood surface. (My current workbench doesn't have the steel plate but I made if from 3/4" ply on 4x4 legs; 2x4s on edge bolted to the legs as stiffeners. A 1/2" finish plywood for a top. After 20 years, I went out and bought a new top.) Vise and table can handle decent size pry bars. Bending metal with a 5 pound short handled sledge.

Last edited by 79pmooney; 12-03-22 at 09:53 AM.
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Old 12-03-22, 09:53 AM
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I would not suggest a rubber topped bench. Now having a sheet of a "rubber" that can be moved about as needed... I have one of the self healing cutting boards with layout lines on it on one of my bench tops. One bench is metal but it's the one that has the cutting matt on it. For my uses a metal top is a bit harsh, I like a wood top and all the other benches are plywood topped.

Tools | Flickr is an album of some of my tools with various work benches from over the years. Note that I have some using plumbing pipe as the base. These are very modular and easily broken down for moving.

I have mounted many vises on benches, never bothering to use any layer of anything under the vise. I find keeping the vise hold down bolts tight is enough to net have any bench top wear od any concern. Andy
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Old 12-03-22, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
I would not suggest a rubber topped bench.
And I would not suggest an elaborately-patterned Persian rug as workshop flooring!
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Old 12-03-22, 10:09 AM
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I don't think your friend meant "steel laminate" as a surface material but to use a piece of steel under the vise instead of the rubber mat. I recommend getting a piece of 1/8" or thicker steel plate cut somewhat larger than the vise's footprint and drilled to match the vise's mounting holes. Then place the plate and vise on your table and drill completely through the table top using the holes as guides. Mount the vise with the largest diameter bolts that will fit, adding large thick washer under the table top, and the correct nuts. Be sure to cut away the rubber matting under this plate.
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Old 12-03-22, 10:11 AM
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Originally Posted by smd4 View Post
And I would not suggest an elaborately-patterned Persian rug as workshop flooring!
The rug is a fake. That version of my shop was two houses ago and had wall to wall carpeting over the concrete slab. The Persian rug was to better protect the wall to wall stuff. Andy
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Old 12-03-22, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
I don't think your friend meant "steel laminate" as a surface material but to use a piece of steel under the vise instead of the rubber mat. I recommend getting a piece of 1/8" or thicker steel plate cut somewhat larger than the vise's footprint and drilled to match the vise's mounting holes. Then place the plate and vise on your table and drill completely through the table top using the holes as guides. Mount the vise with the largest diameter bolts that will fit, adding large thick washer under the table top, and the correct nuts. Be sure to cut away the rubber matting under this plate.
With bike repair, this is probably overkill.
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Old 12-03-22, 11:02 AM
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My work bench is part of the bay in my basement, I had an old 3x4 butcher block table I used as the base, I added 2x4 on the side walls to support pieces of 3/4 finish grade plywood. Then I added the pegboard system (I inherited about 100 peg board hangers), added more, and had a good tool storage system. I installed the bench vise at one end. I much prefer working on a wood bench top.

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Old 12-03-22, 11:34 AM
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Originally Posted by smd4 View Post
With bike repair, this is probably overkill.
Yes, it probably is if you are sure bike repair is all you will do. My vise is used for bike repair but also automobile repair, plumbing work, etc. Jobs that stress the vise more than any bike job is likely to.
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Old 12-03-22, 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
Yes, it probably is if you are sure bike repair is all you will do. My vise is used for bike repair but also automobile repair, plumbing work, etc. Jobs that stress the vise more than any bike job is likely to.
I’d probably destroy my vise before working on something that would require it to be mounted to a steel plate.
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Old 12-03-22, 01:20 PM
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I am a fan of hard wood working surfaces but I always keep a large commercial baking sheet on top to have a metal area for greasy tasks and also use sheet rubber to protect the wood and delicate times/tools. The baking sheets are also found at auctions. I have used large floor automobile drip pans in the past buy they aren't as nice as the baking sheets.
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Old 12-03-22, 01:27 PM
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No rubber but metal to mount the vise is nice, we have done that at the shop for all of our vices and it is a good set up. We built our tables though so they are strong enough but if not, not a huge deal.

I would get some of the Wheels MFG or Park or other work mats for usage but the main top would either be finished food or metal or so sort of durable counter top material. Save the rubber for the floor.
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Old 12-03-22, 04:32 PM
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Originally Posted by veganbikes View Post
the main top would either be finished food or metal
So I’m thinking you could lay down a layer of peanut brittle for a harder surface. However it might be little lumpy. Certainly more durable than a layer of ribeyes, though.
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Old 12-03-22, 05:02 PM
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my choice is Wood under a Steel top with Cardboard on top of the steel to prevent scratches in expensive things owned by others. I've also used a welcome mat as extra cushion from time to time... Second choice is a Hardwood bench with cardboard as n easily swapped out grunge/drool catcher. Having an area of steel under the Vice is a bonus and is also fire proof for those tasks requiring welding , pounding, or Heat from a torch. A pure steel top with no underlayment is NOISY. and will scratch/scuff the crap out of expensive paint jobs.
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Old 12-03-22, 05:05 PM
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Originally Posted by smd4 View Post
So I’m thinking you could lay down a layer of peanut brittle for a harder surface. However it might be little lumpy. Certainly more durable than a layer of ribeyes, though.
My sister baked up some "green Mint" cookies once that defied destruction... the dogs even walked away, hungry and defeated.
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Old 12-03-22, 05:40 PM
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Originally Posted by smd4 View Post
So I’m thinking you could lay down a layer of peanut brittle for a harder surface. However it might be little lumpy. Certainly more durable than a layer of ribeyes, though.
LOL, my bad, I guess I shouldn't go on bike forums when I am hungry!! It was meant to be wood for those just joining us.

I made a delicious cashew brittle earlier this year though so tasty. I should make it again.
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Old 12-03-22, 07:49 PM
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A good, durable bench top protector, no matter what the underlying surface material, is a cutting mat used by quilters and dressmakers. Olfa is one brand name and they are available in a variety of sizes from any quilt shop, Joann Fabrics stores, etc. These things are very cut resistant, tolerate grease and oil and are easy to clean. I have a 24"x 36"" one on my workbench that I inherited from my wife when she got a new one. They aren't cheap as a new one like mine is about $55 but they really last. Smaller ones like the 18"x24" are about half the cost.
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Old 12-03-22, 11:38 PM
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Thanks for the input. The job is done. Some good ideas but money and time constraints nixed those ( I recycled as much as I could). The bench is not just for bike repairs, it is also my carpentry bench, my electrical bench, painting bench, etc. As the table is quite old, I wanted to protect the table top, and as the rubber matting is thin enough to be cut, I added the steel for heavier/cutting jobs. They are both easily replaceable. I am satisfied with the job. Now, need to work on the electrical
Cheers
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