The trusty workbench is one item at the top of the list for every woodworker. I also had these same questions so I decided to put together this useful article to help make your workbench go together easier. With that being said, what is the best wood for a workbench?
Hard Maple is the best wood for a workbench due to its high density, weight, and straight-grain structure. Important factors such as availability, personal preference, cost, and the tools you have available, may influence which wood you choose.
Determining the best wood to make a workbench will depend on several factors. You will need to know your budget and what machines or tools you intend to use on the bench. Several ideal kinds of wood for the body of the table and the tabletop include pine, maple, and even plywood.
I will go over the best types of wood for building your own workbench, along with the strengths and defining features of each. You want to know everything necessary before going wood shopping so that you get the best value for your money.
You can purchase them easily online or at your local home repair store. I have also answered some of the most frequently asked questions that people tend to ask when they start constructing their first workbench. Once you are done reading this page, you will be ready to buy the wood for your customized workbench.
Top 10 Best Woods For Workbench
Some of the best wood to make a workbench include the ten options listed below. I have compiled some great woods with features that make them perfect for crafting the perfect bench. Most benches are also going to have several inches of top layer material to keep the bench sturdy, flat, and capable of holding up during heavy use.
I am listing both hardwoods and softwoods, but you do not need to go for the more expensive hardwood option to get a quality product. These are not in any particular order.
To learn more about the Janka rating that we used to determine the hardness of each wood, you can read a full breakdown using the convenient scale table created by Advantage Lumber.
|Wood type||Hardness (pounds per foot)||Cost (per board foot)|
|White Ash||1320||$2.50 – $7.00|
|MDF||Varies||$1.00 – $5.00|
|Yellow Birch||1260||$3.00 – $6.00|
|White Oak||1350||$4.10 – $9.25|
|Hard Maple||1450||$3.00 – $8.00|
|Douglas Fir||620||$3.00 – $7.50|
|White Poplar||410||$3.00 – $4.00|
|Plywood||Varies||$2.00 – $4.00|
1. White Pine
2. White Ash
5. Yellow Birch
6. White Oak
7. Hard Maple
8. Douglas Fir
9. White Poplar
10. Softwood Plywood
By far the most common comment from people was:
- Whatever is easily available
- Whatever is cheapest
- Whatever you think looks the best
What Are The Workbench Types?
Here is a list of some common types of woodworking benches:
- Workbench with a vise: This type of bench typically includes a vise or multiple vises, which are essential for holding workpieces securely during various woodworking tasks.
- Cabinetmaker’s bench: These benches are specifically designed for cabinetmaking and feature a large, sturdy work surface with integrated storage compartments or cabinets for tools and materials.
- Roubo bench: Named after French furniture maker André Jacob Roubo, these benches are known for their solid construction, thick tops, and sturdy leg assemblies. They often include features like holdfasts and bench dogs to aid in workpiece clamping.
- Scandinavian or Nordic bench: This style of bench emphasizes simplicity and functionality. It usually features a thick top, and solid construction, and may include integrated storage or tool racks on the back.
- Portable or folding workbench: These benches are designed for convenience and portability. They can be easily folded or disassembled for transport and are suitable for woodworkers who need to work in different locations or have limited space.
- Power tool workbench: Specifically designed to accommodate power tools like table saws, drill presses, or routers, these benches often include integrated electrical outlets, adjustable fences, and built-in dust collection systems.
- Moxon vise bench: This bench includes a specialized vise called a Moxon vise, which is positioned higher than a traditional bench vise, allowing for easier work on dovetails and other joinery tasks.
- Carving bench: These benches are designed specifically for woodcarving. They often have a lower working height, a stable base, and features like bench hooks or holdfasts to secure the workpiece during carving.
Where Can You Purchase Wood For Your Workbench?
Once you know what kind of wood you want, then you need to find it. There are a lot of possible sources of quality, affordable wood. Below are a few places where you can purchase wood for your workbench.
Home Repair Store
No matter what style of workbench you want to make, there will most likely be affordable wood at your local home repair store that you can buy.
This is a convenient option because they can cut it to your exact specifications, you can inspect the wood before purchase to ensure you are getting the most attractive pieces, and some stores will even deliver it to your doorstep.
Check ads in your local paper and sites like Facebook or Craigslist to find out if anyone has posted up about extra wood they may have for sale. You might even get lucky and find some quality pieces for free.
Some individual sellers are not very familiar with the wood that they may have, so if the price seems marked up to high compared to market prices, you can usually haggle it down to a reasonable amount.
The one downside of buying from an individual seller is that you have no guarantees and you may discover that the wood is of inconsistent quality.
Online Lumber Catalog
There are hundreds of online lumber catalogs that you can look through to find the right prices and shipping for your budget. A few of the most common are listed below.
Local Lumber of Woodworking Sources
You may be lucky enough to live in a town with a mill where you might be able to get a deal for some rough-cut wood for your project. Most woodworking communities will also have information available about where to find the best local wood resources. You can check local woodshops and online forums on sites like Facebook to find out more.
Another place you can look at is auction sites. Sometimes when mills, woodshops, or other professional locations close down, they have leftover wood that still needs to be sold off.
You can usually get auctioned wood at a bit of a discount and in bulk, so if you want to make your workbench and have some left over for your first few projects, then this is a good option to check out.
Although there are many generic auction sites like eBay, you will usually find the best overall deal by doing a search for your state. For example, if you live in Ohio, you could search for “Ohio lumber auction” in your web browser.
Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Workbench
If you have never built a workbench before then, there are a few things you will want to avoid doing to ensure you get the best results. These are pretty straightforward but easy to forget during the moment.
Best Wood For Workbench Legs
The best wood for workbench legs depends on several factors such as durability, stability, and availability. However, I have used and would recommend, hardwoods like oak, maple, and beech as these are often considered excellent choices for workbench legs due to their strength and resistance to wear and tear.
These woods provide stability and support to the workbench, ensuring it can withstand heavy loads and constant use. I would suggest picking one of these woods that best suit the color you would like to see if your workbench.
Best Wood For Workbench Frame
In my experience, I have found that hardwoods like oak, maple, and beech are the best choices for a workbench frame. These woods offer exceptional durability and stability, ensuring that my workbench can withstand heavy use and support the weight of my projects.
Not only are these hardwoods strong, but they also have a naturally tight grain that resists rocking from the movement of the bench during planning, etc. Overall, I highly recommend using hardwoods like oak, maple, or beech for the frame of a workbench for their strength, durability, and visual appeal.
Best Wood For Top Of Workbench
As a general rule, the same wood that is used for the base or frame is used for the top of a workbench. This is not mandatory though and you may choose to use something more cost-effective or easily replaceable.
The material you use will depend on which type of workbench you have chosen, your budget, and whether you care more about looks or functionality. Below are some material options based on those three factors.
- Most Affordable Options: beech, pine, and MDF are all affordable options that give you a variety of hardness levels.
- Highest Quality Appearance: hardwoods including pine, ash, and oak will give you a beautiful bench.
- Easiest to Purchase and Manipulate: there is a wide variety you can get from your local home repair or woodworking store, including poplar, maple, douglas fir, and the woods we beech, pine, and oak.
Why You Should Choose A Wooden Workbench Surface?
A solid wood workbench surface is probably the best option for longevity and sustainability in my opinion.
Solid wood or a wooden surface is strong and can easily be sanded or planned down when it becomes worn. This reveals a new surface to work on again.
I do like workbench tops made from MDF due to their flatness, but these do not compare to solid wood tops.
What Is The Best Plywood For a Workbench?
Birch plywood or any other that is of high quality will be suitable to use for a workbench. Choose one that is at least 1″ (25mm) in thickness or you can laminate 2 pieces together to make the frame stronger. Plywood is easy to use as it comes in sheet form.
A wrote this about using OSB or plywood for a workbench here.
However, I recommend using MDF, softwood plywood, phenolic board, and appleply. They are going to give you the stability and strength you want in a workbench without costing too much.
The top is going to be a few inches thick, so you will want to make sure whatever wood you choose can either be bought already in the right thickness or that you can easily combine layers to achieve the desired dimensions.
Does Medium-Density Fibreboard (MDF) Make a Good Workbench Top?
MDF is a great top for a workbench as it is flat, stable, easy to use, and can be replaced when the old one wears out. It can also be bought in varying thicknesses which is important to the strength of your top.
With that being said, MDF is a personal choice so I have listed some other pros and cons that you may wish to consider before running out and buying some.
How do you pocket hole MDF? I explained how to do this in my complete guide on pocket holes in MDF.
Now that you know the best wood to make a workbench, there are a few other considerations to keep in mind. Below are some frequently asked questions about creating a workbench and the materials that you may want to use.
What Kinds of Workbenches Are There?
You will have to choose what type of workbench you want to build before you can decide on the wood. There are pros and cons for each, but ultimately it is going to come down to what kinds of projects you intend to use it for in the long run.
Some people prefer to start from scratch and make an entirely original workbench, while others enjoy working from a generic pattern. Below are the most common types of workbenches and their primary characteristics.
What Additional Accessories Can You Add To Your Workbench?
When you are adding DIY tools, additional storage features, or other items to your workbench, you want to make sure you do not miss out on the following useful accessories.
How Thick Should You Make Your Workbench Top?
As a general rule, 2.5″ – 3″ inches (62.5mm – 75mm) is the ideal thickness for a workbench top. This thickness is usually achieved by gluing together layers of wood and providing the strongest top.
You do not want your workbench top to be too thick. Usually, your workbench top is made from the same material as the bench frame. However, some other common materials for workbench tops include the following.
I highly recommend MDF as the top material because it is durable, very flat, and easy to layer to reach your preferred thickness. There are a few downsides to using it, though, and you can learn more about them in the section below, where I go over the pros and cons of MDF. See my tips on how to screw MDF without splitting.
Should There Be An Overhang Around The Edges Of The Workbench Top?
A common overhang is 4″ inches (100mm) which be helpful if using clamps to hold things down although this is entirely at your discretion.
The width of your workbench top should be taken into account when you measure your workspace to make sure you have enough room to move around if you are adding several inches to three of the sides.
Is Pine Too Soft For A Workbench?
Pine may not be the best choice for a workbench that requires durability and stability. Due to its softer nature, pine is more prone to denting, scratching, and general wear and tear, especially when subjected to heavy use or pressure.
I have found that mortise and tenon joints in a workbench have sometimes loosened due to the softwood fibers compressing.
How Thick Should Workbench Legs Be?
As a general guideline, workbench legs are commonly made with lumber ranging from 2 to 4 inches (50-100mm) in thickness.
Thicker legs provide greater stability and strength, making them suitable for heavy-duty applications or workbenches that will support substantial weight. Thinner legs, on the other hand, may be suitable for lighter projects or workbenches that require more mobility and flexibility.
What Is The Best Wood For A Butcher Block Workbench?
One of the most commonly used woods for butcher block workbenches is hard maple. Hard maple has a tight grain structure and is incredibly hard, making it resistant to cuts, scratches, and dents. It also has natural antimicrobial properties, which are crucial for maintaining a hygienic work surface.
Another excellent option is beech wood, which shares similar qualities with hard maple, including its hardness and resistance to moisture.
Both hard maple and beech wood are preferred for butcher block workbenches due to their durability, ability to withstand heavy use, and ability to provide a safe and sanitary surface for food preparation.