Every woodworker needs a workbench. And the best wood workbench offers a safe platform for woodworkers to go about their furniture-making jobs without exposing themselves to common injuries.

For instance, workbenches typically include clever storage solutions, so your tools aren’t lying aimlessly.

Additionally, workbenches enhance organization, boost efficiency, increase productivity and sharpen woodworking skills.

They allow you to do more because you can have what you need while keeping everything else out of sight for increased concentration.

Unfortunately, Selecting the Best Wood for Your Workbench Top can be an arduous task. This guide reviews some of the best considerations to help you make an informed choice.

Top Wood Choices for a Workbench Top

The best wood for a workbench top includes pinewood, maple, Douglas fir, teak, plywood, MDF, American beech, yellow birch, and white oak. It’s important to avoid woods like cedar, as they will not hold up well to the wear and tear of regular use. Also, remember to seal the workbench to protect it from moisture and dirt.

Why Wooden Workbench Top?

There are two broad types of workbenches – metal and wooden. Metal workbenches are typically made from solid metals such as iron for reliability and durability, while wood benches are constructed from solid hardwoods.

Metal benches are sometimes preferred due to their versatility and sturdiness. A metal workbench can handle pretty much any woodworking project.

They can also withstand high levels of stress and hold up well even under extreme pressure.

Better still, metal workbenches are typically lightweight for easy portability and easily height-adjustable, depending on the woodworker’s needs.

Of course, metals are also extremely durable. A stainless-steel workbench can last several decades.

However, the majority of woodworkers still prefer wooden workbenches. The following are a few reasons why;

Easy to build

Building a workbench using wood is a straightforward DIY project, unlike metal workbenches that you must purchase from fabricators. All you need are a few planks of solid wood and four legs to create a basic workbench.

No risk of electrocution 

A notable downside of metal workbenches is that you must be constantly wary of electrical connections within the workshop. Otherwise, you’re at risk of a fatal electrocution accident.

The same can’t be said about wooden benches as wood doesn’t conduct electricity.


The workshop can be a painfully noisy place, with the running machines, constant hammering, and frequent sawing the main sources of noise.

Although this applies to all types of workbenches, wooden models are quieter as wood absorbs sound.


You can customize your wooden workbench to reflect your unique needs. For instance, you can add extra storage areas or even raise desk height to hold all the tools.

This is impossible with metal workbenches unless you send your requirements before fabrication commences.

More affordable

Finally, wooden workbenches are significantly more affordable than metal models. Of course, this depends on the type of wood and bench design style.

However, generally, a solid metal workbench will be more expensive than a standard hardwood workbench.

Workbench Top: Choosing the Right Wood 

Now that we understand the basics of wooden workbenches, let’s look at some of the best woods for a workbench top.

1. Pinewood

Pine is a medium-texture softwood that’s popular in the US and Canada. It’s characterized by natural patterns and grains that give it an aesthetic appeal.

Although some, such as the southern yellow pine, are slightly yellow, pinewood is typically whitish. The main reason pine makes an excellent choice for a workbench top is that it’s easy to work with.

Pine is not just easy to cut but also accepts nails readily, making it one of the best woods for bed frames. This makes it the perfect choice when making your own workbench. 

Although it’s a softwood, pinewood is impressively resistant to decay rot. You can also treat the wood to further rot-proof it.

We also love that it’s durable under high traffic. It doesn’t succumb to wear easily, which partly explains why it’s the product of choice for wood flooring.

What We Liked Most

  • Easily available
  • Typically, affordable
  • The best workbench wood
  • Easy to work with
  • Durable and resistant to decay

What Could Be Improved

  • Not as strong as hardwoods

2. Maple wood

Maple is one of the best wood for woodworking benches because it combines extreme durability with striking aesthetic qualities.

It has a naturally creamy texture with gorgeous grain patterns that guarantee stunning wooden products like wooden kitchen spoons. It’s worth noting, though, that maple comes in many different varieties.

Indeed, some researchers say there are as many as 150 varieties. Fortunately, you don’t need to know all of them as hard maple is the popular choice among most woodworkers.

Hard maple stands out for its sheer strength and resistance to scratches. It also stains excellently, for further scratch protection.

However, the biggest advantage of hard maple compared to other hardwoods is availability. It is more readily available, thus more affordable than other hardwoods.

What We Liked Most

What Could Be Improved

  • Poor weather resistance
  • It tends to crack easily

3. Douglas Fir

Douglas fir is a softwood native to western North America, where natives sometimes also call it the Oregon pine or Colombian pine. It is also available in large quantities in Europe, New Zealand, and South America, where it’s used in a wide range of applications.

The Douglas Fir stands out for its exceptional strength-to-weight ratio. No wonder Fir is one of the best wood pillars for porch.

It’s significantly more lightweight than other softwoods but can bear more load than even hardwoods. For this reason, the Douglas Fir is commonly used for beams and even plywood.

If you know about glue-laminated beams, i.e., glulam, they’re mostly made from Douglas Fir.

Another quality that makes the Douglas best wood for desk surfaces and workbench frame and top is that it’s incredibly resistant to decay and isn’t easily affected by moisture exposure.

So, you don’t have to worry about accidental water spills on the workbench.

What We Liked Most

  • Excellent moisture resistance
  • It’s very strong and stiff
  • Resistant to decay
  • Excellent screwing and nail holding

What Could Be Improved

  • More expensive than most softwoods
  • Requires significant maintenance

4. Teak

Teak is most common in Asia and the Pacific coast. It has a rich dark brown to golden brown color and is highly resistant to insects. You should identify it with the small white flowers and large papery leaves that tend to be hairy on the lower side.

The heartwood is yellowish but darkens with age, while the sapwood is whitish to pale yellowish and sometimes even brown.

A few factors that make it another excellent choice for a woodworking bench are its durability and weather resistance. The dense, heavy structure of teak wood gives it immense strength for extreme durability.

The wood is also termite-resistant and carving-friendly.

What We Liked Most

  • Highly durable
  • Exceptional strength
  • Resistant to termites
  • It can last many decades

What Could Be Improved

  • It’s one of the most expensive and rarest types of wood.

5. Plywood

You’re probably wondering how plywood can be a good choice for a woodworking bench top. Well, it’s actually one of the best choices.

You see, plywood is essentially a pile of wood layers bonded together with wood veneer on the front and back. The more the layers, the stronger the plywood.

However, keep in mind that plywood comes in three main types, i.e., softwood plywood, hardwood plywood, and mixes.

Softwood plywood is commonly made from Douglas Fir, pine, and cedar, while hard wood plywood comprises ash, birch, and hard maple layers.

The cross-grained nature of the plywood structure makes it extremely strong and durable. Moreover, the strength is evenly distributed, unlike solid woods that are only strong along the grain.

What We Liked Most

  • Plywood is lightweight
  • It’s readily available, thus cost-effective
  • It comes in large sizes
  • It doesn’t split easily

What Could Be Improved

  • Difficult to finish the edges
  • They can be very thin

6. Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF)

When medium density fiberboards first emerged several years ago, no carpenter wanted to associate with them. MDF boards were weak and short-lived and, frankly speaking, a waste of money.

However, you can’t say that anymore. Advanced technology has given us far more reliable engineered wood at a lower cost, causing manufacturers to turn to MDFs.

MDF rarely cracks or flexes. In fact, unlike solid wood, MDF is more likely to snatch rather than warp under pressure. As you might be aware, engineered wood also holds excellently in damp conditions.

MDF only succumbs when submerged in water for an extended period. However, the biggest attraction of MDF is its price and availability.

Medium density fiberboard is far more available than solid wood and significantly more affordable.

What We Liked Most

  • Doesn’t flex or crack
  • Excellent moisture resistance
  • Readily available
  • Cost effective

What Could Be Improved

  • MDF is fairly heavy
  • Can’t support a lot of weight

7. American beech

The beech tree is native to Europe, Asia, and North America. As a result, you’ll frequently come across many beech species, including the European beech, American beech, and Japanese beech.

Just remember that the differences are minimal. So, although we’ve recommended the American beech, the other beech varieties are just as good.

Most woodworkers love beech for its aesthetic qualities. The American beech, for instance, boasts beautiful fine and straight grains that give it a uniform texture.

However, two qualities make it the best wood for a workbench top. First, beechwood is hard and tough. Thus it can take heavy loads and withstand rough use. Secondly, birch is easily workable. It holds screws and nails very well.

What We Liked Most

  • Good appearance
  • Easily workable
  • It’s hard and tough
  • It’s a stable hardwood

What Could Be Improved

  • It doesn’t hold too well in moist conditions
  • It is very expensive

8. Yellow birch

The birch tree includes nine varieties, including the white birch, sweet birch, and yellow birch. That’s why most people just call it the birch tree or birch wood.

However, the yellow birch is more popular for its superior qualities. It is characterized by the amber to white color, with broad brown figures.

You can choose to have your workbench top made 100% from birch or only consider birch veneers/overlays on bench top plywood. Alternatively, you can opt for a birch fibreboard.

Economy birch plywood is one of the most affordable in lumber yards, costing up to 75% less than cherry and soft maple plywood.

Beware, though, that the texture of birch hardwood is coarser than other hardwoods such as maple. This may be a problem if you desire a flawless surface for your wood project parts.

Additionally, birch is susceptible to bugs. Thus, your work bench may be attacked sooner or later if you don’t take excellent care of it.

What We Liked Most

  • Makes excellent plywood
  • Birchwood is cost effective
  • It’s fairly durable

What Could Be Improved

  • Susceptible to bug attacks
  • Extremely hard, thus hard to drill

9. White oak

Finally, oak makes another great choice when shopping for the perfect wood to make your woodworking bench.

Oaks are solid hardwoods with beautiful grain patterns and a rustic look that suits most odd settings, such as the workshop or garage. It is also sufficiently strong and durable to support any woodworking project.

Better still, oak is heavy, thus offering a stable surface that won’t move from one side to the other during woodworking. It’s also resistant to moisture and corrosion, both of which are important qualities for a workshop workbench.

However, beware that oak is a little difficult to cut as the wood is very hard. It’s also prone to shatters and splinters. So, you need to take good care of the workbench. White oak and red oak are some of the best choices.

What We Liked Most

  • It is highly durable
  • Adheres well with vanish and stain
  • Ultra-resistant to moisture
  • Make the best axe handles
  • Affordable and economical

What Could Be Improved

  • Difficult to cut
  • Prone to splintering
  • May shrink and crack

Types of Workbenches 

Once you’re sold on wooden workbenches, the next thing you need to do is familiarize yourself with the different types of wood-top workbenches. There are four main types of workbenches;

Vanity bench 

A vanity bench is a general-purpose workbench that serves multiple purposes in the standard workshop. Like other furniture, they are primarily defined by their multipurpose nature.

A vanity woodworking bench serves as the sole workbench as well as the primary storage solution. Vanity benches are the most common workbench type among beginner woodworkers.

They’re easy to build and don’t cost much to put together. Most woodworkers start their careers with DIY-built vanity workbenches.

Read Also: Best Wood for bathroom vanity

Carpenter’s bench 

The carpenter’s bench, or woodworker’s bench, is a slightly more advanced version of the vanity workbench. It’s still a rough bench that focuses more on function than aesthetics.

However, you can also tell that it’s designed with the carpenter in mind. For instance, the standard carpenter’s bench has a base made from solid wood for maximum stability and sturdiness.

They also typically boast an MDF top. The main reason is that MDF tops are easier to replace once the old top becomes chipped or too old. A coat of wood wax to prevent the surface from staining too much is standard.

How Tall Should a Workbench Be?

The best workbench height depends on the user’s height and the type of work being done. A general rule of thumb is that the work surface should be at elbow height. This typically falls between 34 and 38 inches for most adults. Adjustments may be necessary for specialized tasks or individuals with specific needs.

Crafter’s bench 

You may also consider a crafter’s bench for your first workbench. The crafter’s bench is also a general-purpose bench, which explains why some people call it the hobby bench.

Although it serves woodworkers well, it can also be used for many other things. For instance, you can turn your crafter’s bench into a laptop desktop later on.

Nevertheless, crafters’ benches are sturdy and very reliable. They typically feature a plywood top, with thicknesses starting from ¾ inches. You can even cover the bench top with a metal or rubber sheet, depending on the occasion.

Garage bench 

Finally, a garage bench, as the name suggests, is commonly found in garages. You may also find one in the basement.

They serve many purposes, including serving as the working platform for regular repairs, such as when the homeowner wants to check their generator. However, you can also turn it into a woodworking bench.

Garage benches are typically rugged as they take a lot of beating. A standard garage bench has 2×6 inch lumber planks glued together to create the bench top.

Read also: wood for adirondack chairs

What Additional Accessories Can You Add to Your Workbench?

Many woodworkers understand the need for additional storage features on the workbench. You may also want to have extra hand tools on the bench. We must remind you of the need for the following as well;

  • Built-in power strip
  • Magnetic strip
  • Clamp track along the edge
  • Hooks for storage and attaching cords
  • A source of light, e.g., an adjustable lamp

How Thick Should You Make Your Workbench Top?

The ideal thickness of a woodworking bench top varies depending on the type of wood and intended application. However, the general rule is to make it 2.5 inches to 3 inches thick, i.e., 62.5mm to 75mm.

Many experts also recommend gluing together many pieces of wood to achieve the desired thickness rather than getting a single wood plank of the desired thickness. Make sure the top is a flawlessly smooth and flat surface.

Many people prefer to use the same material for the bench top and frame. However, feel free to go for other wood types.  

Do You Need an Overhang Around the Edges of Your Workbench Top?

Yes, you need a little overhang around the edges of your workbench top, especially if you intend to use clamps to hold a few things down. About 4.0 inches of an overhang is sufficient.

But, consider the length of your bench top to choose the best overhang size. You must still leave enough room to move around even if you desire several inches of overhang.

What’s the Best Workbench Top Material?

The ideal scenario is to use the same wood for the bench top and frame. However, you may also choose something more practical or one that you can easily replace.

Hardwoods are the popular choice among woodworkers as hardwood guarantees long life. But, if you’re looking for affordable workbench top material ideas, MDF and softwoods such as pine and beech are wonderful choices.

Where Can You Purchase the Best Workbench Wood?

You can easily find the best workbench wood online or offline. We recommend checking the following five locations;

  • Home repair stores
  • Online lumber catalogs
  • Individual sellers
  • Local lumber sources
  • Auction sites

Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Workbench 

  • Working without a plan: One of the worst mistakes you can make in woodworking projects is to work without a plan. Make sure you at least know the type of bench you want and how much money you’re willing to spend on the project.
  • Too many dog/holdfast holes: If you intend to build the bench yourself, make sure you don’t have too many holdfasts. Ideally, you want to start with eight or fewer. You can add more along the way.
  • Too many leg vises: Similar to dog holes, avoid too many leg vises. A tail and face vise are all you need in most cases.
  • Unnecessary add-ons: Too many hidden drawers or shelves only create unnecessary confusion. They may also add unnecessary weight to your workbench. So, keep them to a minimum.
  • Overthinking: Finally, there’s nothing like a perfect bench. You can have a solid piece with nice wood. However, any professional woodworker knows that you’ll always feel you would have done better somewhere. So, don’t overthink.
  • Overlooking the finishing part: Use the best finish for workbench to protect it from wear and tear.

Related Post:

Best Wood for Speaker Box

Best Wood for Countertops

FAQs on Workbench Tops Wood

What types of wood should I use for a workbench?

The ideal wood for crafting a workbench top is MDF. It’s light, affordable, and highly durable. The wood fibers (MDF is made from wood fibers) also ensure evenly distributed strength. However, hardwoods and selected softwoods also make excellent workbench tops.

Is plywood good for workbench top?

Yes, plywood is an excellent wood for workbench tops. A plywood workbench top is not only durable but also resistant to cracking. Better still, plywood is readily available and affordable.

See also: Cabinet thickness

How thick should a workbench be?

Most benches are 2.5 inches to 3.0 inches thick. Garage benches can be slightly thicker ditto general workbenches. However, keep in mind that making the workbench top too thick adds more weight, thus creating mobility issues.

Is oak good for a workbench top? 

Yes, oak wood pieces are perfect for a workbench. A general workbench made from oak is strong, beautiful, and widely available. Remember that it is also highly moisture-resistant. Oak is also the best wood for interior window sill due to its strength and aesthetics.

What is the best plywood for a workbench?

Yes, plywood is a great choice when making a workbench. For one, plywood is affordable and easily available. More importantly, though, plywood is lightweight and easy to work with. Above all, you only need one sheet to get the job done. Also, plywood is one of the best wood for speaker box making.

Read also: Birch is a good wood for bows but is not among the best. Other woods like hickory, maple, and osage orange are preferred for their superior performance due to their strength, flexibility, and durability. Note that maple is also rated as the best wood for resin tables.

Best Workbench top Wood Summary

MDF and hardwood are some of the recommended wood options for a workbench top. However, selected softwoods can also make the best wood workbench.

Alternatively, go for plywood. It’s lightweight, exceptionally strong, and resistant to cracking. Let us know what you think on the comment section.

If you don’t have any questions, you can learn about the weight of a cord of wood, the right dimension, and even cost.

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