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New bench top for South Bend, laminated maple, ash, particleboard?

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WaneB

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This is my first post. I just bought a South Bend 9 inch lathe. The bench needs a new top. The existing top is made from cement board, it could be even some sort of asbestos type board. I am looking to replace this with an industrial bench top made from either laminated hardwood, laminated particleboard, or some type of laboratory surface. I am looking for stability, and something that will work well with the machine. The supplier I am looking at is Global Industrial. Right now I am leaning towards particleboard mostly because it’s the cheapest. Any thoughts?
 

cjtoombs

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I went with 1/8" steel when I built one for my lathe, but given the choices you listed, I would go for the hardwood, just for durabilities sake.
 

pacifica

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I also prefer metal, of wood the best would be phenolic faced plywood. Particle board or MDF would be my last choice.Baltic birch plywood would be my middle choice.
 

ConValSam

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Welcome!

Avoid particle board now and forever: it acts nasty when it absorbs liquid. Your lathe will be off kilter the first time you spill anything.
 

Alexander McGilton

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I went with 1-1/4 flamed birch butcher block for my Logan. It's just too good of a surface to let hot chips fall on so i dont .IMG_2690.JPG
 

mikey

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Welcome to HM, WaneB!

Do you have a chip pan to go under the lathe? If so, just laminate two pieces of Melamine-coated plywood and use it under the lathe. If not, then I would use two pieces of plywood topped by a 1/8 - 1/4" thick piece of mild steel plate. The chips are abrasive and hot; steel will handle clean up better over time.
 

WaneB

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I am looking to pick up a full size baker's aluminum sheet pan. Basically just a shallow aluminum pan with a nice wire edge. I understand why I should avoid the particleboard. All things being equal, some sort of laminated hardwood with a chip pan underneath should do the trick. Thank you very much for all the replies.
 

bill70j

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I went with 1-1/4 flamed birch butcher block for my Logan. It's just too good of a surface to let hot chips fall on so i dont .
Short of building a metal top, this would be a very good choice.

An even better alternative, if you're going with wood, would be to also build a torsion box frame for the hardwood laminated top. This would provide a long lasting flat surface immune to any twisting with changes in temperature and humidity.

If you do go with a wood top, however, it would be wise to include 1/4" steel rectangular mounting plates to put under the bed feet. Otherwise you may find that the feet will dig into the wood when tightening the mounting bolts, making the leveling process a nightmare.
 

mickri

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A picture of the stand that the lathe will sit on would help. Plywood is dimensionally stable and therefore won't warp or twist. How thick it needs to be would depend on the support that the stand provides. At a minimum you want 3/4" ply. Two layers would be better than one. There are several threads on the forum that talk about making stands and leveling the lathe. The MOLO (Manual of Lathe Operations) has plans for a wooden stand. A metal top is the best choice. Anything else is a distant second.
If you are going to replace your current stand you might want to consider picking up an old metal desk. They can be had for next to nothing and even free. A desk will have drawers and you could put shelves in the footwell to store stuff. You will have a metal top too which is the easiest to clean.
No easy one size fits all answer to your question.
Welcome to the forum. The people on here are great and very helpful.
 

bill70j

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A picture of the stand that the lathe will sit on would help. Plywood is dimensionally stable and therefore won't warp or twist.
My experience with plywood is a little different. I have found that even Baltic Birch or Apple Plywood will warp with changing humidity.

So if one goes with a plywood top, the stand has to be designed to keep the surface flat. As Mickri points out, a number of Atlas/Craftsman catalogs show the wooden stands they sold. They have very stout frames, and were topped with hardwood.
 

middle.road

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Old hunk of Bowling Alley, oh wait that wasn't a choice... With a baker's sheet as noted that's what I've had for 20+ years.
I'd go hardwood, maple or ash, has to be thick, put 3 or 4 'ribs' glued and screwed perpendicular to the length. If you have so steel tubing that would work also.
Similar to what Mikey mentioned, two sheets of 3/4" or 1" ply with a 1/2" or so of Melamine sandwiched between them will keep it steady enough.
An 1/8" plate on top would be nice but if cost or availability is an issue, it can be done with wood.
Some of the Lab black stuff would be nice, but I have seen that bend over time. Has to be thick.
 

WaneB

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51F082C3-8D1E-43D0-9C23-25C49EF573E3.jpeg
Here is the bench. It’s from the 40’s or 50’s probably. It has a somewhat thick steel top, I removed the cement board already.
 

mickri

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Your bench looks fine especially if it has steel top. I can think of lots of other things to buy before I would spend the time and money to redo the top of the bench.
 

Sblack

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I have an emco maximat super11 without the factory stand. So I welded up a stand out of 2" square 1/8" wall steel tube and put a relatively thick metal chip pan on. It turned out that the steel tube frame, which is essentially an empty cube, resonates. If you hit it with something hard it will ring. So doing it again I would go for a wood stand, with several sheets of plywood glued together for the sides and back and top. Then I would put drawers in the center for storage, but the point would be to make it massive and heavy for damping. Thin wall tubing has no damping. I could have filled it up with sand, but the tubes were all welded shut. I didn't see the issue until I was done. So I would avoid a steel base.
 
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