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How to flatten an uneven workbench top

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Final Touches

Final Touches

Repeat this procedure at three evenly spaced locations along the length of the bench as shown in photo E, below. These cuts confirm that you adjusted the router bit to the correct depth. Adjust the bit for a deeper cut if it passes over any areas without removing stock. If the router bogs down during these cuts, switch to a smaller bit or a more-powerful router.

Now, measure the width of any of your four router cuts. Subtract 1/4" from your measurement and use this figure to space out marks along the length of each carrier guide. For instance, our router cuts were 2 1/4" wide, so we made marks every 2". Use these marks in the following step to guide your placement of the router carrier so your cuts overlap by 1/4".

Next, flatten the entire top by starting at either end of the bench and making router passes in increments along its length. For consistently deep cuts you must clamp the router carrier for each router cut. You can speed things along by having a helper reposition and reclamp one end of the router carrier while you clamp the other end and operate the router.

As you approach each of your initial, spaced-apart cuts, check to see that your cutting depth ahs not changed. If it changes, the bit or motor housing is slipping up or down, and you will need to fix the problem. In working on the benchtop shown here, we were tripped up by the brand-new router we were using. Factory lubrication open the outside of the motor housing was causing the housing to slip, even though we tightened the base securely. So, we cleaned the motor housing and base with mineral spirits, then started the routing process over again. Another lesson learned the hard way!

The final touches No matter how careful you were to clamp the router carrier and put minimum downward force on the router, you will still wind up with fine ridges where one router pass meets the other. Fortunately, you can quickly smooth away these ridges while keeping your bench flat.

As shown in the photo F, below, we lowered the ridges with a cabinet scraper and followed this with a light sanding using a random-orbit sander. Be careful to remove the ridges and no more.

Written by Bill Krier with Chuck Hedlund Photographs: John Hetherington Illustrations: Kim Downing


If you enjoy outfitting or improving your shop, visit the Shop Tools and Accessories section of the WOOD Store for dozens of detailed downloadable woodworking plans.

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Comments (10)
canageltx wrote:

Good article and information to know.

12/30/2015 11:11:27 AM Report Abuse
rogerfeeley wrote:

thibbs7: I see no reason why you can't use this technique to flatten your mdf table. The only problem is that you will be left with a surface that wouldn't be smooth and kind of soft. You could reface the mdf with a new sheet of masonite.

8/8/2013 09:57:18 AM Report Abuse
thibbs7 wrote:

Great Idea, how would you recommend flattening a work bench made our of MDF?

8/7/2013 11:50:51 AM Report Abuse
shanson1608776 wrote:

I have the same bench in my work shop,very old but works great.

1/26/2012 10:19:50 AM Report Abuse
gei wrote:

I used a very similar technique to flatten a chainsawed oak burl slab for a coffee table top. It works well!

2/11/2011 08:28:24 PM Report Abuse
rlbeers4047162 wrote:

Just in time. I have noticed my bench top is not as level as it was when I made it a few years ago. Where is the pdf of this so I can download it? I like to keep your good tips so I have them when I get time to complete them.

2/11/2011 09:37:53 AM Report Abuse
wdchip wrote:

That's all for now. Get a life, some of you are thinking. I have one. Just have to crusade now and then.

2/10/2011 01:58:48 PM Report Abuse
wdchip wrote:

"Use only as many shims as necessary." seems superfluous. If a person doesn't know the purpose of shimming is to achieve near perfection they shouldn't be allowed to use power tools without adult supervision.

2/10/2011 01:33:11 PM Report Abuse
wdchip wrote:

Would increasing the width of the router carrier by a couple of inches on each side allow for clamping that wouldn't interfere with router handles or base as you slide the router back and forth/side to side in the carrier?

2/10/2011 01:23:45 PM Report Abuse
wdchip wrote:

Why not use metal studs sandwiched together if necessary for rigidity for the carrier guides? Saves jointing and ripping a 2 x 4.

2/10/2011 01:13:27 PM Report Abuse

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