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Thread: Dimensioning 10/4 lumber for bench build...How to go about it?

  1. #1
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    Dimensioning 10/4 lumber for bench build...How to go about it?

    First, a minor brag. I got lucky with this yellow pine.
    IMG_5165.jpgIMG_5166.jpgIMG_5167.jpg
    Six pieces that are over 2" thick, 72-76" long, mostly knot-free, and most of the pieces are close to quartersawn. About 66 board feet total. I'm not sure how much quarter-sawing matters with softwoods given that I never see it but it got me excited. The guy had a yellow pine slab that was 20 ft. long and pretty clear he wanted to sell me but I don't have the means to transport it nor the energy to break it down.

    Anywhoo, I'm finally breaking down and building a real workbench. I've settled on a Moravian bench like Will Myers' because it's easily broken down for moving and it's the lightest design I've seen that will still hold up to the type of work I hope to be doing.

    My main question is, how would you guys go about breaking down these pieces for the benchtop? Will Myers' plans call for a top that is 76"x13.5"x3.5" and these pieces I have are all about 2.25" thick and 8" wide. Would you laminate two pieces face-to-face to get the necessary thickness? Or would you rip pieces that are 3.5" wide, then turn them on their sides and laminate those face-to-face so that the benchtop is all edge grain?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    That's lovely pine, IMO. But I'll let the experienced guys here answer your question.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matthew Hutchinson477 View Post
    First, a minor brag. I got lucky with this yellow pine.
    IMG_5165.jpgIMG_5166.jpgIMG_5167.jpg
    Six pieces that are over 2" thick, 72-76" long, mostly knot-free, and most of the pieces are close to quartersawn. About 66 board feet total. I'm not sure how much quarter-sawing matters with softwoods given that I never see it but it got me excited. The guy had a yellow pine slab that was 20 ft. long and pretty clear he wanted to sell me but I don't have the means to transport it nor the energy to break it down.

    Anywhoo, I'm finally breaking down and building a real workbench. I've settled on a Moravian bench like Will Myers' because it's easily broken down for moving and it's the lightest design I've seen that will still hold up to the type of work I hope to be doing.

    My main question is, how would you guys go about breaking down these pieces for the benchtop? Will Myers' plans call for a top that is 76"x13.5"x3.5" and these pieces I have are all about 2.25" thick and 8" wide. Would you laminate two pieces face-to-face to get the necessary thickness? Or would you rip pieces that are 3.5" wide, then turn them on their sides and laminate those face-to-face so that the benchtop is all edge grain?

    Thanks!
    Do you have an electronic jointer and thickness planer? Do you have a tablesaw or glulam saw that will cut 4.5"?

    You wrote that they are all "about 2.25" thick and 8" wide." You also wrote that the plans you have call for 3.5" thick X 13.5" wide top. If that is your goal, and assumming you have the tools mentioned above, this is what I would do.

    1. Scrub the boards down with a steel brush to remove embedded grit and oxidized wood.
    2. Trim 1/4" off the each end of each board to eliminate embedded grit that will dull your blades and scratch your beds. You may not see it, but grit is always there.
    3. Thickness plane 4 boards, and joint one edge of each. They don't need to be the same exact thickness, but they do need to be free of twist, and mostly straight. A little bow is not a problem.
    4. Number the boards to maintain orientation.
    5. Clamp 2 adjacent boards together face to face and with the jointed edge top, and drill a series of holes located 2" and 6" down from jointed edge, distributed near the ends and in between. Too many holes is better than too few.
    6. Repeat the aligning and drilling until you have enough holes for dowels to keep all 4 boards in alignment with each other
    5. Apply wax to and drive a dowel of the corresponding size into the holes of two adjoining boards. Alternate holes so only half of them are used during this first glueup. The dowels should be slightly shorter (1/4"?) that the combined width of the boards, and their ends recessed. These dowels will keep the boards in alignment during glueup.
    6. Glue, clamp, and let cure 2 adjoining boards for 2 days (make sure the wood is warm prior to, and your workplace is warm during cure).
    7. Repeat for the other 2 boards. You should have 2 gluelams now.
    8. Rip each glulam in half, and dimension each to the same width. You should have 4 glulams now, each approximately 3.75"wide x 4"thick (depending on how much waste was lost to dimensioning).
    9. Insert waxed dowels in the remaining holes.
    10. Glue, clamp, and cure these 4 glulams, in 3 sets or all at once, to make a single glulam approximately 3.75"thick X 16"wide.
    11. Cleanup squeezout.
    12. Flatten with handplanes.

    If this is too wide (sounds just right to me, and I would want the extra mass, space permitting), then mill the boards thinner to begin with, e.g. 1-11/16"

    This will let you glueup a top with the minimum waste and without a helper (asuming your back and knees are OK). If you don't have the powertools, then the same thing can be accomplished using handplanes and handsaws, it will just take longer and you will lose weight. You will need at least 10 heavy duty bar clamps or pipe clamps.

    Stan
    Last edited by Stanley Covington; 02-25-2018 at 10:45 PM.

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    The edge grain top makes the most sense and provides the best chance for the glue surface to mate well. I would plane the surfaces before ripping for more control. One thing to note is as you glue up the surface may cup or bow so allow some extra to plane down to flat. How much you can judge as you see how the faces match up. You will still have lots of wood either way.

    No Idea what work you plan or if the 'light' design will be heavy enough.

    Some large English workbenches would have a thinner top and just edge join such boards but those benches tend to be huge.
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

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    I'd take Stan's approach, which sounds excellent to me.

    One thing, make sure you orient the board so that they plane the same way (grain should rise in the same direction on each board). That will make future flattening a breeze.
    Bumbling forward into the unknown.

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    Ha. I have absolutely made that mistake in the past. Lucky for me it was on a 30" long table top and the grain was rising very shallowly so I could smooth it with a high angle plane without much tearout.

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    Stanley,
    First of all, thank you for the detailed reply. It gives me a lot to think about before beginning this ordeal. I've never used dowels before and hadn't thought about it until now.

    I'm confused about the process you propose, though. Maybe I'm misreading something but first I would glue two boards together edge-to-edge. Doing this twice would give me two laminated boards that are about 16" wide and 2" thick. Then (step 8) is ripping them in half again? Wouldn't I just be cutting right back through the glue line and undoing the previous step?

    Oh, and as for power tools...I don't own any of those things myself but I figured for this project I'll probably have to borrow some or have a local cabinetmaker make some cuts for me. I'm not sure if I'm enough of a masochist to do it all by hand. We shall see. Maybe I'll have a vision or some superior force will command me to do it the old-fashioned way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by William Fretwell View Post
    The edge grain top makes the most sense and provides the best chance for the glue surface to mate well. I would plane the surfaces before ripping for more control. One thing to note is as you glue up the surface may cup or bow so allow some extra to plane down to flat. How much you can judge as you see how the faces match up. You will still have lots of wood either way.

    No Idea what work you plan or if the 'light' design will be heavy enough.

    Some large English workbenches would have a thinner top and just edge join such boards but those benches tend to be huge.
    I would tell you what I plan to work on except I also do not know. Nothing huge in the foreseeable future, though. Either way, one thing I do know will be in my future is a decent amount of moving so a bench that can be taken apart is important to me. The Moravian design seems to work well enough for other folks so I'm not too worried about the weight. Mine would end up being heavier if I make the actual work surface wider than the 13.5" in Will Myers' bench, and right now I'm thinking I'll do that. On his bench there's an 11"-wide tool tray behind the work surface, and I don't see myself needing that much space in a tool tray.

  9. #9
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    Hi Matthew, not edge to edge, but face to face. Each of the two glue ups would end up being about 4.5" x 8". You then rip each of those (halving the 8") to get two 4.5" x 4" pieces. You would now have four 4.5" x 4" pieces. Glue those up for about 18" x 4".

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil Mueller View Post
    Hi Matthew, not edge to edge, but face to face. Each of the two glue ups would end up being about 4.5" x 8". You then rip each of those (halving the 8") to get two 4.5" x 4" pieces. You would now have four 4.5" x 4" pieces. Glue those up for about 18" x 4".
    What he said.

  11. #11
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    The dowels are not absolutely essential, especially if you have a helper. They make the glue up go a lot quicker and with less stress and less flattening required afterward. School of Hard Knocks graduate ( PhD) talking.

    The wax keeps the dowels from becoming glued into the holes. They can induce splitting or delamination in subsequent months as the wood becomes “skinnier “ otherwise. Biscuits will do an even better job if you have such equipment, and biscuits don’t need to be waxed.

    If you do it by hand, I applaud you! I suggest you allow twice as much time as you estimate it will take. I was not kidding about losing weight. It’s a lot of wood to dimension.

    Stan

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Holcombe View Post
    I'd take Stan's approach, which sounds excellent to me.

    One thing, make sure you orient the board so that they plane the same way (grain should rise in the same direction on each board). That will make future flattening a breeze.
    A very astute suggestion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Matthew Hutchinson477 View Post
    I would tell you what I plan to work on except I also do not know. Nothing huge in the foreseeable future, though. Either way, one thing I do know will be in my future is a decent amount of moving so a bench that can be taken apart is important to me. The Moravian design seems to work well enough for other folks so I'm not too worried about the weight. Mine would end up being heavier if I make the actual work surface wider than the 13.5" in Will Myers' bench, and right now I'm thinking I'll do that. On his bench there's an 11"-wide tool tray behind the work surface, and I don't see myself needing that much space in a tool tray.
    If you have a narrow bench then the tool tray becomes very useful to keep the work surface available and the tools to hand. The legs are key to keeping it mobile, if they dismantle easily then just wrestling the top becomes your primary concern. Trestle legs with wedges break down easily but the top can be hard to manage in hardwood for one person. My top is 240 lb so requires two strong people to manage but the bench breaks down easily.

    Like you I dimension my rough lumber by hand. It is lots of work for hardwood. Your biggest challenge by hand is keeping the boards flat, both sides so you can glue the faces together with few gaps. Some small gaps will make no difference but you want the top to remain flat as you progressively glue it together. When you start out you can convince yourself it's pretty flat, not much of a twist, hardly cupped, only a little bowed etc. The final product will remind you forever that you were wrong! That's how we learn.

    The suggested dowel alignment method would work well. Biscuits can do the job but require an accurate reference face, even a little off guarantees they won't line up. Dry fitting will tell you whether to ignore a particular biscuit and cut a new one. Glue ups on the large scale can move so some alignment aid helps as does a lot of beefy clamps.

    Finding someone with a large thickness planer to prep the faces will give you a huge head start, you can do the edges by hand and it will become a long weekend job for the top.
    Last edited by William Fretwell; 02-26-2018 at 9:25 AM.
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stanley Covington View Post
    What he said.
    Aha, that makes a lot more sense. I imagine you thought it was self-evident. Clearly you were not aware of the magnitude of my power to over-think things and confuse simple situations.

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    I would want to try to minimize the number of knots in what will be the top surface of your finished bench so I would take each board and find the best lines to rip them so as to minimize knots in the top surface. With 8 inch wide boards you can optimize to get two boards for laminating from each. This is different than Stan proposed, otherwise, you could use much of the same order of work Stan proposed.

    Note - If there is a bit of twist, and you can relatively easily twist it back straight, then I wouldn't hesitate to laminate the pieces as the strength of the glue will hold things together nicely and pine such as this is fairly soft wood and pliable. If it takes a lot of clamping pressure to remove the twist then you will need to address that - also goes for localized warp or bow like you often find around knots.

    I would also probably not do the dowels as this would just be more work that you can forgo by proper clamp /caul placement. By all means use the dowels though if it makes you more comfortable.

    Also, I would do progressive lamination, starting with two piecees that bow together opposite so as you clamp them together the smile formed between them closes up - this will help ensure that there is as little stress in the lamination as possible. Note: for this first pair of boards I would want a stiff / straight reference to clamp them to to make sure you ended up as straight as possible. Once these are laminated you can progressively add another board or two aat a time to complete the top to the desired width.

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