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Thread: Workbench height and width

  1. #61
    I did mention this in my original post, but I will say it once more - I don't have a planer/thicknesser, table saw, circular saw, mortising machine. I have a drill press and a couple of drills (cordless and corded), plus a metalworking lathe (which I didn't plan to use for woodworking - one day I'd love to get or build a small woodworking lathe - perhaps a treadle lathe on the terrace?).

    Spending a 100 EUR for a thick laminated spruce board that I would have to glue edge-to-edge to get the width, vs 200 EUR for a store-cut laminated beech panel which I would have to glue face-to-face to get the thickness, vs a single board which I would probably have to drive far away to obtain. 100 EUR or 200 EUR is not important, I'm more concerned with how tricky the build is going to be and how happy I will be with the result. I can always ask a seller to help me load, and a neighbor to help unload / handle it in during the build. Hardwood (beech) is traditional, and recommended by many (although it is supposed to move a lot), but people have been using pine benches with success (e.g. I just read Vic Tesolin's "Minimalist Woodworker", and he advocates a pine bench mentioning e.g. ease of flattening it - even though he could afford any kind of wood for the top, as on the photos in the book all his tools are fancy top-quality stuff). With both of these choices, one concern I have - are those commercially available laminated boards/beams have the individual pieces arranged with proper grain orientation to minimize warping, and also with grain running in the same direction (for avoiding tear-out when planing them flat)?

    @Mike Stenson
    I have heard advice not using oak (unless you already have it, or can get it easily, for example) due to it being open-pored wood (trapping and embedding metal chips that can randomly land there from my metalworking activities) and prone to splintering - therefore I'm not too eager (yet) to drive 700 km round trip to Hugo Kämpf's sawmill (although I did drive 800 km to get my lathe, so if it's worth it, I'd do it). How did you find it so easily, though? Maybe I can use your search skills to find something closer to me (I'm in Luxembourg - Steinsel to be exact), who would sell a wide and thick beech board. But Derek had raised concerns with drying that thick board?

    @Oskar
    I just saw your post after I wrote all of the above, and your advice already answers some of the questions/concerns I have. I'm using hand planes only and according to your advice will have to rule out BSH. I'm also not sure about the beech panel which is laminated from many pieces, what if those panels also have grain running in all directions? If I remember correctly, Schwarz mentioned Douglas Fir as quite suitable material for a workbench.
    The construction lumber you bought, what is it called in Germany - Vollholz? Is it a thick solid board, not laminated? How wide was it? How did you find that local saw mill? I think I should follow your way (and Mike's advice) and find a saw mill not too far from me.

  2. #62
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
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    Gene: I think any industrially produced laminated board or beam will have this problem. They are probably all finished with wide belt sanders and no care for grain orientation is taken. Correct me if I´m wrong here.

    Also, I wouldn´t think too hard on the exakt species for the top. Pine is working well, oak would too. Take what you can get to a reasonable price, and you think you can work effectively with hand tools. Ash, beech, fir whatever. I had the choice between douglas and oak, but discarded the oak plank since it had very gnarly grain and chose a douglas plank with very few knots. Keep metal grinding and filing away from the bench top, or get a sacrificial plywood sheath that you put on the bench when working metal.

    I´m not sure about the exakt german term for it. Could be Vollholz, Konstruktionsholz or Konstruktionsvollholz. Call any mill and describe what you are looking for and they can give you the exact term, and maybe where to find it. The plank I got was just sawed, not planed and/or chamfered in any way.

    I dont know how it is around Luxembourg, but here (Freiburg im Breisgau) there is actually a lot more small saw mills or wood dealers than one would think. I just looked at google maps for nearby dealers.

    Remember also to build the bench as a bench built with hand tools. Meaning don´t waste time and sweat on stuff that don´t matter. If you have a big planer you can make the top perfectly 4-side square. With hand planes only you dont have to true the underside of the top, neither the back edge if it is supposed to stand against a wall. (you do however need to take away twist where the legs are joined to the top, or adjust leg length to accomodate)

  3. #63
    If I understand correctly, Konstruktionsvollholz is solid wood, which is finger-jointed (end-to-end) to produce the desired length. And vollholz is just solid wood.
    Was the wood you got already dried (do these small saw mills have kilns?), did you have to season it for a while?
    Searching google maps for "saw mill" or "lumber store" revealed a few results, I will make a list and call them up tomorrow (when I don't work).
    We were just discussing with my wife going for a weekend trip to Schüttesäge Museum - that's not so far from your town actually.

    I was wondering about not truing the underside of the top. Thanks for mentioning that.

  4. #64
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    Gene, this is a good time to go to a saw mill or two. That is where you will go to get your furniture wood.

    You may be surprised when you get there what is on offer. They cut lots of wood, much is not furniture grade and is very hard for them to sell.

    At my saw mill they had a pile of Black Walnut with many knots and imperfections for a very low price. The underside of my bench is very rough, I could have finished it but did not want to loose the wood!

    The other benefit is they can do the rough cutting, leaving you to plane the edges for any joints.

    Go to the saw mill and look for a surprise!
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

  5. #65
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    I didn’t see this mentioned and I’m sorry if I missed it but I know I’ve read that CS has built and says it’s ok to build with fairly wet wood. Think it was on the blog but it may have been in one of his bench books.

    BTW, my bench if 18” tall but that comes from his last book.

  6. #66
    William, I will take your advice and try to find and visit the local saw mills!
    Tony, yes I think Schwarz mentioned this in his "Ancient Roubo" build. He said the shrinking of the top on that bench resulted in a slight "A-frame" shape of the legs, which he said doesn't give any negative effects.
    18" tall bench?

  7. #67
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    18" tall bench?
    That may be a Roman bench Schwarz wrote about.

    My saw horses are ~21" tall. This is how it is to work on short benches:

    Scrub Planing on Short Bench.jpg

    It can be a bit rough on an old back:

    Short Bench.jpg

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  8. #68
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gene Pavlovsky View Post
    William, I will take your advice and try to find and visit the local saw mills!
    Tony, yes I think Schwarz mentioned this in his "Ancient Roubo" build. He said the shrinking of the top on that bench resulted in a slight "A-frame" shape of the legs, which he said doesn't give any negative effects.
    18" tall bench?
    So I can work with my wheel chair. It was based on the Roman bench with some modern touches.

    91C4294F-46CE-4C7F-9726-99CC8867038A.jpeg

  9. #69
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gene Pavlovsky View Post
    If I understand correctly, Konstruktionsvollholz is solid wood, which is finger-jointed (end-to-end) to produce the desired length. And vollholz is just solid wood.
    Was the wood you got already dried (do these small saw mills have kilns?), did you have to season it for a while?
    Searching google maps for "saw mill" or "lumber store" revealed a few results, I will make a list and call them up tomorrow (when I don't work).
    We were just discussing with my wife going for a weekend trip to Schüttesäge Museum - that's not so far from your town actually.

    I was wondering about not truing the underside of the top. Thanks for mentioning that.
    ok, then you know which one to pick. Only solid wood. My wood was reasonably dry, and stored outside. The owner said that those planks had been lying stacked for a number of years, and therefore ready to use. Pretty dry and stable was good enough for me. I chose a board as close to quarter sawn as possible (more like rift, but at least not rings parallell to the bench top surface.). I did make the mortises for the back leg tenons in the underside of the top a bit wider, to give room for the top to expand and contract in the width dimension, while staying flush with the front legs.

  10. #70
    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Holcombe View Post
    My logic in this respect is that when I’m pushing a plane I want my wrist to be straight.
    I would want some downward pressure. Would you care to clarify? Perhaps this has something to do with Japanese pull-type planes.
    Last edited by Doug Dawson; 01-24-2020 at 5:20 AM.

  11. #71
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    ‘Pushing’ should indicate western planes. The handle on all of my planes is slightly angled so pushing with a straight wrist does create some downward pressure.

    I can plane all day with a straight wrist, introduce any angle and I won’t be working for days.
    Bumbling forward into the unknown.

  12. #72
    I would just add: If you need very much pressure you are working with a dull cutter.

    ken

  13. #73
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    One other item...lighting the work surface, so you can see what you are doing. And, neither have any glare shining back at your eyes, or being blocked by you standing at the bench, casting a shadow over your work....

    Bright, but not too bright. Sun light would be nice ( and cheap), but, not every shop has a window behind the bench ( doesn't help much, after sundown, though)And some shops are in a basement...

    Task Lighting?

  14. #74
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    I agree with Stephen on lighting, I put up 40k lumens recently. It’s been great.
    Bumbling forward into the unknown.

  15. #75
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    Quote Originally Posted by ken hatch View Post
    I would just add: If you need very much pressure you are working with a dull cutter.

    ken
    Agreed, one of my tests when tuning up a plane is if it can just be pushed without downward pressure and take a shaving. If it requires pressure with a sharp blade, the sole is likely bowed.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

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