Page 1 of 4 1234 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 55

Thread: Laminated or Slab Benchtop

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Austin, TX
    Posts
    198

    Laminated or Slab Benchtop

    For those of you who have built and worked on both, what is your advice?

    I just started looking to see if I could find a hardwood slab big enough for a 22" x 8' workbench (in 5-6" thickness).
    I've watched a few dozen bench build videos and have read through the Schwarz bench books (also bought the Lost Art Press video on a single slab Roubo build).

    I'll say I like the idea of a solid slab (and avoiding a big glue up project), but I'm not a big fan of the large checks I see on the big slabs. Not a deal breaker, I'm reasonably confident I won't care too much after the bench picks up some wear and tear from being used.

    I just don't like the look of the SYP benches, I want to use a hardwood. My best bet in central Texas might be Pecan... but I'm still trying to find any kind of slab. (Just started making enquiries).

    I enjoyed the Lost Art Press recent blog/video posts touring the various types of benches in their shop. I think I've settled on a Roubo style bench.

    Thoughts?

    PS. I've also seen mention that holdfasts don't work well in thick (over 4") bench tops. Is that true?
    Last edited by Erich Weidner; 05-16-2020 at 12:30 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    Forest Lake MN
    Posts
    315
    A slab of that size sounds super expensive. A hardwood glue up could be an option. I have heard that about holdfasts. Suppose you can drill a larger hole partway through from below

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Location
    Fairbanks AK
    Posts
    264
    Quote Originally Posted by Erich Weidner View Post
    PS. I've also seen mention that holdfasts don't work well in thick (over 4") bench tops. Is that true?
    The Crucible Tool holdfasts I have work just fine when dropped through the '6' dimension (5 1/2" actual) of my 4x6 sawhorse tops. But they are heavy. I won't be surprised to hear the Lie-Nielsens might work in 4" actual bench tops also. Probably a couple others too. Gramercy anyone? The Gramercy holdfasts are pretty popular here.

    I have never worked on a slab top, so not touching that part.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Austin, TX
    Posts
    198
    I currently have a 2"-ish thick top on my crappy Sjoberg "bench". (I bought it in my 20's. I'm now 40's. Good decade passed without doing much wood work. But for the past year I've been back in.) Boy oh Boy does it suck. Can't wait to build a solid bench.

    Anyway I have a LN holdfast and it works OK, but keeps coming loose. I suspect the top of my bench is just too thin. But I don't want to go too thick either. I was specifying 5-6 inches because that seems to be the old school Roubo thickness. But I'm pretty sure I want to stick with 3/4" holes in the bench vs 1" for the crucible. So if 4" is the magic number I'm OK with that too.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
    Location
    Fairbanks AK
    Posts
    264
    I don't own a set of LN holdfasts to comment for sure, but the crucibles like a really tight hole. I have a 1" spade bit that I keep filing a bit more width off of to make future holdfast holes smaller and smaller and smaller. I'll find its sweet spot before the next bench top is made.

    I do readily agree there is a ton of neat stuff out there for 3/4 inch holes.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Longview WA
    Posts
    21,576
    Blog Entries
    1
    I'm not a big fan of the large checks I see on the big slabs.
    The local dealers around my area tend to have large pieces without checks. Usually they are limited to 16/4 and over 12" isn't common. Occasionally they will get larger pieces, but the price is the prohibitive feature of those.

    You may need to find an independent sawyer or a full service lumber dealer.

    It seems to be my good fortune to have a few good lumber dealers in the Portland area.

    Another option would be to purchase two slabs and make a split top Roubo. If you do not like the idea of a tool tray in the center you could have a removable piece or a central lamination.

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

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Austin, TX
    Posts
    198
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Koepke View Post
    Another option would be to purchase two slabs and make a split top Roubo. If you do not like the idea of a tool tray in the center you could have a removable piece or a central lamination.

    jtk
    I don't really want a tool tray. I've not looked into a split top. So basically you are suggesting 2 slabs plus a filler thin piece?
    What about just 2-3 smaller slabs then? Or at that point should one just laminate a bunch of 16/4 or such?
    Last edited by Erich Weidner; 05-17-2020 at 12:47 AM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    Location
    South West Ontario
    Posts
    1,057
    Pecan sounds lovely to look at and work on. I think the wood you can find will make the choice for you. Go to lumber mills, look in Kiji for local guys who mill, it is not that hard to get interesting wood at a good price outside the usual channels. I was presented with a black walnut option in non furniture grade at a very good price.
    As for Gramercy hold downs, my locations were 4 inches thick, I drilled holes and they did not work, I back drilled underneath with a larger bit in stages to see when they worked, at 3 & 1/2” they hold like an Alligator. Below 2” I believe they are useless. You can glue pads of wood underneath on a 2” bench to make it thicker at the needed locations so don’t get hung up on bench thickness either way.
    Last edited by William Fretwell; 05-16-2020 at 7:40 AM. Reason: Comma
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by William Fretwell View Post
    Pecan sounds lovely to look at and work on. I think the wood you can find will make the choice for you. Go to lumber mills, look in Kiji for local guys who mill, it is not that hard to get interesting wood at a good price outside the usual channels. I was presented with a black walnut option in non furniture grade at a very good price.
    As for Gramercy hold downs, my locations were 4 inches thick, I drilled holes and they did not work, I back drilled underneath with a larger bit in stages to see when they worked, at 3 & 1/2” they hold like an Alligator. Below 2” I believe they are useless. You can glue pads of wood underneath on a 2” bench to make it thicker at the needed locations so don’t get hung up on bench thickness either way.
    I have a couple of portable Moravian benches with 8/4 Beech slabs. One is 1 7/8" thick and the other is 1 3/4", Gramercy hold fasts work well on either bench. I also have a couple of Roubo style benches, both have laminated slabs. One is beech and 3 3/4" thick, Gramercy hold fasts work well with no back drilling. The other bench has a laminated 4 1/4" SYP slab, it needed back drilling to work consistently with Gramercy hold fasts. My two shop sized Moravian benches have laminated 3 1/2" Beech slabs which work well with Gramercy hold fasts.

    I also have a couple of "Black Bear Forge" hold fasts that work slightly better than the Gramercy hold fast on any of my benches. They cost a few bucks more but depending on how much you like your money they may or may not be worth the extra cost.

    As to the question of slab vs. laminated slab, laminated slabs are easy to build (can be run through most planers if split or if one piece you may only have to deal with one glue joint), usually cost less, move less, and can be sized to desired size easily. One piece slabs have a greater "hoot" factor so it kinda depends on if you are building to work on or building to impress. I will give one advantage to a one piece slab, it is easier to build but it will also take more work to keep flat.

    One more thought since you have not started your build. Depending of length of your bench, wood used, and design of the base (good design can make up for a lot of extra weight) anything over about 3 1/2" may be over kill and just add unnecessary cost to the build. But then there is the "hoot" factor and men do have a need to impress.

    ken

  10. #10
    The laminated approach does yield a very stable top. It also allows the easy incorporation of things like square bench dogs and tail vises. IIRC I did the glue-up in either 3 or 4 sections, then glued the sections together in sequence. This bench happens to be hard maple. I made up a couple of sets of clamps using dimensional lumber and threaded rod to keep everything aligned during the glue-ups.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    Location
    South West Ontario
    Posts
    1,057
    So Ken we agree that at around 3 & 1/2” Gramercy hold downs work well, with some small variation depending on the wood. I have used them on someone else’s bench at 2” and they were intermittent, frequent re-tapping required. Your Beech benches are a lovely hard wood for a bench and clearly agree with your hold downs!

    The angle of the hold down in the bench increases as the depth diminishes, the contact length and hence the area of steel and wood diminishes. The increased angle and decreased area will wear the hole more on a thinner bench top, especially on softer woods. Ironically this may initially increase the contact area but as wear continues the angle will continue to increase, requiring harder taps and creating even more wear.

    The quality of the hole will affect friction, a rough drilled hole such as a hand auger will have fewer contact points, a Forstner bit will provide a smooth hole and maximize contact with the steel. I would start with a Forstner then when it’s length is exhausted use the smoothest drill bit you have, or buy one. My bench holes are treated with 3 coats of smoking hot BLO.
    Last edited by William Fretwell; 05-16-2020 at 10:38 AM. Reason: Paragraph
    ​You can do a lot with very little! You can do a little more with a lot!

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by ken hatch View Post

    One more thought since you have not started your build. Depending of length of your bench, wood used, and design of the base (good design can make up for a lot of extra weight) anything over about 3 1/2" may be over kill and just add unnecessary cost to the build. But then there is the "hoot" factor and men do have a need to impress.

    ken
    Should have mentioned, the base to this bench uses 3-1/2" square legs (I only needed to impress the builder).
    Attached Images Attached Images

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Erich Weidner View Post

    Anyway I have a LN holdfast and it works OK, but keeps coming loose. I suspect the top of my bench is just too thin. But I don't want to go too thick either. I was specifying 5-6 inches because that seems to be the old school Roubo thickness. But I'm pretty sure I want to stick with 3/4" holes in the bench vs 1" for the crucible. So if 4" is the magic number I'm OK with that too.
    Should have also mentioned that the top of my bench is 4" thick and the LN holdfasts work extremely well in this top.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Longview WA
    Posts
    21,576
    Blog Entries
    1
    Quote Originally Posted by Erich Weidner View Post
    I don't really want a tool tray. I've not looked into a split top. So basically you are suggesting 2 slabs plus a filler thin piece?
    What about just 2-3 smaller slabs then? Or at that point should one just laminate a bunch of 8/4 or such?
    Lots of folks like having a narrow channel between the slabs. Not for a tool tray but for clamping. Some will have a piece between the two so it is a continuous top but it can be removed for clamping. Some have it set up so when it is flipped over it makes a low ridge as an aid to hold work.

    Finding a 22" wide slab will be a challenge. Finding two 11" slabs while still a challenge isn't as difficult of a challenge.

    Besides, even without a split top gluing and truing two slabs will be easier than gluing and truing a dozen pieces of 2X material.

    jtk
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 05-16-2020 at 11:08 AM.
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Location
    Santa Cruz, CA
    Posts
    77
    I think the topic of what makes a holdfast hold is a good one. I spent a morning a while back making holdfasts out of steel forming stakes (which I always have a ton of) that netted out to about 9/16" or 5/8"+. One thing that was interesting, is that the projection of the holdfast laterally from the hole made a big difference in ability to hold. Some, worked marginally in a 3/4" hole 5 1/2" fir bench top, then, my best ones all hold well in 3/4" holes back drilled for a net depth of +/- 4". Then, I made some holdfasts from 7/8" stock and set them in a 1" hole and they hold great without any fussing in two bench tops of 5" + thickness. The projection is all greater on these. From my experience, a bigger hole and bigger diameter means better hold in thicker tops. I use all of these holdfasts that I made regularly and they work well.

    On the topic of slab, it seems like an aesthetic thing for a single slab. One of my benches is a split top with two singular pieces of Doug fir. It's what was handy and milled from my house. The bench that I use a lot more is a torsion box made with high quality plywood. For what I do, its extremely useful for me because it is totally flat, and I guess my workflow blurs the line between workbench and assembly table, which is another interesting topic to me, as I guess I don't really get how so many folks regard the workbench as so distinct from assembly table, but then, all I know is what I know, and haven't really watched to many other folks work...cecause it flats, its easy to check stuff as I am building and for glue ups, like chairs and cases, I know that I have a flat reference.

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •