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Thread: Laminated or Slab Benchtop

  1. #46
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    OK, a sawmill relatively nearby to Austin can cut me a slab of 4-6" thickness in the size I'm looking for ~8' long by ~24" wide. In pecan.

    Now, the question comes to how thick and how wide do I really want it?

    Seems like folks have had different experiences with holdfasts in thick slabs. So... again, how thick do I want this sucker? And how wide. I'm thinking 23" or 24" My current bench is 20" wide, and I find that to be too narrow.

  2. #47
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    24" is about the extent of most folks reach. If you are not going to use a tool tray, go wide or go home!

    Even with a tool tray a few extra inches will help if you find 20" too narrow.

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

  3. #48
    My previous bench was 23-1/2 and sometimes when I would assemble something I would find myself wishing for just one more inch. My new bench is 26" so that should never be an issue, but I'm also six and a half feet tall so I can easily reach across it. A regular sized person would probably find it a little annoying.

  4. #49
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    I wonder at what point one reaches diminishing returns on thickness. I have 4" thick bench and can't imagine one "feeling more solid" if it were thicker. I also believe that thicker than 4" may lead to issues with holdfasts, but that can be alleviated with a back bore in the holdfast holes we have been told. I am in awe as I imagine the slab of pecan you may end up with. I have done some furniture work with pecan and it is hard on chisel edges. I had to go to a 35* bevel to keep from rolling the edge in an older set of chisels that normally did not have that issue. Pretty stuff.
    David

  5. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by chris carter View Post
    A regular sized person would probably find it a little annoying.
    I'm merely 5' 8", and with a belly that reduces my reach by a few inches.

  6. #51
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Eisenhauer View Post
    I wonder at what point one reaches diminishing returns on thickness. I have 4" thick bench and can't imagine one "feeling more solid"
    I was originally saying slab of 4-6" because that is what the Roubo book specified. I'm sure 4" would be fine.

    But then I've never worked on anything but my crappy thin, light, crappy bench. In hindsight I now know why I gravitated to power tools for a decade. This bench makes everything slow and miserable. I guess I want to ensure the new bench which I want to last my lifetime, will stay put, not vibrate tools off the top while I'm working at the other end, and be big enough to have space to work on big boards.

  7. #52
    Quote Originally Posted by Erich Weidner View Post
    I was originally saying slab of 4-6" because that is what the Roubo book specified. I'm sure 4" would be fine.

    But then I've never worked on anything but my crappy thin, light, crappy bench. In hindsight I now know why I gravitated to power tools for a decade. This bench makes everything slow and miserable. I guess I want to ensure the new bench which I want to last my lifetime, will stay put, not vibrate tools off the top while I'm working at the other end, and be big enough to have space to work on big boards.
    Erich,

    That doesn't happen very often, especially with first or second bench builds. A bench needs to fit you and the work you do, all the books published and all the bench "experts", including me, are full of crap when it comes to your bench. Follow their advise, add all the bells and whistles that sound good, and I will bet within a year there will be things that drive you to barking at the moon mad. The one bit of advice that is valid is to pick a bench style that has stood the test of time, which in your case is a Roubo, and build it simple, cheap, and quickly. Work on it for awhile until there are things that bug you but can't be fixed easily, then build another making the needed changes. Repeat until you feel you have the bench that is perfect, it likely will not be because as folks work wood what they do changes over the years which in turn may require a different bench. That is the bad news, the good is building benches can be a hoot.

    I think only one of my benches built in the last few years has had a slab that approached 4". Most of the shop benches have slabs around 3 1/2", the portable benches have slabs that are close to 2". None of the benches move around when planing, and I can mortise anywhere on the 3 1/2" slab. On a normal sized bench (8' or less) there is no reason to go greater than 4"s. As an aside, good design can replace a lot of weight

    ken

  8. #53
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    I agree bench thickness doesn't need to be any thicker than 4". The base of my bench uses 4" x 5" maple legs with 2 1/2" thick maple stretchers. IMO the solid base is more important than having a bench top of 4"+. My bench top is doug fir and is 3.5" thick and is is plenty sturdy in terms of vibration. If it was made of a hardwood like maple I would think it would feel like a rock.

    I'm still not sold on you being that happy with a great big slab but if that's the route you want to take then have at it. I just think you'll be dealing with the constant movement due to the top slowly drying over many many years.

    I'm also not so sure I agree with Ken's comments on building a cheap bench and planning on building another one every so often. I think researching what you think you'll want and using the nicest hardware you can afford and just building a lifetime bench that will work with both power and handtools is the way to go. I am personally much more interested in making furniture than I am benches therefore I just want to get the bench done correctly and start building furniture with the understanding there will be things you'll love and things you'll hate. That again is why I'm a fan of using a laminated top and then being able to modify or replace it if I really don't like it's features. Having said this I still can't imagine not liking a bench that incorporates a great face vice (either a nice leg vise or a twin screw) with a solid tail vise (either a LN tail vise or a Benchcrafted wagon vise) with a row of square dog holes in front. That to me is the ultimate bench top and I just can't imagine ever wanting something different.

    But then again as Ken mentioned all of our work methods are different and also change over time. So what I think is best for me certainly is not what is best for anyone else. Also, some people really enjoy building benches and like tweaking their design over and over. I treat my bench like any other tool in the shop and just use it without thinking about it too much, that is of course unless it's not functioning properly. The worst tool in the shop to have function poorly is the workbench, fettling a workbench is much more work than getting a handplane to take nice shavings.

  9. #54
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    Jan 2012
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    Austin, TX
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    So, it looks like Lost Art Press is about to put out another book on benches. About 2 months out... Given how much I've read and watched from C.S. I think I'm at this point going to wait to read that before I proceed with a new bench build.
    I've lived with my crappy bench for 15 years (and I hate it) but 2 more months at this point isn't a big deal. In the meantime I'll work on my M&T hand tool joints and get started with dovetails.

  10. #55
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    Aug 2019
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    Pittsburgh, PA
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    My dad bought a load of mahogany back home in the 70s. He saved a huge slab, at least 3" x 36" x 10ft as his workbench top. He used it for the rest of his life, I don't think he ever flattened or attached it to the base. It's still there, in a corner of the old workshop now, waiting.

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