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Thread: How to order a bench top from a sawmill

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2020
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    Mayfield Ohio
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    How to order a bench top from a sawmill

    I've never used a planer or jointer and don't know anything about millwork so I'm trying to understand how to ask a sawmill to make a workbench top for me. Not sure what type of glue press they have, but they do make face glued butcher block or plank style tops.

    I want to laminate two sections for a split top bench, that will be used in an unheated garage in Cleveland's humid summers and spring time condensation from cold nights and warm days. I'm thinking of asking them to rip 8/4 S2S lumber to 3.75" widths, that will be face glued to make the 2 sections. 8 boards will be glued to make a 14.5" wide section and 6 boards will make an 11" wide section. Finished length of sections to be 78".

    Will the S2S surfacing on both sides be enough so these boards can be face glued without any further surfacing. After glue up, is planing the only final work required for final leveling of both sections.
    What else should I ask them besides orienting all boards before gluing so grain is going in same direction to make any future leveling with a hand plane easier. And to use exterior grade glue.

    Haven't yet decided on a hardwood or whether I need quartersawn lumber to make the top sections less likely to distort in unheated garage.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Bartlesville, OK
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    72
    A sawmill is not the place to get what you are asking. There are woodworking shops that happen to do rough mill work but it sounds like you might be better off going to someplace like Grizzly and simply ordering up a benchtop. That will be more cost effective overall. You can add the legs, drawers, etc yourself.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2018
    Location
    Eagle, WI
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    58
    Might you consider purchasing a kit from one of the various bench making companies such as Benchcrafted (https://www.benchcrafted.com/strs4skit) or Plate 11 (https://www.plate11.com/workbenches)?

  4. #4
    I recently did some shopping around on "commercial" butcher block products. There were a few local places that were able to do custom counter tops but golly were they expensive. That's besides the point, however. They simply asked me the basic questions - length, width, thickness, and what edge treatments I wanted.

    I feel that you're be better off letting them figure out what kinds of boards to use to built up the lamination rather than trying to dictate every last detail. Using 8/4 lumber will a lot more expensive than using what they happen to have on hand.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
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    NE OH
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    Since you're in NE Ohio, I suggest you contact Baird Brothers (maybe that's who you are talking to?) One of their specialties is solid wood countertops and workbench tops. I'm pretty sure they will be able to answer your questions and provide recommendations for assemblies that will meet your needs. They can provide unfinished tops or finished to your requirements. Their quality is A+ and customer service A+ also. Of course that comes at a price.

    I have no association with them other than as a very satisfied customer.
    --Certainty is the refuge of a small mind--

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    El Dorado Hills, CA, USA
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    Aside from the suggestions above, some commentary on your questions:

    - I would give them the finished dimension requirements to meet. Your idea of ripping presumably 2x8 material in half to get two 3.75" widths is a start, but keep in mind that the final planing may take off a significant amount off both sides of the beams, like 1/4" off each, depending on how flat the wood is and how well they registered all the boards during glue-up.
    - I don't know for sure what you mean by "S2S surfacing", but you want the edges that receive glue to be jointed and planed flat and parallel before gluing. You (they) are not going to just take boards that are milled S2S to sell, and glue them together without big gaps, no matter how hard they squeeze them. After glue-up, you want them to *joint* one side of each beam, then plane the other side to make both beams flat on both sides and equal thickness.
    - Quartersawn would be awesome, but I don't think I've heard of many folks spending the coin to get it. You want the grain lines as seen from the end of the bench, to be as vertical as they can be, and not near the center of the tree. Most flat-sawn boards, placed on edge, will qualify. In my case I used rift sawn white oak because my lumberyard only has white oak in rift or quarter sawn.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2020
    Location
    Mayfield Ohio
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    Thanks guys. I looked at Grizzly but want to go thicker that the 2.25" tops that they offer. Benchcrafted and Plate 11 sure make some nice benches but I prefer something closer to Robert Lang's 21st century design. And while searching for hardwood a month ago, I did find Baird Brothers and they are the ones I want to go to. Just thought I'd check here first, before going to them. I like what I see about them on their website, so I'll ask with them what they recommend.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    So Cal
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    2,949
    Lie Neilson used to make and sell woodworking benches. It will be ready to go when you get it all you have to do is unbox
    They might be back ordered due to the ca virus keeping everyone home.
    I have one and can testify its a great product.
    Good Luck
    Aj

  9. #9
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    Jul 2020
    Location
    Mayfield Ohio
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    Thanks Dave. So instead of me guessing that 8 boards face glued will be 14.5" (because S2S is suppose to be 1.81" thick) I'll ask them how many boards will make a 14 to 15" wide section. I'll state a finished length of 78" and a thickness of at least 3.5". Hopefully they will have some rift sawn lumber they can recommend that won't move too much.

  10. #10
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    Jul 2020
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    Mayfield Ohio
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    I checked out LN's and other pre-fab benches Andrew, but want to make a knock down trestle base because there's a chance we'll be moving in a year or two. So once I know I can get the top laminated, I need to find someone to build the base. I know it would be a great learning project for me to build it, but with the tools and skills I have, I'll be looking for a shop that won't mind working from my plans and cutting M&T joints, drilling holdfast holes in top, and excavating underside of bench for vises, etc.

  11. #11
    Like some of the others mentioned a sawmill probably isn't the place to get this done. But some sawmill operations also have a wood shop and do custom work so it could work if you found the right place. Most of them will only want to sell you the lumber though.

    Alan

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Cambridge Vermont
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    1,607
    Another option might to to find a local woodworker's club. It's possible there's one close to you that will have someone who can do the work for you for a reasonable price. If you are thinking about dabbling in woodworking it would get you a chance to talk to other already doing it. That'll come in useful down the road.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Location
    Silicon Valley, CA
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    It occurs to me you might be able to custom order just a top from one of the bench makers since they are small companies and may have some flexibility to their production.

    Also, I notice that one of the Benchcrafted benches and the L-N bench are knockdown designs. (I didn't check others, but would be surprised if they are the only ones.)

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    central tx
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    459
    Why can't you get this from a sawmill? It just needs to be a mill that also has a planer and a kiln. There is one near me, I'd think there would have to be something in the midwest.

    The main thing you will run into is cost, down here you are competing with thick pieces that they sell for fireplace mantels and tables.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Crawford View Post
    Why can't you get this from a sawmill? It just needs to be a mill that also has a planer and a kiln. There is one near me, I'd think there would have to be something in the midwest.
    It sounds to me like the OP wants the top assembled for him, which I wouldn't expect most sawmills to want to get involved with.

    Many mills do have a planer and offer planing services but most mills don't have a large jointer for face/edge jointing, which will likely be required in this case.

    Most certainly there are sawmill owners who also do custom milling and woodwork but they'll be harder to find. I'd think it would be easier to find a sawmill to provide the lumber and a woodworker to make the top from it.

    Alan

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