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Thread: Laminated Bench Top Question

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Illinois
    Posts
    8

    Laminated Bench Top Question

    I am planning on making a roubo style workbench using a plan calling for two top assemblies measuring 3.5 x 11 x 66 inches. I do not presently have a good workbench. My objective is to build a functional workbench using, to the extent possible, materials I have on hand. I have a bunch of lumber leftover from old projects, as well as a salvaged 2 x 30 x 60 inch maple table top someone in my neighborhood had thrown out.

    I decided to build the base with 8/4 poplar I have on hand. (I actually have enough 8/4 poplar to build the top, but I don't think it would be a good idea to use poplar for the top.)

    As for the top assemblies, I have enough 8/4 maple and 8/4 ash on hand to make one top assembly from maple, and the other from ash. So one option is to use two species of wood for the top assemblies, but I don't think I want to do that. Another option is to purchase additional 8/4 maple or 8/4 ash for the second top assembly. Based on my research, it seems that if i went this route, maple is the way to go.

    However, since I have the material from the maple table top on hand, I am wondering if I could laminate that material for the second (rearmost) top assembly? The table top was constructed from maple pieces measure 2 x 1.5 x 60. The prior owner probably threw that top out after several of the glue lines failed. I think the top was glue starved during its original construction, as I was able to disassemble the top into individual strips with minimal effort.

    After milling the strips from the old top, would it be a good idea to glue up two 11 inch wide slabs, probably each around 1.75 inches thick, then glue those two slabs together, and then dimension that glue up down to final size? If I did this use the material I have on hand, I would end up with a top assembly about 59 inches long, which seems a bit short, and is short for my plan.

    To increase the length of the top, I could cut the ends of the maple strips at a 45 degree angle, and butt pieces together to make longer strips. If I were to do this, i would use random length strips so the butt joint are not all in one place. I would also orient the grain direction of the strips consistently, and orient the 45 degree butt joints so they run from top left to bottom right, to facilitate running the top through my planer.

    Is laminating the top as described above a good idea, or will wood movement be an issue?

    Also, while my plan calls for a 66 inch long top, I could go longer if 66 inches is too short. Thoughts on top length are appreciated.

    Thanks in advance your your feedback.

    Stan
    Stan Figura

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Peoria, IL
    Posts
    3,021
    I'm not a fan of laminating 2 wider boards together to make a thick beam. All are other laminations are usually a balanced glue of odd numbers of layers. I would laminate the boards in a edge grain slab.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Illinois
    Posts
    8
    I think what you are essentially recommending is that I glue the table top back together, cut it down to pieces just over 3.5 inches wide (i.e. the thickness of the desired top), flip those pieces 90 degrees, and glue them together for the top. Is that right?
    Stan Figura

  4. #4
    Because benches were often made of air dried wood ; and were often wiped down with damp ,or wet cloth ,a lot of the old ones show
    big open ‘cracks’ and some reglueing . I used air dried beech and hand scraped each piece in the middle and it has held up well. Glued up
    sections 5 or 6 inches wide then jointed the edges and glued up the sections. It has held up well.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Warwick, RI
    Posts
    670
    I've always had a soft wood bench and never understood the importance of using expensive hardwoods. It's a bench and it works, like a bench. I know if money was no object, I'd have a giant hardwood slab just because I could. I love my Home Depot spruce lumber top.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Toronto, ON
    Posts
    544
    I kind of agree with Richard Hutchings - but for different reasons....

    I've read the softwood top will actually contribute some grip to your material while you're working on it. It's supposed to offer a little more "spring."

    This might be sacrilege to the hardwood bench top fans but it could be worth looking into - Chris Schwartz is very open about sharing his research.
    Howard Rosenberg

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    Posts
    61,320
    On hardwood vs softwood...keep in mind that some hardwoods are soft and some softwoods are hard. Spruce/fir, etc., can be pretty darn "hard" and provide a very durable work surface while also being economical. For folks who want to use hardwoods, "soft maple" is also pretty darn hard and often attractively priced, too.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    central NC
    Posts
    916
    I used douglas fir 4/4s from home centers for my laminated top. It took numerous trips to all the local big orange and the blue to find enough without pith or too many knots. Then I stickered them for a couple more months till they stopped losing weight. I built a split top based on ideas from Schwartz, and Benchcrafted website. The DF has been fine. Pine for the lags and stretchers. Good luck. Building a first bench is a learning experience. Enjoy it then enjoy using it.

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