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  • Work bench top

    Howdy,

    I'm in the process of making a work bench top out some 8/4 maple. The plans call it to be 26 1/4" wide, 15 - 1 3/4" w x 2" thk strips. The plans call to make it in 3 sections and use fill length splines and glue to put them together. I figure I may some wacky results if these sections are not perfectly straight and square. I'm not sure how flat I can get a 6' long piece on a 6" jointer and 12" planer.

    Is there any tips out there that I can use to minimize the error in alignment, or will it be that noticable? Will I need to do a lot of hand planing, is it unavoidable?

    Thanks,
    Frank

  • #2
    Re: Work bench top

    I am facing the same issues, and have decide to use multiple layers of laminated-together plywood, as I need a VERY flat surface. My bench will serve as an assembly table, also.

    If you could reduce the width of your top to 24", you could make it in 2 sections rather than 3. Each one could be planed flat in your 12" planer. At least this way you'd only have one seam to align during your final glue-up, and you might stand a better chance of getting a flat top without a lot of hand planing.

    Even if you follow your original plans, and end up with a non flat surface, there is a way to use a router and a home-made sled jig to get it flat.
    http://www.jeffgreefwoodworking.com/...ut/index2.html

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    • #3
      Re: Work bench top

      For all the work it takes to make a good bench top, have you tried pricing ready made tops? A good well made (in factory) maple (or other industrial grade) top should last you many years. I really think in the end you'll be happier and also save yourself loads of hard work and frustration.

      If you do use say 2 layers of good quality plywood, think about adding a top of 1/4" hardboard. That will be flat and also easy to replace when it gets bashed up.

      If you go with a maple top, be sure to order it factory cut to size and factory sealed on both sides and all edges.
      Last edited by Woussko; 10-18-2007, 09:14 AM.

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      • #4
        Re: Work bench top

        Sams club has a Thick Maple top with a very sturdy/durable stand for a $199.00, My guess at the width and length is 3ft x 5ft. Very nice bench if you ask me......
        Great Link for a Construction Owner/Tradesmen, and just say Garager sent you....

        http://www.contractorspub.com

        A good climbing rope will last you 3 to 5 years, a bad climbing rope will last you a life time !!!

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        • #5
          Re: Work bench top

          Originally posted by jbateman View Post
          ...
          If you could reduce the width of your top to 24", you could make it in 2 sections rather than 3. Each one could be planed flat in your 12" planer. At least this way you'd only have one seam to align during your final glue-up, and you might stand a better chance of getting a flat top without a lot of hand planing.
          ...
          That's a good idea. I could go even farther and make 2 6" sections first, joint them and then assemble them into the 12, then plane that. It would be more handling, but it would be easier to align and would help keep them straighter and flatter.

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          • #6
            Re: Work bench top

            Keep an eye out for old bowling alleys being torn down, too. I have a bench with the base made from the legs and lower box from a pinball machine and the top from the maple flooring ofthe alley. I ended up through drilling one end and putting all-thread through it to keep it from delaminating when putting twisting loads on it (I have my reloading equipment mounted on this bench.)

            My other tables are 64 X 24 laminated plywood. I used 3/4" B/C and cut the above sizes. This leaves two more pieces 24 X 32. I glued and screwed them together with the two smaller pieces in the middle, and then used brads to put on a removable 1/4" tempered Masonite top. With three layers of 3/4" ply, that sucker is straight and stiff. (The table you gutter-minded people!)
            Steve
            www.MorrisGarage.com

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            • #7
              Re: Work bench top

              IKEA often has maple counter-top sections on sale at very reasonable prices. If you have one of their stores (or perhaps a competitor), check them out.

              CWS

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              • #8
                Re: Work bench top

                Thanks for the replies, I may use some of the ideas for other benches, but I'm still building a solid maple one. The wood is on the way ... no turning back now.

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                • #9
                  Re: Work bench top

                  After you cut the strips, look at them closely and lay them out to get a good pattern/look for the whole top. Do this on a couple of saw horses so when you get it like you want, you can draw a big triangle on the underside to use in referencing the boards during glue-up, to end up with the same pattern.
                  If possible, place the boards so that all the top grain runs the same direction. If you should decide you want to use a jointer plane to flatten or ,later on, resurface the top, having all the grain running the same way will eliminate tear-out during planing.
                  With that thin of strips, you may want to cut the boards so that they are quartersawn (looking at the ends, the grain lines will run vertical or close to vertical.) This will give the most stable top and reduce any cupping or warping of the finished top.
                  When gluing up, use cauls to keep the top surface flat. If the bottom is a little out of alignment it won't be a problem to smooth it where you have the base supports.

                  I made mine of white oak and cut the boards 4" wide and splined them all except the front and back aprons. In retrospect, the splining was a lot of unnecessary work. I also splined the end aprons, but they are installed to float, so are not glued to both the top and the apron. I glued mine into the end of the top boards and left the unglued groove in the apron, but vice/versa also works. This will allow the top to expand and contract as temp/humidity changes. If you have a good glue joint, titebond glue will be as strong as the original board. To get my glue edges perfect, I laid the boards in their side and stacked them up vertically. Looking toward my garage (er.. shop, excuse me) door with the sun coming in, I could easily see all mismatches in the glue joints and corrected them with a hand plane. This worked so well that I placed them on edge and stacked them up for the final glue up. It was easier to clamp and also easy to see any misalignment and adjust the cauls to correct it before the glue dried. Also, unless the splines and grooves are perfect and a press fit, they won't by themselves ensure a flat top. If they are a press fit, you won't get them in once you put glue on them, because they will swell slightly with the wet glue. Dowels or biscuits work better for alignment.
                  The last comment I would make is not to build it until you have any vise hardware on hand. To get all the clearances for the vise mechanisms to work, you will find that the spacing of the base attachments to the table, placement of any dog holes (especially square ones, etc) are all going to be determined by the size and placement of the vise hardware. If you build from plans, and the vise dimensions of yours and the designers are not the same, you may have to do some creative designing on your own to make things fit. After you have cut and glued your boards, it is too late for design changes.

                  Have fun. It is a rewarding project.

                  Go
                  Last edited by Gofor; 10-19-2007, 07:06 PM.
                  Practicing at practical wood working

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Work bench top

                    Originally posted by Gofor View Post
                    ...
                    I made mine of white oak and cut the boards 4" wide and splined them all except the front and back aprons.
                    ...
                    Go
                    Thanks Go, that's really good stuff. A couple of questions. My plans call for 1 3/4" wide strips all glued together. Is there an advantage to doing it that way or the 4" wide strip way? Also, for the dog holes, did you drill them before or after assembly? I can see drilling them before because it would be easier to put the sections in a drill press.

                    Thanks,
                    Frank

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Work bench top

                      Originally posted by FSK View Post
                      Thanks Go, that's really good stuff. A couple of questions. My plans call for 1 3/4" wide strips all glued together. Is there an advantage to doing it that way or the 4" wide strip way? Also, for the dog holes, did you drill them before or after assembly? I can see drilling them before because it would be easier to put the sections in a drill press.

                      Thanks,
                      Frank
                      Assuming you have flat sawn 8/4 maple, the 1 3/4" width is what it should clean up to get a flat surface. By cutting it into 2" strips, you then are turning it on edge, and in effect, ending up with a quarter sawn maple top 2" thick. This will be more stable against cupping, as the wood cups to the center of the tree when wet and away from the center of the tree when dry. By turning it on edge and making thin strips, you reduce this to a negligible amount. Turning it on edge also allows you to increase the depth to 3 or 4" (depending on how wide the boards are) for the dog hole strips and allows you to place them wherever you want across the top. For heavy work, or square-type dogs, you need at least three inches thickness to give the dogs support. If you are using the round type, particular the "bench pup" type, 2" thickness is probably sufficient for most work.
                      If you are uncomfortable altering the plans you are working from, I would follow them. If you are experienced at changing the plans whenever you change a thickness or width of something, then you can prettty much do as you please. As for the cupping of the flat sawn lumber, if you seal the bottom as well as the top, and the bench is not out in the weather, you probably won't see any problems. By keeping the dimension to 4" width per board, you pretty much eliminate any cupping with 1 3/4 to 2" thick board.
                      I designed my own bench, ao was comfortable making changes as I progressed. I did not turn my boards to get the quarter sawn advantage for a couple of reasons:
                      1. It took me a full week of ten hour days to flatten and square the white oak boards I got from the lumber supplier. The were 2 1/4" by 8" by 10' kiln dried rough sawn white oak. Not only did they have twist and end to end bow, they also were cupped across the width by over 1/8". I do not have a planer so this was all done with hand planes and i was still a novice at their use.
                      2. During planing, I noticed the rays across the grain were very brittle and very susceptible to tear out from the hand plane (altho it was sharp enough I could shave with it and I was only taking a thousandth at a time). For a flat, smooth top, I went the flat sawn route. You should not have this problem with maple, as it is a much closer grained wood and does not have the large rays between the growth rings (unless it's tiger or curly maple).
                      Because I do heavy hand plane work (which is why i made the bench in the first place), I wanted square dog holes so I could make my own wooden ones (less damage to the plane if one is set too high). Square dogs work best at a slight incline toward the pressure side (mine are 2 degrees), so its easiest to mill them into the side of the top piece with a dado blade before assembling the top.
                      As this is getting too long, here is the bench:


                      More photos of the work as I built it can be viewed at http://www.ncwoodworker.net/pp/showgallery.php?cat=830

                      Have fun. Its a great project

                      Go
                      Practicing at practical wood working

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                      • #12
                        Re: Work bench top

                        Nice bench Go. That is some serious splinning in the top.

                        After your great explaination of why the thinner strips can help with the cupping, I think that's what I will go with. I may up the thickness depending on what size the wood comes in.

                        Thanks for the encouragement and advice. I'll post a pic when I'm done.

                        Frank

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