Roubo-ish work bench #1: Laminating the Top

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Blog entry by galooticus posted 01-02-2017 05:37 PM 1072 reads 0 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Roubo-ish work bench series Part 2: Legs »

First blog post! I’ve been making shavings for about two years now using this monstrosity vaguely resembling a bench:

It’s the most incredible bench ever, measuring in at a roomy 11’ long and 36” high. Has two shelves and even supports a kitchen sink attachment, however the previous owner either didn’t spring for it or took it with them. EVERY surface is curved (great for setting planes bottom-down, no need to worry about the blade dulling) and it rocks with you whenever you plane or saw something on it. Plenty of nails working themselves loose to mar your work on, too! Finally: no vises. Those things are for wimps.

So I’ve been looking forward to building a proper workbench. I’ve got some tools and have been making things, but I don’t think I can call myself a woodworker until I’ve built a proper bench. For the design, I’m going with something like the roubo from Chris Schwarz’ red workbench book made from BORG lumber (douglas fir here). 7 laminated 4×4s for the top, and 4×8s for the legs and chop. 8’ long and targeting 22-24” wide. I decided to go with a single (leg) vise for now using a metal screw from LV. Adding more vises later will be harder, but I wanted a chance to learn how I like to work on a real bench before I commit to anything.

Below is another shot of the old ‘bench’ with the 4×4s on drying out on the bottom shelf. The short short one will be a stretcher (I couldn’t fit them all uncut in my car, so one got cut early).

I chose 4×4s in an attempt to avoid lots of ripping and to reduce the number of laminations (easier glueup). This means the top isn’t completely free of knots, but I’m OK with it. Several of the 4×4s I initially picked up were too warped/twisted to begin with, so with advice from the smackdown thread, I made a second trip and got some more straight ones.

On to jointing. I grabbed an old #7 off ebay just for this purpose; it complements my #5 well. It’s big and heavy and fun to use. Working with these bigger timbers is just fun in general. I only quickly leveled the tops, then made each side square, skipped the bottoms, and chose the best 7 4×4s I had.

On to the glueup. I did multiple mock clamp-ups to test things out. Asked the wife to take a few pictures of me with it. No joke: she made me do the bondo pose. I’ve never told her about it; she decided on her own it would be funny. I was holding out for the finished bench, but okay…

On to the glueup. I got worried about the outdoor (garage) temperature, so I did it inside. In addition to parallel clamps, I made up some panel clamps from extra 4×4 (plane one side smooth to face the work to be clamped) and 1/2” threaded rod with nuts/washers. The idea was to use these to make the laminations as flat and even as possible to maximize final thickness. The top is oriented upside down so that gravity helps even things up. Parallel clamps force everything together.

Take a closer look at my arrows:

First major mistake of the build! I didn’t even notice until the glue had been drying for two days. Initially I was thinking of ripping it off and regluing it, but I ended up leaving it. It added a knot to the top, but this orientation results in both the top and edge (this side will be the front part of the bench) are more or less quarter/rift sawn faces.

On to flattening. My panel clamps didn’t yield a perfectly flat surface (I should have squared and evened up the bottoms of the 4×4s too), but it did help some.

The front edge (and disoriented 4×4) is on the right in all these pictures. Since these are BORG 4×4s, the corners are rounded off. On some of them I didn’t need to plane much off the sides to get them flat, nor did I need to take too much off the top, so they’re still present in the middle of the top. They look like gaps at first glance, but they’re not. Guess this is a second mistake. I figure these will be planed away as I periodically reflatten the top over time, and I may fill them with a mix of sawdust and glue in for the meantime.

I’ve been using all three of the planes pictured. I use the block plane to lower the knots, the #5 to scrub, and #7 to joint/flatten.

That’s pretty much the top for now. I may add some breadboard ends; haven’t decided for sure yet. Next step is to square up some 4×8s for the legs and cut the joints, but that’ll be the topic of the next blog post.

-- Andy in CA

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3941 posts in 1935 days

#1 posted 01-02-2017 11:59 PM

Looks good Andy. Sure will be stout enough.

-- "Duck and Bob would be out doin some farming with funny hats on." chrisstef

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