Work Bench Build #3: Gluing Up the Top and Milling the Base

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Blog entry by jmos posted 01-30-2012 08:48 PM 5099 reads 1 time favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Milling the Top Part 3 of Work Bench Build series Part 4: The Base »

I’ve actually been able to get a fair amount of time in the shop lately (thanks Dear). I got the top all glued up.

I started with groups of three or four boards. My intention was to joint each group, and then glue two up to make a section about 12” and do a final pass through the planner. While I was laying out the clamps, I had a rather obvious idea that turned out to work really well.

I used some scraps I had that had been jointed so they were flat and clamped a set on each end and in the middle of the glue up. I did this before applying the clamps for the glue up. This kept the boards very well aligned while I tightened the rest of the clamps. The end result was so flat I decided to skip the planing/jointing. I’d just be careful of this method if you like to apply a lot of glue; I had them stick a little, but knocked them of and used a chisel plane to clean off the glue for the next run.

I took it slow, gluing one segment at a time. Schwartz warned that the LVL seems a bit resistant to absorbing the glue and recommends leaving it in the clamps for at least 5 hours. I can only imagine how he discovered that. I took his advice and left each glue up clamped for at least 6 hours. I was also limited by space for gluing up and the number of clamps I have, so I got 2, maybe three sections glued each day. It took some time, but ended up a pretty darn flat top. The bottom is flat enough I probably won’t do anything to it (maybe a little hand planing just where the stretchers will sit) and the top should be good to go with some final hand plane work.

Squaring up the edges on the top was a bit of a chore. Just as Schwarz commented on in his book, using a circular saw and a cutting guide didn’t yield great results. The blade tended to deflect some so the cut wasn’t really square to the top and bottom faces. I ended up using a top guided flush trim router bit to true up the top, but it wouldn’t cut all 3 1/4” of the top at once. I did one pass from the top, then lowered the bit as much as I safely could an took a second pass. Then I flipped the top and did a third pass with a bottom guided flush trim bit where the guide was riding on the area I had already trimmed. The final result wasn’t too bad. I’ll need to do some hand plane clean up to get the end vise chop and edge banding to be really flush, but over all not too bad.

As I mentioned in part 1, I built the saw benches in the pictures for this project, and I can’t recommend them strongly enough. They are sized so the top is just below my knee, and have been terrific for working on the top. I still need to weight it, but it about 130#. Using the saw benches I can flip the top myself with no problems. Just slide the top forward so the back edge is between the legs, lift the top on its edge, slide it to the front of the benches, and lay it down. No sweat.

I was also able to mill and glue up all my 4/4 red oak stock for the legs, short and long stretchers. So I now have my components and can start in on the joinery for the base.

-- John

9 comments so far

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


17834 posts in 4115 days

#1 posted 01-30-2012 08:53 PM

Great narrative, and a fine start to the build. Looking very good, and yes, sawbenches are terrific. Never knew how much one would come in handy before I build one, now I’ve built two more as presents.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View NormG's profile


6576 posts in 4500 days

#2 posted 01-30-2012 10:45 PM

Great job, can’t wait to see the complete bench

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View SASmith               's profile


1850 posts in 4484 days

#3 posted 01-31-2012 12:14 AM

That will be one big glueup.
Packing tape applied to the cauls will keep them from sticking.

-- Scott Smith, Southern Illinois

View hhhopks's profile


663 posts in 3874 days

#4 posted 01-31-2012 01:39 AM

Great start.
How wide is your bench going to be?
Is it two 12” slabs?

-- I'll be a woodworker when I grow up. HHHOPKS

View jmos's profile


918 posts in 3866 days

#5 posted 01-31-2012 02:07 AM

Thanks hhhopks – I talk about that some in part 2. My target width was 24”. I was always planning on adding 1-3/4” maple bands front and back. I ended up with less width of LVL than I expected after flattening and was shy of 24”, so I milled up 2 more 1-3/4” strips and added them to the top. It ended up at 26 1/2”. Decided to go with that since I had it all milled up.

SASmith – it WAS a big glue up; all done now :-)

-- John

View crashn's profile


528 posts in 3962 days

#6 posted 01-31-2012 09:41 PM

I have always heard, that if its man made, it does not belong in a jointer / planer. Would not LVL apply?

-- Crashn - the only thing I make more of than sawdust is mistakes

View jmos's profile


918 posts in 3866 days

#7 posted 02-01-2012 12:38 AM

Crashn – Appears not. Schwarz talks about that in the article on the LVL bench, and he saw no unusual wear and tear on his knives, HSS and carbide. I also had no issues, or unusual wear on my knives. The LVL is laminated with the grain running in the same direction, so you don’t have issues with the jointer hitting end grain and splitting.

Overall, it machined up very nicely. As I mentioned previously, I did find some stress in one of the three pieces when I was ripping it. The kerf actually closed up and stopped the TS blade and kicked the breaker. Not something I was expecting from comments in the article.

-- John

View crashn's profile


528 posts in 3962 days

#8 posted 02-01-2012 04:31 AM

Interesting to know. I am considering materials for my first bench, I was considering milled construction lumber to keep costs down and build my skills, before attempting something in an expensive hardwood. I will have to cost and source out some LVL and consider that also. Thanks for the info.

-- Crashn - the only thing I make more of than sawdust is mistakes

View jmos's profile


918 posts in 3866 days

#9 posted 02-01-2012 04:27 PM

crashn – I hear you. I looked at construction lumber as well, but wasn’t happy with my choices in my area, it was all very knotty and poor quality (for a bench anyway.) My hardwood dealer also deals in the LVL; it cost me $6.20/linear foot for a 1-3/4”x14” beam and could be delivered within a few days. I had to buy in even 2’ increments. I was aiming for a 7’ top, so I bought one 14’ piece and one 8’ piece, and had them cut the 14’ in half for me. I ended up with 1’ of waste.

So far I’m happy with the choice. Solid maple would have been nicer, but too pricey for me. As I mentioned in an earlier post Schwarz had very good things to say about LVL for the top, not so much for the base. He speaks well of southern yellow pine, saying as the resins set up over time it gets really heard. He says the LVL seems even harder then regular SYP.

The only down side to the LVL is the edges tend to splinter. You will need to add some edging to the top to keep the splintering under control; I used maple. It wasn’t too much of an issue working it, just have to be a little more careful than with solid lumber.

-- John

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