The Holtzapffel Project #5: The workbench top, part I

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Blog entry by kem posted 05-21-2008 07:06 AM 7231 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: My first laminations Part 5 of The Holtzapffel Project series Part 6: The workbench top, part II »

As you can see in the picture below, Douglas fir comes in a wide range of colors. These are the boards that I selected for the top. The boards with the wild figure are more quartersawn. I kind of like the straight grain lines of the rift sawn and plain sawn boards. If I had to do it over I might have paid more attention to this, but as it is it’s not too bad. Since there was such a wide diversity of colors, I tried to arrange a kind of gradient from dark to light to dark again. We’ll see how this turns out. The front of the bench will be to the right. I placed most of the better looking boards towards the front.

Joint, joint, rip, plane, repeat. That’s all there is to milling up the boards. Actually, I did joint, joint, joint, ..., rip, rip, rip, ..., plane, plane, plane, plane, ....

A couple of problems arose for me while doing this. I lost one board because it turned out I had tapered one edge so severely on the jointer that the max width I could get was 3 1/8”. All the other boards were ripped to 3 1/4”. It also turned out that the total thickness of the boards that I had came out to about 21”. I didn’t get as much thickness out of the boards as I had hoped.

Here are some images from the glue up:

I did four subassemblies of four boards each. I left the front face board unglued, because I had this idea to avoid having to notch a lot of waste from one of the ends to flush the end vise. The idea is to glue up boards to match the width of the end vise, clean cut the ends of these boards, and then offset the other boards to create the notch. It turned out that the first two subassemblies glued up to 10.5” wide. That’s exactly the width of the end vise! Cool!

Now I just had to clean cut the ends of those boards. Can my trusty miter saw handle the 3 1/4” thick, 10.5” wide slab?

Yes it can!

That’s the biggest chunk of wood I’ve cut with that thing.

So, back to that problem of only having a 21” wide top. While moving that big slab around, I accidentally dinged it and left a little nick in the wood. Douglas fir is pretty “dentable”. It’s pretty low on the Janka scale. I decided to add something harder for the front and back face to protect those edges a bit.

I was originally going to use ash and had to pick some up anyway for the vise chops. On Saturday, I went to the Hardwood Emporium in Golden for the first time. The owner, Jay, is a great guy. I can’t recommend that place highly enough. Well, Jay didn’t have 8/4 ash, so I ended up splurging on 8/4 hard maple. The 9” 10 ft. and 7” 9 ft. boards that I bought cost about the same as all of the fir! But I should end up with enough leftovers to make some legs for a night stand and a table.

This was my first experience with hard maple. It’s hard and heavy! Trying to joint an edge so I could rip it was tough especially with that mobile base on the jointer and the uneven garage floor which made it a little less stable than ideal. The jointer was none too happy on the first couple of passes. I had left the depth of cut at closer to 1/16” that I was using with the fir. I backed off on the depth of cut and the jointer didn’t whine as much. I hadn’t realized how good I had it with the Douglas fir!

I was amazed at how much more thickness I got out of that rough lumber. Close to 1 3/4”. Here they make their appearance in the final glue-up:

Yes, I ended up doing this on my kitchen floor! It’s the biggest flatish surface I have in my house. Here’s a picture from the other end that better shows the end vise notch idea:

I should only have to pare back a little to accommodate the end vise.

Well, that’s all for now. Here’s a teaser for the next segment:

The raggedy, uneven top.

And the magical tool that will conquer it.

-- Kevin

7 comments so far

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 5485 days

#1 posted 05-21-2008 07:11 AM

That’s really a great job you are doing there!

Keep us posted!

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View gator9t9's profile


333 posts in 5201 days

#2 posted 05-21-2008 08:54 AM

Can i come and help …..I dont know how to do anything …But It would be fun just sweeping up while that bench gets made ..

-- Mike in Bonney Lake " If you are real real real good your whole life, You 'll be buried in a curly maple coffin when you die."

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27248 posts in 5319 days

#3 posted 05-21-2008 12:14 PM

You have a wonderful start on the bench. I can tell you without a doubt that I wouldn’t have the courage to ask if I could work on a project in my kitchen. My wife yells at me enough as it is simply for tracking sawdust into the house from my shop. :)

Nice post. This one is going to be interesting to follow.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Mike Lingenfelter's profile

Mike Lingenfelter

503 posts in 5611 days

#4 posted 05-21-2008 03:58 PM

The Holtzapffel bench sure is becoming popular. The simplicity and functionality attracted me to it. Mine is tuning out pretty well, and really has been pretty simple to construct. I hope I can wrap up the finial touches on mine this weekend. Keep the posts coming, I like to see how everyone else puts theirs together.

View Backwoods's profile


10 posts in 5157 days

#5 posted 05-21-2008 04:18 PM

That makes for a nice hefty hunk of wood for a work bunch. Good foresight on making a place for the clamp in the design rather then making it an add on. A great workstation makes future projects easier, keep up the good work look forward to seeing how it all comes together.

My clamp collection still has room to grow so when I built my workbenches I slabed off six 2 ½” x 12” x 10’ ash and placed them three wide for the mechanics shop. For the woodshop, I built a cabinet with a full 1” oak top 3’ deep and 9’ long. Then a smaller 2’ x 8’ with a full 1” ash top on it as well.

-- Backwoods Sawyer Portable Sawmill Service

View Damian Penney's profile

Damian Penney

1142 posts in 5488 days

#6 posted 05-21-2008 06:34 PM

I ask everyone whose making one of these the same question, how did you handle jointing such long boards, do you have a monster jointer?

-- I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso

View kem's profile


56 posts in 5215 days

#7 posted 05-21-2008 08:47 PM


I don’t have a monster jointer, just a 6” model. I did get one with a 56” long bed though. It really wasn’t a problem jointing the boards. Most of the boards were around 75” long. The longest one was 80”. I didn’t even feel like I needed the roller stand for outfeed support.

The only problem I had jointing was doing the edge of the rough 6.5 foot long, 9 inch wide 8/4 hard maple. That was tough work manhandling the board. The jointer was getting a little top heavy with it on there. That’s the one time when the outfeed support was necessary.

You’re using hard maple for your top, right? It was noticeably more difficult jointing the hard maple versus the Douglas fir. A lighter cut helped immensely.

-- Kevin

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