SHOP IMPROVEMENTS #4: Working On My New Bench Top

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Blog entry by stefang posted 09-16-2013 04:48 PM 2837 reads 0 times favorited 34 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: THE AGONY & THE ECSTASY - GLUING UP MY BENCH TOP Part 4 of SHOP IMPROVEMENTS series Part 5: Progress Update on my Bench Build »

Just a little update on my bench build.

Work todate
This shows the Irwin clamps I was able to use while gluing up the three individual sections of my bench top one at a time.

Here I am joining all the sections together for the last gluing. My Irwin clamps weren’t long enough to reach the full 26” final width of the top. I only had 7 long clamps, but that worked out fine luckily. Three under and four on top. As you can see, I had to put the clamp handles against the wall otherwise I wouldn’t have had enough room for the long clamp ends. This didn’t make the glue-up any easier!

The side showing is actually the bottom. The challenge here is to plane it flat with all those very hard Fir knots. My original plan was to drill them out with a Forstner bit and plug the holes after the main planing was finished. I tried that, but the Forstner bit was not up to the job as the bit wandered too much before the rim could bite into the good wood around the knots.

For the next try I used a hole saw the same size, sawed down into the top about 3/16” around each knot, chiseled out a little of the hard material with a gouge then used my Forstner bit again to deepen the hole without degrading the circle made by the hole saw. As you can see, this worked very well. I didn’t have much time to do this work today, but now I know that I can drill the rest of the knots quickly and accurately and make my planing work much easier on myself and my plane iron.

I plan to scroll saw the plugs out so I can keep the grain direction consistent. If I don’t taper the plugs I can saw out thick plugs and cut them to make several disks from one cutting. If i make them slightly oversize it might even be possible to taper them a little afterward by sanding to ensure a perfect fit.

I’m not sure when this little project will be finished as we are driving to Sweden this week to visit our son. So far I have used my little Stanley /Bailey #4 and it is performing perfectly for me. This is a better form of exercise than using boring training equipment. Good health and a flat bench!

Thanks for reading!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

34 comments so far

View PurpLev's profile


8652 posts in 4890 days

#1 posted 09-16-2013 04:55 PM

looking good. that is one large piece of topping :)

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View daltxguy's profile


1373 posts in 5155 days

#2 posted 09-16-2013 05:23 PM

”Good health and a flat bench!”
The secret to long life..

Forget treadmill desks (stupid). I want a workbench desk…

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

View Rob Drown's profile

Rob Drown

839 posts in 5074 days

#3 posted 09-16-2013 05:37 PM

Good squeeze out, looks well bonded!! Very cool way to deal with the knots. Will save you a lot of sharpening and headaches for years to come. Very nice. Beautiful wood. What kind of fir? Similar to our Douglas Fir? I don’t see any pitch pockets.

Have fun on your trip.

-- The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools. Confucius, 经过艰苦的努力的梦想可以成真

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4575 days

#4 posted 09-16-2013 05:39 PM

Thanks Purplev. I am really looking forward to this large top. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a good place to assemble larger projects, even though I am making this primarily for my marquetry work. I could use the garage for big glue-ups, but it’s too cold in the winter. Also it is big enough to take a nap on when I get tired of hand planing.

Thanks Steve, I’m glad to see that you are onboard with my exercise idea. Of course it wouldn’t be too difficult to mount bike pedals under the desk end of the bench if someone just had to have them. Didn’t da Vinci invent something like that?

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

26782 posts in 4347 days

#5 posted 09-16-2013 05:41 PM

Nice progress, Mike. That is a nice plane you have. A #4?. Where is that in the range of planes- like a “coarse grit” in sandpaper or more of a “medium” I’m trying to learn more about planes and I pulled mine down to sharpen it and get familiar with all the workings and adjustments.

it looks like you will get a lot of planing experience to flatten the puppy!. But boy will you ever have a nice top to work on!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for sharing.
Good health and flat bench to you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
.........Cheers, Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4575 days

#6 posted 09-16-2013 05:52 PM

Thanks Rob. It is Norwegian Spruce, but I wasn’t paying attention and they snuck a couple of Pine pieces into the mix. I should have known from the yellow coloration which you can see in the top left corner of the photo, but I guess my head was in a dark place at the time. No problem from a quality viewpoint, but I am a little irritated at myself for not catching it. I still haven’t fully decided which side I will use for the top. The wood is cut tangentially, so there are much fewer knots on the other side, but they run lengthwise and they are milled flat. Not so easy to fix as the round ones. It’s always fun to have these little challenges, especially if a way around them can be figured out.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


17529 posts in 3860 days

#7 posted 09-16-2013 06:07 PM

“Clear the shop walls, we’re gluing up the benchtop!”

Love it, Mike!

And going after the knots the way you are is an incredible level of detail. You, sir, are an inspiration. Thanks for taking us along!

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

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4575 days

#8 posted 09-16-2013 06:20 PM

Jim Thanks for your good wishes. I’m not all that experienced with hand planes, but I have been steadily gaining more experience and skill with them the last few years. The #4 plane is a smoothing plane for final planing of a surface. Another common plane, the #5 Jack plane is longer and can be used to do preliminary rough planing or even smooth planing and the jointing of shorter pieces. This depends on how the blade is shaped on it’s cutting edge. That is, with a smaller radius (crown) for roughing or a larger radius or no radius at all for flattening. The radius ensures that the corners of the blade don’t dig in and the smaller radius gives more crown and a bigger bite without digging in to the wood. I have my #4 blade shaped with a very slight crown, about 1/32”. A #4 is a good place to start if you only have one plane. They are fairly lightweight and they are versatile enough to cover a pretty wide range of use. I hope you will give it a try. There is plenty of info on the net on how to tune a new or used hand plane (a one time job to smooth the castings). Only really sharp hand planes work really well.

Smitty Thanks. It was very observant of you to see that I had to remove a lot tools off the wall just to get room to turn my clamp screws. It’s kind of like working in a straight jacket. I have to admit though that this has been a real fun project so far. I haven’t made anything large for some time now, and it is good to be back in the saddle again!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View shipwright's profile


8751 posts in 4039 days

#9 posted 09-16-2013 08:19 PM

You’re doing a fine job Mike.
As a boat builder I must ask about what you mean by “keeping the grain consistent”. I know that people like to align grain in plugs with the surrounding grain to disguise them but if form does follow function, then they really have to align across the grain of the surrounding wood. Otherwise it will drive boat builders like me crazy. Of course if you don’t have any visiting it’s not such a big problem. To me plugs aligned with the grain just look wrong, even in sheerly cosmetic settings ….. wrong.
Of course that’s my problem, not yours as I doubt that your bench will get soaked very often like a ship’s deck.

Pardon the rant, it’s a bit of a pet peeve of mine. The bench looks great and as a somewhat experienced marquetry guy, I think I can say with some confidence that it will be strong enough to support most marquetry projects.

Can’t wait to see the fine work that comes off of this.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View kiefer's profile


5852 posts in 3908 days

#10 posted 09-16-2013 08:30 PM

That looks like a pretty heavy workout and you better be in good shape when you get back from holidays .
As to making the plus and also tapering them use the disc sander if you have one ,I make them that way for my dovetailed leather hinges ,it’ quick and precise.
Now we have to wait until you get back to see the finished bench ,don’t be too long and have a good time .

-- Kiefer

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4575 days

#11 posted 09-16-2013 08:46 PM

Thanks Paul No need to pardon your rant, I rather enjoyed learning something new about boat builder’s preferences. I’m still not 100% sure which side will be up. I won’t be making plugs where the end grain shows. It will be long grain taken from the same orientation as the piece removed and the grain will be aligned so the plugs will expand and contract just like the wood around them.

Thanks Kiefer I get some pain after the hand planing sessions, but I’m willing to pay that price for the fun I get out of it, and also the exercise. Thanks for the tip on the disk sander. I do plan to use my disk sander with the table slightly angled to get the tapers. I am currently wondering about how long it will take me to get each side finished. I spent about an hour experimenting with the knot drilling and planing the one end. I am thinking about using my Jack plane with more camber on the blade to speed things up a bit (camber, crown, radius, so many ways to describe the same thing).

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View shipwright's profile


8751 posts in 4039 days

#12 posted 09-16-2013 09:36 PM

OK Mike, here’s what I meant:
First of all I wasn’t referring to dowels but plugs as you describe but think about the orientation. If the wood swells a plug that is set parallel to the surrounding material it will get VERY tight on the sides but will actually get a bit looser on the ends. If the plug is set across the grain, then when it gets wet the plug will swell and seal the end grain of the hole and the board will swell and seal the end grain of the plug. On decks plugs are always set cross grain for this reason. .......... just to clarify …...... Did I?

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4575 days

#13 posted 09-16-2013 09:49 PM

Yes, thanks for that Paul. I understand it now. End grain to end grain joints will result in dried out ends. If I use the repaired knots on the bottom I will do it your way. If I use it for the top I will drown the end grain in glue and hope it stays nice. If not, then I can always replace them easily enough if they get bad. I’ll just thrown a table cloth on it when I get visits from boatbuilders. They need never know!

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 5123 days

#14 posted 09-16-2013 09:58 PM

Very nice Mike. It looks like a tight squeeze in the shop these days.

You have an interesting discussion going on Paul on plugs. It will be neat to see how this comes out. I don’t have a clue as to the correct answer, but Paul’s idea seems to have merit.

Good for you regarding planning your bench top. I gave up after a couple hours and used a router sled.

Have a nice visit,

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View shipwright's profile


8751 posts in 4039 days

#15 posted 09-16-2013 10:07 PM

.............. :-)

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

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