Gluing Up Workbench Top

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Forum topic by Thalweg posted 11-21-2017 05:27 PM 1253 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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103 posts in 4087 days

11-21-2017 05:27 PM

Topic tags/keywords: workbench maple

I just acquired a large amount of maple flooring. My neighbor got it out of an old school gym. He cherry-picked the best stuff for new floors in his house. He offered to give me the rest. Otherwise, he was going to use it for firewood. So I’ve got a garage full of maple now that I don’t have room to store.

It occurred to me that this might make a great workbench top if it were glued up butcher-block style. I machined some of it down last night to see what it would look like. After planing the bottom grooves off, it comes down to about 5/8 inches thick. Then cutting the tongues and grooves off the sides, and the holes from the toe-nails, I can get about 1 ½ inches wide.

I built an assembly table / table saw outfeed table a few years ago with a plywood and melamine top, that is getting pretty beat up. It is 52” x 48”. I’m thinking about replacing that top. I’ve never glued up something that large. At 5/8” thick, I figure I’ll need about 80 rows to get to 48” wide. Keeping this flat will be a major challenge. I have a 22-44 drum sander, and a 15” spiral head planer, so I can glue up chunks and machine them down. Then I could glue the chunks together to get the desired width. I only have four pipe clamps large enough to cross the 48” width, and I know that will be insufficient. I was wondering about drilling holes through the center of the boards and pulling them together with ready-rod and nuts, then just gluing on an additional board at the edge to hide the holes. However, I may be better off just getting more pipe clamps. The ready-rod may just cause more problems than it solves.

This project is simple in concept, but I suspect that it will become more difficult as it progresses. Does anyone have any advice, tips, or words of wisdom before I start this process?

10 replies so far

View Holt's profile


280 posts in 3310 days

#1 posted 11-21-2017 05:51 PM

Not sure what your feelings about tool trays are, but you could add a tray in the middle and have two 24” wide sections flanking it front and back. Seems like Lee Valley/Veritas has (or at least had at one time) workbenches of this design..

At 52” long, I’m not sure, but you might be able to build a couple of long versions of the Bowclamp/Good Caul (Bowclamp builds a 48” pair) and use those with a clamp on each end. I’d be tempted to use something to help align the sections, a loose tenon, biscuit, or some such when I started gluing up the sub sections.

-- ...Specialization is for insects.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

6054 posts in 3174 days

#2 posted 11-21-2017 06:05 PM

I made mine (32”x72”x3”)in 3 chunks, planed them to the same thickness and then glued them together. Each chunk ended up weighing just over 70#, and it was a struggle to handle them for the final machining part. I did use biscuits on the final assembly (the 3 chunks) to help hold them in alignment while I wrestled with the clamps. Also, use plastic resin glue….I had enough for all but the last chunk, and used PVA for that one seam. It has the glue creep ridge, none of the other seams have it. Besides the plastic resin glue gives you a little more time to cuss the thing out when it’s not cooperating as you jockey the pieces around.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View pintodeluxe's profile


6082 posts in 3494 days

#3 posted 11-21-2017 06:09 PM

Sounds good. Use threaded couplings to pair up shorter pipe clamps.

If your drum sander can’t handle the final slab, some cabinet shops have wide planers that could smooth things out. On several occasions I’ve hired a local shop with a 50” helical planer + drum sander and it works like magic.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Thalweg's profile


103 posts in 4087 days

#4 posted 11-21-2017 06:34 PM

The biscuits to align the chunks is a good idea. I’ve got a biscuit jointer collecting dust in the back of the cabinet.

I thought about using some sort of caul. I’ve never done that, but the concept looks fairly straight forward.

The weight of this thing has concerned me. I have a difficult time getting help. So keeping things in manageable pieces was definitely a consideration.

Fred, I’ve never heard of plastic resin glue. I’ll have to research that. Is the only advantage, longer working time? I was planning on using Tightbond II, largely because I’ve got a gallon of it sitting on the shelf getting old. I know that Tightbond has an “extended” version that is supposed to give more working time.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

6054 posts in 3174 days

#5 posted 11-22-2017 12:08 PM

No, the longer working time (which is only slightly longer) is good and useful…but at least to me the more important part was that it doesn’t “creep” (search “glue creep”. PVAs have a tendancy to leave a ridge along the seams over time and I didn’t want that on my bench. That said, the plastic resin glue is a pain. You have to mix it and use it in less than 4 hours or it sits up in the pot. Even so, I like it a lot better than PVA…just don’t use that much due to the extra work involved. But I do use it on all table/cabinet tops (and work benches). Another advantage is that it’s “sandable”, once it cures it is hard enough to sand off the squeeze out easily.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View jonah's profile


2093 posts in 3979 days

#6 posted 11-22-2017 12:54 PM

Honestly, I think that while you’ll get a great top out of the process, you’ll end up putting a ton more work into it that necessary. That is a LOT of glueups. Compare your proposed process with starting with 8/4 material and gluing up 1 3/4 or 1 7/8” thick pieces for the top. It’s easily three times the work. It’s also a ton of wear on your jointer and planer.

I’d probably find something else to do with the maple. Maybe make up a bunch of cutting boards to give away for the holidays?

View Thalweg's profile


103 posts in 4087 days

#7 posted 11-22-2017 02:52 PM

You’re right Jonah, it will be a lot of glue ups. I’m in northern Wyoming. Hardwood supplies are very limited here. Every couple of years I haul as much as I can back from Arkansas, but that supply is always pretty precious. So, when an opportunity like all of this maple comes up I have to jump. I’ve probably got a half-ton of it (literally) in the garage where I need to park my tractor over the winter. So I’ve got to use a lot of it quickly. This workbench top will use a lot of it.

Next week, I think I’ll start trying to glue some of it up in about 7” wide chunks, then eventually glue those chunks together. I figure that two 7” chunks will go through the 15” planer well, or three chunks will go through the drum sander well.

Some big, thick cutting boards will probably come out of this as well.

View rbrjr1's profile


208 posts in 886 days

#8 posted 11-22-2017 04:11 PM

1,000 lbs of maple flooring??

maple EVERYTHING then..
it’s a gorgeous medium and perfect for your intended application (assuming you’re not skipping work to build your bench top)

-- only an idiot dismisses an intelligent statement because they dont know anything about the person delivering it.

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