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Workbench top: FACE TO FACE VS EDGE TO EDGE

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Forum topic by WoodwolfAtl posted 03-20-2018 12:43 AM 3859 views 1 time favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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WoodwolfAtl

39 posts in 2887 days


03-20-2018 12:43 AM

Topic tags/keywords: workbench workbench top

I am making a workbench. The top will be 1.75 inches thick. It seems to me most ready to buy workbenches, such as Sjorbergs, are made with strips of stock that are glued (joined) face to face rather than edge to edge. Lets say the top is 30 inches wide. If the boards of 8/4 stock are 5 inches wide and you join them edge to edge, the you need to glue up 6 boards. If you join the stock face to face, at 1.75 inches thick each, you need to glue up 17 boards. Seems a lot easier to glue 6 boards that are 5 inches wide than 17 boards!

So what are the advantages of gluing the boards for the top face to face? Does it mattter?

I welcome your thoughts


15 replies so far

View AUswimKC's profile

AUswimKC

49 posts in 3230 days


#1 posted 03-20-2018 01:26 AM

Wood expands across its width more than twice the amount it expands across its thickness. Thus, face to face the bench gets a bit taller but the bench won’t tear itself apart if constrained by the legs.

View Breeze73's profile

Breeze73

104 posts in 1963 days


#2 posted 03-20-2018 01:46 AM

It can be very challenging to get 1.75 inch thickness out of an 8/4 board. Sure, it is milled at 8/4, but after shrinkage from drying, and then jointing/planing to flatten the board, you are going to push closer to 1.5 inches. You may get more, but it is hard to ensure all of your board will be more than 1.5 inches.

Secondly, and more importantly, you have to think about expansion and contraction, and how you are going to join the top to the base. By and large wood expand/contracts parallel to the growth rings. If you use flatsawn, or even riftsawn wood and glue them flat side by side, you could face some serious cracking problems, if you are not careful in how the top is attached to the base. Using quartersawn lumber will help alleviate this problem, but it will not eliminate it.

The biggest reason people laminate their workbench tops face to face is to be able to get thicker tops than can typicaly be achieved by edge gluing lumber. 12/4 and 16/4 lumber can get very costly, as it takes much longer to dry than 4/4 or 8/4. However, if you use 8/4 lumber and face laminate it, you can easily make a 4” thick top with it. The reason this is important is because of mass and rigidity. The more solid and rigid your workbench is, the more force that can be exerted onto the workbench without deformation (vibration, deflection, etc.) Think of hammering a large red hot piece of steel on a 40lbs anvil… now think of hammering the same piece of steel on a 400lbs anvil. Which anvil do you think will be more sturdy? The 400lbs one right? The same is true for the workbench. Can you get by with a 40lbs workbench? Yes. But my 430lbs workbench is an absolute dream to work on be cause it is as solid as a rock. It doesn’t move, deflect, or vibrate at all. That is the point of laminating boards face to face.

-- Breeze

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msinc

567 posts in 1785 days


#3 posted 03-20-2018 02:07 AM

After having just this past weekend completed a 540 pound {top only} oak workbench that is face to face laminated and 3” thick, I have to say that Mr. Breeze73 has absolutely struck the nail right on the head with the above post. It was hard to move and I had to rout a lot out to get my pattern makers vise mounted, but it is a dream to work on. Add the 6”X 6” solid legs and full 2”X 10” oak base and the thing is well over 600 pounds…..but it don’t move.
I do have to admit, I aint smart enough to realize the different expansion rates of face vs. edge, I just did it for the ability to get the table top thickness I wanted. Now, I am twice as glad I did it this way!!!

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hhhopks

663 posts in 3659 days


#4 posted 03-20-2018 03:10 AM

Agree with above posts.
Thicker and more mass is better.

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

View momentumep's profile

momentumep

3 posts in 298 days


#5 posted 02-03-2021 09:19 PM

I’ve jointed and planed 16 Hard Maple 8/4’s that are all 6”+ wide. The final thicknesses are between 1.3” and 1.9”.

Instead of planing them all to 1.25”, as suggested by the Anarchist’s Workbench, I’m thinking about sorting them by thickness and putting the thickest boards in the middle of the benchtop, progressing to the thinest boards at the front and back, making adjustments as necessary to make it look symmetrical.

I’m planning to laminate all (or most) of the boards face-to-face, but I’m considering rotating one or two groups of boards to be face up, instead of end up, to get a nice wide strip or two of grain running the length of the top.

Note ≡ represents 4 boards boards stacked on top of each other.

So instead of 16 boards face-to-face, end up, like this:
llllllllllllllll

I might do:
llllll≡llllll

or:
llll≡≡llll

or:
lll≡ll≡lll

So there would be some laminations either end-to-face or both end-to-face on one side and end-to-end on the other. The mass and thickness would be about the same in all cases.

Any thoughts on why I should or shouldn’t do this?

Thanks!

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

19814 posts in 2420 days


#6 posted 02-03-2021 09:58 PM

You can do either one. I did mine edge-to-edge but I have big Oak 4×6s and was able to get the thickness I needed so that’s what I did. It’s much easier to get wide boards than thick though so most people glue their tops up face-to-face. I don’t see any big advantage of one over the other. However, mixing the two is probably a bad idea. Reason being that expansion will occur more in one direction than the other. Mixing the grain directions will put your glue joints in sheer if expansion is significantly different between adjoining boards. Just my thoughts…

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

View momentumep's profile

momentumep

3 posts in 298 days


#7 posted 02-04-2021 06:12 AM

Thanks, that’s helpful.

I think I’ve seen this kind of mixing not infrequently, but I don’t have enough experience to know if it’s going to cause problems. I was thinking of orienting the cupping like a natural tree trunk, so the boards on the left would cup to the right, the boards in the middle would cup up, and the boards on the right would cup to the left. I understand that the shearing forces would be at right angles and that could be problematic.

I’ll think it over while I let wood dry out a bit more. I appreciate the input.

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SMP

4947 posts in 1187 days


#8 posted 02-04-2021 06:44 AM

I remember somebody doing something similar and they had to plane it flat again a few times in the first year or two. It may have been something that Chris Schwarz was experimenting with.

View Sylvain's profile

Sylvain

1432 posts in 3781 days


#9 posted 02-04-2021 08:55 AM

1.75” is on the thin side unless you do a Nicholson workbench.
Try to get something between 2.5” and 4”. More is not useful and will make the use of holdfast more difficult.

About mass, DB Laney:
‘And by the way, if you can move this bench around while planing, you probably need to sharpen your irons. There just isn’t enough weight to compensate for dullness.’
https://dblaney.wordpress.com/tag/moravian-bench/

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn (and that is nice)

View controlfreak's profile

controlfreak

3046 posts in 883 days


#10 posted 02-04-2021 11:53 AM

I started my workbench at 4 1/4” thick face glued SYS. As I have been flattening and tuning I am down to 3 5/8” now so give yourself some room to adjust and flatten. Also figure out now what type(s) of vise you will use so you can tweak the thickness and edge to suit.

View Robert's profile

Robert

4782 posts in 2762 days


#11 posted 02-04-2021 02:22 PM

1.75” is kind of thin for a workbench.

You can go either way, edges up better for movement.

My bench (shoulder vise aka Scandinavian aka Klausz bench) is made up of 3 layers of 5/4 hard maple face glued into 3” thick slabs, then splined together with double splines.

I’ve never had any issues with movement.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View momentumep's profile

momentumep

3 posts in 298 days


#12 posted 10-25-2021 08:37 PM

In case anyone is interested, I ended up doing a center strip with my 3 widest boards oriented horizontally. I’m very happy with the way it came out (so far) and do not think movement will be a problem, but jointing that stack of 3 horizontal boards sandwiched between face-to-face laminations was difficult. It would have been easier if I wasn’t trying to make such a long bench (10 ft.) or had a longer jointer.

I first laminated the boards into 5 groups of 3 to 4 boards, all face-to-face laminations. They all had some flexibility and any gaps could be closed using clamps. That was not the case when jointing the completed groups surrounding the horizontal center group (the face-to-ends laminations). It took a lot of work to make those joint seamless.

If you look closely at the group of four boards on the near side of center stack, you’ll see that the last board, which abuts the center stack, is suspiciously narrow. That’s because it needed to be repeatedly jointed to be dead flat along its entire 10 ft. length. I wasn’t able to get seamless edges until I built infeed and outfeed extensions to my jointer and calibrated them using a laser.

So edge-to-edge, or mixing face-to-edge, is definitely doable, just be aware that jointing those laminations is much less forgiving.

View Ocelot's profile

Ocelot

3559 posts in 3920 days


#13 posted 10-25-2021 09:13 PM

An interesing discussion.

I have a stack of 3×6 rough sawn angelim pedra. The boards are actually 3 3/8×5 3/4. So, I was thinking of making a 5-board bench about 27 inches wide.

-- I intended to be a woodworker, but turned into a tool and lumber collector.

View Lazyman's profile

Lazyman

8200 posts in 2669 days


#14 posted 10-26-2021 01:31 AM

It will be interesting to see if mixed orientation creates any issues down the road. While the thickness of the top is not enough to have to worry about it tearing itself apart, you may see a difference between the height where the horizontal and vertical boards meet. For hard maple, the tangential shrinkage rate is about double what the radial rate is. What this means is that if the vertical boards expand during a humid period by say 0.5% (.03” on a 6” thick top or half that since it expands both up and down), the horizontal section may expand only half as much. If you happen to plane it level at that point and later it shrinks back, the difference would show up again but in the opposite direction. By orienting all of them the same way, you are less likely to get significant difference between adjacent boards when moisture swings occur. I suppose that his also means that you should do the final planing somewhere in between the extremes.

One other thought about the original question EtoE or FtoF. Another reason that the vertical orientation may be better than the horizontal one (or a mixed one for that matter) is that most boards are flat sawn, meaning that growth rings (mostly) run across the width when viewed from the ends. By turning them sideways, the edges simulate a quarter or rift sawn slab which makes the resulting slab more stable across its width. If the individual boards were in fact quarter sawn, it might actually be more stable with them oriented horizontally.

Anyway, this is all theoretical of course based upon how boards expand and contract with moisture changes and a good experiment. Please report back if you see anything worth noting.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Aj2's profile

Aj2

4129 posts in 3080 days


#15 posted 10-26-2021 02:18 AM



In case anyone is interested, I ended up doing a center strip with my 3 widest boards oriented horizontally. I m very happy with the way it came out (so far) and do not think movement will be a problem, but jointing that stack of 3 horizontal boards sandwiched between face-to-face laminations was difficult. It would have been easier if I wasn t trying to make such a long bench (10 ft.) or had a longer jointer.

I first laminated the boards into 5 groups of 3 to 4 boards, all face-to-face laminations. They all had some flexibility and any gaps could be closed using clamps. That was not the case when jointing the completed groups surrounding the horizontal center group (the face-to-ends laminations). It took a lot of work to make those joint seamless.

If you look closely at the group of four boards on the near side of center stack, you ll see that the last board, which abuts the center stack, is suspiciously narrow. That s because it needed to be repeatedly jointed to be dead flat along its entire 10 ft. length. I wasn t able to get seamless edges until I built infeed and outfeed extensions to my jointer and calibrated them using a laser.

So edge-to-edge, or mixing face-to-edge, is definitely doable, just be aware that jointing those laminations is much less forgiving.

- momentumep

Wow a 10 ft bench. Very cool Go big or go home.

-- Aj

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