Sawmill/Double slab workbench top

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Forum topic by Kennethjg posted 05-01-2018 11:55 AM 969 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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50 posts in 1542 days

05-01-2018 11:55 AM

Topic tags/keywords: sawmill lumber oak red oak workbench slab roubo roubo workbench slab top workbench

My dad and I recently got a sawmill, and ever since, I’ve been on the lookout for some good logs to get a workbench top.
We found a good-looking red oak at a local tree service place, about 17” in diameter and 8’ long.
With this log, I think we could cut two slabs at 4×12 to join together for a top, and still cut out the pith.
Does anyone have experience with something like this. I’ve been reading up on Chris Schwarz blog about slab tops, and he only talks about one-piece tops.
The problem I’m having is our saw will only make a 22” wide cut, and the max diameter log it can handle is 29”. I’d be fine with a 22” wide bench, but I think either the stars would have to align for us to find the right log, or we’d have to find one bigger and have someone else square it up for us so our saw can cut it.

If you have any input about joining the two slabs, drying, or just think I should wait for a bigger log, I’d love to hear your input.

-- It ain't custom unless you fucked it up.

6 replies so far

View Robert's profile


3602 posts in 2088 days

#1 posted 05-01-2018 03:24 PM

WADR to Mr. Schwarz, I would never make a workbench top out of a single slab.

I think you would be much further ahead sawing 8/4 lumber. General rule of thumb is 1 year per inch. Thick slabs can take much longer.

With a 4” thick slab, you’re looking at anywhere from 5-10 years of air drying depending on your environment.

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

View Kennethjg's profile


50 posts in 1542 days

#2 posted 05-01-2018 11:42 PM

Something I forgot to mention is that I’m not in a big hurry. I’m not gonna wait 5-10 years, but I don’t plan on building it this year for sure.
So if I may ask, what is your reason for not wanting to use a single slab for a workbench top?
The articles and blog posts of his that I’ve read on the topic make sense. He air dries his tops for 1 year, and then uses the (still wet) slab on a dry base. The slab will shrink some as it dries, making the frame a bit A shaped, and you’ll have to flatten the top several times over the first 5 years, but it will reach an equilibrium eventually.

Just trying to get plenty of input as I prepare. I’ve got a lot going on this year, and a workbench that’s adequate for the time being.
My plan was to cut these slabs and set them to dry and then buy kiln-dried lumber to make the base when the time comes to build it.

-- It ain't custom unless you fucked it up.

View brianpoundingnails's profile


17 posts in 631 days

#3 posted 05-03-2018 07:41 PM

I have an Alaska type chainsaw mill that can cut a 44” wide slab, and I still resaw them to 4”-8” wide. It makes
them dry faster. Although a year per inch of thickness for drying is a rule of thumb, you can reduce this with air flow, heat and proper stickering by a significant degree. Here in Texas I have to seal the end grain to keep them
from dying too quickly. I join the faces and edges and glue them back together. With straight square cuts and
proper clamping the joints are nearly invisible and warping is kept to a minimum. A wide slab will almost always
cup and warp.. Check out pics at dropbox links:

-- 2018 B.C.

View RobHannon's profile


330 posts in 1138 days

#4 posted 05-03-2018 07:47 PM

I have admitedly not done a ton of homework on the subject, but dont you want a workbench to be edgegrain rather than facegrain for durability?

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


16341 posts in 3226 days

#5 posted 05-03-2018 08:29 PM

Schwarz has written pretty extensively over the years about slab benches built with less-than-dry tops. Less of an issue that you’d think. That said, not sure GREEN lumber is what he used. But, anyway…

A split top is the obvious solution, but I wouldn’t want one of those for reasons I can’t explain.

I’d say create the 4×12 slabs, seal the edges, let them age a bit, and see what happens.

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

View Lazyman's profile


4515 posts in 1995 days

#6 posted 05-03-2018 09:54 PM

If you can cut the slabs so that the grain (growth rings) runs mostly perpendicular to the top & bottom surfaces of the slab, essentially a quarter sawn grain pattern, and cut out the juvenile wood (not just the pith), I would think it will be more stable as it dries. You should get fewer checks and cracks as it dries for the first year or two. With this grain orientation most of the shrinkage will be in the slabs’ smallest dimension (tangential shrinkage) which means that it won’t make as much difference if you build your bench before it has completely dried. Depending upon the type of wood it is, you might also get some really cool grain patterns in your bench top as well.

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

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