Am I ready for glueup?

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Forum topic by WoodNube posted 02-23-2019 11:45 AM 1037 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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18 posts in 446 days

02-23-2019 11:45 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I’m new to wordworking, and right now, I essentially don’t have a workbench.

So I’m building a sort of mini-workbench inspired, in large part, by this video.

I’ve cut down 2×4’s to about 30” long, and trimmed edges off the flat sides to help clean them up. The wood is cheap 2×4 pine. I will be installing a Irwin 6 1/2” vise (roughly $20), which is the most expensive piece. I don’t expect this to be fancy, but it should be a big improvement over the “nothing” I have now.

I laid out the pieces, tried turning them different directions and such to keep the best part of the wood on the top, etc. It’s super cheap wood, so I can’t expect perfection. I think this will give me something solid to work on, a small front vise, and edges I can use to clamp things down with bar clamps. It’s big enough to be pretty solid and heavy, but small and light enough I can move it into the house if needed. Space in the garage is very limited, though I expect to have more later and build a full size workbench. In part, this mini-workbench is to get a useful tool, and in part, it’s so I have more experience when I build a full size bench later.

So with everything laid out, but without gluing, I clamped everything down. 30” x 15.5” top, and essentially a 3.5” (2×4 size) height, though I expect to do a fair amount of sanding/planing to smooth out the top (and likely the bottom.)

But I don’t have a jointer, and I don’t have a planer. Clamped down tight, I can still see some “daylight cracks” through some spots. Overall, it looks pretty good, but if I set it on end and look through, I can see light making it through in several spots. None look huge, but I’m sure if it was right, I wouldn’t see that.

I’m not sure if I should go ahead with glue-up and just let the glue fill those small gaps, or if those gaps mean that it’s just going to fall apart as soon as I take the clamps off.

If this is a “no, you can’t glue it, you have to fix it right first” thing, then I don’t know what my next step is.

Advice? Suggestions?

23 replies so far

View BFamous's profile


341 posts in 802 days

#1 posted 02-23-2019 12:56 PM

Unless you’re using wood glue that expands, it most likely will not fill the gaps.

Add a pic of what it looks like clamped up and there may be lots of good suggestions

-- Brian Famous :: Charlotte, NC ::

View bondogaposis's profile


5685 posts in 3033 days

#2 posted 02-23-2019 01:35 PM

How many and what kind of clamps are you using? I wouldn’t try to glue it up all at once. Do 1/2 at a time., then glue the halves together. Also make yourself some cauls to keep it in alignment during glue up. Once you use glue the pieces will want to slip all over the place and not stay in alignment. Keeping them aligned will save you a lot of work later when when you go to level the top.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View a1Jim's profile


118018 posts in 4259 days

#3 posted 02-23-2019 04:01 PM

Welcome to Ljs
you may want to go a little wider than 15” to make your bench a little more functional say 20-24”.
Brian and Bondo have good points, do you have a table saw? if you do try just barely taking some wood off the sides of the boards that have gaps, keep checking after light cuts and see if you can eliminate the gaps, after that follow Bondo’s advice about gluing half or even a third at a time at a time and using cauls. If you don’t know what cauls are just google wood cauls for woodworking.


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1889 posts in 587 days

#4 posted 02-23-2019 06:55 PM

Too bad you are in Texas, i would give you that vise if in socal. Bought it for a mini bench top bench but have too many projects going on and don’t see myself making it in the next couple years. I agree on a pic so we can offer more advice. Good luck!

View Woodknack's profile


13141 posts in 3062 days

#5 posted 02-23-2019 07:11 PM

Keep working at it until there are no gaps in the mating surfaces. You may need to make a jointing sled for your saw or buy a hand plane. Woodworking is about the joinery so never half ass it.

-- Rick M,

View WoodNube's profile


18 posts in 446 days

#6 posted 02-23-2019 09:08 PM

I appreciate the advice. I guess I can’t put it together as is.

I am not sure a picture will help, but will post below. If I get fairly close and line up just right, I can show you one gap where light can get through, but the gaps are small enough that if you’re lined up to see one, you can’t see any of the others. And if you are not exactly lined up, you can’t see any of them at all. I thought I was fine when I had it lying on the table, it was only after I set it up on-end that I could see this problem at all.

I have a hand plane, just no knowledge of how to use it, how to figure out what to plane off, and how much, to get everything to match up.

I was planning to use some 2×4’s at cauls when I get to the glue-up. I plan to buy 2 more clamps in addition to what you see here, and I have some smaller clamps that will work for holding the cauls. I have one more 2×4 the same size as in the picks that will be added after a bit of modification. It will be the front piece of the bench, with a bit of it trimmed out to let it also act as the vise jaws so that those jaws are essentially connected to the rest of the bench and run smooth the entire length of the bench. (As opposed to many I see where the vise just sticks out front and doesn’t line up with the bench.) Eventually, there will also be some short legs under this main bench piece.

I also realized that when I said the wood was cheap and the vise was the most expensive part, that’s not technically true. The clamps and the table saw are the expensive part. :)

For now, I’m going to put it on hold and think about it. I’d love to have it done, but I think I need some “mull it over” time. I looked around to see if I could find someplace in Dallas that will rent a thickness planer, but no luck with that.

View Mainboom's profile


92 posts in 439 days

#7 posted 02-24-2019 12:48 AM

your boards are warped. id go through them all and see if you can stack them with the jacked up boards to the outside. you could( its a lot of work) rip them all down to 1/4” then glue them back together. use 2 4×4’s as cauls and clamp to them. Reason I say use 4×4’s is because they are way less likely to twist or warp. just a suggestion. I don’t know what tools you have but there are a lot of ways to fix a warp you just have to search. id suggest watching the wood whisperer videos. he has a video how to level a table top with a router.
if you have a straight edge or a 4 ft level will work you can hand plane your 2×4’s flat. with out a jointer or planer your options are limited

-- CRANE OPERATORS START EARLY because iron workers need their heros ready when they wake up

View BuffaloBrewer's profile


77 posts in 1500 days

#8 posted 02-24-2019 01:14 AM

another option is do drill holes through the boards and use threaded rod to pull it together until you can get the boards straightened out. watching stumpy nubs roubo build will give you some tips.

View bondogaposis's profile


5685 posts in 3033 days

#9 posted 02-24-2019 05:05 PM

One problem I see is that you are clamping all on one side try alternating your clamps on both sides. I also think that those clamps are pretty light duty clamps for what you are trying to do. Pipe clamps or parallel jaw clamps would be more in line with the job at hand. I mentioned this before, but try clamping half of the boards at a time and see if your clamps can close some of the gaps a little better.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View ChefHDAN's profile


1558 posts in 3531 days

#10 posted 02-24-2019 07:11 PM

Another thought,

As you’re new to the hobby and maybe a bit short for some of the tools to get the job done the way you’re picturing it. Maybe reconsider the top? Use the stock you’ve got right now to build a sturdy base and then use sheet goods for the top surface. A 4’ x 8’ x 3/4” sheet of MDF should be less than $25 at the box store, cut it in half and use two pieces for your top you’ll have a very strong flat work surface to get your self started with. Most folks go with the thick glue up top for the mass needed with chisel and plane work.

It’s just another thought, after 20 years of this, I do intend to “One Day” build my dream work bench but until then, a sturdy flat horizontal surface has been doing the job very well.

Welcome to LJ’s

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View therealSteveN's profile


5212 posts in 1256 days

#11 posted 02-24-2019 10:46 PM

Totally out of left field, but a worktable. bench, whatever you wanna call it needs to support up to a few hundred pounds, be flat, and most importantly have some way to clamp on it. A 4 to 6” ledge across the front will allow clamps to be used. Take those 2×4’s and build a frame for a top 24” wide, by XXX long, depending on space or need.

Make the top out of a piece of plywood cut in two down the middle.

Help us help you by listing the tools you have available.

-- Think safe, be safe

View Woodknack's profile


13141 posts in 3062 days

#12 posted 02-25-2019 09:15 AM

Agree with above. I think youtube/Sellers/Schwarz have beginners brainwashed into thinking they have to do these glued up bench tops or they can’t do woodworking. Cut and stack plywood for the top, glue solid wood edging around the sides. Call it done. Down the road you can build something else. You don’t need an 800 lb monstrosity with 3” thick top to do woodworking. If the bench moves, screw it to the floor or wall.

-- Rick M,

View Robert's profile


3663 posts in 2162 days

#13 posted 02-25-2019 02:40 PM

+1 on the plywood top.

That said, you’ve got a bowed board in the middle. Move it to the edge you should be able to pull it inn
If you use a handplane to flatten it, make sure all the grain is running the same direction.

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

View Robert's profile


3663 posts in 2162 days

#14 posted 02-25-2019 02:48 PM

No, you’re not ready LOL.

That said, move the bowed board to the edge and you should be able to pull it in.

If you use a handplane to flatten it, make sure all the grain is running the same direction.

+1 on the plywood top. Sans a planer or jointer, this is your best bet.

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

View WoodNube's profile


18 posts in 446 days

#15 posted 02-27-2019 09:19 AM

I do appreciate all the advice. Thank you.

I’m reading it a lot faster than I’m replying, and I’m looking at my project and trying to think things through.

I am a bit amused at the “dream work bench” type comments. I certainly don’t think that’s what I was aiming for. It’s a miniature thing, not a full size work bench, with a $20 vise, made out of cheap wood. Even if it worked out exactly like I planned, it would still be very basic, nothing special.

And at least in my mind, when I started, this would be incredibly simple. Cut 2×4’s, glue and clamp, plus a small amount of extra work for the vise, and some very basic planing/sanding to flatten out the top. Maybe not quite that easy, but darn close. Or so I thought.

No fancy joinery, no fancy hardwood. But it would have a basic vise, that I don’t have now. It would give me something to clamp to, and a solid reasonably flat work surface that could be stored without using a lot of space, and used in the garage or in the house. I hadn’t expected this to be difficult at all.

I did start with the cheapest 2×4’s at the store, and that is probably at least part of the problem.

One of the comments above was that I have a twisted/bowed board or two, so I was looking and I think that does explain at least part of the issue. I can see two boards that have issues on both sides of them, clearly the two that are causing me the most problems. And those two, based on the color difference with the others, I think were part of the same original 2×4. (each original 2×4 was cut down to 3 of the ones I’m using.) Right now, I’m leaning towards going and buying 2 more 2×4’s, higher quality than I got last time, cut them down the same way I did these before, and then start swapping out boards, trying to get rid of the ones with the worst problems for better ones.

Hopefully, that gets rid of the worst issues. Then clamp again, look for similar places where things just don’t line up right, and try to hand-plane those boards. I’m guessing the places where those boards fit tight need to be planed down, so I pencil-mark those spots, plane whatever feels right (and use a straight-edge to check) and then try clamping again. Repeat as needed. And when ready to do the actual glue-up, smaller numbers at a time as suggested above.

That should get me close, I think. And if after all of that, I still can’t get it to work, then I just glue it up as best I can, then take a sheet of plywood (or MDF) and lay over the top, glue and screw that down (countersunk screw holes) and go from there.

I’d probably just jump straight to the plywood top version except for 2 things.

One, I’m trying to learn woodworking, and I think I have to learn how to do this, not just jump to “don’t bother, just use plywood”. Woodknack said “Never half ass it”, and I feel like going with the plywood would qualify with that. I may get a work surface faster, but I won’t learn as much. I’d like to at least try to figure this out before I give up on it.

And two, I do want the vice connected, and had planned to make the 2×4 on that side of the bench part of the jaw, so it’s flush the whole way, and I can’t quite visualize how to do that if I have a plywood top. Maybe if it comes to that, I just move the vise out with a shorter jaw and it won’t be flush with the near edge of the rest of the bench.

Someone asked about what tools I have. Table saw, jigsaw, circular saw, orbital sander, 3” belt sander, cordless drill, trim router (that I have not used so far, just got it.) I don’t yet have it, but soon will buy a Bosch router with both a fixed base and plunge base. I have a basic hand plane (Harbor Freight #33) but very little experience with how to use it. Several different squares, from a rafter angle square on the small size, a 2’x3’ carpenters square on the large size. A basic hand miter saw with one of those plastic miter boxes. A cheap set of wood chisels. Misc stuff like tape measures, levels, hammers, hand saws, etc. Clamps. Router bits, drill bits, etc.

No drill press, no band saw, no thickness planer, no jointer, no sliding miter saw with LED’s and lasers and bubble machines. No router table, though I expect to try making one once I have a full sized router. No bench grinder. Very, very limited space, though I expect to slowly gain more by making my GF move junk out of the garage. (Throw it away, or store it in the house, as long as I get some more room. She says she’s working on it, and I’ve seen some progress.)

For a workbench, I have a Harbor Freight storage chest with a wood top. It doesn’t have any good place to clamp anything. And I have a folding table, again, no good way to clamp anything and it wiggles around like crazy.

The bench I’m making now will be a step up, and even it will need something else to work as support, since it’ll only be around 9” or 10” high.

Until I have more space, I’m planning to rig up 2 homemade sawhorses and a 2×4/plywood thing to go on top of it. This workbench can be used on top of that, and so can a small router table, etc. I’ll clamp what I need (like a router table or this mini-bench) to the top to work, then put them away later, and I can break the whole thing down for storage when I have to. Stack the sawhorses, the tabletop leans up against whatever, and the main part of the garage is ready for the GF’s car again. Later, when I have more space, maybe I won’t need to break it all down, but I suspect I’ll always keep it around, and build a more permanent bench. I’m planning on the height of this sawhorse & Top bench to be barely below the height of my table saw so I can turn it into a outfeed table later, stored most of the time, easy to set up when I need it. The table saw itself is a kobalt portable saw so I can move it to a corner and not take up much space when it’s not in use. (Now priced at $299, but I got it for $170 in December.)

And the mini-bench will be able to come inside if I want to tinker while watching TV (my “coffee table” will support it just fine, as will kitchen counter) or do glueups inside instead of in the garage when the weather is bad, stuff like that.

It’s okay that you guys are snickering and thinking “Such a nube, no clue”. I get it, and you are 100% correct. My background isn’t anything similar to this. It’s just a hobby, and so far, it hasn’t convinced me to give up, so I’ll just keep plugging away at it. I’m mostly retired, just trying to learn a bit about something I’ve never known much about.

So far, I’ve made a few shelves for the laundry room, I’ve patched up a couple of drawers in the kitchen that were starting to fall apart, I made a “thing” that is about 75% of a box designed to hold my computer monitor higher and allow my keyboard to slide under when I want more desk space. And some small stuff in the shop, like push sticks and something to help me store wood. I’ve bought MDF and a few other things to make a table saw sled, but haven’t made it. It’s all very minor stuff, and for the most part, the things I expect to make in the future, I think are fairly simple. I’m sure I’ll come up with more lofty goals as my skills increase.

I’m learning from Youtube and from reading here, mostly. I don’t have any friends who are into this kind of thing.

I don’t mind you laughing at me, as long as you keep giving me advice. :)

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