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Forum topic by xhaleaj posted 04-09-2020 09:21 AM 397 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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xhaleaj

6 posts in 431 days


04-09-2020 09:21 AM

I have watched a lot of videos on building workbenches. I have even built a decent one for myself, but I would like to try to build another one for mostly hand tool work. So, here’s my question. Is there anything wrong with doing a butcherblock style top? I have bunch of thin planks reclaimed from a bowling alley, but they have been cut down 4 to 5 ft lengths. I would like to have a 7 ft long bench. My idea is to stagger the boards and make two layers with the grain running in opposite directions and laminate them together, or possibly cut the height of the boards down a bit so that I can make more than two layers alternating in grain direction similar to plywood but in thicker plys.

Would this be suitable? Are there any issuses with this design?

Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance.


15 replies so far

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jdh122

1154 posts in 3554 days


#1 posted 04-09-2020 09:57 AM

This won’t work. If you glue it up that way with two layers at 90 degrees from each other seasonal expansion and contraction will make it split and crack. It works with plywood because the veneer is thin enough, but once you get to the thickness of actual boards it won’t work.
As to your original question, there’s nothing wrong with a butcherblock style top (as long as we mean one that has strips of wood glued together along the edges, rather than the endgrain construction that was used by actual butchers). In fact it’s the most common way to make a top from solid wood.
I can’t really see an easy way for you to make a 7 ft bench out of your bowling alley wood. Maye it would work to glue it in two layers (but with both layers having the same grain orientation) with enough overlap (so the top layer would be two 3.5 ft sections, while the lower layer would be 1ft, 5 ft, 1 ft sections).

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

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xhaleaj

6 posts in 431 days


#2 posted 04-09-2020 10:44 AM

Thanks for the reply jdh122.

Thanks for the suggestions about keeping the grain direction all the same.

Not all of the planks that I have are the same length…kind of a mixed bag. To get the length that I am looking for I was planning to stagger the boards similar to the table in this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvb8pkDd53Y

would there be any issue with this?


This won t work. If you glue it up that way with two layers at 90 degrees from each other seasonal expansion and contraction will make it split and crack. It works with plywood because the veneer is thin enough, but once you get to the thickness of actual boards it won t work.
As to your original question, there s nothing wrong with a butcherblock style top (as long as we mean one that has strips of wood glued together along the edges, rather than the endgrain construction that was used by actual butchers). In fact it s the most common way to make a top from solid wood.
I can t really see an easy way for you to make a 7 ft bench out of your bowling alley wood. Maye it would work to glue it in two layers (but with both layers having the same grain orientation) with enough overlap (so the top layer would be two 3.5 ft sections, while the lower layer would be 1ft, 5 ft, 1 ft sections).

- jdh122


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Sawdust2012

199 posts in 2449 days


#3 posted 04-09-2020 11:36 AM

I can’t see anything wrong with the technique in the video. The only caveat might be differing expansion and contraction rates with different species, but that is just a guess on my part. I bought a butcher block countertop from Lowe’s to use as a benchtop and have been very happy with it. If it doesn’t work, you are a few steps from several beautiful cutting boards!

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xhaleaj

6 posts in 431 days


#4 posted 04-09-2020 12:04 PM

Sawdust2012… Thanks for your reply.

I, admittedly don’t know enough about wood movement, but I would hope that boards that were used in a bowling alley for 50+ years is mostly done moving…. Especially since it’s been sitting in my shop now for close to two years.

Fingers crossed


I can’t see anything wrong with the technique in the video. The only caveat might be differing expansion and contraction rates with different species, but that is just a guess on my part. I bought a butcher block countertop from Lowe’s to use as a benchtop and have been very happy with it. If it doesn’t work, you are a few steps from several beautiful cutting boards!

- Sawdust2012


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Mr_Pink

193 posts in 1108 days


#5 posted 04-09-2020 01:31 PM

I have a butcher-block top, and it’s great. But the real advantage of it is that it was easy. I bought a 12’ section from a local kitchen cabinet supplier, cut it in half, glued and screwed the halves together and quickly had a bench top that was 3.5” thick.

Piecing the top together would eliminate the main advantage of a butcherblock top.

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Robert

3707 posts in 2217 days


#6 posted 04-09-2020 01:44 PM

I’m a hardwood fan myself, so my go to is hard maple or similar wood.

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

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jdh122

1154 posts in 3554 days


#7 posted 04-09-2020 02:22 PM

I misunderstood. I thought you had actual bowling alley in five foot sections (ie already glued or nailed together in pieces that were 5 ft long and bowling alley width wide). If you have short boards you can certainly glue them together as in the video you referenced, staggering the joints. Rather than making it in two layers, I would think it makes more sense to glue up each individual board to make them all wide enough so that, when flipped on their side, they become as thick as you want your benchtop to be. Then proceed as in the video.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

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xhaleaj

6 posts in 431 days


#8 posted 04-09-2020 02:39 PM

Jdh122…

Very good point. This would definitely make things easier. This is exactly why I asked the question on this forum. I have read a lot of posts on here, and there is almost always a wealth of good information.


I misunderstood. I thought you had actual bowling alley in five foot sections (ie already glued or nailed together in pieces that were 5 ft long and bowling alley width wide). If you have short boards you can certainly glue them together as in the video you referenced, staggering the joints. Rather than making it in two layers, I would think it makes more sense to glue up each individual board to make them all wide enough so that, when flipped on their side, they become as thick as you want your benchtop to be. Then proceed as in the video.

- jdh122


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xhaleaj

6 posts in 431 days


#9 posted 04-09-2020 02:42 PM

Mrpink

I totally get your point about just buying the butcher block this way, but I already have all of the individual boards and the tools to do it myself, so I’ll give it a go. Plus, there’s plenty of extra time during a pandemic.


I have a butcher-block top, and it s great. But the real advantage of it is that it was easy. I bought a 12 section from a local kitchen cabinet supplier, cut it in half, glued and screwed the halves together and quickly had a bench top that was 3.5” thick.

Piecing the top together would eliminate the main advantage of a butcherblock top.

- MrPink


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HammerSmith

401 posts in 820 days


#10 posted 04-10-2020 05:48 AM

...

I, admittedly don t know enough about wood movement, but I would hope that boards that were used in a bowling alley for 50+ years is mostly done moving…. Especially since it s been sitting in my shop now for close to two years….

- xhaleaj

Small pieces sitting in their new home is plenty of time to acclimate, but it will always continue to move “a little”...

As said above, different species move differently, so that’s always a consideration. But here’s how wood wants to move (*usually)

First of all, the rings will usually try to straighten out as the stick dries. This is how I predict which way the board will want to cup. ...But It depends on where that stick was in the tree, and the stresses that it lived under. Sometimes it will want to cup the other way…. With seasoned wood like you have, I would just trust whatever each board is telling me. After two years, it won’t lie.

The expansion/contraction happens in the pulp, between the rings.. So, as a rule of thumb, I would anticipate that the expansion adjacent to the rings will be twice as much as the expansion parallel to the rings. ... but again, there are no guarantees because each stick is different. And the closer together the rings are, the less this rule applies.

For a work top, I would try to orient the rings vertically as much as possible. Or else I would I would alternate the rings cup-up/cup-down in the center, and save the vertical rings for the edges.

-- ~Jim

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hkmiller

226 posts in 818 days


#11 posted 04-10-2020 11:08 AM

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bondogaposis

5745 posts in 3088 days


#12 posted 04-10-2020 01:29 PM

You have been given some good suggestions here, the only thing that I would add is that the front edge of the work bench is where all of the action occurs and almost all of the wear and tear. If it were mine I would add a continuous full length piece of hardwood for the front edge. Another thing to consider is what type of vises are you are going have on your bench? The time to decide is before make the bench, and I recommend that you acquire the vises before you build it so that you can incorporate them into the construction. This is especially important if you want to have a wagon vise and a leg vise.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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Madmark2

1277 posts in 1325 days


#13 posted 04-10-2020 01:37 PM

AMF bowling alleys are made of maple. I believe Brunswick are also. (My parents managed bowling alleys in the 60’s bowling boom)

Trivia Bonus: Bowling lanes are only built by right handed carpenters. This is because they build the lanes on their side and right handed carpenters toenail away from the top but left handers toenail towards the top – significantly reducing the number of times the alley can be sanded and refinished.

-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

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Sylvain

1031 posts in 3236 days


#14 posted 04-10-2020 02:16 PM

I made a laminated workbench-top with recycled wood..
Some of the boards were too twisted to be straightened in one piece without loosing too much wood.
I cut them in three or four pieces which were individually four squared.
So my workbench-top is partially done as shown in the video of comment #2 except I have done it with hand tools.

No problem.

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

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JackDuren

1153 posts in 1696 days


#15 posted 04-10-2020 02:18 PM

If the boards are cleaned and reassembled correctly you can use bowling alley stock. You can alternate the boards. I’ve redone many bowling floor sections into restaurant tables and will use walnut shorts to make a shuffleboard table…

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