Laminating a workbench top

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Forum topic by JoeFuture posted 01-15-2021 10:48 PM 491 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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42 posts in 180 days

01-15-2021 10:48 PM

Topic tags/keywords: workbench

I thought I recently saw some tips for laminating boards on edge to make a workbench top, but now I can’t find it. I’ve read The Anarchist’s Workbench and I don’t think it was in there…

Should I be looking for quarter-sawn lumber for the bench top or is it ok to use rift or flat-sawn? In the guide I’m thinking of, there were some tips for how to align the grain on each board so they’d help each other avoid the tendency to cup over time.

11 replies so far

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5949 posts in 3360 days

#1 posted 01-15-2021 11:31 PM

Use flat sawn when you turn them on edge the top will show either 1/4 sawn or rift.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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49 posts in 2956 days

#2 posted 01-16-2021 02:44 AM

I prefer to find 2×12 that do not have the pith in the middle. This means the edges are rift sawn. You get a really uniform lines pattern when turned on edge and glued. If you get the pith, the edges are quarter sawn. With pine you get really funky patterns with QS, grain reversal, delimitation of the rings, etc.

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3429 posts in 914 days

#3 posted 01-16-2021 04:17 AM

Probably Paul Sellers? He makes laminated tops from both construction lumber and his newest one from laminated plywood. I prefer the wood one myself, bt both can be found on this page:

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1763 posts in 610 days

#4 posted 01-16-2021 11:38 AM

Ditto on using 2×12 SYP for a workbench top. They are a pain to select straight and without to many knots. by cutting out the enter pith you can end up with some nice wood. It really helps to have a planer to get the glue sides really flat. The top and bottom not so much. one you get the glue on they just want to move a bit anyway. It can be a lot of fun using a hand plane to flatten a top. I was going to make the top in two pieces so I could run them through my 13” planer but ended up going one piece to work by hand, glad I did. If you plan on using holdfasts I would try to stay closer to the 3” thickness or plan on reducing under where the holes come through. Here is a link to my Blog on a Moravian workbench build where I did a laminated top.

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6635 posts in 2396 days

#5 posted 01-16-2021 04:44 PM

When you say “laminating boards on edge” I assume you mean gluing the faces, not the edges, together. The Anarchist’s Workbench does describe this as well as the idea mentioned above of buying wide boards and ripping them in half and removing the pith. By using flat sawn boards, when you rotate them sideways, you sort of end up with a top where the grain is almost like quarter sawn wood, making it very stable.

-- 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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42 posts in 180 days

#6 posted 01-16-2021 05:10 PM

Lazyman, yes that’s what I mean. I’m just looking for guidance on how best to arrange the grain so it stays as stable as possible over time.

I like the idea of a 3” think top. TAW suggests 5” but that seems like overkill for my needs. I plan to get some rough 8/4 8” boards, rip them up the middle, and get 2 pieces of 1.25” to 1.5” per board after jointing and planing.

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6635 posts in 2396 days

#7 posted 01-16-2021 05:36 PM

One of the reasons Chris Schwartz suggests a 5” top is to add mass to make the bench more stable and not move when you use it. Using hand planes in particular can slide a bench across the floor if it isn’t heavy enough. That is one of the complaints I have read about some of the commercially available benches. I don’t remember him saying anything about having a problem with the thickness and his hold fasts though I have seen forum threads here where some have a problem with it. Some responses say that you can simply rough up the sides of the hold fast and make sure that you don’t apply finish in the holes but I have also seen the suggestion to counter bore the bottom of the dog holes. The springiness of the steel is also a factor.

I am in the early stages of planning a bench and will probably use his basic design, including using SYP, though I may reduce the top down to 4” thick. The Moravian bench CF mentioned is also one that I am considering (it is just a sexy looking bench), though for my first bench build I may not want to tackle the angles, especially the mortises in the legs.

-- 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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42 posts in 180 days

#8 posted 01-16-2021 06:27 PM

Yeah, the Moravian sure looks nice. I really like the simplicity of the TAW design. I’m in the Pacific Northwest, so I don’t see a lot of #1 SYP up here. There’s plenty of Doug Fir, which I will probably use for the base. I’m thinking soft or hard maple for the top, which we can get pretty easily. I buy into the SYP argument, especially as it hardens over time, and if I was back in TN/NC I’d most likely go with that for the whole thing.

View Sylvain's profile


1205 posts in 3508 days

#9 posted 01-17-2021 10:44 AM

Don’t overthink it.
Paul Sellers videos:
2012 serie

2017 serie

plywood one

My top is about 70mm thick construction lumber and I am happy with it.
The ticker the board one laminates, the stronger the clamps have to be; unless one doesn’t glue all of them in one pass.
Gluing two half top would require two good mating surfaces.
Interesting trick: sawing between the half tops (see 2nd and 3rd picture)

About mass: :
“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.”

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

View Robert's profile


4440 posts in 2489 days

#10 posted 01-17-2021 11:10 AM

The purpose of laminating is it creates a more stable stop. As Bondo said, it doesn’t matter what the cut of wood is, that said, I would actually avoid quarter sawn b/c of tear out issues, that said with maple is isn’t as critical. Plus, you get the thickness you want – minimum 3”.

What does matter is to make sure the grain direction is the same in all the boards. If you plan on hand planing the top, this is super critical. You don’t want the grain swapping directions from board to board. Also, choose your lumber carefully with a thought to knots, which have swirly, hard to plane wood, as well as boards with wavy grain patterns.

This means forget about alternating growth rings (which don’t matter anyway just MHO), just pay attention to grain direction!

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

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1763 posts in 610 days

#11 posted 01-17-2021 12:18 PM

I tried to get the best grain I could but it was more important for me to have no knots on the top side. I ended up with a couple on the bottom. This is after I dismissed a 100 year old slab of oak because of its $500 price tag but it would have been period correct. I then looked into maple but with out a good source it would add up too. I was also worried that I would screw it up so cheap is what I went with. The Moravian I like because I can break it down and move it. Honestly I am not entirely sure I would be able to move the Maple top by myself if it weighed more than SYP. I think I am at my max weight limit now. I am guessing that the top alone is ~ 125 lbs.

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