Last year I moved into a new house and finally had room for a workshop. For the past year I have been setting up shop in my basement and working on various home improvement projects. It wasn’t long before the lack of a workbench became a serious problem. Since I work for a local university, I often can get leftover or discarded furniture for free. I grabbed an old computer table, raised it a few inches, and had myself a temporary solution.
This was where I started:
I lucked into a large number of hutches for student desks that were being discarded. They were made of hard maple and the price was right (free!). Given this new source of maple I figured it was time to build a “real” workbench. Then it was time for research. I read The Workbench Book by Landis, read several FWW articles and read everything I could on the web and searching through Google. In the end I settled on a design very similar to the Fortune/Nelson/Klauz style in the Workbench Book, borrowing little bits from other sources.
Now while I had a large quantity of free maple, there was a problem. The hutches were only 36” long and most of the wood in each hutch was only ¾” thick. Each hutch had a couple of narrow pieces that were 1” thick, and I decided to use these to build up the body of the top. Since they were only about 34” long, I needed to attach them end to end to get sufficient length for the top. Fortunately I didn’t need a very long bench due to my shop size, so the length I would realize (about 68”) was perfect.
This is some of the lumber that came from the hutches:
I considered several methods of connecting these pieces. While one effective method of attaching pieces on end is a scarf joint, it would necessitate the loss of too much length. Since I would be gluing the lengths into a butcher block lamination anyway, I decided the strength of the scarf joint wasn’t necessary. I considered several other options for connecting the ends, but most were complex to implement. I settled on a simple 45 degree angle joined with a biscuit. Not a terribly strong joint, but good enough for a piece that would be part of a lamination. I had to make up around 30 of these boards, so decided to make jigs for cutting and gluing up the joints.
Here is the sled I made for the table saw: Here is the jig I made for glue-up:
The sled and jig allowed for creating perfectly straight lengths of 1” stock that were 2”wide by 65” long. I jointed and planed them into usable stock to remove the finish and true up the edges. I then glued them into three separate laminations. I did this to allow each of the laminations to fit through my planer. I used a small paint roller to apply the glue since I needed good coverage quickly to glue up the laminations, and it worked great. You can also see some of the bounty I got from the infamous Woodcraft Jorgensen clamp sale.
Gluing up the sections: Here are the three laminations:
Since maple has a totally irritating tendency to chip out when jointing and planing, I took pains to attempt to line up the grain in the laminations to all orient in the same direction to minimize chip out. After planing the laminations, I glued them into one slab. I ended up with a main top just about 2” thick.
Now they are one: