Workbench Construction

 

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:

 

 

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