this was recycled material that was in good shape, only a
little flattening and dimensioning was needed by jointer and
planer. The top was assembled in two sections that were later
glued together--the main body, which consists of 11 boards
and the dog strip consisting of five boards. Dogs slots were
created on a table saw sliding dado jig that was set for a
2 1/2 degree slant. Blips in the slots to make dog parking
spots were created with a router jig.
easy? Mostly it wasn't bad, but, unfortunately in terms of
the gluing, it wasn't easy. This is where things got difficult
and I had problems--major ones at that. I decided early on
to glue the main section using epoxy resins for its strength,
water resistance, open time and gap filling qualities. And,
being that it was winter in Seattle with temperatures as low
as 38 degrees in my garage workshop during the gluing process,
I couldn't safely use PVA glues like Titebond that like
to be 50 degrees and higher and further I was very concerned
about the limited open time available for such a massive glue-up.
Though I've glued up several good sized projects in the last
two years, gluing a lot of heavy boards at once is pretty
scary stuff. Epoxies give you a lot of control over open time,
by using different hardeners.
approach was to first biscuit the eleven main boards for alignment
and added strength. From there, I had two problems during
glue-up. Number one: Concerned about open time to get all
the boards lined up and clamped, I used a slower epoxy geared
for higher temperatures figuring it would give me extra open
time to get all the boards together and clamped. Well, it
was overkill, and it took days and days for it to cure.
I found out later that faster cold temperature epoxy at 40
degree ambient temperature would have given me nearly two
hours of open time. Should have used that. Mistake number
two was that in mixing the hardener and resin in batches,
one of my batches was not mixed properly near the bottom of
the cup, and the result was resin applied in that area never
did harden properly. The result was a catastrophe. Two joints
started to come apart by first leaking resin, cracking slightly,
then after stressing them to test them, completely failed
and split open. Terrific. At least it didn't happen after
I applied the final finish.
first crack occurred within 4 days of the glue up. After splitting
the top, I had to scrape the resin off the joint and re-glue
it this time using fast cold temperature epoxy. The second
occurred two weeks later, after the top had been flattened,
surface had been squared up and just before finishing. Terrific,
again. This time I had to be very, very careful to get the
alignment just right--so as to not waste all that effort spent
getting the top flat and to this stage of finish. I was and
it worked out just fine in the end. All joints are now tight
and as strong as you'd expect with epoxy--not about to give
used System Three Epoxy, btw. They were very helpful in solving
these problems and had some great tips I hadn't run across
in preparing for this project. Number one was to not use the
same container for mixing as for applying. And, to use trays
such as those little kind that come with microwavable entries.
Apparently, spreading the glue out this way kick starts and
evens out the chemical action created by mixing the components.
You can always slow the speed of the glue setting up by putting
the tray in a bowl of ice water. The second was to apply the
glue to the surfaces to be joined and let it sit there for
up to 20 minutes (if open time allows, of course) to allow
the resin to fully soak into the wood. Look for any dry spots
and add more to the areas and then join them. Also, its particularly
important with epoxy to not clamp too tight.
it was a frustrating experience, I don't have any real regrets
using epoxy. It's great stuff. However, if it had been summer,
I would have used Titebond Extend. And, if necessary, glued
the boards up groups to control time, joining them together
at the end. It would have made for tighter joints then you
can get with epoxy, too. BTW, between those I had, and those
I borrowed, I used 20 pipe clamps to hold everything together.
About right. Borrow all you can get if you decide to build
a laminated top.
caps are 3 1/2" wide glued up out of 2 x 3 Maple pieces.
Though I don't think humidity change is really a problem in
Seattle as compared to other parts of the country, I chose
not to glue them on to allow for expansion. I made a pair
of splines on each end out of 3/8" Baltic Birch plywood,
and routed a pair of stopped dados in the ends and the caps.
The splines are left loose and the caps are each held in place
with a pair of bolts held by threaded metal cross dowels buried
in the bottom of the bench top. On each cap, one bolt is held
tight, the other is in an elongated slot to allow for horizontal
movement. So far the well aged Maple, the edge grain construction
and the all the time letting the Maple rest in my shop has
shown zero movement. This summer will be the final test.
base is assembled with mortise and tenon joints with a bridle
joint for the top piece where the top attaches to the base,
and an extra stretcher added to stiffen them the left and
right assemblies. The design is a traditional sled base with
stretchers holding the two ends together. The top is positioned
by bullet shaped dowels, with a single lag bolt attaching
the top to the base in each end. The two end assemblies are
held together with 48" stretchers that have 7/16"
threaded rods running down dados in the middle of them. I
probably would have made through tusk tenons for strength
and aesthetics, but, some of my recycled pieces of maple already
had dados in them, so I figured, why not?" and went
with it. My first bench also used threaded rods, and both
benches are rock solid with no movement or racking whatsoever.
greatly respect those that take the time to use a sharp #7
plane and flatten their top. I love hand planing myself, but
sorry, I didn't take that approach-- I wimped out. I took
my completed top (No end vise, of course.) down to O. B. Williams--a
massive industrial woodworking shop here in Seattle and had
them run it through their giant multi-drum abrasive planer.
Several very gentle passes on both sides by a very skilled
and helpful operator later it came out flat and smoothed to
100 grit. Then he took it over to a huge panel saw and trimmed
the ends for me. The result is an extremely flat and square
top. Time, 20 minutes. Cost, $40. From what they said, lots
and lots of furniture maker pros in the area do the same,
so I'm not too ashamed.
if you don't have a nearby wide belt sander and want to do
it yourself with readily available powertools try this link
Magazine's article on how to flatten your bench with a
at my shop, after sanding the base and top to a finer grit,
I finished everything with 3 coats of Daly's Profin. I've
used it before on several projects and it's great stuff. It's
a Tung Oil, resin-rich blend that seals well, builds, and
protects that lots of woodworkers in Seattle swear by. It
also can be easily repaired, an important feature for a workbench.
I added another 4 coats to the top for good measure and keep
it coated with several coats of wax.
much time? Well, I started to keep track of my hours
in beginning, but soon lost track. It took about five weeks
of evenings and weekends and I'd guess about 100 to 200 hours.