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Roubo Workbench #4: Constructing the Top

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Blog entry by Brandon posted 01-20-2012 01:51 AM 8938 reads 3 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Some Design Considerations Part 4 of Roubo Workbench series Part 5: The Legs and Stretchers »

My workbench does not have a traditional laminated top. Rather than gluing the main planks on their faces, I opted to glue them on their edges mainly because I didn’t have enough lumber and didn’t want to go purchase more. Otherwise, I’d highly recommend gluing the faces to give you a nice thick bench.

First I ripped the boards into six pieces each between 3 1/2” and 4” wide. The total width of the six boards were just over 22”.

I arranged the boards so that the wood grains would alternate. This would keep the bench from wanting to bow, or at least minimize it. If the picture isn’t clear, there’s also a crude drawing of the patterns.

Before gluing them, I cut a bunch of 5/8” dowels just under 3” long. Then I rounded the corners on the benchtop belt sander. Worked like a charm!

The dowels will help reinforce the glue joints and even help with alignment. I’ve glued together enough cutting boards to know that it’s hard to keep those boards aligned when gluing. When making the layout for the dowel holes I always measure from the same face of the board and from the same end so that the holes line up nicely. Drilling the holes in the boards with a 5/8 forstner bit.

Adding the dowels. I basically hammered in the dowels half way in one board, then lined it up with the next board and used my dead blow to get the dowels in halfway in the second board. After the dowels were in at least a 1/2” or so on either side, I closed them up tightly with a number of pipe clamps.

I only added on piece at a time so that I can make sure they matted well—I didn’t want to have any gaps between the boards. It all went together nicely. Here’s part of the top being glued together.

This process really tested the limits of my pipe clamps. I actually broke the cast iron of one of the Harbor Freight clamps—I’ll be returning it since it’s supposed to have a lifetime warranty. :-)

In the next post I’ll address how I added a some thickness to this top and how I attached the end caps.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"



10 comments so far

View ItIsRocketScience's profile

ItIsRocketScience

22 posts in 1077 days


#1 posted 01-20-2012 05:14 AM

Very nice. I’m at the same tenuous stage. I have two sets of 4 boards jointed flat, only waiting to pick up some denatured alcohol to prep the surface before the glue up. I wasn’t planning on doweling them together, but I suppose it could only help!

Great work. I’ll be on the lookout for the next installment.

-- "Down in the arena are the doers. They make many mistakes because they attempt many things. The man who makes no mistakes lacks boldness and a spirit of adventure." -- Gen. David M. Shoup

View ShaneA's profile

ShaneA

5452 posts in 1349 days


#2 posted 01-20-2012 05:22 AM

So it was lumber quantity that factored into using the face vs. the edge grain. I had wondered about that aspect of the build. Did Swartz mention, or are there inherent advantages in one over the other?

View jcwalleye's profile

jcwalleye

295 posts in 1824 days


#3 posted 01-20-2012 05:23 AM

Thanks for all the pics. It makes a great narrative.

-- Trees, a wonderful gift --Joe--

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

10374 posts in 1369 days


#4 posted 01-20-2012 05:50 AM

Get to the part where u add the crochet, already! :-)

Nice blog, Brandon!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive

View ItIsRocketScience's profile

ItIsRocketScience

22 posts in 1077 days


#5 posted 01-20-2012 05:01 PM

ShaneA: Schwarz basically went with what Roubo had written in his original work – (paraphrasing) “A workbench can’t be too thick or too long, but it can be too deep or too tall”. Turning it on edge is just the best/easiest way to gain thickness. There’s no inherent structural advantage to it beyond that, assume all of your stock is plainsawn.

In fact, I believe that the English Workbench (the other workbench he builds and provides plans for) build the benchtop exactly as Brandon has here.

-- "Down in the arena are the doers. They make many mistakes because they attempt many things. The man who makes no mistakes lacks boldness and a spirit of adventure." -- Gen. David M. Shoup

View Brandon's profile

Brandon

4145 posts in 1702 days


#6 posted 01-20-2012 05:06 PM

Right, RocketScience, that’s the advantage—nothing innate to the wood makeup itself. My bench, however, is not like the English style, which we’ll see in the next post. I still wanted a thick bench without stretchers and so I made some modifications to the design. :-)

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View PurpLev's profile

PurpLev

8476 posts in 2399 days


#7 posted 01-20-2012 05:09 PM

nice.

so you were actually able to break a pipe clamp?? impressive… didn’t know thats even possible ;)

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Brandon's profile

Brandon

4145 posts in 1702 days


#8 posted 01-20-2012 06:20 PM

Purplev, here are some photos.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View Mauricio's profile

Mauricio

6902 posts in 1902 days


#9 posted 01-23-2012 01:40 AM

Good idea with the dowels, I’m gonna have to use that one.

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View wcndave's profile

wcndave

6 posts in 1640 days


#10 posted 02-16-2012 02:18 PM

Looking forward to the next installment. Particularly curious about the oak handle thing you have underneath and what it’s function is…

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