Holtzapffel Workbench: Decision Time. Could use your input.

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Blog entry by jcontract posted 04-02-2010 04:03 AM 2771 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Ok. It’s time to place the Workmate aside and build a real bench. Don’t get me wrong, the Workmate served me well these few years, and it still has its place (wrapping newspaper comes to mind). Time to build a real bench. I’ve done the research, read the Schwarz, and even helped a friend build his bench. It’s my time!

So I went to the Woodworking in America show in Valley Forge PA last October and as luck would have it, there was a company offering kiln dried Ash 12/4 on down specifically cut to size for the Holtzapffel bench. I really stepped in it for sure.

So first things first. The layout for the top. I have 4 planks of Ash for the top. They are 3” thick, 76” in length and ~7” in width. I will side glue these 4 planks after planing and jointing or course.

There are a few different layout configurations I was thinking of. If you have any advice, please post.

I know I want the top to be 24” wide. I am leaning toward cutting each piece to 6” widths. But another way would be to use as much of the full width of each board and make up any difference with the last board. If you have an opinion, please weigh in?

Also, please take a look at the way I’ve laid the boards out. There are 2 darker planks. One I would consider medium in color, and one that is obviously lighter. How would you configure these 4 planks so that they would look good aesthetically? The layout in the picture is what I’m thinking of going with.

So the first actual step is to make a set of 3 wooden cauls that will help keep the planks even during the glue-up. I’ll post here on the process of maiking them.

Thanks for you input.

3 comments so far

View kenn's profile


810 posts in 3926 days

#1 posted 04-02-2010 05:14 AM

My opinion, worth what you are paying for it, is to leave the the boards full width, joint and glue them up. Make sure the grain on the top is all running in the same direction, it’ll be easier to flatten the top when needed if you don’t have reversing grain from board to board. I find a bench wider than 26” to be too wide, I end up using each side as a seperate bench, kind of mentally dividing it in half. My current bench is 23 3/4” and I like it. I would not worry about the grain pattern of the top anymore than you already have, it looks fine, grain dirrection is more important. I also was at Valley Forge, enjoyed the whole thing. Good luck.

-- Every cloud has a silver lining

View charlton's profile


87 posts in 3614 days

#2 posted 04-02-2010 07:25 AM

Any concerns about wood movement causing your bench top to cup? I know Garrett Hack has his bench with flatsawn orientation like yours but he laminates three pieces to form tongue and groove boards which presumably is much less apt to warp. Just wondering….

View OutPutter's profile


1199 posts in 4196 days

#3 posted 04-03-2010 07:04 AM

jcontract, it’s good to see you’re using flat sawn timber for your workbench. I think it’s the way benches were made back when a bench was a man’s livelihood. I say put the darkest grain in the front of the bench so that the part you work on most will not show the wear as quickly as the lighter grain will. Purely aesthetic though. The grain direction is more important. I would also let the boards acclimate for a good long time say about two to three months. Leave everything full size until the last possible step. Joint the boards to make the glue line but don’t remove any width or length or depth unless you have to.

I’m making a bench out of flat sawn reclaimed wood that is about two inches thick and 7”-9” wide and 7’ long. I made my legs first while the boards acclimated and boy am I glad. I had to reflatten and joint them just to get them to glue up. Yours are kiln dried and mine were out in the elements for years so you won’t have as much trouble but you can’t be too careful. On the other hand, a real bench can’t remain dead flat for long if you really use it as a tool. So, I’m not too worried about the knots I have or the glue and finish stains or the chisel knicks, etc. The wood movement will always take a little of the flatness out of flat sawn anyway no matter what you do.

I hope you keep us posted with plenty of pictures because I’m looking forward to seeing your experience. I hope to start adding my project as a blog too. It’s just taking me an awful long time to get it done.


-- Jim

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