My Workbench #1: Day 1 Complete

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Blog entry by Jimi_C posted 08-16-2009 10:57 PM 1754 reads 1 time favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of My Workbench series Part 2: First Glue Up »

I managed to get started today and got a lot done, even with a short break to scramble some eggs for my wife (she’s in nursing school and works damn near full time, so I do most of the cooking). I started out by clearing some room on the MDF sheets I’d laid out last night. I put a few of the 1×4’s I bought under the sheets to keep them off the garage floor. I figured this was the flatest surface I was going to get for now, so I used it.

First up, I cut the outside frame for the top piece, being the largest I figured I’d start with that torsion box so when it was done, I could set it up on my saw horses for doing the rest. The outside frame consists of five boards, with one extra front board to make the total thickness there 3”. This was done to facilitate the lag screws that will be used to attach the dog hole assembly later. After the cutting was done, I glued and screwed the two front pieces together using Gorilla wood glue. I clamped one end, and started putting screws in, forcing the two boards to align as I went. Don’t know if that was a bad idea, with the added stress of the boards, but I figured with glue and screws it wasn’t going anywhere.

Front - glued and screwed

I let the glue dry for a few minutes (Gorilla dries fast, and it was still clamped), then attached the sides and back. I did this with a counter sink bit and deck screws, making sure I lined up on the center of the sides to avoid splitting the boards. I also drilled very slowly, since my drill doesn’t have torque settings, and turned it by hand a few cranks at the end to sink the screw just below the surface.

Front and back, side to side

Next I put in the beams running the width of the top, using a speed square to try and get them as close to straight as possible:

If it's not a right angle, it's a wrong angle

All three done:

Getting closer to being finished

Now come all the small cuts… I did this the speedy way (and not the most accurate). I marked out the position of each beam, one for each foot of table top. I then took a 1x and laid it along this line, marking where the parallel boards hit them. I then used my carpenter’s square to draw lines on the face, adding 1/8” for each additional block on the board to compensate for the kerf of my chop saw. This actually worked surprisingly well, as most of the cross members were a snug fit (only 2 had a noticeable gap). I made sure to measure the depth over each as I put them in to make sure I wasn’t causing one end to bow out. I used a T50 stapler to attach the cross members, both top and bottom.

Torsion box #1 almost finished

I had to stop here, as I’m expected over at my parent’s house for Sunday dinner, but I did clean up my work area and created a temporary table to work on (MDF sheet on top of 1×4’s on top of my saw horses). I really should have done that first, as my back is killing me from bending over this thing on the floor all morning…

I took my 4’ level and started checking for flatness, and I am surprised at how flat it is looking. The picture below shows the level over one cross member, and there is no rocking and no gap. The entire top is like this from end to end, so I am confident I’ll have at least one flat surface :)

Surprisingly flat

There doesn’t appear to be any gap around the bottom edge either, where it is sitting on the makeshift MDF table. For my next step, I plan to lay another sheet of MDF on top of this, lined up with a corner, and trace the outline. Then I’ll cut it out, giving myself an inch or two for each edge that I’ll clean up later with a router. I’m going to do it that way, because I did check the squareness of this and I’m about 3/8” out of square diagonally. I’m not unhappy with that, considering it’s my first attempt, and I’m working with material as-is.

More to come!

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

8 comments so far

View Karson's profile


35032 posts in 3820 days

#1 posted 08-16-2009 11:10 PM

Looking good.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Innovator's profile


3584 posts in 2833 days

#2 posted 08-16-2009 11:54 PM

Nice photo blog of the torsion box top.

-- Whether You Think You Can or You Think You Can't, YOU ARE RIGHT!!!

View a1Jim's profile


115172 posts in 2997 days

#3 posted 08-17-2009 12:46 AM

Wow your zooming right along way to go

-- Custom furniture

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 3666 days

#4 posted 08-17-2009 12:47 AM

Keep it tight like a bulldog’s bite. That’s what my boss used to say to me. You’re doin OK. Keep up the good work.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View PurpLev's profile


8523 posts in 3068 days

#5 posted 08-17-2009 03:19 AM

thats some great progress. as your reference planes gets flatter, so will your end results will become. don’t worry too much about getting off square at this point – just work hard on getting it as square as possible… with each project, as your skills improve, and your references are truer – squareness will become more available, and easier to come by.

as for leaving 1-2” off of each edge for cleaning later with a router – that’s actually a lot of material to route off. unless you are not so confident (I wasn’t, and still am not sometimes), I’d recommend leaving 1/2” at most on each side as extra… even that is considered a big chunk to take off with a router, but definitely easier on the router than a full 1-2” of material. unless you can clean some of that 1-2” extra with a jigsaw first before the router, than that would be safe+good for your router. food for thought. :)

I like how you used the carpenters square to square off the joints….

definitely waaaay better then how I started things… waaaay better.

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

View Jimi_C's profile


507 posts in 2655 days

#6 posted 08-17-2009 03:23 AM

@PurpLev: Thanks for the vote of confidence. As for the router comment, in my head I meant that I’d add an inch to both the length and width to have some overhang… but yeah I probably don’t even need that much of a comfort factor.

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View HokieMojo's profile


2103 posts in 3148 days

#7 posted 08-17-2009 05:10 AM

wow. way faster progress than I am making on my current blog. now I really gotta step it up tomorrow. haha.

So I see you are making this thing pretty big. Do you have a dedicated space or is this going to be mobile?

View Jimi_C's profile


507 posts in 2655 days

#8 posted 08-17-2009 05:33 AM

@HokieMojo: It’s 2’x6’, and I’ve got a spot in my garage picked out for it already. I don’t think it’s going to be mobile, but I should be able to break it down by removing the lag bolts/threaded rods (see the original plan here if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

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