Building The Holtzapffel Workbench #10: Flattening The Top

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Blog entry by Mike Lingenfelter posted 04-21-2008 01:20 AM 8900 reads 1 time favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 9: Wagons Ho! Part 10 of Building The Holtzapffel Workbench series Part 11: Planing Stop »

This weekend I only had a few hours I could spend in the shop. My next task was to work on the top and get it flat. I had a few areas that were misaligned slightly during the glue up, so I spent a few minutes working on those areas, to bring everything to the same level.

Next I wanted to see if there was any wind in the top. To check this I used some winding sticks. The winding sticks I have are for much smaller scale projects, so I had to come up with something else. I had seen Christopher Schwarz use some aluminum brackets on one of his DVDs. I pick up a couple straight pieces at Lowe’s and gave it a try. They worked pretty well. I put some blue painters tape one of them, to have some contrast. Here are a couple of pictures where I’m trying to show the wind in the top.

This first picture is looking over the front winding stick to see the back winding stick.


This next picture is moving my line of sight lower until the back winding stick starts to get blocked by the front one.


You can see there is a slight wind in the top. The left rear side is a little higher than the right side. I will take this into account when I’m flattening the top. I did this procedure a couple of times at different points on the top. In my case it was pretty flat, except for the far end of the bench. I’m not sure I can explain in words how to deal with wind. Both Rob Cosman and Christopher Schwarz show strategies for dealing with wind in their DVDs. I’ll see if I can find out which DVDs this was on and post that later.

I then drew pencil lines all over the top to give me a reference as I was flattening. I made a few passes with my #7 at a diagonal across the top. You can see where the high and low spots are, from where the pencil lines have been removed.



It took quite a few passes to get top close to flat. You will see paraffin wax next to my plane. Paraffin is your friend when you have this much planing to do. It really does help.

After I got it to where I thought I was getting close to flat, I wanted to see if I still had wind or had induced more wind into the stop. I got the winding sticks out and checked it again.



I was pretty close, the left side needed just a little more work.

The initial flattening made quite a pile of shavings ☺. I was sweating pretty good by the time I was done.


Planing across the grain leaves a pretty rough surface, so when I was happy with the flatness, I was ready to plane with the grain. Before starting I gave the plane iron a fresh sharpening. I then drew pencil lines on the top again.


You can’t see the lines very well, but they are there. I then planed with the grain and overlapped my passes. It top 4 or 5 passes to clean everything up.

Here is an example of a full-width full-length shaving I was getting on the last couple of passes.


It was pretty cool to see those shavings come out of the plane! I still had some minor tearout after I was done. I don’t have a Smoothing plane yet, so I just hit it with some 220 sandpaper. Overall it came out really nice.

I then moved the bench back into place. I’m working in a garage, so my floor is sloped. I had to find a way to shim the bench and still keep it stable. I choose to use large cedar shakes as my shims.


There is about a ¾” difference over the length of the bench.


Once I got the bench level with the shims. I marked them and pulled them out one leg at a time. I applied a small amount of glue on the shims to try to keep them in place. Not so much glue that I can’t knock them off if I ever need to.

I only have a few things left to do, before it’s finished. Next I think I will add a full-width planing stop on the left end of the bench. I need to attach the twin-screw face vise. I should have my large wooden screws this next week. Then the finial task is to apply a finish. Next weekend will be another short weekend in the shop so I will probably work on the planing stop.

11 comments so far

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 3843 days

#1 posted 04-21-2008 01:26 AM

Dude that is sweet! It is really cool watching a shaving spill out of tha mouth of a plane like that isn’t it?


-- Scott - Chico California

View kenn's profile


810 posts in 3747 days

#2 posted 04-21-2008 01:31 AM

That is one great looking bench, just wait until you are turning stuff out with all that extra help holding everything. Thanks for this blog.

-- Every cloud has a silver lining

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3849 days

#3 posted 04-21-2008 02:09 AM


This is turning into a beautiful bench. You are doing a really nice job.

Thanks for the post.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View ww_kayak's profile


70 posts in 3752 days

#4 posted 04-21-2008 04:15 AM

Nice. I just started reading Schwarz’s workbench book, and after seeing your progress, my bench has has just moved up a notch on my todo list.(right after my NO. 7 refurb )

-- Tom, Central New York

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4015 days

#5 posted 04-21-2008 04:38 AM

You are doing one great job on that bench!

Winding sticks work great. I have a problem getting them both on focus so I find that if you make a small hole
in a piece of cardboard and look through it then they are in focus.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 3902 days

#6 posted 04-21-2008 04:56 AM

Wow, you are going to have that thing DEAD FLAT. I bet you had so much fun just making those shavings… the bench is just an excuse to use that plane right? Anyway, great bench. I love the tail vice, I’ve never seen one like that before.

-- Happy woodworking!

View Mike Lingenfelter's profile

Mike Lingenfelter

503 posts in 4141 days

#7 posted 04-22-2008 01:26 AM


The bench was an excuse to buy several new tools, even ones I didn’t use on the bench :). The Wagon Vise is unconventional but it is really turning out to be a good choice for me.

View StraightEdge's profile


26 posts in 3720 days

#8 posted 04-22-2008 04:01 PM

Inspiring at the least! I will keep this great looking bench at the to of my wish list!


-- Cheers!

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 4024 days

#9 posted 04-23-2008 06:00 AM

Wow Mike – this is great! Won’t be long now!

Can’t wait to see “glamour” shots of the entire bench!

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View Jerry's profile


76 posts in 3180 days

#10 posted 07-05-2016 01:04 AM

Hi Mike~

I am a fan of the DF 2×4’s for a bench, after all they are really a “Tool” , not an ob·jet d’art ? I really like your bench, nice work! I did a similar one, I did not publish any of the final photos where I have the dog holes and vise installed but you get the idea! Great work!

I did a like you on the glue up, running sections through the planer before joining the three with some purpleheart accent pieces I had laying around and keying them together with butterflys and splines as well. Probably not needed but it has never warped or been affected by humidity. Best regards and great work!


Here is a link to my similar lumberjocks project in 2009
Click for details

-- "The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives should be a Store, Not a Govt. Agency"

View Mike Lingenfelter's profile

Mike Lingenfelter

503 posts in 4141 days

#11 posted 07-05-2016 02:50 AM

I really love Douglas Fir and using it for benches. This bench has moved to my brother’s shop and I built a new bench using some 6×12 Douglas Fir beams! The new bench is heavy and doesn’t move even with the most vigorous planing!

Nice job on your bench!

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