Hand tool workbench #5: Building the top

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Blog entry by brianl posted 11-21-2010 01:02 AM 2648 reads 1 time favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: Stretchers Part 5 of Hand tool workbench series Part 6: Tool rail and Leveling »

Now that I have my base built, it is time to start on the top of the workbench. To do so, I decided to go with a glue-up of 2×4s cut in half. In the end my top should be 48” long and about 30” wide. Here are some initial pieces to show you the scale:

To build the pieces, I cut a douglas fir 2×4 in half, then hand-planed it to remove the rounded corners. I used my number 5 jack plane to remove material and my number 6 to smooth it out. I occasionally used my number 3 to smooth out any rough features. As you can imagine this produced a lot o shavings. It was also one hell of an upper-body workout!

After I got them all cut and planed, it was time to start gluing them together. I know some people have done this all at once, but I didn’t trust myself to get them straight and level. So I decided to glue it up piece by piece.

I had to go out and buy more clamps to do all of this. The Medium-duty jorgensens (with the larger pads) seem to do nicely. The small ones I have noticed tend to mark the wood too much.

Once I had the top glued up in 2-board pieces, it was time to start gluing those together as well. In this one you can see the cuts I made to fit the front vise in. I’ll talk more about that later.

Now the big question for me is about strength. I have been thinking about running two threaded metal rods through the top (against the board lay out) and then bolting it all tightly together. I wonder if that would increase the strength of it. I would hate to be working on something have the boards split apart…
Next up, more about the top and the vices!

-- Brian - Belmont, Massachusetts

6 comments so far

View Derek Lyons's profile

Derek Lyons

584 posts in 3597 days

#1 posted 11-21-2010 07:48 AM

If it’s glued up properly, running two rods through it won’t affect the strength. Heck, if it’s not glued up properly, running two rods through it won’t affect the strength.

-- Derek, Bremerton WA --

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3677 days

#2 posted 11-21-2010 07:53 AM

nicely done!

as for the rods – if you are just doing it to strengthen the top – I doubt it would make much of a difference. if the top is milled and glued up properly, the glue lines will be stronger than the wood itself. if it’s not – then it’ll wobble around even with the rods.

rods are usually used to strengthen cross joint such as the caps to counter the pulling action of the vises that otherwise could potentially pull the cap out of it’s mating tenon on the benchtop.

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

View BigTiny's profile


1676 posts in 2917 days

#3 posted 11-21-2010 02:51 PM

If you were going to use the rods, shouldn’t you have drilled it before glue up?

-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View knotfree's profile


13 posts in 4308 days

#4 posted 11-21-2010 05:31 PM

Nice work Brian!
The rods are not necessary, There is plenty of long grain to long grain glue surface here. I made my top the same way and it is amazingly strong. You have a solid frame underneath supporting the top, so I as long as you use ample glue, you shouldn’t have any problems. And BigTiny is right, you would have to dril the holes before glue up.

-- Pete

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3702 days

#5 posted 11-23-2010 06:02 AM

Nice workbench, Brian!

View Viking's profile


880 posts in 3224 days

#6 posted 11-23-2010 06:26 AM


Skip the rods as they will be of no value to your top strength. Maybe breadboard ends?

Thanks for sharing!

-- Rick Gustafson - Lost Creek Ranch - Colorado County, Texas

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