A New Bench for Hand Work #2: Let's take it from the top

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Blog entry by Sean posted 11-24-2009 09:51 PM 1444 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: The Beggining, sort of Part 2 of A New Bench for Hand Work series no next part

I have known that I wanted to build a Roubo bench for a long while now. A few months ago, more than I want to try and figure out, I purchased enough 2×10x12’ hem-fir to build a bench 24” x 60” with 3” square legs and a 3” thick top. I brought the unwieldy 12’ long boards home and cut them all in half on my back deck then brought them down to the basement and stacked them temporarily (read improperly). It was at this point I undertook a wedding gift project and proceeded to finish my custom table saw extension project.

(my “wood storage” area)

So the hem-fir sat until about two weeks ago when I finally decided that I had had enough of trying to work on my tiny light weight bench. I went and re-read Christopher Schwartz’s book on work benches and headed down into the shop to evaluate what I had to work with.

I was pleasantly surprised that all of the boards were 6’ long as I thought I had bought 10’ boards to make a 5’ long bench, the same length of my current bench. Ready to get to work I cleaned and rearranged the shop so I would I have enough room to feed the long boards through my thickness planer. My plan was to get them reasonably flat in the planer then joint and rip them on the table saw as there was no way I was going to joint them with a handplane on my current bench. As with many of the best laid half thought out plans this did not go well.

I was able to flatten the first board in my planer and moved onto the second when the trouble started. The board started to feed and then stopped and the whole machine starting barking madly at me. I killed the power and tried to remove the board with no luck. So I turned it back on and started a very strange Elvis impersonation to encourage it through the planer. It turned out the rubber rollers on my 40 year old planer have seen better days and were not gripping very well. “OK” I thought, “let’s rethink this”.

I decided the planer would be a lot more happy if I ripped the boards down first. Now if you think that ripping rough softwood that has been improperly stored on the floor of a laundry room for several months sounds like a bad idea you would be right. Regarldess of that fact, I pressed forward. It was at this point I conceded that there was no way I would get a 3” top of this wood if I were to rip it and then clean it up, so with little remorse and a hint of a smile I decided the top would be 4” and ripped the 9” boards down the middle.


Why was this a bad idea? All of the boards were cupped and three were twisted. I had to feed the saw slowly to avoid binding the blade. On top of that I don’t think any of the boards were close to jointed along the sides and the boards would wander, even with my makeshift “feather” board clamped opposite the saw fence. What I ended up with was a whole bunch of boards with wildly varied widths. BUT, I did end up with enough boards plus some extra to assemble the top.


I was making progress now and it felt good. So with a few more hours until my wife got home from class I decided to run them all through the planer. This was a Major pain. I still had the binding problem I had with the full width boards, though it was less pronounced, and got to practice my pelvis thrusts to help the boards through as I wheeled the planer back and forth with each pass in order have enough clearance on the infeed and outfeed (the “shop” or laundry room is only about 16’ x 10’ if IIRC, and with many other things in it). After an hour I had finished 22 boards to no particular thickness. I just passed each board through until it was flat enough. I do not see as a problem because 1. it’s a workbench, not a master work and 2. I’m laminating them all together so what does it matter? I can just joint an edge down to attain my desired top width.

(planed boards)

At this point I called it an evening. I had done more woodworking that evening that I had been able to do in the previous two weeks and that is always a very satisfying feeling. And to boot I had made a lot, and I mean a LOT, of saw dust and shavings. The next night I would start the glue up.

(shavings w/a 6” triangle for reference)

8 comments so far

View PurpLev's profile


8540 posts in 3766 days

#1 posted 11-24-2009 10:05 PM

looks like quite a bit of progress, although your tablesaw setup is a bit scary. does your make-shift feather board allow the wood to expand past the blade? if not – that might cause the wood to bind against the blade, and since you don’t have a splitter there – this is just an invitation for a kick back , just waiting to happen.

We all want to get projects going, but I would recommend dialing it down one notch, and checking your setups for safety issues. nothing is worth your health.

looking forward for the next part.

P.S. you do want the boards to be flat and twist free even if you laminate them, to make the glue joints as strong as possible and stress free. but as you mentioned – this is a workbench, and you should be fine with how it is.

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

View hardwoodflooring's profile


202 posts in 3315 days

#2 posted 11-24-2009 10:06 PM

nice job

-- hardwood, South Carolina,

View jlsmith5963's profile


297 posts in 3466 days

#3 posted 11-24-2009 10:45 PM

a few words of warning my friend

My guess would be the only thing that saved you from a significant kickback experience was the mass of the boards and the lack of hp of your saw (binding the blade is in fact the cousin of kickback) and unfortunately ‘getting away’ with it is a problem because it becomes a precedent where in your head you say ‘well I did it like this before and nothing happened’... As Billy Bragg sings ‘you’re an accident waiting to happen’... (harsh, but true)

-- criticism: the art of analyzing and evaluating the quality of an artistic work...

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3421 days

#4 posted 11-25-2009 02:04 AM

i will have to agree with what has been mentioned..i saw the board clamped down and thought ..oh my….you need to get that off and put on a proper feather board… can easily find them on line or instrutions on how to make your own…but please…dont cut anymore untill you do that….just wanting you to be safe and not get hurt…i do hope you get it done like you want..its some nice looking wood from what i can see…..knot free…have fun doing the rest of your project…and please do things with safety in mind….

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View jcame's profile


72 posts in 3695 days

#5 posted 11-25-2009 02:06 AM

I did alot of things this way until I got a 3 HP Unisaw and up until then I was using a benchtop model. Needless to say the very first rip I made sent a hardwood missle completely through the wall behind me. It was one of those times you look yourself over for injury because it happens so fast you wonder “What the HELL just happened”??? What I’m trying to say is BE CAREFUL!!! Stuff can happen before you realize it.

-- Jed,Ala,

View charlton's profile


87 posts in 3527 days

#6 posted 11-25-2009 06:06 AM

Boy, your shop is almost as confined as mine. I’ve also got Watco Danish Oil and WD40 sitting around…oh and the ethernet hub, too. :)

View Sean's profile


18 posts in 3816 days

#7 posted 11-25-2009 08:18 PM

Thanks everyone for your comments. While the clamped board was able to and did move while ripping I agree it is not a safe setup. I’ll be making some feather boards over the holiday weekend before I start on the legs for the bench, and I’ll be sure to take more pictures (I found my tripod!).

As for the riving knife, I’d like to have one. I bought the saw off craigslist and while it did come with a dado stack and a drill press it did not come with a riving knife. It does however have a mounting point for a stationary one. Any suggestions on where to pick one up?

View PurpLev's profile


8540 posts in 3766 days

#8 posted 11-25-2009 08:30 PM

do a search for BORK (bolt on riving knife), or the Shark splitter. those are 2 known after market riving knives that suit many saws.

another option is to contact your saws mfg. for a replacement part for the splitter, although if it’s a regular splitter you will not get the benefit of the riving knife which always stays close to the blade, and reduces the chance of kick back.

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

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