|Project by Greg In Maryland||posted 04-02-2012 09:36 PM||5372 views||18 times favorited||25 comments|
If I received a dollar for every mistake I made with this workbench, I would have enough money to pay Christopher Schwartz, Norm Abrams, David Marks and Roy Underhill to make a work bench for me to choose from :) Of course, no one really pays you for your mistakes, so read on …..
The workbench you see in the pictures is approximately 75 inches long x 29 inches wide x 36 inches high. I think that it is just a bit over 375 pounds, including the vises and shelf.
The legs are 5 inches square and the top is just bit under five inches thick. The base is made up of dimensional lumber, mostly 2×6s, laminated and sized as appropriate. And the top is hard maple. Sorta.
There is a leg vise with Lee Valley hardware and an antique Massey’s Patented Number 17 quick release vise on the end. This is just about all I could find on the vise on the web: link Finally, there is a three inch chop on the end vise, a two inch leg chop and a shelf.
Obviously I mostly followed the Christopher Schwartz version of the Roubu. I thought that i would read the book, prepare the lumber, glue it up, cut some mortise and tenon joints, drawbore, a little planning and poof, a perfect workbench. Yeah right.
Originally this bench was going to have a tubafore top about three inches thick and the base was going to be attached via mortise and tenon, and drawbore pins. The whole nine yards. Except, after glueup of the top, I discovered that one corner dipped over 1/2 inch. I think that during glue up, even though I had clamping cauls, I put too much pressure on the clamps and significantly bowed the top. That or my gluing surface (saw horses) was wickedly warped and transferred to the top.
Being fearless and somewhat clueless (a really bad combination, in retro spect), I decided to attach the top to the base anyways and plane away with my Stanley Number 7. Man what a workout, and not too effective. Knots are not fun to plane. Eventually, I got a somewhat flat top and all is well. During some cleanup, I heard a sickening hollow sound right above one of the mortices.
Oh no …. did I? Yup, I definitely did. %#$#$%$&. Double %#$#$%$&. I planned off so much that I significantly weakened the top right above the mortice.
Nothing I could do but put my tools up and leave. I knew that there wasn’t a chance that I was going to be able to salvage this mess, but I wasn’t looking forward to the process of separating the top from the base and cleaning up another pile of tubafores. Maybe I could live with it, or cut a patch and add a decorative touch, fill it with epoxy or lead or what ever.
As luck would have it, I had to travel three quarters the way across town to um, ah, well Ikea. There, I said it. I shop at Ikea. Please don’t take my woodworking card away.
While in the neighborhood I like to stop at a community material recycling center and poke around. I though perhaps I could get a pile of tubafores at a reasonable price. I was right, they had lots of tubafore at a reasonable price, but to my great astonishment and delight they had this:
What is this, you may ask? It is 1 1/4 inches of hard maple laminated onto 3 3/4 inches of LVL. See link for description of LVL. For the math impaired like me, that is five inches thick!
Each piece is just about 2 inches wide and completely smooth and consistent from piece to piece. Other than trimming the ends, it is perfect. Best part? It was six dollars per piece and I needed $14 pieces, so we are talking about $84 dollars. Hmm, buy tubfores and spend hours planning, jointing, emptying the dust collector bag (a task I hate), or buy this, glue it up and go. No question there. So home came a van full of this stuff. Even I couldn’t screw this up, or so I hoped.
For some reason hard board is included on the sides of the fabrication. I would have rather done without the hardboard, but once glued up, it didn’t bother me a bit. I did add a solid hard maple skirt in the front instead of leaving the hard board bare.
This glued up fairly simply and though I mostly did learn my lesson the first time, I did have some bowing – less than an 1/4 inch on one corner. Instead of gluing up on saw horses, I assembled the top on my table saw. After cutting off the old top from the base, I no longer had mortises to contend with, so I was less concerned about planning too far though the top this time, so all is well so far.
I drilled a double row of dog holes every six inches including the end vise chop. The vise does not have a popup dog and I felt that a double row would give me more control and less wracking.
To the standard Christopher Schwartz Roubu bench base, I added side stretchers between the legs on the top and used lag bolts to secure the top to the base. The end vise is mortised into the end, with a pocket cut out of the end cap to fit over the metal vise face. The opposite side of the top from the vise has two holes drilled in the end plate for bolts, with the intend of adding a planning stop, secured with star knobs.
For all you beginners out there, some things to keep in mind:
• If the stretchers on your base are warped, after you glue up the base, guess what? Yes class, the base will be warped as well. However, if your top is heavy enough, the top may contort the warp out of the base and make it a bit more level. I was saved by this, though I did have to shim one corner just a bit.
• It pays to make sure that the front of the work bench is perpendicular to the top before you attach the top to the base. Otherwise, the leg vise does not line up properly. Mine was not and I had to disassemble the end caps, the vises, and remove the top from the base, plane it, only to reassemble the entire thing after I planed it. Not so simple moving 260+ pound top by yourself.
• Wax and sharp plane irons are your friends. Wax the bottom of the plane frequently and the process of leveling the top will go all that much smoother.
• I would rather plane hard maple all day rather than one piece of knot-filled tubafore. I actually had to stop myself I was having so much fun.
I did not machine the LVL at all, so I can’t comment on that aspect. I do understand that LVL produces a lot of nasty dust when machined, but I really have no experience with this. I used a combination of circular saw and hand saw to trim off the edges. Drilling the dogs holes was a pain – especially on the glue line between the maple and the LVL. I used brad point bits for drilling though the maple and a hand brace and auger bits for the LVL. It took maybe two or three nights to drill all 26 holes.
I would think that homemade hard maple/LVL laminate would be a good choice for a heavy and stable workbench with the advantages of both hard maple (or whatever wood you chose) and the weight of LVL. The choice of glue I think would be fairly important. I don’t think that regular yellow glue would suffice to bond the hard maple to the LVL. Perhaps epoxy or some other glue would do the trick.
I am not completely done—I need to make the deadman, the planning stop and apply a finish. I may also put some dog holes in the back to be able to plane from front to back (instead of side to side) In the future, I may replace the tubafore base with one made out of hard maple, and maybe lower the base some.
In retrospect, I was incredibly lucky with the top and it worked out much better than any top I could have made out of tubafore. It is flat, it is sable it’s just what I wanted.
Thanks, and I really hope some beginner out there in their basement reads this and learns from my novice mistakes.