strength of staggered short pieces for a bench top?

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Forum topic by ben posted 11-23-2007 07:53 PM 1550 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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158 posts in 3833 days

11-23-2007 07:53 PM

Topic tags/keywords: cherry workbench top stagger

So many questions… so little time… and turkey day had me thinking about my projects the whole day long. Hope everybody had/is having a great holiday :) On with my question…

I am hoping to start work on the FWW John White new-fangled bench this weekend, and had a realization. A local hardwood dealer had a pallet of cherry shorts, many of which is in mediocre condition, which he is selling super cheap. Most of them are ~2 feet in length, 6/4, and 6-8 inches width. I was thinking about buying a couple handfuls, and milling them down to 1-1/4×2” pieces in 2 foot length, and then staggering them into a top for a 2” deep bench. It would look roughly like this (imagine each letter is a different piece):


Would this be sufficient strong? Is 2” too much / not enough for this kind of arrangement (what would a reasonable minimum be)? People say that long grain gluing is stronger than the wood, so if done correctly, it feels like it should be plenty strong for an 8 foot long top. Also, does cherry make a poor benchtop? I am mainly aiming for cheap, but thought that the discount cherry might be worth the extra effort (instead of the recommended doug fir. By the way, in case you’re wanting to see what the design looks like, Jeff (aka Caliper) kept a blog his construction of the same project.


9 replies so far

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 3837 days

#1 posted 11-23-2007 10:50 PM

The glue-up would be strong enough. Getting it flat would be a miserable pain in the neck. And cherry is pretty soft for a workbench top. I think I’d try to find something harder.

-- -- --

View mrtrim's profile


1696 posts in 3843 days

#2 posted 11-23-2007 11:04 PM

im going with exactly what peter said. i like my benches absolutly flat. for what i do i usually cover them with counter top grade formica. as i drip glue on them its easy to remove and i quite often make sketches on them as well just wash then off with laquer thinner

View gizmodyne's profile


1776 posts in 4053 days

#3 posted 11-24-2007 02:21 AM

Go for it. Lots of store bought bench tops/ butcher blocks are made this way.

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke."

View ben's profile


158 posts in 3833 days

#4 posted 11-24-2007 07:32 AM

Ebanista—you’ve got this technique down… cutting boards, benchtops, who knows what else? :) For this project, I think I’ll definitely be following up your suggestion… it seems worth the effort to build the jig for this project.

In any case, I went and picked out a bunch of cherry shorts this afternoon (before hearing that it may be soft), and got 63 pieces, mostly in excellent condition, 6/4, between 15-20” long, and between 4-10 inches wide. Probably at least 60 board feet, for $80. A price that can’t be beat :) Frankly, I may have enough enough to make 2 bench tops (since these are really half-tops, in the john white design), but we’ll see what I do with it all.

As far as hardness, I did some looking at a Janka scale, and cherry is definitely not hard maple or white oak, but it’s superior to the Douglas Fir / Southern Yellow Pine originally suggested in the FWW bench article. At this point, I’m committed… I’ll let y’all know how it goes. Thanks!

View Sawdust2's profile


1466 posts in 4051 days

#5 posted 11-24-2007 01:58 PM

Go for it!

-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

View Jeff's profile


1010 posts in 4057 days

#6 posted 11-24-2007 10:08 PM

Hey ben. I see great minds think alike (nevermind my PM). Thanks for including the link to the Janka scale. I couldn’t remember the name of the scale…

Are you going to blog your build? I’d like to see your progress.

-- Jeff, St. Paul, MN

View ben's profile


158 posts in 3833 days

#7 posted 11-24-2007 11:19 PM

Absolutely going to blog it. I will be rough cutting my SPF (couldn’t find Doug Fir), and the cherry shorts this weekend, and expect to mill it this week and hopefully complete assembly by next weekend, so if I stay on schedule I’ll have lots to show.


View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 3953 days

#8 posted 11-25-2007 05:47 AM

Fir is a soft wood. I would avoid mixing it with the cherry. Better to mix in some maple or ash if you want the contrasting color. Glue your cherry like you want, long grain, using TiteBond II or III. Your right in your thinking that long grain glueing is definately a strong bond.

This bench will turn out real pretty. Keep us posted, OK?

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View ben's profile


158 posts in 3833 days

#9 posted 11-25-2007 10:14 PM

Follow up question in case anybody happens to read these long threads:

I plan to build this staggered cherry top 2” wide, and probably trim it down to 1-3/4” for the finished surface. Should I be running an apron (or some long, 3”+ vertical board whose proper name I wouldn’t know) along the length of it to prevent it from flexing over the years? Basically, this will be a glorified 8’ 2×12, and those flex over time. Admittedly they are pine, and materials matter, but I was just curious. In John White’s original design, I see no stretcher/apron/whatever-you-call-it, but I am skeptical (and have already drawn one in to my plans). Any thoughts / suggestions?

Dadoo: the SPF is for the leg and support structure. It will comprise some of the table surface, but only about 6 of the 28” of depth. The rest will be 10” of MDF and 12” of cherry.


PS—anybody know of a woodworker’s dictionary? I googled it, and found Sam Allen’s dictionary, but it lacks both apron and stretcher… any other suggestions for the knowledge-impaired?

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