Input on Using LVL for a Workbench Top

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Forum topic by jmos posted 12-18-2011 04:51 PM 4686 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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839 posts in 2395 days

12-18-2011 04:51 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Does anyone have any input on using LVL for a workbench top? Not for the base, but for the top.

Here’s where I’m coming from; I’m in the process of deciding how to build me workbench. Among other research I’ve got Chris Schwarz’s new workbench book “The Workbench Design Book.” Good book, he shows a bunch of different benches, how they are built, and a review of the bench after it’s been in use for a while. (I should post a review…)

I’d like to use hardwood for the top, but my local hardwood dealer doesn’t carry anything much besides S2S 4/4 stock; by the time i actually flatten it I’m lucky to get 0.7” thickness, usually less. For a 24” wide top That would require about 35 boards for the top. I looked at dimensional lumber, but the 2by stock is knotty junk. I can order higher grade, but it’s more expensive per board foot than hardwood!

So, I’m thinking of using LVL for the top as Chris shows in the book. He has good things to say about the LVL top, but not about the LVL base. I’d use hardwood, probably ash, as it’s cheapest, for the base. With the LVL I’ll buy enough to get about 20”-21” and use some hard maple on the front and back edges.

I did search the site and found a few posts about building a bench, but not much about how it worked out. Any input would be appreciated.

Other planned design info; 7’ or 8’ long, leg vise on right (I’m a lefty), twin screw vise on left end.

-- John

14 replies so far

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284 posts in 2476 days

#1 posted 12-18-2011 05:39 PM

I have read about the glubo workbench and its top, seems to do well if it has an apron around it as the LVL does splinter and chip easily at the edges. You stated that you would use Ash for the base, I don’t know where you live but here LVL is much higher than Ash. But the Ash I am talking about comes from a sawmill. This is another opt. (sawmill) that you might look at/for. As for the knotty pine problem, what type of pine are you looking at, if you read Chris’ book than I am sure you looked at the SYP. If its possible will the yard let you pick through the lumber and find what you need, its possible to use boards with knots if you use the knots in areas of the board that are going to be in the center of the lamination for the top. Also if you use the 2x stock SYP you should only need say 6 2×12x8 if the top is 3.5 or less thick. Here the cost at the higher price stores its $8 per 8’ 2×12 SYP board, thats only $48 to $56 plus tax for a top, the effort to dig through the pile and find 6 or 7 really nice usable SYP boards is well worth the money. Finding a sawmill near is not always possible but again worth the effort to look, they sell for much less and a reasonable drive may be worth the time.

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47 posts in 2455 days

#2 posted 12-18-2011 05:48 PM

If I’m not mistaken the LVL bench that Chris wrote about was Megan Fitzpatrick’s from Popular Woodworking. You could email her about her experience.

-- My Boss was a carpenter

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284 posts in 2476 days

#3 posted 12-18-2011 06:07 PM

Just seen JimDantins “workbench build album”, he has a very nice pic log of what he has done to create his LVL workbench, it may help you with some of your issues.

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839 posts in 2395 days

#4 posted 12-18-2011 06:21 PM

Unfortunately, where I am, New Jersey suburb of Philly, no one carries SYP. The 2x stuff is almost all fir, and is no where near clear. If I go the sawmill route, I’m renting a truck and driving for a couple of hours into PA, as there is nothing close to me. Unfortunately, it’s pretty urban around here.

For the cost, I can get the LVL for $5.25/ft for a 2×12; 4/4 ash runs me about $3.50BF (same as red oak and poplar), so the LVL is cheaper, and there will be a whole lot less waste with the LVL, so the net cost will be significantly less. The cost isn’t the biggest factor; the biggest thing I’m looking at is the LVL only takes 12 strips for the top, plus the hardwood edging versus 35 layers using 4/4 material. A lot less work and a lot less room for error.

And yes, the bench is Megan’s, the ‘gluebo’ I believe they nicknamed it. As I mentioned, the review in the book had good things to say about the top, but not so much for the base.

-- John

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284 posts in 2476 days

#5 posted 12-18-2011 06:44 PM

Sounds like your using LVL and Ash or all Ash, location makes life difficult sometimes. How about a salvage yard or construction site for finding some LVL at a lower cost.

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16 posts in 3129 days

#6 posted 12-18-2011 09:58 PM

My bench was built from, and designed around, some salvage LVL that I found on Craigslist. The exact thickness of the top and the leg dimensions were the result of detailed calculations to minimize waste. I spent HOURS with an Excel spreadsheet, AutoCAD, and Google Sketchup calculating the optimum cut list and bench dimensions!

That was WAY over-the-top engineering, but I was in a situation where I had plenty of “thinking” time before I could actually start construction of the bench. The point is to either design the bench around what material you have, or buy the exact material that minimizes waste. You can get LVL in many sizes. Mine was 14” wide and that worked well for me – 12” material would have forced some minor dimensional changes.

The strength, weight, and stability of LVL makes it a great choice for the base as well as the top. I am extremely happy with the results.

-- Jim, Prospect, KY

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14940 posts in 2716 days

#7 posted 12-19-2011 05:30 AM

LVL???? I missed this in my education.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

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839 posts in 2395 days

#8 posted 12-19-2011 02:49 PM

gfadvm – Laminated veneer lumber. An engineered product made with 1/8” plys of southern yellow pine glued together with the grain running in the same direction, as opposed to plywood with alternating grain. It comes in stock sizes; I’m planning on using a 2×12, which is actually 1 3/4×11 7/8. Very uniform and easy to cut and stable. Typically used for supporting long spans in buildings.

-- John

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14940 posts in 2716 days

#9 posted 12-20-2011 03:26 AM

Thanks for the info John. I had never heard of this so I learned something today! This stuff sounds really stout and should work for your bench.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

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41 posts in 2057 days

#10 posted 11-24-2015 05:14 AM

After reading this post and researching Megan’s LVL bench, I have decided to make the “Glubo” bench. But instead of LVL I’m using Glulam. I have been thinking that I would need a jointer and planer to make a bench like this, but now I’m able to make it thanks to this discovery. I’ll still flatten it and all that, but bench crafted hardware will have to wait.

I order two 12” wide 8’ long 3 1/8 glulam slabs for a total of $135 including tax. Fancy vises will wait for awhile but hopefully I can find an affordable tail vise.

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17426 posts in 3032 days

#11 posted 11-24-2015 01:14 PM

A buddy of mine built his bench from scrap LVL’s and believe it or not, it’s gorgeous. Full on condor tails and everything. If that’s what you can get your hands on, go for it.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

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1596 posts in 1038 days

#12 posted 11-24-2015 02:02 PM

I guess it depends how far you want to go to get a nice bench. Hearne Hardwoods in Oxford PA has a nice yard. I got to go there when I lived in WV. I picked up about 500bf of birdseye maple 8/4 and their prices weren’t too bad. They have a great selection of veneers as well. I went there and picked out a bunch of wood, piled it up and called for an attendant to ring me up. A kid in overalls and a wide brimmed hat came over and started measuring up the boards with a lumber rule. Now I should tell you I was new to the area and hadn’t been back east very long. That said, when the kid was all done writing down the measurements he began the math. I sat there while he calculated each board long hand. I got tired of waiting and offered the kid a calculator. I don’t think I can describe the puzzled look I got from him, he then went back to his math. It was only later when I pulled out of the yard to go on my way that I got behind a horse drawn carriage and realized my mistake. I laughed my butt off and I always wondered if the kid thought it was funny when he went home and told the story about the weirdo that tried to make him use electricity. Anyway, you should be able to find some good stuff there and it isn’t too far from you I don’t think.
Take care and good luck.

-- Brian Noel

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53 posts in 1632 days

#13 posted 11-24-2015 02:15 PM

I bullt one based on ShopNotes No. 127 (January 2013) Page 14—Heavy-Duty Workbench. It used LVL for the top and it is great. I did top it with 3/4 MDF gives it a nice finish and used maple for the edging.

-- If you are not willing to learn, No one can help you. If you are determined to learn, No one can stop you.

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7992 posts in 2824 days

#14 posted 11-24-2015 02:39 PM


-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

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