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Forum topic by mikelaw posted 03-18-2014 12:09 AM 1747 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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51 posts in 2786 days

03-18-2014 12:09 AM

I’ve finally gotten to the point where I have some time to do some woodworking in earnest and I’m about to begin construction of a woodworking bench out one foot wide, six inch thick slabs of white oak that I found this past weekend for a price I couldn’t resist. I bought three beams that were originally twelve feet long but I had to split them up into eight foot and four foot pieces so I could transport them in my small pickup truck. I estimate the eight foot lengths to weigh around 200 lbs. each. There’s a slight amount of twist (see photo) in one of them but I haven’t had chance to put my winding sticks on the other two eight footers. If I take the twist out of the highlighted piece, for example, I think I’ll end up with a piece roughly 5 inches thick.

I have enough wood to use the beams for the entire bench, including the top. I don’t think, however that it would be a good idea to laminate two foot wide, nearly half foot thick beams together to form a one piece bench top since my gut tells me they’ll inevitably split apart. So, I’m thinking of using a split top Roubo design. I expect that I’ll slice two four foot beam pieces down the middle and create my four legs. Each will be roughly 6×6 in size.

My main question: What options do I have to build the legs and stretchers for this type of top with the materials available to me? I had originally planned to to build the hybrid Roubo bench authored by John Tetrault in Fine Woodworking a few years back but I don’t see how I could effectively use the types of legs he built for that bench. given that the top will be split down the middle. Perhaps I should just buy Benchcrated’s plans. Anyway, this is a good dilemma, all things considered.

By the way, the wood is going in to my garage tomorrow to get it out of the weather. I just have to wait for one of my kids to help me move these beasts.

Thanks for the anticipated input.


23 replies so far

View jmartel's profile


8237 posts in 2353 days

#1 posted 03-18-2014 12:31 AM

I would resaw 2 of the 4’ pieces into 6”x6”x3’ (or probably 5”x5” after flattening) for legs. Resaw the remaining one into 2”x6” boards to use as stretchers. 2 of the 8’ pieces would make a great top. Use the remaining one to make a shelf, leg vise, and under bench tool cabinet.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View Mark Kornell's profile

Mark Kornell

1169 posts in 2734 days

#2 posted 03-18-2014 04:27 AM


Those beams should be stable enough that if you get a good glue joint, it won’t split at the glue line. That being said, getting a near-perfect mating surface over two faces that size is hard.

There are a few examples of split-top designs here in the Projects page – look through the smackdown list.

To do a split top, you need stretchers on the sides at the top, to tie the front and back legs together on each side. You can then join the top to those assemblies in any way that makes sense.

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

View Sylvain's profile


752 posts in 2702 days

#3 posted 03-18-2014 01:32 PM

Kari Hultman made a nice one :
it starts here

and stops here :

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

View mikelaw's profile


51 posts in 2786 days

#4 posted 03-18-2014 05:55 PM

Thanks. I see some ideas that I’d like to use. Hope I haven’t bitten off more than I chew.

View mikelaw's profile


51 posts in 2786 days

#5 posted 03-26-2014 02:09 PM

So, I’ve been cleaning up these beams over the past week or so. I think of them as dressed trees now. The shavings cover the floor around the beams to about 4”. Here’s my current concern: The six inch sides have some significant twist (3/8”) at one end on each. I’ve flipped them around every which way and I can’t get the respective twists to cancel each other out so I have to plane the sides to mate them for the eventual glue-up. I intend to stand them on the six inch sides on my low saw horses with the sides to be planed facing upward, gang them together and start planing to match them up. I know I’ll get mated surfaces from side to side but I could magnify any discrepancies along the length if I’m not careful. Once they’re as close as I can get them, if it’s off by a small bit (1/16”), I’ll bore three or four holes through sides and run threaded rods through the beams for a mechanical attachment. They’ll be spaced to avoid dog hole locations.

The prior owner said he had no idea on the history of these beams (someone he barely knew left them with him when he thought they might come in useful – they didn’t – so he chose to sell them). I think these were used in concrete forms given the condition of the surfaces which, I think, explains why I’ve had so many masonry nails to remove. These appear to be hardened steel with spiral fluting along the sides. I’ve removed all but about five of them and they’re all on the sides. I’ve used up a small can of propane to heat them up in the hope that the expansion and subsequent contraction would separate the nails from the wood fibers. I’ve broken one of those hollow screw extractor bits since one of the nails had another nail right next to it just below the surface which I initially didn’t see. I’m giving up them since I have no hair left to tear out. All of the nails are showing the pointy ends and, for the life of me, I can’t imagine which side into which they were driven. I’ guessing that these are the heads that, at some point, came off. I’m cutting them off about 1/2” below the surface and hoping the shafts aren’t angled such that they interfere with dog holes or hold fasts. If necessary I’ll add a 10/4 board along the side and rout out the dog holes in the board.

With all this hand planing, I’ve suspended my YMCA membership.

View theoldfart's profile


10170 posts in 2654 days

#6 posted 03-26-2014 02:36 PM

And I’m complaining about hand planing my bench top! It came out to just under 4” thick. Looking forward to seeing your progress.

You might want to post something over at the workbench smack down thread,lots of folks there either building benches or have built their benches.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View shipwright's profile


8166 posts in 3001 days

#7 posted 03-26-2014 02:58 PM

Rather than planing have you considered laying them out side by side the way they will eventually be glued up and then running a saw between them. It trues up a joint like that very well. It is common timber fitting practice in wood boat building. If the gaps are really big, you could start with a chainsaw but I doubt they are that bad. A good rip saw will do it. Just run the saw through, snug them together again and repeat until it’s perfect. After the last pass you shouldn’t even need to plane. ........... unless you just love to plane.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View mikelaw's profile


51 posts in 2786 days

#8 posted 03-26-2014 03:04 PM


I had to check on some other posts to see how to appropriately and, er, respectfully refer to your name. If you have no objections, I’ll continue with “TOF.”

I would be glad to post over there but I first want to be sure that I’m actually going to follow through on this monstrosity. You see, just a day before I found the oak, I went to a nearby lumber yard with a substantial collection of hardwoods and dropped significant coin on 14 8/4, 5-6 inch wide, 99” long hard maple boards. When I saw the cragislist ad for the beams being sold for a song, however, my eyes got big as saucers and I called the guy right away and then drove about three hours to his farm to make the purchase. I figure the maple can easily be used for other projects so I’m going to give it the old college try with this oak. At the very least, I’ll slice two four foot lengths of the beams down the middle for the legs. If I can also use the beams for the top, I think I’ll call it the “Fred Flintstone Bench” unless someone else has already come up with that one.

So, once I’ve finalized my design, choice of materials and made a solemn commitment to myself to see it through to the end, I’ll start posting over at the workbench smackdown.

Thanks for your thoughts and any other suggestions you might have.

View theoldfart's profile


10170 posts in 2654 days

#9 posted 03-26-2014 03:10 PM

Mike, been called a lot worse!

Sounds like Paul has a good suggestion on the big ones.

Good luck


-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View mikelaw's profile


51 posts in 2786 days

#10 posted 03-26-2014 03:13 PM


I thought of that but not through the use of a saw since the blade on my contractor’s saw doesn’t even reach halfway through that thickness. I also thought of the band saw but these things are just too dang unwieldy. I mean, you have no idea (well, if you’re a shipwright, maybe you do) what it’s like just to hump one of these beasts around the shop.

My other thought is to push the two beams next to each other with the soon-to-be mated sides next to each other and then screw a few 2×4’s across the two (top and bottom) to hold them in place. I’d then run a three inch long flush cut router bit between them and flip the whole thing over to do the other side. I’d selectively remove the various 2×4’s to reach beneath them as I go along. The one fly in the ointment is the possibility of unidentified, hidden nails. I don’t have a metal detector…. yet.

I’m in the market for a #8 jointer if your know of any available. Using a #6 right now.

Does this make any sense?

View JayT's profile


5961 posts in 2414 days

#11 posted 03-26-2014 03:21 PM

Holy crap, Mike, that’s some lumber! I just saw the post. A 5in thick, twin slab, white oak top will be massive and beautiful. I’m jealous, dude.

One possibility for nail removal. Use a plug cutter to cut around the embedded nail, at least deep enough to pop out the wood and have something to really grab onto. You can always plug those holes again later, but to me would be worth it to get the metal out.

Another invite the smackdown thread, regardless of speed of progress. Heck, we still let chrisstef post and his bench “build” has been going on for over a year :-) Can’t wait to see some more photos of the progress.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View HerbC's profile


1790 posts in 3062 days

#12 posted 03-26-2014 03:30 PM

Use the saw method using a rip cut hand saw.

-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View shipwright's profile


8166 posts in 3001 days

#13 posted 03-26-2014 03:32 PM

The fitting is done with a hand saw, not a skill saw or band saw. The timbers in this photo started out as 6”X12” Gumwood, one of the heaviest, hardest woods around. They were fitted with a hand saw and checked by chalk transfer. They have to be perfect or the boat leaks.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View mikelaw's profile


51 posts in 2786 days

#14 posted 03-26-2014 03:42 PM


Got it. That should keep me out of trouble for a while. I guess you’re not enamored with the router approach. In retrospect, I think the handsaw may be better unless the discrepancy between the two beams is more than the kerf, right? With the twist I mentioned earlier, I’m seeing a little more than a 1/4” gap at one spot. If I go with a saw, I think I may need to make a few passes, if I understand you correctly.

View shipwright's profile


8166 posts in 3001 days

#15 posted 03-26-2014 04:21 PM

You got it. To get it perfect the last pass will likely be full length but it will fit. Anyway, it’s good exercise. :-)

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

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