Workbench project and a question

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Forum topic by treeman posted 06-04-2009 12:05 AM 4271 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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208 posts in 3412 days

06-04-2009 12:05 AM

I am currently building a new workbench and have a question about the top slab. I have the base completed and the top glued up into 3 sections that would fit through my planer. The top slab is laminated maple about 2 1/2” thick and 6 1/2’ long. I am ready to glue the 3 top slabs together and then flatten the top.

Bench Top

My question is this: Has anyone taken their top to a cabinet shop to run it through a belt or drum sander to flatten and remove any minor tearout from planing?

17 replies so far

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

943 posts in 3356 days

#1 posted 06-04-2009 12:21 AM

I worked in a big shop with a big 36” SCMI Drum Sander…normally those machines take 1/32” at each pass, so depending how is your top now, could be an easy option. If you decide to go this way, look for a Custom Doors and millwork shop.
A second option could be this.

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View cmaeda's profile


205 posts in 3517 days

#2 posted 06-04-2009 06:16 AM

What I did with my soon to be retired workbench and what I will do with my new workbench that I’m building is make the top in 3 pieces to fit my planer. Then after each section is planed and smoothed, I’ll use the router to cut 1/4” spline slots on each side of the workbench top. Make some 1/4” splines and glue everything up. As long as you wipe up the glue carefully after clamping the top together, you shouldn’t need to flatten the top at the end.

View a1Jim's profile


117060 posts in 3540 days

#3 posted 06-04-2009 06:23 AM

Sure you can get it sanded. but you can also glue it together and use a router and a jig that lets you smooth the top by running your router from side to side until flat. The sander is easier if it’s in you budget.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View treeman's profile


208 posts in 3412 days

#4 posted 06-04-2009 11:51 AM

It looks like my top is going to be “almost” flat with a very slight dip in the center of the slab. I think I’ll try hand planing and a belt sander and see how I make out. If I don’t mess anything up, it shouldn’t take too long. If I do, I’ll go with the router jig.

Thanks for the suggestions.

View johnnyz53's profile


9 posts in 3441 days

#5 posted 06-04-2009 12:09 PM

I run all of my tops through an Acura Duel Drum Sander. In your case I would run it through at 120 grit then 220. You should be able to take small passes. Somtimes what looks like a deep dip comes out very easy.
Using a belt sander will give you waves no matter how good you are.

-- John, Charleston, SC,

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 3968 days

#6 posted 06-04-2009 01:03 PM

You should be able to glue these 3 together dead even. I see no need for anything except a scraper to get the glue off and an orbital for good measure. Just make sure you stagger your clamps so you’re not cupping the entire top.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View treeman's profile


208 posts in 3412 days

#7 posted 06-04-2009 02:15 PM

I glued the first 2 sections together this morning and they appear to be dead flat so far. I used cauls and clamps from both sides using enough pressure to pull the joint together for even squeeze out but not so much that I risked bowing the top.

Even if the top is flat, I’ll still have to do something about the tear out. The grain in my boards switched directions end to end. I ran the slabs through my planer only taking 1/64” per pass. The last pass was about half of that. My planer knives had just been sharpened so I think I got the best I could get with what I have.

I bought the maple from a molding shop going out of business. I got a really good price of about $1.50 per BF and I bought all they had left. The grain is pretty crazy but I managed to get enough clear pieces for the top.

View Chiefk's profile


163 posts in 3734 days

#8 posted 06-04-2009 03:21 PM

I recently built two dinning tables. On the first one I used a LN # 7 plane to flatten the table top. The second one I took to a local cabinet shop. They ran it through the big drum sander for me. They only charged me a couple of dollars. If I had to do the two tabled again, I would take both to the cabinet shop and run them through the drum sander. Hope this helps. pkennedy

-- P Kennedy Crossville, TN

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3249 days

#9 posted 06-04-2009 05:54 PM

We frequently sand things like that for customers at my door shop. We just insist they remove the glue because it will ruin our belts, which are rather expensive. There have also been some good suggestions already if you chose to do it yourself.


View treeman's profile


208 posts in 3412 days

#10 posted 06-04-2009 07:13 PM

I found a millwork shop less than 10 miles away who says they can do it on a wide belt sander. They said they would charge less than $45 as long as it doesn’t take over an hour. I’ll let the glue cure over the weekend and give it a try next week.

Using a long straight edge and feeler gauges, I can’t find any areas of the table more than 10 to 12 thousandths out of flat. This is measuring all different angles and spots on the top. Winding sticks show absolutely true.

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

943 posts in 3356 days

#11 posted 06-04-2009 07:25 PM

Sounds great! the price is VERY reasonable
The machine will leave that top really nice…..

Please take your camera and bring to us some nice shoots about the process…;)
Looking fordward to see the finished top.

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View Brad_Nailor's profile


2539 posts in 3920 days

#12 posted 06-04-2009 07:47 PM

Nothing beats a wide belt sander for flattening large glue ups. Was my favorite piece of equipment next to the CNC router at the cabinet shop I worked at. We would plane and rip everything a 1/16 oversize and run it through the sander. The best thing about the wide belts as opposed to the drum sanders is ease of changing grits. I could start at 30 or 60 and work my way through 180 with just minutes between belt changes. We used to get walk ins from local contractors doing counter tops and table tops and we would sand them out for them for usually under 50 bucks..sometimes if they were good glue ups less than 20 bucks! Well worth the money


View laflaone's profile


59 posts in 3643 days

#13 posted 06-06-2009 01:23 AM

Go to Moai’s reply, and his “second option”. A large part of having a workshop is doing it yourself. Why take it out to someone with a sander? After building my worbench top {which is vertical laminations like yours} I built a router jig with a sled and rails, got a bottom cleaning router bit, and did the deed. Dead flat, and it was a lot of fun.

By the way, beautiful workbench.

-- "non illegitimis carborundum"

View BTKS's profile


1986 posts in 3427 days

#14 posted 06-09-2009 06:15 AM

Just for future reference. Socalwood recently posted a rail and router set up. Can link at, Don’t know how to directly embed the link but this should work. His system is two rails and a sled. Looked relatively cheap and always available once built. Food for thought. Looks like you got this project beat. Nice looking table.

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View treeman's profile


208 posts in 3412 days

#15 posted 06-09-2009 10:39 AM

I’ll be taking my top to have it run through the belt sander this morning. I think this is the best option for me and this top.

The grain in the top is pretty wild and I’m afraid the router set up could cause some tear out. If that were to happen I would still be in the same boat and have to do some sanding to clean it up anyway. The belt sander should get rid of the tear out from the planer and leave a smooth flat top with minimal stock removal.

I’ll post how things go later today.

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