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Split top? What do you say?

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Forum topic by newwoodbutcher posted 04-08-2015 05:35 AM 1915 views 2 times favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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newwoodbutcher

552 posts in 2314 days


04-08-2015 05:35 AM

Been thinking about this for about a year. I just finished my third or fourth read of two of Christopher Schwarz books (Workbenches from design and theory and The Workbench design book). I also just finished watching the Bench Craft videos on their website and a few U Tube videos. I know its nuts to spend that kind of money on “Vice hardware” and “Maple, Ash, mahogany and ???” for “a bench” But I’ve got the Roubo bug badly and I’m going to build one. Even though there are less expensive approaches, the Bench Craft guys got my attention. So I’m hooked. Years from now, after my frenzy subsides, I’m sure this bench Craft fitted Roubo woodworking work bench is going to be a very cool tool and a great bench. My big question is about the split top. For me this is a very big time and money project. Probably my last bench. I want to get it right. I don’t need my bench to be portable, I’m staying here. I pretty sure I understand the potential clamping and tool keeper benefits of a split top but… It seems like over killing the overkill on clamping to me. I don’t want a tool tray, and I’m not comfortable with making and keeping the two slabs even and flat. I’m seeing some quality Ash around town for $3.49 a BF, not done shopping yet. I’m leaning towards a single top 24” wide and 8’ long with a Wagon Wheel tail vice and leg vice and a sliding deadman. I think I can get all the clamping I’ll need with that and a couple of well-built stops.
So, my question: to those of you who have built the split top; was it the right call? Benefits? Uses? Would you do it again? For those of you who have thought about this. Your thinking? Opinion? For those of you who went with a single top, same questions. Am I missing anything?
Thank you in advance for your advice

-- Ken


21 replies so far

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benchbuilder

265 posts in 1915 days


#1 posted 04-08-2015 10:10 AM

Dont get too deep into the woods that you cant see the trees. This i see from what you ask. What type of woodworking are you going to do. Are you building this bench because you need one or because you want one? What othere things do you really need, will this be what you want 10 years from now Are you a woodworker or woodworking reader? Lots of guys get tied up in ideas and pics. What are your skills, can you build this, do you have the skills this bench offers. Not trying to talk you out of building, just hope you to see the trees. I have been in that woods myself. I have built several workbenches for myself and to sell. But still using the one i started with. Its really easy to spend a lot of money on this one thing. Just something to think about!!! Good luck…

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bondogaposis

4032 posts in 1816 days


#2 posted 04-08-2015 12:47 PM

I studied this question as you are. In the end I decided not to go w/ the split top. I just felt that the benefits did not justify the extra complications of construction. Many times the simplest solution is the best. I have been using my Roubo hard for the last 2 years and have not regretted my decision. My bench is 24” x 78”. I used Benchcrafted wagon and leg vises and love them.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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mramseyISU

419 posts in 1010 days


#3 posted 04-08-2015 02:35 PM

I’m in the same boat as you are. I’m planning on building a new bench, not necessarily the Roubo but one with a big thick top none the less. I keep going back and forth on the split top myself. The way I look at it the split top has a couple of advantages. You can keep the two pieces to 12 inches and run it through a lunchbox planer no problem to save a lot of work flattening. The other advantage, I think, is that you can get the same effective width with less material. With all that being said I think that getting the two pieces to the top coplanar could be more work than it’s worth.

-- Trust me I'm an engineer.

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BubbaIBA

383 posts in 1841 days


#4 posted 04-08-2015 02:42 PM



Dont get too deep into the woods that you cant see the trees. ....
- benchbuilder

Some of the wisest words on bench building you will see on any thread. Most new bench builders over think, over engineer, and see the build as a rite of passage, forgetting what should be the purpose of a work bench. Of course there are other reasons to build, you like to make benches, they are your chosen “art form”, and so on. If reasons other than building a functional work bench are driving the build, no need to read this post any farther.

A split top has become my default design on large benches if for no other reason than ease of build. I’m a one man shop. I can lift, shove, push, and turn two smaller slabs much easier than one large one. Also my planer is limited to 20”, with it I can let the iron apprentice do most of the scut work of dimensioning and truing the slabs. Not so with a single slab.

As far as working width goes all most workers need is about 400mm but a 400mm wide bench would be unstable if the legs were vertical, using a split allows the bench to be around 600mm wide for stability yet keep the slabs small enough to handle. And last by splitting small errors in the slab/slabs can be hidden with the split.

Keeping the top flat and without wind is no more trouble than a single slab, pretty much a non-issue.

Working advantages, there are a few but most listed, at least for my work, don’t amount to a hill of beans. The biggest advantage is the split fill makes a very good saw and chisel holder for your working chisels and it is where I keep the larger try squares.

My bench building mantra is: build it simple, build it strong, build it quickly, and build it cheaply….them make furniture.

A photo of my latest build, it has an asymmetrical split which I’ve used on all the latest builds:

View Ocelot's profile

Ocelot

1470 posts in 2102 days


#5 posted 04-08-2015 02:53 PM

I’m also thinking of building a bench.

My 2 cheap HF benches have been usable, sort of, but when I plane something – the bench moves so much the drawers come open and my benchtop drillpress tries to walk off the bench.

I’m thinking not of building “the ultimate”, but just doing something modest and quick. I have a large shop, so if I need another, I can find a place to put (and use) the 1st one and just build another.

Actually, my shop is pretty cluttered right now, even though it’s 28’x40’.

-Paul

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OSU55

1058 posts in 1454 days


#6 posted 04-08-2015 03:17 PM

Hey Ocelot, have you tried “boxing in” the legs of the HF benches, creating a torsion box? For mine, each end has a handplane storage rack like this

And the back has a piece of thick peg board stretched from leg to leg. I do most planning lengthwise, otherwise the bench lifts, and I didn’t want to bolt it to the floor. I don’t get much flex anymore.

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newwoodbutcher

552 posts in 2314 days


#7 posted 04-08-2015 09:34 PM

After 25 years in this hobby, I’m aware that I can complete most of my ww tasks with a lesser bench. I do have a mixed shop (hand and power tools) and the Roubo will clearly enhance my hand tool use with holding power and capability I’ve gotten along with out so far. I guess that answers the want vs need question. Nonetheless I’m looking forward to both building and using it. At this point I’m pretty sure I’m going with a single top.
Thank you all for your responses.

-- Ken

View Troy Cleckler 's profile

Troy Cleckler

384 posts in 835 days


#8 posted 04-08-2015 09:46 PM

I’ve just finished mine a couple months ago. I decided to do the split top, not so much for the clamping, hold fasts take care of that for the most part, but more so for the plane stop and tool holder. The center can be used level or raised and hold saw, chisels and whatever else will fit in either configuration. I like it so far and think I’ve made the right call, for me anyway, and that’s what counts. You’ll enjoy the build and more so the nice TOOL once you finish it.
One of the reasons that I went with the split top is for the build itself. The two slabs were easier to handle and I was able to mill them through the planner.

-- Troy. - Measure twice, cut once and fill the gaps....

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newwoodbutcher

552 posts in 2314 days


#9 posted 04-08-2015 10:02 PM

Troy, I love what you did on the Leg Vice Chop. Is that carved? Laser engraved? I can’t see it too well. How useful do you find the Crochet ?

-- Ken

View Troy Cleckler 's profile

Troy Cleckler

384 posts in 835 days


#10 posted 04-09-2015 02:35 AM

Ken, I wood burned the chop. I wanted to sign the bench in a way I’ve never seen before. Lots of firsts on this build. First hand cut dovetails, first mortise and tenon joinery and first chisel work so my fitting of the signature plaque wasn’t too good. Ended up just opening the gap all way round.
As far as the crochet, last minute decision but I like it. It limits how far to left you are able to put a board in the vise but not an issue with the dead man.
Here’s a better pic of the plaque. When you start your build, post your progress over in the workbench smack down. Good guys hang out there that can prove to be a big help.

-- Troy. - Measure twice, cut once and fill the gaps....

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Troy Cleckler

384 posts in 835 days


#11 posted 04-09-2015 02:38 AM

-- Troy. - Measure twice, cut once and fill the gaps....

View Aj2's profile

Aj2

690 posts in 1262 days


#12 posted 04-09-2015 02:56 AM

Hello Mr Woodbutcher, I have a solid one piece bench Its hard maple, What ever wood you choose be sure you lay the boards on the top so you can hand plane them flat,Having a flat bench is very handy,esp where you will do most of your hand tool work.
I get more interest on my bench from customers and friends than anything in my shop.So make a good one,Aj

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newwoodbutcher

552 posts in 2314 days


#13 posted 04-09-2015 10:44 PM

Troy,
FIRST! Wow. Now I’m even more impressed. Nice job. Were the thru dovetails connecting the legs to the top very difficult? They look great. Thanks also for the smack down tip I will definitely go there.

-- Ken

View Troy Cleckler 's profile

Troy Cleckler

384 posts in 835 days


#14 posted 04-09-2015 11:27 PM


Troy,
FIRST! Wow. Now I m even more impressed. Nice job. Were the thru dovetails connecting the legs to the top very difficult? They look great. Thanks also for the smack down tip I will definitely go there.

- newwoodbutcher


Leg through tenons is done in the layup of the top and the legs. It does take some forthought and planning because the top and the legs need to be milled together so they will be the same thickness. You leave the gaps in the top the witdths as the legs and it all works out. Look up my posts in bench smack down. I posted a lot of pics there but here’s a couple to help you understand a little better.

-- Troy. - Measure twice, cut once and fill the gaps....

View Troy Cleckler 's profile

Troy Cleckler

384 posts in 835 days


#15 posted 04-09-2015 11:29 PM

The wedges in the tenon is just for astetics non functional and that’s all I was going for. Got that tip from the guys over in smack down too. I asked a million questions and got twice that many answers, very helpful and willing to share people on here.

-- Troy. - Measure twice, cut once and fill the gaps....

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