Workbench #1: Step 1 - the top

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by twobyfour16 posted 07-18-2010 06:55 PM 2157 reads 2 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Workbench series Part 2: Trestle components »

Decided to totally re-vamp the garage into a full on woodworking shop. Have misc. crap cluttering the place up, including a bunch of “almost” worthless wood. So, in the interest of clearing some space & finally starting to build my first real workbench, I decided to start with a nice thick top.

The wood – I acquired a bunch of rough lenga (a hardwood from Chile that resembles Cherry) that is a hair over 1/2” thick. It came from some 6/4 material that was re-sawn down to 4/4. I ended up with the “2/4”. Problem was, it immediately started cupping and bowing all over the place. Hung out in my garage for a couple years & didn’t get any better…

I started by ripping all of the pieces down to 3 1/2” wide. It was not straight-line-ripped, so I built a table saw sled/jig to rip one edge straight. Most of the lumber was a little over 8’ long. At the end of the day, I ended up with about 70 pieces 8’ long. I ran all of it through my Dewalt portable planer & most cleaned up at 3/8” thick. This whole process cleaned up most of the cupping problems I had, but every piece was still bowed.

I have the immense good fortune to have a friend who owns a custom millwork & woodworking shop who offered the use of his clamps (and his help) to glue this thing up. So, after about 4 ‘after work’ sessions over the last couple weeks, I had a really messy looking, 3 1/4” thick, 94” long, 25” wide beast.

One more after work session, and the use of a monster wide belt sander, and the thing was flattened & cleaned up on both sides. It was awesome to watch. The sander has a cutter-head (similar to a planer head) ahead of the sanding belt. We took off about 1/8” with the cutter head & sanded it smooth on one side in about 30 seconds.

Flipped it, took 2 lighter passes on, and it is beautiful!

Two cuts on a massive sliding table saw with about a 14” blade, and the ends were clean & square. (sorry, no pictures of that one…) Did I mention that I have immense good fortune to have a ‘friend’ in the millwork business??

Final dimensions: A hair over 3” thick. exactly 25” wide, 90” long.

So, brought it home & it is in the middle of the shop awaiting a trestle base. I am planning on building a version of a bench from Schleining’s workbench book. I think there was a FWW article on it somewhere – called “The Essential Workbench” or something like that. 5” apron (wood to be determined), trestle base, face & end vice.

I suspect the rest of the project will take much longer, because it will all happen in my garage. However, doing the top this way kind of felt like cheating….but I don’t regret it!!

This time, I will document the process. I will need some advice on attaching the top to the base, wood movement & joinery issues (especially with regards to attaching the apron to the slab). I’ll go to the forum with questions as I move along this process. Thanks for looking & feedback is always appreciated – I am still a noob.

-- Allan, Portland, OR

9 comments so far

View PurpLev's profile


8534 posts in 3613 days

#1 posted 07-18-2010 07:37 PM

now that was ALOT of glue ;)

fantastic top, and a great use for all that ‘scrap’ lumber! indeed a good fortune to have that friend and machines accessible – that would have taken so much work doing in a garage by yourself – touche!

I wouldn’t worry about ‘cheating’ – as long as you get it done, it’s all fair and square.

As for “The essential workbench” it was on and is available as a downloadable PDF:

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Hayabusa's profile


173 posts in 2845 days

#2 posted 07-18-2010 07:44 PM

delicious !

View dedalo's profile


173 posts in 2861 days

#3 posted 07-18-2010 07:56 PM

Great start!

I have a lot of kitchen “things” made out of lenga, it is from the patagonia (chile / argentina) and the Mapuches use it to build crafts.


View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2962 days

#4 posted 07-18-2010 08:01 PM

Well, you now have 90% of the heavy lifting done. The trestle and apron will be easy in comparison to what you have made already.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View twobyfour16's profile


69 posts in 3449 days

#5 posted 07-18-2010 08:02 PM

PurpLev – Yes, it was ALOT of glue. About a gallon for the whole thing. Glued up a third at a time. First third was clamped to a straight, recently jointed, 4×4. Second glued to the first a couple days later, etc. Thanks for the link – that’s the one. Mine is going to be a bit longer, and a bit narrower.
By the way, the hand plane & shavings on the benchtop picture was for effect. Rest assured, at my skill level, that top would NEVER see a plane blade!

-- Allan, Portland, OR

View Tim29's profile


307 posts in 3114 days

#6 posted 07-18-2010 09:51 PM

If you got the result you were after it is not cheating. That is a great top for a bench. Are you going to put any dog holes in it?

-- Tim, Nevada MO

View twobyfour16's profile


69 posts in 3449 days

#7 posted 07-19-2010 01:25 AM

Tim – Yes, going to put dog holes in it. It will have a single screw face vice and a single screw end vice – both with 2 rows of corresponding dog holes. I was contemplating a twin screw end vice, but decided against it. Too much $$, and I don’t anticipate really needing it.

-- Allan, Portland, OR

View captkerk's profile


169 posts in 3205 days

#8 posted 09-01-2010 04:37 PM

Wow, looks great! I wanted to do a solid wood top on my latest workbench but decided against it since it would be too much work to accurately flatten the thing. I ended up doing a torsion box instead. I don’t think you cheated by using your friend’s tools. I think most of us would want to have those tools ourselves if we had the money and shop space, so we’re just jealous!

View Bertha's profile


13521 posts in 2657 days

#9 posted 04-29-2012 11:33 PM

This is the most incredible slab I’ve seen in a long time! This is better than a movie; I’m onto the next issue!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics