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Master firewood maker
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Since I made a poor choice of 2x3s for my bench top, I have decided make another top for my bench. This time, I am planning on making a 2 or 3 layer cross laminated top using 2x6s, not unlike this:



Thoughts?
 

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Master firewood maker
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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
This begs the question ... should I use 1x or 2x material? 2 layers of 2x material would be 3" thick, but I think the real benefit with cross lamination comes from at least 3 layers. That would make a 4 1/2" thick top, which would probably be overkill.

Or I could use 1x material, and build up a 3" thick top with 4 layers. 3 layers would net 2 1/4", which I guess would be pretty dang strong as well.

Or I could to a hybrid thing with 2 layers of 1x on the top and bottom, and 2x material in the middle, making a 3" thick top.

If YOU were doing this for YOUR top, what would YOU do?
 

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Hi Chris,

Please disregard if this is outside the context of how you work on a bench...but if I may suggest:

I have, at this stage in the game, perhap mill/hewn, designed, and/or helped other make perhaps several hundred or more benches of various types over the decades...All traditional. Workbenches and Shaving Horses seem to be the first things folks make that start contemplating traditional woodworking modalities.

I suggest making what I euphemistically call...a real work bench!!...ha, ha.

Get yourself one of the workbench making books and/or follow some of the stuff that Christopher Schwarz (et al) are up to in this area.

Secure a big old chunk (the largest you can handle) of Oak, or any species almost for that matter...though some are better for others if new to all this...an make yourself a proper Workbench...You'll love it, that I can promise!!...that is if you enjoy hand tools and traditionally working with wood. Even my friends that are more into...machining wood...typically have one of these in the corner of there shop and use them regularly...
 

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Master firewood maker
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Jay, that is essentially what I am currently doing ... I am have built Nicholson bench. I have the legs, aprons and top built and put together. The thing is very stiff, and pretty heavy, and I am starting to use it.

For the top, I laminated 17 2x3s together, in 2 sections, one of 8 boards, the other of 9 boards, and the center board is a piece of douglas fir. That is what is on there right now. But I am not happy with it for multiple reasons, the main reason is the thickness, or lack thereof. I don't want to move on to adding the vise until I have a top that I am happy with.

So I am going to make another top. For some reason, I am drawn to this cross laminated timber approach, because it just feels like a really strong and dimensionally stable design that should be fairly easy to build. Perhaps it is overkill, but it will give me a serious top that will be able to withstand whatever I subject it to.
 

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Chris Curl said:
I am have built Nicholson bench...
Excellent Choice...and your correct, like most of these type Work Benches (and Traditional Butcher Blocks also) the thicker you can make them...the better they tend to work and longer they last...

Chris Curl said:
For the top, I laminated 17 2x3s together, in 2 sections, one of 8 boards, the other of 9 boards, and the center board is a piece of douglas fir. That is what is on there right now. But I am not happy with it for multiple reasons, the main reason is the thickness, or lack thereof. I don't want to move on to adding the vise until I have a top that I am happy with.
Some are happy with these "glued up" tops...seldom to they last, and once they switch to a more traditional top...I have known of none to go back...

So I am going to make another top. For some reason, I am drawn to this cross laminated timber approach, because it just feels like a really strong and dimensionally stable design that should be fairly easy to build. Perhaps it is overkill, but it will give me a serious top that will be able to withstand whatever I subject it to.
If you do go with a "glue up"...Make that sucker as thick as you possibly can!

I can share that just going to a Tree Service company near you and asking for a section of Oak log will give you all you need in a great top that will last generations...and probably with less effort. I have made these with folks with little more than my layout tools, Chain saw, Scrub Plan, and then Smoother, and a few Chisels..It takes about 3 hours tops from log to jointed and mounted on leg assembly...

Either way...post photos of your progress and thanks...
 

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Master firewood maker
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I was at my local HD today, and they have these 5/4 boards that look really nice. They are 1 1/8" thick, and if I use a 1x board in the middle with 2 5/4 boards on the top and bottom, then I would end up with a 3" thick top, which is the thickness I feel good about.

The other nice feature of the 5/4 stuff is that the edges are NOT rounded off, and the faces are already smoothed, so that saves time and effort preparing them for gluing.

The opening is 27", and the center piece is 1 1/2" douglas fir, so I need 25 1/2" total width in two separate pieces, or 12 3/4" width for each half. If I use one 5/4x8 (7 1/4" wide) and one 5/4x6 (5 1/2" wide), that gives me 12 3/4" wide for each side. As it turns out, for two halves, that gives exactly the 25 1/2" I need.

So my plan is to cross laminate 3 layers ... the outside layers will be 5/4x(6 and 8), and the inside layer will be all 1x8 material.

Am I making a huge mistake?
 

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Am I making a huge mistake?
Gosh Brother...???...Mistake...I don't think that would be what I would call it?

If you like this type of bench top, I say go for it...You'll be the best judge of the outcome.

I can't really expand on my recommendations more than I have. Your top will not last nearly as long, I could almost promise that, and will take much more time to make in the long run (I think?) compared to a more traditional system...I would also add that our cut of point on thickness minimum for even a bench top considered "lite" would be a 150mm (~6") top thickness I have gone as deep as 300mm with happy results. 75mm (~3") is more a...Work Table.... in most traditional shops I haunt...not a bench per se...

My teachers always said if you can move your bench without great effort...its not a bench but a table...and too light for proper work...

Cheers,

j
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Gosh Brother...???...Mistake...I don't think that would be what I would call it?

If you like this type of bench top, I say go for it...You'll be the best judge of the outcome.
At this point in my life, given my wife's objections to what I have already done, it is the best option I have.
I can't really expand on my recommendations more than I have. Your top will not last nearly as long, I could almost promise that, and will take much more time to make in the long run (I think?) compared to a more traditional system...I would also add that our cut of point on thickness minimum for even a bench top considered "lite" would be a 150mm (~6") top thickness I have gone as deep as 300mm with happy results. 75mm (~3") is more a...Work Table.... in most traditional shops I haunt...not a bench per se...
6" thick is "light"? Holy crap!

Advice taken ... new plan ... all 2x6s. That will net a top that is 4 1/2" thick. That mother will be about the heaviest I can see myself being able to handle.
 

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Hey Chris,

Sorry...my last post had all kinds of typos...

3" to 4" is considered...too lightweight...6" is considered a minimum thickness...but that's more a traditional standard of guidance...

Ah...Wives...Yes that is part of the equation sometimes...Isn't it?

Look forward to following along...

If this is softwood then resurfacing the top will be easier, but my be more frequent perhaps...It's a trade off...
 

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So I gotta ask is wood movement an issue when doing a cross lamination like this?
Short answer (from my experience) it can be...and often is.

Tyler, in my experience (again) that is really a tough one to ask in such a generic way...Not that my reply is easy...ha, ha.

Plywood, by its nature is a Cross Lamination...and so is OSB as well. The old adage that, "wood moves and we can't stop," is true...Yet we can understand it and compensate for it.

Nevertheless, it does beg the question, of which way does the wood move, and has the producer/creator of the CL, OSB or related system taken into account the species, dryness, thickness, grain orientation, and type of glue into consideration when developing the Lamination...no matter what type of Lamination it is?

These all are very important factors. Not knowing them and understanding them...extremely well...will indeed lead to issues and challenges in unwanted movement just because of the old adage..."wood moves, and we can't stop it."
 

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"So I gotta ask is wood movement an issue when doing a cross lamination like this?"

Most likely it will be. Framing lumber isn't dried to the same standards as finish lumber. If you are lucky it will be about 19%. 11-12% would be the best range for softwood to be used in a heated environment. You may get away with it, but I wouldn't do it. Too much $ and effort for the level of risk. If you do use framing lumber, make sure you face it so you get a good glue line. It rarely comes flat enough. I would not cross grain it, builds in too much stress.

I've got an excellent German work bench made well over 50 years ago. It is still very good. Made from Beech. Are you going to put waist and tail vices on your bench so you can use bench dogs? The tail vice is 22" long and has 4 dog slots, the top has dog slots at about 6"' O.C. Each slot is about 3/4 X 1 1/14" but metric. The steel dogs fit into the 4" thick top and are held in place by their spring strips. If I was to make the mortises for a new top I would do it by gluing up layers of hardwood with the slots the thickness of the board and the opening held by spacers to be removed after glue up. With this configuration the dogs press against the end grain of the hardwood which is the most resistant direction to deformation.

My top is 25 X 79 with a 6 1/2" wide recess for tools, etc. along the back edge. They made a slopping end so you can brush the dirt out easily at the end of projects. The top is made from heavy planks that have been edge glued together. They could also be made from thinner face glued hardwood. PS, German beech is widely distributed in the USA. But I suspect you will need an account with a distribution yard, not Home D. Red maple would be a good substitute.

I personally wouldn't make a work bench W/O the bench dogs. With out them it is just a work table.
 

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Bottom line...I think with Chris's current presentation to attention in detail with the work he seems to be doing, and posting here about...I think his bench will work just fine...

I would also point out again...Traditional benches are typically made of large slabs (often halved logs) of Oak, Beech and sometime Maple (but rarely as it is too reactive unless quarter sawn slab...AND the wood is GREEN!!! not dried...
 

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This begs the question ... should I use 1x or 2x material? 2 layers of 2x material would be 3" thick, but I think the real benefit with cross lamination comes from at least 3 layers. That would make a 4 1/2" thick top, which would probably be overkill.

Or I could use 1x material, and build up a 3" thick top with 4 layers. 3 layers would net 2 1/4", which I guess would be pretty dang strong as well.

Or I could to a hybrid thing with 2 layers of 1x on the top and bottom, and 2x material in the middle, making a 3" thick top.

If YOU were doing this for YOUR top, what would YOU do?
A 2" thick plywood top under braced with 2x4 or 2x6 lumber, and sitting on 4x4 legs should be sturdy enough for most woodworking. Going over 2" does not allow you to use normal 3" to 4" C-clamps on the top, which you might need sometimes for holding stock. I think a top thicker than 3" is overkill for woodworking.
 

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Jig_saw said:
A 2" thick plywood top under braced with 2x4 or 2x6 lumber, and sitting on 4x4 legs should be sturdy enough for most woodworking.
Yes...as a work surface perhaps on a table...Not an actual woodworking Workbench.

Jig_saw said:
Going over 2" does not allow you to use normal 3" to 4" C-clamps on the top, which you might need sometimes for holding stock.
C-Clamps...???

If this is the primary mode of clamping work in a given shop, then I would fully agree with thinner top, and clearly this is something more intended for a "Wood Machinist" workshop perhaps?

C-Clamps are not a traditional Woodworkers venue choice for clamping wood, as they are a more cumbersome choice than more traditional holding systems. Additionally, planing wood stock alone would push a lightweight table all over the place, as they just are not robust enough for most standard hand tool work...

Chris's current design is a nice mix of approaches providing him with a less massive bench, where he can still manage to move the thing without help, yet still thick and sold enough to employ Holdfasts and related traditional clamping systems...

I don't believe I have ever used a C-Clamp in woodworking, but I suppose if that is all one has they would suffice? We use them all the time in metal work, which I believe is their original intended application historically?


Jig_saw said:
I think a top thicker than 3" is overkill for woodworking.
History would disagree with that viewpoint...considering the mean average is between 4" and 8"...often after decades (even centuries) of being resurfaced...
 

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Well, I guess a workbench is one's personal choice. I use mine for both woodworking (sawing, chiseling, planing) as well as metal working, so it is not solely a woodworking bench. The top is 2 layers of 3/4" plywood on a 1" thick door, and legs are heavy 6" logs cross braced with iron rods. I have pounded on it with sledgehammers and used big jointer planes (including a self-built one with 65 mm wide iron), but it does not move. The top is only 2-1/2" thick.
 

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Jig_saw said:
Well, I guess a workbench is one's personal choice. I use mine for both woodworking (sawing, chiseling, planing) as well as metal working, so it is not solely a woodworking bench.
And in the context Jig_saw...that make perfect sense. Using a work surface that way would (I agree) warrant a much thinner top...

Jig_saw said:
The top is 2 layers of 3/4" plywood on a 1" thick door, and legs are heavy 6" logs cross braced with iron rods.
That sounds pretty robust, and seems to have a really solid undercarriage which must indeed give it mass.

Jig_saw said:
I have pounded on it with sledgehammers and used big jointer planes (including a self-built one with 65 mm wide iron), but it does not move. The top is only 2-1/2" thick.
That speaks to your most correct observation above...Workbenches...(or Work Tables by definition) are are very much a personal choice.

I wager if I did (or some of the folks I work with did) their work on your bench it would get moved and push as we work...yet some of these monsters are 6'5" (plus) and through timber and stone around all day...ha, ha.

It is a personal work system...no doubt...

I have to be careful with just my chiseling as one example alone as my lightest Metal Chisel Mallet is 750 grams (that is for light bench work) and my "day to day" standard is a 3lb Carvers Mallet or Sledge...used for our stone and timber framing alike...

Some of my benches in the past had to also hold up to tonnage on them from stone or timber...It is a spectrum...No doubt... ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I want my top to be more like 4 1/2" thick, at the very least, 3". I intend to use primarily holdfasts and dogs on this bench. It will have either a face or leg vise, not sure which flavor yet. I am also considering maybe embedding a t-track in the future for more options to hold things down, but that is currently not part of the plan.

Hardwood would be more desirable than pine, but I also need to be able to get it easily at a place like Home Depot or Lowes, and it can't break the bank.

So now I am considering 4 or more layers of plywood, the top layer being a nice hardwod ply. That essentially checks all the above boxes, but it is ply, not solid wood, which is a downside. I realize that it is not a traditional top, but it feels like a pretty good compromise to me.

For a CLT pine top, I am looking at about $90 for a 4 1/2" thich top made from 2x6s.

For a glue-laminated pine top, I am looking at about $90 for a 5" thich top,also made from 2x6s.

If I drop the length down to 79", I can get 2 layers from a single 4'x8' sheet of ply. Then, 3 sheets of ply would net about 4 1/2" of thickness. That would run about $90

For a 8' ply top, I would need 1 1/2 more sheets, which would increase the cost to closer to $130.

So ... laminated pine or plywood?
 

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I want my top to be more like 4 1/2" thick, at the very least, 3". I intend to use primarily holdfasts and dogs on this bench.
More than doable and a excellent concert of holding systems...

It will have either a face or leg vise, not sure which flavor yet.
Make it with both...you won't regret it...I don't believe?

I am also considering maybe embedding a t-track in the future for more options to hold things down, but that is currently not part of the plan.
One of my teachers had something like this in both the front and the back of his bench (which was well over 120 years old)...I have never seen anything like it sense except in modern aluminum tracking.

This addition would just make the bench that much more serviceable...I have strongly considered adding these to my next big bench...

Hardwood would be more desirable than pine, but I also need to be able to get it easily at a place like Home Depot or Lowes, and it can't break the bank.
I travel quite a bit Chris...From Texas to New England and the Midwest as well.

I haven't found an area yet that doesn't have Tree Companies and Custom Sawyers...

You could just as easily get your wood from them in full dimension and plane it down to a uniform dimension...That way you can actually select the exact grain pattern you wish to have from "heart center" to "quarter sawn."

If you would like to use hardwood...

So now I am considering 4 or more layers of plywood, the top layer being a nice hardwood ply.
Or...that works too, but is probably more expensive cost wise but less work to process...Maybe???

That essentially checks all the above boxes, but it is ply, not solid wood, which is a downside.
Depends on grade...

I'm not against Ply material in some applications. I just try to get the best the budget can support or that I want...Cheap Plywood is worthless...

I realize that it is not a traditional top, but it feels like a pretty good compromise to me.
For your shop Chris and intended application, it sound just fine, and as Jig_Saw pointed out, it's a personal fit like a good boot...

So ... laminated pine or plywood?
I like the laminated pine, but only if the wood is Selected and exactly Heart Center clear or Quarter Sawn (first choice of this type of wood) then a hardwood plywood lamination to the top and bottom...But that's me, if I when this route and had to use a Box Store...

I just know the work involved in both choices here, and still would just get a big old chunk of wood and start working it down...Then timber frame my leg and apron assembly in some traditional format that strikes my fancy at the time of design and construction...;)

Both (in the end) will probably have the same amount of work into them, accept the materials for the latter usually cost me zero dollars, and should be less money for you as well...Just a thought again about a solid wood system, but I'm silly about being a traditionalist sometimes...ha, ha...
 
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