I learned a new word this week. Not only am I allergic to formaldehyde, but
I'm "sensitized" to it--which
means it doesn't take that much to get a reaction from my immune system. I
can't even tolerate a two year
old unfinished piece of plywood or particle board in my garage (that I've
previously stored it in a shed for two years).
The recent heat and humidity probably played a factor, but that's not the
I just bought a house (with a garage) and I am now eager to build a
workbench and build a few projects.
I suspect I could probably build a workbench from some 2 by 4's or 4 by 4's.
I'm not sure what to use for a top--maybe
some "formaldehyde-free" plywood (I've never seen it in person, but I've
heard it exists).
Whatever I put on top, I want to mound my medium size engineers bench vise
on it for general usage--which
means I want a bench that will hold things while I beat them with a hammer
without the bench moving or other things flying off the bench. Maybe part
of the trick there is to load up a bottom shelf, I'm not
I have the book, "Build Your Own Custom Workbench" by Mark Corke, and on
page 111, he builds a 7-foot
"traditional workbench" using 2" thick maple boards for the top, and 7/8"
thich poplar for everything else, but there
are no lower shelves, drawers, or anything like that. I thought poplar was
a "light" wood?--too light to support the
hammering I mentioned above? I'm just thinking...
I would be grateful if anyone could provide me any advice or suggestions
about what type of construction materials
I might use for a workbench or any other comments that may be useful to me.
I've waited a long time to
have a workshop/garage as I moved from my parents house about 30 years ago
and have been an apartment dweller until this month.
It surely makes sense to invest some serious thought into my new workbench.
At least I have more patience now
than I did 30 years ago--I suspect my work will be the better for it! :)
Sorry for writing so much....
They might use urea formaldehyde glue. Better to make your own using
carpenter's (yellow) glue or PVA (white) glue.
Just what I did, got a bunch of SYP 2x10's, ripped them to 2.3 inches,
jointed and planed, then glued 'um up. Larger pieces of SYP many times are
almost clear, few small knots, none were loose.
Yeah, not a "traditional" workbench, price is right and stout. I pined all
the M&T joints in the legs, with 3/4 dowels, offset 1/64-1/32, pulled up
That's an inspiring story. After you glued all of the pieces together, did
you hand plane the surface or use a belt sander, or something else? I
suspect you used quite a few clamps. Is using clamps on both sides enough
to keep all of the pieces in place? This is practically a good enough
reason for me to consider buying a jointer (which I assume is capable of
doing the planing you mentioned above). Sorry for the novice questions.
I made mine out of clear Douglas fir 2X6s, ripped in half, jointed &
then planed. Glued it all together using pipe clamps. But it did not
come out perfect, so I scrub planed one side, ripped the whole
assembly in half on the table saw & ran it through my planer. Then I
glued the two halves back together, then added 2"X2" birch to each
side. Before that, I had previously cut 3/4" dadoes for dog holes in
one of the two halves and on the birch.
Flattened it all with a #7 Stanley jointer and applied linseed oil.
If you want to eat a steer, you have to cut him up in little pieces
Same principle applies to building a bench top.
Say you want to build a 72" x 24" top using 2x8x10 ft stock.
1) Cross cut 8 pieces, 2x8x73 saving cutoffs for table leg structure.
2) Rip 73 long board approximately in half, turn one piece end for end
and gluing together with TiteBond II with factory edge down.
You are limited by how many clamps you have as to how fast you
complete this process.
Trick is to rip and glue as quickly as possible to minimize any
Continue until you have eight (8) sub assemblies.
The next step is optional, the inclusion of 3/8-16x 22" long, all
thread bolts in the top. (Not req'd IMHO, if you do a proper glue up.)
3) Glue up a pair of 2x4s to form a group of four (4) 2x4 sub
Repeat process until you have four (4) sub assemblies.
4) Glue up a pair of remaining 2x4 assemblies to form a group of eight
Repeat process until you have two (2) sub assemblies.
5) Glue up final pair of 2x4 assemblies to form the completed top.
6) Time to load top in vehicle and head to the commercial drum sander
to level out top.
For less than $30 you will have a flat top.
Sure beats screwing around with a belt sander IMHO.
Finally trim top to 72" finished length and get started on the base.
I understand your directions. I'll need a table saw and a jointer (I already
had plans to buy a table saw, in any event). How many bar clamps should one
use to properly glue the 73" boards, and what type might you recommend for
someone who doesn't have any? Having been an apartment dweller, most of the
tools I have now fit in a couple of tool boxes. This is beginning to sound
like a great first project, or second, project! I think I'll eek out a
birdfeeder first to get a feel for these tools... Thanks for all of your
help! While I'm collecting tools, and determining out how much money I'll
need, I'll be reading up on workbenches. I've requested Scott Landis'
Workbench Book from the library. I suppose much of the "secret" is to read
the right books. I've been focusing on luthiery for a couple of months, I no
doubt need to consult some "practical" ones.
> I understand your directions. I'll need a table saw and a jointer
BTW, you don't buy a T/S, you buy the fence that goes on the T/S.
IMHO, the Delta Unifence is tough to beat.
Jointer, not yet.
A table top planer will be far more useful than a jointer and with a
simple jig you can use the T/S to create straight glue lines, thus no
Clamps are like sex, you can never have too many.
For a glue-up, clamps every 12" works, but I like 6" better.
Start out with 30, 3" C-Clamps, 30, 4" C-Clamps, 20, 6" C-Clamps and
50, 2" Spring Clamps.
After that 24-30, 24" Bar Clamps, 18-24, 3/4" Pipe Clamps (Down the
road comes the high priced spread)
Find a plumbing supply house that will handle counter business.
These days, cut to length pipe nipples, threaded both ends, are a
Buy some 36" and 48" 3/4 black nipples and some 3/4 couplings so you
can assemble any special long pipe clamps you need.
You just spent what a decent jointer will cost.
Stay away from Harbor Freight for the C-Clamps and the Pipe Clamps,
but there bar clamps pass muster, especially when on sale.
When you are at Home Depot with a $10 bill burning a hole in your
pocket, turn it into $1 each spring clamps.
A gallon of TiteBond II and you are ready to start to get ready to go.
If I understand the instructions for the workbench top, I would need about
10 bar clamps at least 32" in size or pipe clamps. Could you briefly
explain why I will need SO MANY C-clamps (or were you just trying to make
the point about how inordinately expensive a jointer would be)? I'll try to
keep reading and learning.
Clamps create a source of point loading.
What you need for a glue-up is uniform loading.
The more clamps, the closer they are spaced.
The closer the clamp spacing, the more uniform the loading at the glue
surface will be and the lower the individual clamp pressure needs to
As I said before, clamps are like sex, there is no such thing as too
Violin makers often make their own clamps with two small disks of wood, with
a bolt several inches long, going through the two disks, and an elbow nut.
The work is of course clamped between the two disks. I think they may use 30
or so at once. Before today, I thought that was alot! :)
Thinking about tools (including jigs and fixtures) is great, no? It seems
to stimulate the mind in a satisfying way. I know that I don't know that
much, but I feel good when I learn something new. I know that the first
part of my previous statement is true because, as a brand new homeowner, I
am encountering alot of how much I don't know lately... :)
When you use a whole bunch of clamps in a row, say like when making the
benchtop, it seems like putting an extra board under a row of clamps would
distribute that "point loading" into more uniform loading. Maybe it depends
on the strength of the board? Still it seems like 1 clamp per foot is a
Draw 2 lines at 45 degrees from the direction of clamping. This will define
the area where you will get good clamping pressure. If you clam 2 6" boards
together that will suggest clamps every 12 inches. If the boards are only 2
inches wide, optimally, you would want clamps every 4 inches.
This seems reasonable, but how did you decide on 45 degrees? I don't doubt
that it's a good rule of thumb, I was just trying to make sense of it.
Maybe the angle should be larger on hard boards and smaller on lighter ones?
I've had these things happen to me when I bought cheap clamps (from
local hardware stores and not from Harbor Fright): C-clamps bending,
the foot falling off, pipe clamp ends with no thread (I returned
those), pipe clamps that slip when tightened.
The moral of the story is: don't buy cheap Chinese clamps, no matter
PS I learned that the working end was called a foot here on the wreck
when I called it a thingie.
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