We’ve received a number of questions about Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) and the new “Gluebo” workbench that’s featured in the November 2009 issue of Popular Woodworking. I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for the article for some of those answers (the issue is mailing to subscribers now, and will be on newsstands the week of Oct. 8), but there are a few items online that may be of interest: go to popularwoodworking.com/nov09, where you’ll find SketchUp drawings of the bench, a video tutorial for drilling dog holes (using Glen Huey’s cheap and simple jig) and an article from Christopher Schwarz on flattening a benchtop.
Getting it Flat
A lot of people have asked about flattening the LVL top, and it really wasn’t much work. Of course, as you’ll find out in the article, LVL is incredibly stable, and we ran each benchtop lamination except the final, completed top through the planer, so the top was darn close to flat already. So, it was less than 15 minutes of work with handplanes to dress it (and, the plane blades survived the experiment). What we’re eager to find out is how long it will stay flat. We suspect this material won’t need much maintenance in the long run; stay tuned to find out if we’re right.
The top for Chris’s old-school Roubo bench, out of Southern yellow pine, was about $40; for the LVL benchtop, we spent about $75 (note: price discussion in comments below). But unlike SYP, LVL is widely available across the country at lumberyards that supply the construction industry (we bought ours at McCabe Lumber, simply because it was the closest supplier to our shop). And, because the LVL is almost rock-solid stable, it was a lot less work to mill than SYP, and we used less of it for the bench’s base. So in the end, the monetary costs were comparable, and we saved time (the entire base was built in one afternoon).
And finally, we’ve been asked why, if the material is so stable, did we not just buy a thicker slab instead of ripping the 1-3/4″-thick piece into 2-3/4″-wide strips and laminating them together. Frankly, the face of the LVL isn’t pretty. But when cut and turned on edge, it looks pretty cool , kind of like zebra wood.