Chris Schwarz's Blog

'Gluebo' Questions Answered (Some of Them, Anyway)

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.

Buying it
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.

- Megan Fitzpatrick

15 thoughts on “'Gluebo' Questions Answered (Some of Them, Anyway)

  1. Paul Kierstead

    Unfortunately, I *think* that means the top costs $220, since they won’t take back part of a beam (and you can’t buy part), unless of course you can get a few people to go in on it with you.

  2. Megan

    Kevin,
    There are a couple possibilities here: First, it’s possible the price changed a bit (I no longer had the receipt by the time I wrote this post, so I called the supplier to get a price on a 2x12x24 piece of LVL). Second (and this is the more likely scenario), it’s possible my math was incorrect thus misleading readers on the cost of the top. You’re right – it takes one 2x12x24 plus 2 more strips to make the top. So if the cost of the LVL remains constant at $110 for a 2x12x24, the top would cost $139, not $75. Math is not my strong suit – but that’s no excuse for my screwing it up in print.

  3. Frankie Talarico Jr.

    Joists for a bench. I like that, and after reading all the comments I am feeling much more confident. I would hate to spend a day for something I won’t use. So you’re saying it levels out ok? I am concerned with my tooling, Any one come across rocks or metial chips throughout? Like ply wood sometimes has.

  4. LizPf

    I guess this is the right place for my question …

    I’ve been following the progress of this bench with great interest, because i’d like to build one for myself. I was especially interested in finding out the height of Megan’s bench, as she and i are both "sensibly sized" (5’2").I love Chris’ writing, and really like his bench ideas, but there’s no way a bench for him will work for me.

    So you can imagine my disappointment when my magazine arrived and the bench was scaled up to 33" tall! I know the photographed bench is much shorter.

    Is there somewhere I can get scale drawings for a *Megan-sized* bench?

    –Liz

  5. Kevin

    I’m really excited about this and am very thankful for all of the documentation that has been happening, but I’ve gotten lost somewhere. In a previous post, Chris says that a 2x12x24 piece of LVL was $110, and based on the article dimensions you’d need more than 1 of those just for the top, which here is $75… I didn’t see any other mention of that in the magazine, what am I missing?
    -Kevin

  6. Alan

    Honey I shrunk the LVL bench…

    But only because the magazine has gotten so small. What did you guys leave the magazines in water or something? It’s not even 8 1/2" x 11", which used to be a standard piece of paper…

    Well, I guess times are tough all over and the economy has forced a small magazine on us…*sigh*

  7. Patrick

    Awesome! I don’t usually comment on anything I read over the internet, but when I caught wind of this project, evidently I couldn’t help myself.

    I think the idea of a LVL work bench is superb! Sometimes we are dubious when using new materials, so I thought I might throw in my experience.

    One of my very first woodworking projects was a front door for my parents house made with an LVL core, hefty mortised joints and a 1/8 oak veneer on top. Our winters here have severe temperature fluctuations ranging from -35C to +15C over two consecutive days, and as the door is an exterior door, it has to withstand these horrendous temperatures on one side, and room temperature on the other. Also we live in a fairly dry climate (semi-arid), but these last two summers have been exceptionally wet. Not to mention the heft of the door, close to 200lbs hanging off of three hinges. All this and the door is still utterly perfect. Obviously LVL is designed to withstand all manner of stress and to resist warping, so, while its not designed with doors or work benches in mind, I have to say that it is more than capable, if not monstrously heavy.

    Thanks for this, I cant wait to build my own pink based gluebo out of long forgotten scraps from the garage!

  8. Bill

    I’m glad to hear that Megan because I made the same choice. I considered a couple of options and came to the conclusion that if it turned into a problem someday I’d address it then.

    I didn’t use LVL for the base, just the top. I’m interested in seeing yours and the article next week in PA.

  9. Greg Peel

    Your articles make it sound so tempting to build one of these for myself. I didn’t know the LVL was so inexpensive. The lamenant lines on the top do look interesting and better than plywood, I suppose because of the plys all running in one direction. How do you like your bench thus far? Thank you Megan.

  10. megan

    Bill,

    Because of the way the LVL is made, yes, there are some holes (you can see one of them pretty clearly in the top picture, in fact, about an inch left of dead center). I didn’t deal with them at all. My contention is that they’re so small, I don’t think they’ll cause any trouble. I suppose I could lose a 1/32" drill bit down one…but it would fall out through the bottom ;-)

  11. Bill

    I build my bench top out of LVL also. My jointer didn’t mind it at all. I didn’t pass sections of my through my planer and when I leveled it I regretted that decision. All in all it was a fun experiment.

    Megan,

    Did you find "holes" in your top? I discovered, as I flattened it, that there were spots where the ply did not overlap the previous ply and I had a small hole all the way through my top. If you did, how did you deal with that?

    Bill

COMMENT