Chris Schwarz's Blog

It Takes a Cow

We glued up the benchtop for this Old-style Roubo bench today. Yeah, it looks ratty in the photo above, but the seam is tight. I even put in a little spring joint in the center of the joint , I was surprised I could close up the gap with just one of the parallel-jaw clamps.

In other words, we really didn’t need many clamps.

But we did need extra glue. I started troweling liquid hide glue on the two edges when my glue bottle made a sound akin to that of a whoopee cushion after a big Mexican meal. Yup, my glue bottle had run dry.

Megan Fitzpatrick scurried over to the sink to heat up another bottle of liquid hide, which was still in “gelatinous dog turd” form. Those of you who use the stuff know what I’m describing here.

Then Glen Huey saved the day with a big bottle of liquid hide glue that was ready to go. We covered both edges with glue, dropped one slab on top of the other. Glen manipulated the seam while I clamped.

It looks pretty good. It weighs about as much as my first car. And after I fill the cracks with black-dyed epoxy resin it will look great.

Note that I’m not using a bench to build this bench. I did all the edge jointing with the pieces on sawhorses. Tomorrow I’ll take the top out of the clamps and flatten the benchtop and underside with a fore plane. Then I’ll start building the bench base using my new benchtop.

– Christopher Schwarz

18 thoughts on “It Takes a Cow

  1. Brian S

    I’m dying for the next post! Have you got that thing out of the clamps yet?

    Brian
    Seattle, WA

  2. Gary Roberts

    Chris: Epoxy? Even if you go with one of the masonry versions, it still won’t move as the wood does. Plus, if you happen to hit it with a tool edge, Ouch.

    Why not simply fit shaped slips of the same wood into the voids with hide glue? Keep the grain direction intact and you should be ok and it will look less, errr, modern.

    Gary

  3. Kenton Willems

    Is that epoxy with or without the hardener? And what do you use for the dye and who sells it?

    Kenton

  4. Micah Abelson

    I like the last paragraph. I’ve been scratching my head reading books and looking at blogs and watching videos thinking to myself "man, it sure does seem like it takes a bench to make a bench. Wish I had one so I could build one." I’m happy to see someone finally do it in a way that makes "sense".

  5. Christopher Schwarz

    I use spring joints when the dryness of the material is in question. Because the ends of planks dry faster than the middle, putting a little pressure on the ends can keep them together as the assembly equalizes.

    That’s the theory at least. And it has worked for me for many years.

  6. Mike Siemsen

    Chris,
    I find that clear epoxy takes on the color of the wood and blends better than anything else I have tried. I would counsel you to wait for a couple of years until the bench has dried out very well and settled down before I filled the cracks. By then you will be used to them and not bother filling them at all, a better look in my opinion and much less work.
    Mike

  7. Steve

    Oops – sorry for the metric references above. I’m Canadian, eh…

    For my esteemed friends to the south, it translates out to 18 to 20" wide by 10 feet long.

  8. Steve

    I’m following this project with interest as I’m in the plotting and scheming stage of building a new bench, leaning toward the Roubo design in your Workbenches book. I have several 12/4 Western (aka Broadleaf) Maple planks, a couple of which are about 550 to 600cm wide and 3m long. All are clear and straight-grained. I had toyed with the idea of using the wider planks to build a one or two piece benchtop but believed that ripping some of the narrower boards and re-gluing them would result in a more stable slab. Your bench construction seems to contradict this wisdom and has me re-evaluating my plans.

    Jeff – Google Books has had the PopSci magazines online for several month now and their reader is superior to the one on the PopSci site. They also have all the PopMech issues going back to 1900. Fascinating reading, for sure.

  9. Jeff Burks

    Hey Chris,

    I just noticed that Popular Science Magazine has posted all 137 years of their issues online for free. I did a quick search for "workbench" and got about a billion hits. It’s quite the repository of adverts for old home shop power tools and such which are nice to see. I can only imagine how much great info will come from this when it is fully data mined. I would guess that there is quite a bit that may interest you for your research.

    http://www.popsci.com/archives

  10. Christopher Schwarz

    Al,

    I treated the joint like a 5"-wide face. So I dressed each half with a fore plane to make them roughly flat and square to the benchtop. Then I use a jointer plane to dress them true. Finally, I used a smoothing plane to tweak any high spots. I checked my work frequently with a try square and a straightedge.

    To create the spring joint, I hollowed out the center third of the edge on one board with a smoothing plane. Then I tested the joint. Tweaked it some more and went for it.

    It’s not all that different than jointing narrow edges. You just have to be careful when overlapping your strokes and pay attention to where you are removing material.

    Chris

  11. Bryce

    Hi Chris,

    Do you think it is necessary to fill the cracks? If you keep it flat, they wouldn’t impact function most of the time. I would think the checks and cracks (along with the massive slabishness) would give it an authentic feel.

    On the other hand, I have a cherry coffee table top that has some really cool black mineral deposit streaks and the black epoxy may look similar.

    Bryce

  12. Al

    Hi Chris – Could you share som eof the details about how you joined two boards that are so thick? Or so you have a super wide jointer plane that you use?

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