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Workbench Wood

When working with construction grade timber, aside from the knots, you’ll more than likely find “eased edges.” You could be concerned that things won’t look good, or have fears about less-than-perfect glue lines or the like. My thoughts are to accept what you have and turn things to your advantage; on a workbench project, they won’t matter one bit if you go with the flow. Because I enjoy working by hand it does not mean I like working for the sake of it. I still like to have the illusion I’m being effective.

So on that basis, I’ve avoided making a laminated top and worked with the boards lying flat. Although the top seems thin compared to some designs, it’s still plenty thick enough – and even quite in excess of some old benches I’ve seen

The other benefits of eased edges are that the arris is already removed for you; that means protection for your hands when you’re working and protection for your bench when using it. If you’re having to build from sawhorses like I have chosen to do, the rounded edges where two boards meet prevent your eye being drawn to the glue line that ultimately will not be perfect. So like many things, it’s about using things to your favor and changing perspective – all of a sudden, things can seem so much better.

— Graham Haydon


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Showing 15 comments
  • Bill Lattanzio

    Your joiners bench with the wide front apron I would assume offers an excellent about of support for the top, even if it were thin. My bench top is 3in thick laminated common pine. I’ve tried to make it flex and I can’t. I can bear down on it with all my weight or stand on it and it doesn’t move and I weigh more than 200lbs (yeah, I need to lose a few). I have to imagine that construction lumber (doug dir in my area) attached to a stout base will offer a very rigid top. In fact, I believe that Christopher Schwarz lists doug fir as a good choice as well.

  • mdnb41

    I think I may have the best of all worlds in work benches. My dad and his friend discovered a bowling alley was replacing their lanes and selling the old maple ones. so they divided it up and I have a solid maple 43″ w x 97″ long absolutely straight work table bench. He made the supports of 4×4 legs with 2×12 across the ends and a shelf underneath that is supported on 2×4 in the perimeter and 3/4 plywood. Since we live in an area that has tornados, he said it would double as a great place to take cover if we ever needed it. I think he is right. we also finished it with simple trim boards to enclose the unfinished and some what rough edges. the biggest hurdle was that every board was nailed to it’s neighbor about every 6″ tough on the saw when dividing the sections. I think I will hand this down many generations.

  • Handy Herb

    Years ago a young ship builder friend helped me with a top for my work bench. He recommended that we buy a 4×8 sheet of heavy duty 1 1/2 inch thick tongue and grooved plywood flooring commonly installed on the upper floors of a building. We cut off the edges and split it lengthwise. We then glued the two halves together with a lot of screws from the bottom side. That left us with a very solid and flat 3 inch thick slab of wood that was roughly 24 x 96 inches. All that would left was to build a support frame. Mine is made of 4×4 leg stock that has wrap around 2 x 4 bracing top and bottom with a diagonal cross brace underneath.

    I use part of it as a support for my drill press. The top is not physically attached to the frame. It does not move. You can hit the top with a hammer and it is like hitting the concrete floor. No bounce. When it gets dirty I run a belt sander across it to clean it up. Hang a couple of fluorescent lights above it and it makes a nice workbench.

  • Bill Lattanzio

    I’ve never been a fan of the overly thick bench top in the sense of it being a necessity. I’ve heard claims of thinner tops (2 1/2″ thick or less) “flexing” during planing. I’d like to meet the woodworker who can manage to make a bench top flex, because that must be one strong dude.

  • MarkusT

    I finished my roubo bench last week. Got the lumber from home depot here in alberta canada. Well it took me about 2 hrs and 2 pallet later to get a few good pieces but in the end it worked out great. Applied couple coats of varathean and its pretty sollid. Legs made out of 2x6s laminated and stretchers and bench slab out of 2x4s. Vise jaws out of maple . In the end it came out pretty cheap but solid. Its my first workbench so im pretty happy about it

  • Archer Yates

    RE: eased edges:
    at my home Depot here in Colorado, Douglas Fir is plentiful, the 4 by 6 beams have more square edges.
    I used an epoxy product from Advanced technologies ( starter kit is about $70.00,On line, to fill cracks in knots and tried to get my grain orientation that looks more stable. I am building a Roubo workbench with a 5 1/4 inch thick top and 6 inch square legs.
    Another source of supply is look for a company that sells railroad boxcar flooring. They have massive oak beams taken from dismantled old railroad box cars.I think they are 6 by 9 inches and 10 feet long.

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