Chris Schwarz's Blog

Flatten a Workbench’s Top in 5 Minutes

Woodworkers are always looking for a better way to flatten the top of their workbench after they finish building it, or when the top has gone out of truth for some reason.

I like using a handplane to flatten benchtops, which takes about 45 minutes on average. Other people build a special router jig that attaches temporarily to the bench.

During the workbench-building class last week at Kelly Mehler’s School of Woodworking, I joked with student Andre Strzembosz that it was a shame we couldn’t just run the assembled bench (all 350 pounds of it) over a jointer and be done with it.

Then Andre got a funny look in his eyes.

Andre has a friend with a Martin jointer that is about 20” wide, which is perfect for these benches, which came out at just under 20” wide.

Here’s what happened when Andre returned home with his bench in his truck.

“I backed my truck to the door of the shop, slid the bench onto a hydraulic lift cart and then moved the bench on to my friend’s jointer,” Andre wrote in an e-mail. “We made two passes, at 2 mm each, and the top is as flat as I could wish it. We pushed the bench back to the door, and slid it down into the bed of my truck, and headed back home.”

He sent these photos. All I can say is: dang.

— Christopher Schwarz

Read the other stories in this series:
French Workbench – Monday
• French Workbench – Tuesday
• French Workbench – Wednesday
• French Workbench – Thursday
• French Workbench – Friday
• French Workbench – Saturday

P.S. Oh, and if you like this workbench, the complete plans for it are in my latest book, The “Workbench Design Book,” which is available for $34.99 in our store with free domestic shipping.

And here’s a link to a PDF, “Flatten a Workbench’s Top,” click here.

25 thoughts on “Flatten a Workbench’s Top in 5 Minutes

  1. gauchowoodworking

    I am a machine snob and that shop with all Martin machines makes me very jealous … I wish that one day I will be able to do it.

  2. mtnjak

    Sweet! For just 20 grand I can flatten my new bench top. Just as soon as the Bentley’s out of the shop, I’ll pick up a Martin! LOL Cool idea though.

  3. Bill

    Awsome! I remember seeing pictures of Michael Fortune using a portable planer and “walking” it down a huge beam under its own power. It just fed itself the entire length of what must have been a 30′ – 40′ beam. And like this, I’d have never thought of it by myself.

  4. schnp

    Gee, Chris, glad you flattened my bench while I was off picking up the U-Haul trailer! Actually by Saturday I’m not sure we (or rather the guys) would have enough strenghth to lift our benches up onto the jointer.


  5. lawrence

    Very interesting method– thanks for sharing.

    And to those that feel they must make snide remarks about others’ successes– please stop– it makes folks not want to share their experiences… and what a unique and wonderful experience it must be to have a hobbiest shop with these resources.

    Thanks again– If I had the resources (and space) I’d love something similar. Of all the “massive” tools that I think would be useful, I think a massive jointer would be the most useful of all- even one 13 inches to match a planer would be awfully nice- though I must admit that I would probably never have thought of running an entire bench over the top!


  6. texasbelliott

    What a shop! What flatness! Holy cow….

    I certainly hope Andre does something about the edges of his new bench. They are probably so sharp after the Martin got a hold of it, he can use them like a card scraper.

  7. rboe

    Tim the Toolman would be so proud! I can see a tear welling up in his eye just seeing that. :^)

  8. Marlon1

    Yep, I think that’ll work. My jaw is catchin’ sawdust right now. It’s just plumb amazing!

  9. Niels

    *jaw drops to the floor*
    Sorry, I just couldn’t contain my Teutonic pride.
    I’m glad to see the French playing nice with the German’s 🙂

  10. benchdog

    Yeah, I really hate it when my bench starts lying to me, too! And “dang” just about covers it!

  11. robert

    Very cool to see a 20 inch jointer in use.

    I think that I remember that shop – you featured it. I believe it belongs to Dr. Kent Adkins, if memory serves.

  12. Dean

    Northfield makes a 24” Jointer. The picture on the page is not the 24” Jointer, but they do list the specs for their 24” Jointer in the right hand column. Depending on motor HP and configuration options, it costs between $17,860 and $19,070. It’s net weight is 2,200 pounds. – Specification tables. – Price list for all Northfield machines.

    1. tsstahl

      It’s all relative.

      A neighbor came by my garage one time and said much the same thing about my Grizzly table saw, bandsaw, and Shopfox 6″ Jointer. All three combined cost less than 3k with shipping.

  13. Clay Dowling

    It’s good to have friends with shops like that. Might not be how I choose to work, but amazing to see, and it must be a great pleasure for the owner to be able to work there.

  14. tsstahl

    I’m sure someone somewhere with a 36″ jointer is reading this and saying “How could you exist with only a 20″ jointer?”.

    I wonder what the beer exchange rate is for two passes on a friend’s wide jointer. 🙂

    1. George West

      Something tells me it just nipped it off just nice and clean like the rest of the work. If it weren`t contained within the tops surface area and was instead out to the edge it may have blown out the back side, but…… I think that whole deal finished sweet in those 2 passes.

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