LVL: The Ultimate ‘Uglystick?’
The more I work with laminated veneer lumber (LVL), the more I like it. Unlike using standard construction pine, the LVL doesn’t move around on you like solid wood.
As a result, it is easy to machine, doesn’t pinch your sawblade when ripping and keeps its shape after you machine it.
In fact, one of the planks of LVL we brought in had been sitting outside at the lumberyard and looked like it was covered in a brown substance that will go unnamed. Even this weathered plank is stable.
But when you face plane the stuff and cut through its laminations, it can be ugly…¦ or not. Stay with me here.
I got the inspiration for using this material about five years ago when I met David Puls, a Charleston, S.C., artist and woodworker who uses the stuff to build all manner of cool furniture. He cuts it on the bias, however. When I visited his shop he had stacks of LVL he had collected from construction sites, some of it in massive sizes. I got curious.
Take a look at the cool child’s chair he made from LVL. I’d really like to feature his work (and his techniques) in an upcoming issue of Popular Woodworking. It would give me an excuse to go back down to Charleston and hang out with my dad and eat here again.
In any case, for this workbench, we’re not cutting the stuff on the bias like Puls. We’re treating it more like solid wood. And when we planed down the legs and stretchers on Monday, the boards looked like they had contracted a skin plague.
We knew this was coming, so Managing Editor Megan Fitzpatrick set out to create some sample boards to find us a paint job that would look good. We’ve all been a little worried about how the glue lines and voids will look, and I don’t want to fill the gaps with Bondo.
Well surprise, surprise. When Megan painted the LVL with one of the two red latex paints we have on hand, the pigment didn’t stick to the black glue. And I think it looks cool (not everyone agrees with me, however). But when Megan painted the LVL with a green latex, it covered the glue completely and easily in one coat.
That’s just weird.
Megan’s going to continue investigating the cause of this and I’m going to cut the joints in the legs.
– Christopher Schwarz