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Construction Notes

Since this was recycled material that was in good shape, only a little flattening and dimensioning was needed by jointer and planer. The top was assembled in two sections that were later glued together--the main body, which consists of 11 boards and the dog strip consisting of five boards. Dogs slots were created on a table saw sliding dado jig that was set for a 2 1/2 degree slant. Blips in the slots to make dog parking spots were created with a router jig.

Sounds easy? Mostly it wasn't bad, but, unfortunately in terms of the gluing, it wasn't easy. This is where things got difficult and I had problems--major ones at that. I decided early on to glue the main section using epoxy resins for its strength, water resistance, open time and gap filling qualities. And, being that it was winter in Seattle with temperatures as low as 38 degrees in my garage workshop during the gluing process, I couldn't safely use PVA glues like Titebond  that like to be 50 degrees and higher and further I was very concerned about the limited open time available for such a massive glue-up. Though I've glued up several good sized projects in the last two years, gluing a lot of heavy boards at once is pretty scary stuff. Epoxies give you a lot of control over open time, by using different hardeners.

My approach was to first biscuit the eleven main boards for alignment and added strength. From there, I had two problems during glue-up. Number one: Concerned about open time to get all the boards lined up and clamped, I used a slower epoxy geared for higher temperatures figuring it would give me extra open time to get all the boards together and clamped. Well, it was overkill, and it took days and days for it to cure.  I found out later that faster cold temperature epoxy at 40 degree ambient temperature would have given me nearly two hours of open time. Should have used that. Mistake number two was that in mixing the hardener and resin in batches, one of my batches was not mixed properly near the bottom of the cup, and the result was resin applied in that area never did harden properly. The result was a catastrophe. Two joints started to come apart by first leaking resin, cracking slightly, then after stressing them to test them, completely failed and split open. Terrific. At least it didn't happen after I applied the final finish.

The first crack occurred within 4 days of the glue up. After splitting the top, I had to scrape the resin off the joint and re-glue it this time using fast cold temperature epoxy. The second occurred two weeks later, after the top had been flattened, surface had been squared up and just before finishing. Terrific, again. This time I had to be very, very careful to get the alignment just right--so as to not waste all that effort spent getting the top flat and to this stage of finish. I was and it worked out just fine in the end. All joints are now tight and as strong as you'd expect with epoxy--not about to give up easily.

I used System Three Epoxy, btw. They were very helpful in solving these problems and had some great tips I hadn't run across in preparing for this project. Number one was to not use the same container for mixing as for applying. And, to use trays such as those little kind that come with microwavable entries. Apparently, spreading the glue out this way kick starts and evens out the chemical action created by mixing the components. You can always slow the speed of the glue setting up by putting the tray in a bowl of ice water. The second was to apply the glue to the surfaces to be joined and let it sit there for up to 20 minutes (if open time allows, of course) to allow the resin to fully soak into the wood. Look for any dry spots and add more to the areas and then join them. Also, its particularly important with epoxy to not clamp too tight.

Though it was a frustrating experience, I don't have any real regrets using epoxy. It's great stuff. However, if it had been summer, I would have used Titebond Extend. And, if necessary, glued the boards up groups to control time, joining them together at the end. It would have made for tighter joints then you can get with epoxy, too. BTW, between those I had, and those I borrowed, I used 20 pipe clamps to hold everything together.  About right. Borrow all you can get if you decide to build a laminated top.

End Caps

End caps are 3 1/2" wide glued up out of 2 x 3 Maple pieces. Though I don't think humidity change is really a problem in Seattle as compared to other parts of the country, I chose not to glue them on to allow for expansion. I made a pair of splines on each end out of 3/8" Baltic Birch plywood, and routed a pair of stopped dados in the ends and the caps. The splines are left loose and the caps are each held in place with a pair of bolts held by threaded metal cross dowels buried in the bottom of the bench top. On each cap, one bolt is held tight, the other is in an elongated slot to allow for horizontal movement. So far the well aged Maple, the edge grain construction and the all the time letting the Maple rest in my shop has shown zero movement. This summer will be the final test.


The base is assembled with mortise and tenon joints with a bridle joint for the top piece where the top attaches to the base, and an extra stretcher added to stiffen them the left and right assemblies. The design is a traditional sled base with stretchers holding the two ends together. The top is positioned by bullet shaped dowels, with a single lag bolt attaching the top to the base in each end. The two end assemblies are held together with 48" stretchers that have 7/16" threaded rods running down dados in the middle of them. I probably would have made through tusk tenons for strength and aesthetics, but, some of my recycled pieces of maple already had dados in them, so I figured, why not?" and went with it. My first bench also used threaded rods, and both benches are rock solid with no movement or racking whatsoever.


I greatly respect those that take the time to use a sharp #7 plane and flatten their top. I love hand planing myself, but sorry, I didn't take that approach-- I wimped out. I took my completed top (No end vise, of course.) down to O. B. Williams--a massive industrial woodworking shop here in Seattle and had them run it through their giant multi-drum abrasive planer. Several very gentle passes on both sides by a very skilled and helpful operator later it came out flat and smoothed to 100 grit. Then he took it over to a huge panel saw and trimmed the ends for me. The result is an extremely flat and square top. Time, 20 minutes. Cost, $40. From what they said, lots and lots of furniture maker pros in the area do the same, so I'm not too ashamed.

However, if you don't have a nearby wide belt sander and want to do it yourself with readily available powertools try this link to Wood Magazine's article on how to flatten your bench with a router sled.


Back at my shop, after sanding the base and top to a finer grit, I finished everything with 3 coats of Daly's Profin. I've used it before on several projects and it's great stuff. It's a Tung Oil, resin-rich blend that seals well, builds, and protects that lots of woodworkers in Seattle swear by. It also can be easily repaired, an important feature for a workbench. I added another 4 coats to the top for good measure and keep it coated with several coats of wax.

How much time?  Well, I started to keep track of my hours in beginning, but soon lost track. It took about five weeks of evenings and weekends and I'd guess about 100 to 200 hours.