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Laminated softwood bench tops.

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Cheshirechappie

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There is a thread currently running discussing some aspects of advice given in videos and blog by Paul Sellers, and it covers several topics. Among them is his advice on making bench-tops - by laminating 3x2 softwood. (I've posted this seperate thread because there are several 'discussions' ongoing on that thread in which I do not wish to intrude.)

About 20 years ago, when I knew even less about woodworking than I do now, I built my bench. There were many things I got wrong with the design - the underframe is not rigid enough, the tailvice is in the wrong place, the toolwell is too large (about half the benchtop area) and just becomes a place to lose tools amongst the shavings.

However, there is one aspect that has stood the test of time. The working surface. Because I had no access to decent hardwoods, I made it from what I could get - 3x2 redwood, laminated together - and using only a B&D Workmate to build it on.

That bench has served in several locations (the kitchen of my first house, then an upstairs bedroom, then a conservatory, now a garage) but has remained flat and straight. I attribute that to being careful to alternate the growth rings of the pieces when glueing it up. Being softwood, it does 'cut up' and bruise a little more than a 'proper' hardwood one would, but has nonetheless done good service to an amateur for two decades.

So - for anybody unsure about Mr Sellers' advice on this matter (I make no comment on other matters) my experience suggests that his method of making a bench-top will give a serviceable result. Not perfect, maybe, but definitely adequate for purpose, and certainly enough to make decent work on. Including, in due course, a 'better' benchtop?
 

Corneel

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Yes, my fir bench is now "only" 5 years old and still going strong. Like you say it takes dents easilly, but nothing disasterous.

I did flatten it once. There was about 1mm cup in the middle over a 60cm width.
 

AndyT

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I just wish I had had access to advice like his when I built my bench over 20 years ago. I used chipboard (kitchen worktop) for the top of it. It has been ok, and I have had good use out of it - but I knew no better. If a clear demo of how to make something with limited facilities had been around, I could have made a much better bench, within the limits of the skills and tools I had then.
 

twothumbs

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Well stated. You do what you do. If you didn't , nothing would (wood) ever get done. Good luck.
 

Jacob

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Mines 3x9" one piece redwood. Actually two, it's the two beam variation. Sellers' version would produce a more stable (laminated) top at less cost, with more labour, but with more easily available materials (3x2"). Good stuff IMHO and all anybody really needs.
 

GazPal

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Cheshirechappie":2tsj7dkr said:
So - for anybody unsure about Mr Sellers' advice on this matter (I make no comment on other matters) my experience suggests that his method of making a bench-top will give a serviceable result. Not perfect, maybe, but definitely adequate for purpose, and certainly enough to make decent work on. Including, in due course, a 'better' benchtop?

Great thread :)

Just to add his method matches recommendations made by The Schwarz and a number of other woodworking guru, as well as benches used by many in the trade. :D

In all honesty, laminated bench tops are IMHO the best and most stable route to follow. The additional degree of initial effort involved in materials preparation - in comparison to using wider boards/battens - and assembly is repaid constantly throughout the resulting workbench's lifespan. Especially if you're able to orient the battens so their grain closely mirrors that of quarter sawn timber. In terms of lifespan, the resulting bench can potentially see daily use, remaining stable and serviceable for several generations as long as it's not abused, but the top can readily be flipped or replaced if need be and without costing an arm or leg.

Add a good quality vise and anything's possible in terms of the work you can produce. :)

Quote (Dated 13/06/2012): "Gotta get people woodworking and get rid of all procrastinating that says you can’t do it this way or that way. I think I have likely made at least fifty benches this way through the years although not all of them in my back yard.

This is fun to do though. Not everyone has much more than a back yard to work in and I wanted the challenge to be as real as possible so I can forewarn those following what to look out for."

-- Paul Sellers, UK http://paulsellers.com/paul-sellers-blog
 

bugbear

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GazPal":2wqpnxw7 said:
Cheshirechappie":2wqpnxw7 said:
So - for anybody unsure about Mr Sellers' advice on this matter (I make no comment on other matters) my experience suggests that his method of making a bench-top will give a serviceable result. Not perfect, maybe, but definitely adequate for purpose, and certainly enough to make decent work on. Including, in due course, a 'better' benchtop?

Great thread :)

Just to add his method matches recommendations made by The Scharz and a number of other woodworking guru, as well as benches used by many in the trade. :D

In all honesty, laminated bench tops are IMHO the best and most stable route to follow.
There is (was) a much copied bench plan/website "Bob and Dave’s Good, Fast, and Cheap Bench "; it included a laminated top, with copious advice on how to make it.

Sadly his website is no more (even the wayback only has the text, not the helpful images of his young son building the bench using only hand tools).

There's LOTS of sites by people who made the bench though. Google finds them easily.

Sample clone bench

EDIT: hooray! Someone made a PDF of the site before it went away:

http://picnicpark.org/keith/woodworking ... nch-ne.pdf
Mod edit: added to the books, plans and how-to thread CHJ

BugBear
 

Jacob

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Hmm doesn't look good, fast, or cheap!
What a waste those great heavy rails. No aprons - fashion victim!
 

Gerard Scanlan

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I am really tempted to make the bench Paul Sellers is currently making. I recently read the Scharz book and had decided that his English bench with the large apron was a better choice for me. I was going to use sycamore as I have a fair amount of it already seasoned but I can see the sense in using softwood after watching Paul Sellers at work.
A cutting list for the Seller's bench would have been nice though. Looks like I am going to have to wait until he has finished his build and then go through all the posts and video's making notes. Price of admission...
 

GazPal

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Gerard Scanlan":2wqyj7hz said:
I am really tempted to make the bench Paul Sellers is currently making. I recently read the Scharz book and had decided that his English bench with the large apron was a better choice for me. I was going to use sycamore as I have a fair amount of it already seasoned but I can see the sense in using softwood after watching Paul Sellers at work.
A cutting list for the Seller's bench would have been nice though. Looks like I am going to have to wait until he has finished his build and then go through all the posts and video's making notes. Price of admission...
A cutting list shouldn't be too hard to pull together

Jacob":2wqyj7hz said:
Hmm doesn't look good, fast, or cheap!
What a waste those great heavy rails. No aprons - fashion victim!
I agree regarding the rails and lack of apron, plus build quality is lacking. A valiant effort though, but I'm sorely tempted to knock a fresh bench together in my back yard for the sake of a tutorial on here.
 

Jacob

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Gerard Scanlan":14cgzweu said:
I am really tempted to make the bench Paul Sellers is currently making. I recently read the Scharz book and had decided that his English bench with the large apron was a better choice for me. I was going to use sycamore as I have a fair amount of it already seasoned but I can see the sense in using softwood after watching Paul Sellers at work.
A cutting list for the Seller's bench would have been nice though. Looks like I am going to have to wait until he has finished his build and then go through all the posts and video's making notes. Price of admission...
Cutting list? The work of a few minutes once you have decided on the size.
I wouldn't follow the Schwarz design- too fussy. There seems to be a belief that the more complicated the better it is. You get things like that fantasy woodwork bench linked to somewhere recently (Artisan bench was it?) which was verging on the insane.
Keep it simple IMHO!

PS this is a fantasy bench http://www.theenglishwoodworker.com/?p=105 :roll:
 

David C

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PS Just why do you bother to be rude and dismissive about other people's work?

This is the reason why threads that you engage in degenerate so fast.

David Charlesworth
 

Jacob

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David C":frd6plk5 said:
PS Just why do you bother to be rude and dismissive about other people's work?

This is the reason why threads that you engage in degenerate so fast.

David Charlesworth
The reason these threads degenerate (and not only mine) is that people can't resist making personal remarks, as you are doing in this post. This thread is about benchs in case you hadn't noticed. If you haven't anything useful or interesting to say it'd be better to say nothing, instead of attempting to send the thread off course into another boring round of squabbling.

Being critical of other people's work is completely legitimate and part of the very reason for forums like this and long may it continue. Kicking ideas about can be a constructive process (think "critique") .

PS David you yourself were being "rude and dismissive" about P Sellers bench in another thread. I've no objection to that and I don't suppose PS would be bothered either! Though it might be interesting to know why you were so rude and dismissive.
 

wcndave

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Maybe by "fantasy" he means out of this world....i wouldn't turn one down that's for sure!
 

Jacob

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wcndave":37b7bffl said:
Maybe by "fantasy" he means out of this world....i wouldn't turn one down that's for sure!
Well yes in terms of a piece of woodwork. But is it a practical bench? I was thinking of those massive pieces of oak being joined with such difficulty - some of the other benches look a bit more realistic!
 

Paul Chapman

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Jacob":1whvaejt said:
But is it a practical bench? I was thinking of those massive pieces of oak being joined with such difficulty
Not difficult, only heavy. And how do you or anyone else on here know whether it's a practical bench when we have no idea who the customer is?

Cheers :wink:

Paul
 

Jacob

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Paul Chapman":5peh7i7d said:
Jacob":5peh7i7d said:
But is it a practical bench? I was thinking of those massive pieces of oak being joined with such difficulty
Not difficult, only heavy. And how do you or anyone else on here know whether it's a practical bench when we have no idea who the customer is?

Cheers :wink:

Paul
OK it could have a special purpose. Can't think what though.
 

andy king

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Jacob":tzqoy7qa said:
David C":tzqoy7qa said:
PS Just why do you bother to be rude and dismissive about other people's work?

This is the reason why threads that you engage in degenerate so fast.

David Charlesworth
The reason these threads degenerate (and not only mine) is that people can't resist making personal remarks, as you are doing in this post. This thread is about benchs in case you hadn't noticed. If you haven't anything useful or interesting to say it'd be better to say nothing, instead of attempting to send the thread off course into another boring round of squabbling.

Being critical of other people's work is completely legitimate and part of the very reason for forums like this and long may it continue. Kicking ideas about can be a constructive process (think "critique") .

PS David you yourself were being "rude and dismissive" about P Sellers bench in another thread. I've no objection to that and I don't suppose PS would be bothered either! Though it might be interesting to know why you were so rude and dismissive.
Jacob":tzqoy7qa said:
I'd say its because of the way you post. This appoach you choose is a provocative comment. If you said 'In my opinion' as a qualifier, then fine, and the discussion could move on very easily, but you are seemingly stating a set in stone fact, when it is only your opinion - and the rolling eyes smiley does little to help either.
In my opinion the bench is certainly beyond the realms of the majority of people for many reasons. Cost a major factor, but also weight and others in between depending on what you want from a bench.
The omission of an apron isn't an oversight on any bench, its a preference, at least, it should be if you make your own. I fitted aprons to mine because i prefer them.
Others have given reasoning in threads as to why they prefer a slab top.
I made my own bench using beech with heavy section ash legs, and the underframe is as important as the top if you don't want the bench to dance around or rack as you work, planing is a prime example.
If you use powertools not so critical, but doing a lot of handwork on a bench that has a skinny or inadequately built legframe will prove frustrating, as will a top that won't soak up or deaden the blows from heavy chopping jobs upon it.
Its a choice, and like anything, the choice is yours, and the cheap and cheerful will do the job if that's your choice, but some prefer that bit more.

Andy
 

Noel

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Paul Chapman":117lifs4 said:
Jacob":117lifs4 said:
But is it a practical bench? I was thinking of those massive pieces of oak being joined with such difficulty
Not difficult, only heavy. And how do you or anyone else on here know whether it's a practical bench when we have no idea who the customer is?

Cheers :wink:

Paul
Paul, I think that any comments related to these particular oak benches concern cost, sourcing of the oak, the weight and size of the timber components, the space needed to build it and perhaps, for some, the necessary building skills. A simple softwood bench is more than practical for most.
I think you have a similar bench to the oak examples and fair play to you but for many, myself included, it's not a realistic or indeed a necessary proposition.

Mr Charlesworth:

PS Just why do you bother to be rude and dismissive about other people's work?

This is the reason why threads that you engage in degenerate so fast.

David Charlesworth
Come on, that was hardly necessary, I don't think calling Schwarz's bench "fussy" justified such an outburst especially considering your comments on the other bench thread.

So can we all be pleasant, sensible, friendly and above all, open minded, in our discussions please.

PS- a good friend and a very talented woodworker friend of mind makes wonderful pieces on something similar to this:



Made out of scrap (in case that wasn't obvious to some....) it suits his needs. He also has a slightly larger version with a vice but the little one gets the most use.

Bugbear- I remember that bench when the their site was live. Wonder if the kid has still an interest in WW?
 
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