Building my workbench – Part III (Gluing the top and legs laminations)

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This post forms part of the “Building my workbench” series.

Finally, today was the day to glue the two top halves together. First things first though, I wanted to get them both nice and flat, so that once glued together it would be simpler to flatten the whole thing. There was a reason I didn’t want either half to be wider than 300 mm, as my thicknesser has a maximum capacity of 310 mm. So to start with, off to the thicknesser.

This operation was a study in time and motion, and to take a photo during the whole process would have been a fools errand, so the photo you do get to see is the aftermath.

Those halves are HEAVY. I had intended taking a scale into the workshop and weigh them, but forgot. The process went something along the lines of:

  • Carry the top and rest it on the table saw.
  • Turn on the dist extractor and the thicknesser.
  • Carry/stagger the stock over to the thicknesser and rest on edge on the table bed.
  • Monkey-monkey my way to the end and hold it as close to level as possible.
  • Feed it through till about mid-way, then walk briskly to the other side and pull/support it on its way out.
  • Carry it/stagger back and put it on the table saw.
  • Check the result, and raise the bed 0.5 mm for another pass if required and repeat the whole process again.

Fortunately the glue-up with the biscuits taking care of the alignment was very successful, and only required me to take off 0.5 mm on the bottom and 1 mm on the top. Once again, the Hammer A3-31 was an absolute pleasure to use. The measuring hand-wheel made it a doddle to get both sides to the exact same thickness.

It was then time to biscuit and join the two halves. I had been concerned that after planing, the biscuit slots would no longer line up, so as per the SOP, I did a dry fit first, and was pleasently surprised to find that the tops aligned near perfectly. With some tapping of my mallet, they fell into perfect alignment.

One aspect of the gluing procedure I changed after the first half was to support the lamination on some timber strips. This ensured that during clamping any excess squeeze-out would drop onto the table in nice drops, rather than smush all over the table and work piece. The photo below, whilst showing the strips, was taken after I’d already stood the top on edge after the glue-up, but you get the idea.

The other thing I did which made clean-up after the glue-up a doddle, was keep a bucket of water in the workshop, so I could easily soak my rag to wipe down the excess glue immediately after clamping, as well as popping the glue roller straight into it when I was done so that it wouldn’t set while I was attending the clamps and other clean-up. The only issue was that it was so cold in the workshop I had to remove my gloves, and dip my hands into freezing cold water. Brrrrrr.

At this stage it was coffee time, so I went inside for morning tea, and made myself a lovely hot drink. The sun chose that moment to show its face too, so drank my coffee with warm rays on my face, feeling that all was well with the world.

It all went a little faster than I had anticipated, so thought I’d crack on and glue up the four leg laminations. I’m planning for the bench top to be about 950 mm high, so planned to laminate the leg stock in 1000 mm lengths which could be trimed to final size later.

First I needed to move the top off of my outfeed table to make room, and stood there for a while trying to figure out how to do it safely, because at this point, attempting to pick it up would be foolhardy. In the end I dragged one end off the bench and set it down on the floor, then picked up the other end and lowered it to the floor. Having the parallel clamps all over it made it a lot easier to grip. As I was lowering the other end, I knew that one foot was under the top, but didn’t concern myself as steel caps can prove usefull to hold the weight while I work out what to do next. As I lowered the top though, something just wasn’t adding up subconsciously. It was only after it was down, and there was more presssure on my foot than I had expected, that I looked down and saw that I was still wearing my slippers from when I’d gone inside to make coffee!

Fortunately no broken toes, but I did swap shoes swiftly.

Onto the legs. I cut all eight lengths on the drop saw. Funnily enough when I was cutting the lengths for the top lamination, I carried the saw onto the outfeed table. As I was about to do it this time, I remembered that it was on a mobile base, so just wheeled the whole base around. Isn’t it funny how the obvious way forward alludes us at times. Especially when you consider that I made the mobile base! In my defence though, I’ve not moved it in over a year.

Once the legs were all cut, I found the best face on each length and graded it. A: Nice and clean; B: Some defects but should clean up well; C: multiple defects. It’s worth remembering that I used the best lengths for the bench top, so some were rather ordinary. I then found the best edge on each board, and marked the face and edge.

After that it was onto the edges to identify the direction the grain was running. As was to be expected, some of them had funky grain which ran in two directions where it reversed part way along the length.

Then it was mix-and-match time. Each leg would have an outward and inward facing board, so pared an A face with a B/C face, and then tried to get as good a match as I could with the two lengths’ grain direction. I was generally succesfull, except for one that was a shocking match. It could have been better, but that would have resulted in two laminations having a pink and brown length together. I thought it was easier to live with wonky grain than mismatched colours.

Great, except that we have alphabetical order, top down etc for a reason. It’s one of societies constructs we honour lest we become no better than wild animals.


And then it was onto gluing the legs in much the same fashion as the top. Biscuit slots cut, test fit, glue up and clamp. Dont’ worry, every second lamination had no glue in between. I didn’t have enough clamps to do them seperately.

At this point all my clamps had been used up, and I had nothing else I could continue with, so thought I’d experiment with making some dogs, so that when the bench was ready, I’d know what I was doing. It was such an after-thought, I didn’t bother taking any photos. They ended up being so simple to make though, and even though my bench was on its side, I spent ages popping them in and out just for fun. Before it was time for the kids to get home from school, and enjoy afternoon tea, I quickly made the timber tension “springs” and glued them on. I did gouge my hand on one of the dogs whilst planing the angle where the spring is attached to. so that red you see on a couple of the dogs? That’s mine.

Aug 2019

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