Workbench Day 8: Still gluing the top…

Nothing nearly so exciting as yesterday’s progress for today.  I got up early and glued up section number 3 of the top and did nothing else until the early afternoon.  That’s when section 4 got glued up—the best, smoothest one yet!  It was going to be the back of the workbench, but because it looks so nice, I may make it the front!

Then I decided to try my hand at smoothing out the tops of the individual sections to see if that would make it easier on me when I got everything all assembled.  And to my surprise and joy, it took less than 10 minutes of light planning and frequent checks with a 3ft level to flatten out an entire section!

The handplane, in it’s natural environment.

I’ve seen all the great pictures of workbenches at places like Lumberjocks and admired the skill and ability people have in making such nice flat, sharp edged bench tops but…I never thought I’d come close to that myself.  Yet, here it is—not nearly perfection (it is my first attempt after all) but for me, it’s the best work I’ve ever created!

It’s starting to look real nice…

However, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t made plenty of mistakes so far.  For instance, I realized last night that I probably should have put all the hand planed edges (resulting in thicker boards, about 3.5”) in the middle of the bench and surround them with all the circular saw-trimmed boards (which are all a uniform 3” thick).  Then the tennons for the legs would have a nice uniform surface to contact.  Now, because I decided (looking down on the bench top) that I want such and such board here, and that one in the front, the hand planed, thicker boards are scattered all throughout the various glued up sections.  The result?  Nice looking on top, but underneath, she looks pretty ragged.

Will this affect my ability to seat the legs properly?  Only time will tell.  Maybe by Tuesday.

I can’t dwell on it, though.  I’ve got to focus on shaving the sides of the glued up sections for a nice snug fit, planning the tops to get it about as smooth as I can before the top appears as a whole, and assembling the base.  That should keep me busy for a while I think.

However, I am left with a bit of a problem.  In the next photo, you can see the right side of glue up #2.  I admit, it was sloppy.

Eh…not so hot looking.

Not as bad as the first one, but not nearly as nice as the third and nowhere near as nice as the last glue up.  So…I don’t think I’ll have too much problem planning down the high points (the rest of the length of the 4 boards is pretty similar as far as squared up on the top) at the end.

This is the real kicker:

Kind of hard to see, but that board second from the left is waaay below the level of the others. Now what do I do?

This is the left end of glue up #1, which I originally thought would be the front left corner of the bench.  How I let this slide out of square so bad I don’t even know (and may not even want to know).

My question to all you more experienced woodwrights out there is what is the best way to fix this?  The first plank (farthest to the left) is up about 1/8” over the top of the others.  The next, is about that far below the level I want for the top.  The next two are back over again.  I get that I simply plane the three boards down to meet the lower board…but won’t that make the entire top lopsided or will I have to angle it so this side of the bench will just be thinner?  Or, is there some way to…I don’t know, fill it in to bring it back to level?

This section may end up ultimately against the wall at the back of the bench, so as far as ugliness, I’m not all that concerned.  No dog holes or mortises for the legs have been cut at this point.  So I have a little wiggle room.

I ask you, what would you do?


About Steven M. Vaught

A native son of Delaware, now living in Illinois, Steven is a writer, family historian, amateur astronomer, sometimes-gardener, woodworker, father to three wonderful children, husband to a wonderful wife, and caretaker of one cheeky vizsla.
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4 Responses to Workbench Day 8: Still gluing the top…

  1. crashn says:

    hand plane it down as best you can and move forward. The top has to be flat and level, not the underside. Then just plane down the underside in the area of the leg mortises and you should be good.

    • Thanks for the advice! I think that’s the best if not only thing for me to do at this point. I’m going to go ahead and do it! I didn’t even think of making it level for the leg mortise…I had some crazy idea of just chopping out the shape for the leg tenon…I can’t believe I didn’t think to just plane it flat! Thanks again.

  2. David says:

    It would have been a bit easier to leave the boards full size and then plane them down when glued up. Not a big deal though. Be prepared that you will most likely build another bench later and the first one will be an extra/assembly table. Just have fun with it.

    • Yeah, that thought has flitted across my mind more than once during the glue up process…part of me wants to kuck the other part for not just gluing and planing the 2x4s. But, in my usual “do it the hardest way possible the first time you try by overthinking” style, I have ended up learning a tremendous amount. One thing I learned is next time, I’m going to use nicer wood. This pine mix is…okay, I guess. But I will use hard woods next time and try for one of those really nice looking benches. But that’s likely many years down the road. And, I have discovered it takes a bench to build a bench anyway!

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