I am going to be building a new workbench in a couple of weeks and I wanted to bounce some ideas off of you guys.
As for the top of the workbench, I thought I would either use maple ply for the main work area and then laminate maple boards along the sides and ends for the bench dogs, vise hardware, and tool well. The other option was to use solid wood for the top. The problem with that is that I have never made something with that much solid wood. Will the wood move and crack the joints or warp? How much can I expect maple to move in northern california?
I have been thinking about some methods for dealing with the movement (either allowing the wood to move with it or stopping it). I could laminate the wood for the top 90 degrees from each other to minimize seasonal change, or I could laminate the top to plywood. Would that stop the movement or just warp the top?
I have also toyed with using Beech instead of maple since it is cheaper and supposedly more dimensionally stable. Is this true? Is this a reasonable idea?
I would not use plywood as the top. If you don't want to use solid wood then use MDF and put a hardboard layer over that that can be replaced as it gets damaged.
Solid maple or Beech would be my choice for a bench top. I assume you are talking about a classic wood bench here. Something like 2 ft wide by 6 ft long with vises at the ends. You want to laminate the top the same way you would a cutting board. Edge grain up so the faces of the boards are glued together. This would allow you to lamiate bench dog holes into the top as you build it up. The front of the bench should be about 2 = 2 1/2 inches thick while you only need about an inch in the back where you won't be pounding and planning.
this is a fun project that at one time was one of the major tassks of a apprentece before they could go on their own they had to build their own bench.
My take on the workbench. I just finished my 9th bench, still have to do the final assembly on #10 (which I have already sold). I have only made one with a hardwood top (poplar for a museum in the Midwest), all of the rest have had pine tops. The reason is that I don't want the workbench to damage any work I am doing. Nothing worse than having the bench mar your work. The first bench I made was 29 years ago and it is still holding up. If the top gets too worn, it can be easily planed smooth or reversed. I use hide glue so it can be taken apart and reversed if necessary.
These are traditional nineteenth century cabinetmaker's/joiner's benches joined with either m&t or dovetails. They have a wide front apron with plenty of peg and holdfast holes and the top floats, held to the back substructure with pocket screws (actually old technology).
I did make one bench with a tool tray (read dust and crap collector) once and will never do that again, wastes valuable bench top work space. What ever design you build make it substantial, you don't want your bench moving while you are trying to do work. My workbench is the most used tool in my shop.
I took an old bench apart that was in my basement from when my house was built in the 20's. The construction was mortis and tenon with wedges holding the pieces together instead of glue. The top was maple. I took the thing apart, planed the edges clean and essentially reassembled it. I added a big piece of ash to the top and used 1 inch pieces of white oak between both boards for bench dogs. It is holding up quite well. I like having a hard wood bench top but you have to be sure it is planed flat and that there are no wood chips on your bench top when you clamp pieces down. There are lots of plans available for work benches.
Ok, I think I have the details figured out. By laminating the wood on it's side, I am effectively using quarter sawn wood (wich has less wood movement).
I will mortise the end cap and only glue one end in place and use elongated screw holes for the rest of the attachements. That should allow the wood to move and still keep the endcap tightly in place.
I haven't decided what wood I am going to use for this. probably doug fir or pine for the legs (due to cost constraints) and either maple of beech for the top. I have heard that beech moves a lot more than maple. Is this true?
I can get hard maple for $5.49 bf (4/4) and Beech for $3.99 bf (4/4). Are these good prices? The 'Lumber Lady' in Az has what she calls West Coast Maple for $3.00 bf (8/4). Has anyone heard of this maple before?
Sorry for all the questions, but this is the first all Hardwood project that I am doing and I don't want to have it crack or warp in six months.
Western Maple is also known as soft maple. I have used it a bunch. Not quite as hard but still a very hard wood. More color variation than hard maple.
Since you are in the bay area the best price I have found for hard maple is from MacBeath in SF and Berkerly I got a quote for rough yesterday at about 4.00 a bf. There is waste on rough and you need a way to get a staight edge on one side. I use a piece of MDF shelf with a cleat on one end The cleat goes up above the surface of the shelf and I have nail points going through the cleat. The stock to be staightened is placed on the slelf with a bit of the board over the edge and jammed into the nail points to hold it in place. The TS rip fence is set for the width ot he shelf and when you run both through with the shelf against the fence the board gets a staight edge.
I then go to the jointer to make a flat face and square the staight edge to the face. Plane the oposit face and back to the TS to get the right width, clean up the ripped edge and you have a 4 square board.
The amount of waste may make the price you got for 4/4 a good price
Your concern over wood movement in the lamination is not really an issue. It becomes more of an issue when you have two pieces with the grain running perpendicular to each other. For the table top itself pine 2 X 4 face glued to each other would be fine (along with not having concern of hard wood marring later projects). Movement between that and any endpieces running perpindicular to the top could be negated by slotted whole for connect hardware.
i would use 2x4s for the frame. if you are afraid of structural movement you can L-shape the components. put them together with screws not nails so if you have to replace something you wont maul the rest of it. for the top i would use 3/4 ply and screw it down so it is replaceable. i like it because i tend to nail things down occasionally. just make sure that you have enought cross piecesn to support it. if you are worried about the stucture of the top you can double up the play and have 1 1/2s of plywood. that will be plenty. this will not be very pretty but it will sufice. just make sure that you belt sand everything down real good.
Anything can be built if you have good plans, the right tools, the right know how, and more importently the money to do it.
Wow. Pine. Everything I have read on building benches has always said to use hard wood - they mention dimensional stability if they mention anything. I had never considered that hardwood might mar work pieces.