Roger T

Workbench build with Ikea tops

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So rather than hijack another thread with my bench build, I will start my own.

For the last 10 years or so, since I set up my shop in the basement, the only bench I had was a 2x4 frame with a single layer of 3/4 CDX ply on it. The working section was 4' long and had a lowered section to hold my SCMS. This was what I did all my projects off of. It was to high for hand tool work comfortably, and also to wobbly. But I did have a Record 53D face vice on the right hand corner and managed to make do for a long long time.

Fast forward to Nov/Dec 2010. I find myself unemployed for the first time in 13 years. I cant go fishing, haven't hunted in many years so I head to my shop just to keep my sanity. After reading some of the forums, I found the plans for the $175 Workbench by Popular Woodworking. I have just found my next project!

http://www.popularwoodworking.com/upload/contents/290/175Workbench2.pdf

So, armed with a big handful of gift cards to Home Depot I set out to buy the lumber for the bench. Now, the article tells you to buy 8 12' Southern Yellow Pine 2x8's. Up here in Chicagoland, home depot does not carry SYP, so I turn to the Douglas Fir Rack. The plan calls for the top to be 70"x 27". I knew that this size was going to be to small for me, so I bought 8' 2x10's. In my head the top would now be 7' x a minimun of 30" deep, maybe deeper if the stock machined nicely. I actually went through 2 bunks of doug fir to find the 20 pieces that I bought. Had to have the HD guy get another bunk down for me. Finding straight and decent boards without a lot of big loose knots was a real challenge.

Machining the stock was pretty much uneventful after I got the issues with my jointer figured out. Got the leg blanks all glued up, and set about doing the layout for the big honking mortise and tenons. I had never done M&T's of this size before. So I was not sure if I was going to be able to pull this off and get everything to fit well, and be square.

Got my mortise machine set up and cut all the mortises with a 3/8" bit, would have used a 1/2" but had broken it during another project some years ago, and had never replaced it. That was a lot of strokes for the 12 mortises. Pared the mortises to clean up the walls and floors trying to be as careful as I could to not undercut the walls. Now turned my attention to making the tenons.

Set up the TS and processed the short pieces making sure to leave plenty of stock on the faces so that I could fit them properly. Using a shoulder plane and chisels, each tenon was adjusted so it fit nicely into its mortise. The plans call for these M&T's in the end assemblies to be drilled and pegged. Set up the drill press and drilled all the 3/8" holes for the pegs. (Should have done this before machining the mortises, as it caused some blowout on the walls of the mortises).

Dry fit the end assemblies, and using the 3/8" brad point bit, marked the peg location in the tenon. I knew that I wanted to draw bore the joints, but was not sure how much set back to give the holes. Started off on the first assembly with about 3/32". Glue up time for the first assembly.

Using the new Titebond 3, started gluing. Spread the glue onto all the surfaces, then TRIED to push them together. Could not get the first tenons to seat with hand pressure alone. I had set up with 2' bessey clamps, but with the added length on the joints not being set these were not wide enough. Clock is ticking! Scramble for my 40" clamps. Using these I was finally able to close the joints up. Took some serious cranking to get them to close as the glue had caused the mating surfaces to swell somewhat and they were VERY Tight. Pointed up the dowels in my pencil sharpener and started to drawbore. Second one going in shattered in my hand as I got it halfway in. Grab the drill and drill it out and succeed to drive in a good dowel. The rest of the dowels in the first assembly went in ok, but I was worried about shattering more.

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post-2682-0-05259300-1291383960_thumb.jp

On to assembly 2. So now having the first glued up, and saying I don't want to go thru that again, decided to push the joints together as each one was glued up rather than wait till all surfaces were glued. Dry assembly first, mark the pin holes, and only use 1/16" setback to drawbore instead of the 3/32". (don't want to shatter another dowel) This glue up goes like it should. Pushing the joints together as they are glued. Clamped up, dowels driven in, no issues. I am happy.

Thoughts now turn to the long stretchers. Almost 60" long. I can't cut them on the TS to make the tenons as my sled is to small, and is a real POS. Grab the only sharp tenon saw I have and cut all the shoulders being careful to stay away from the line. I would rather have to clean up to the line with a shoulder plane than cut the line, and have the shoulders not be square. Head to the bandsaw to check its setup for the blade being square to the table. Cut the tenon cheeks. Again leaving a bit of extra stock to be cleaned up with the shoulder plane.

Each long stretcher needs 2, 1/2" X 1 1/2" long, by 1 1/4" deep mortises for the nuts and washers on the inside face of each end. Clamp up a block and grab the router and make these in 3 passes each. Piece of cake. I have known all along that I wanted a board jack on the front of my bench so as long as I had the router out with the 1/2" bit in it, I set up the edge guide and plowed a 1/2" x 1/2" deep dado into the top edge of the front stretcher.

Time for a dry fit of the entire base assembly. Slid everything together and threw on a couple of clamps to hold everything. Curious if everything was parallel, grabbed a tape, and checked the bottom of the legs to the tops of the legs. 1/16" out of parallel. B)

I had figured it would be more as there was no top stretcher to maintain the width. Very happy at the time.

Now its time to drill the holes for the bolts that attach the end assemblies to the stretchers. With it still being in the clamps from the dry fit, use a 3/8" bit and drill as deeply as you can, using the holes that had been bored previously as a guide. Your aim is to hit the mortises in the stretchers dead center. Tough to do in reality. A little judicious reaming and the holes finally hit their intended mark. Had to drill as deeply as I could thru the leg assemblies then remove them and finish drilling from the end of the tenon. Because of the length of the bolts, you need at least 3/4" deeper than the routed mortise.

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Spent the better part of the day sanding all the pieces and getting all the squeeze out off of everything. Machined up the ledger boards for inside the bottom stretchers, and the 2 pieces that the top will be attached to. Installed the bottom boards for the shelves. On the plans, he installs 7, 3" x 18 1/2" slats for the bottom shelf. I want to use this as storage for planes and whatnot, so machined up 7, 9" wide boards to use for the shelf. Centered the first one, and worked to the ends using 1/4" spacing between each one. Attach with one screw in the center of each board.

post-2682-0-15602800-1291387959_thumb.jp

Was wandering the forums as I do each morning before heading down to the shop and ran across this thread.

On page 2, the talk turned to using Ikea wooden counter tops for woodworking benches. This really peaked my interest. All along during the build of my bench my wife would be ask, are you going to be happy with what you are building, using the materials you have? And, quite honestly, I was not going to be happy, and probably never would be. Using relatively soft construction grade lumber, and dealing with the knots and sap pockets. Not good. But using the HD gift cards, my bench so far has not cost me a penny to build. 8/4 hard maple, here in Chicago costs $7.58 bf. Most benches require over 100 bf to be completed. Over $800 just for the maple, not to mention the time it takes to machine and glue up a big top and make it flat and square.

At $60 apiece, I could have an 8' long x 25" bench top. Each slab is 1 1/8" thick. Reading the info on the Ikea website, it said, oil finish and beech wood. I really didn't think to much about it, but did post a question on the other thread about the finish. Me being an impatient guy, and living in an instant gratification world, just had to have 3 of those tops. So without waiting for an answer, I head out to Ikea. Only 13 miles from the house.

If you have never been in an Ikea store before, you should be thankful!!! My god, that place is a nightmare. Up to second floor, wandering thru these winding corridors through all the different displays. Took me 20 minutes to find what I thought was the dept I was looking for. I got lucky and found the top samples, and also lucky as I found an employee working in the same area. Had her put my order into the computer, and then tried, to find where checkout was. This took almost 10 minutes to find my way back to the front of the store. If there is ever a serious fire in an Ikea, I fear that there will be many fatalities because of the difficulties in finding an exit in a timely fashion. Hope I never have to go back there again!!!!!!!

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So tops in hand, and schlepped into the basement I throw the 3 of them up onto the base which I had leveled prior to setting the tops up there. 8' top, 60" base, means that I have 15" of overhang on the ends, and roughly 60" of unsupported space between the legs. I figured that without mid support I would see some deflection of the tops once they are in place. I have a 6' Stabila plate level from work that is nearly new so put that up on the top to check for deflection. There was absolutely no deflection that I could find at the time. The tops appear to be dead flat out of the boxes. These tops come with a slight beveled edge all the way around of about an 1/8" flat. I will likely take a pattern bit and trim this off and get everything nice and square and straight once glued up. Only one of the tops has a nice straight edge on it and all are slightly different lengths. I will also be installing at least 3" of apron on both the front and back edges, and a minimum of 1 1/2" of end caps on each end.

post-2682-0-71190300-1291388450_thumb.jp

post-2682-0-43981700-1291389292_thumb.jp

While handling the tops, I noticed a slight oily residue on my hands. Smelled to me like Tried and True oil. Aaron supplied some more information on the finish of these tops.

http://www.ikeafans.com/FAQCareButcherblock.htm

Tung oil, linseed oil, methylcellulose, lead free drying agent, plant-based emulsifier, water

Hmmmmm, dont know what methylcellulose, or plant based emulsifier is. But know the other stuff. Beech on the whole, is not very porous. So hopefully the finish that was applied at the factory is only minimally into the surface of the tops. My plan at the moment is to use some 100 or 120 grit paper in the random orbit sander and sand down to clean wood. Do a quick wipe down with some solvent, and then glue these tops up. Using 3' long curved cauls, and 16 Bessey clamps. Start 6" in from each end and spaced every foot after that.

The glue up will have to wait a week or two as I have some projects that I need to get done so I can get them installed at a friends house.

Thats everything up to date, and I will try to keep this post updated as more things are accomplished.

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Oh man, I hear ya about Ikea. Never thought about the fire escape problem, but it is a nightmare trying to find your way out of that place.

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Roger, in regard to the original post by Godet, I would be very remise if I didn't give credit where credit is due, and that credit goes to "gardnesd" who posted the idea in the first place (page 1). Thanks very much gardnesd!

Looks like the "Spruce Goose" is off the ground. We'll see how she flies. By the way Roger, I stated in my last comment (on the original post) the possible value of using a cabinet scraper (light passes) on the tops to see if it could remove at least some of the oil "finish". I was actually thinking of a card scraper, but a cabinet scraper could be tried as well. Maybe easier on the hands.

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Roger, in regard to the original post by Godet, I would be very remise if I didn't give credit where credit is due, and that credit goes to "gardnesd" who posted the idea in the first place (page 1). Thanks very much gardnesd!

Looks like the "Spruce Goose" is off the ground. We'll see how she flies. By the way Roger, I stated in my last comment (on the original post) the possible value of using a cabinet scraper (light passes) on the tops to see if it could remove at least some of the oil "finish". I was actually thinking of a card scraper, but a cabinet scraper could be tried as well. Maybe easier on the hands.

I have an 80 that I get along with fairly well, as well as the one that has the adjustable angle, much more difficult to set and use with out chatter. Also have a bunch of card scrapers, but since I use them so much I will have to resharpen them and return the hooks. The thought of making all that sawdust and breathing it in makes my lungs hurt just thinking about it. Shavings are much more lung friendly. Going to be a bit before I get back to the tops.

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Roger,

It looks great! This is what I would've done had there been Ikea in my town. Didn't want to drive to Charlotte. Instead I used LVL...not digging it so much but it's solid. BTW, I am loving me some southern yellow pine. Spent an hour at slowes the other day picking out some 2x12x16. Some is even knot free. Have no idea what i'm going to do with it. Right now I'm content looking at it.

BTW, your bench build is progressing way faster than mine did.

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Roger--looking good. Thanks for posting all the details and sharing your progress...this is a shining example of the value of this forum, in my humble opinion. Please keep us posted on the progress with the oil finish issue. I already have the doug fir sitting in my garage for the legs of the base...need to get the stretchers, aprons, and tops--really hoping the Ikea countertops work. Although, it will mean a momentary suburban nightmare...

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Thought I would give everyone an update on my bench build.

Well, got to work on my bench the last few days. Trimmed up all three tops and got rid of the chamfer on all of them, and used a pattern bit to make them all the same. I had ordered a tail vise screw from Lee Valley. http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/page.aspx?p=41664&cat=1,41659 I figured out how I wanted to mount that. The screw will actually be hidden by the top top. The bottom 2 layers are cut away to allow for hiding the screw, and I will make the traveler about 4 1/2" wide and about 7" long with 2 dog holes in it. It will have about 8 1/2" of travel to it, so I'm happy with that. Also as a plus to hiding the screw, I will have an open slot 1 1/2" wide to stick boards down into. Made up 16 cauls to do the glue up today. Got the bottom 2 layers glued and in clamps, will pull them out tomorrow afternoon.

That was a helluva job doing that glue up. Wished one of my boys was around, but had to settle for the wife against her wishes. Still not to sure about that oil finish put on by Ikea. I had taken a belt sander to the tops, and roughed them up real well, then before the glue went on, Titebond III wiped them down a couple of times with Acetone. Even after the acetone, I used a clean white cloth to wipe the tops off further, and still seemed like I was getting some residue from the Ikea finish. May try lacquer thinner tomorrow on the remaining top. If the glue up don't hold well then I will likely flip it over and drill and use 3/4" dowels to try and make everything solid.

Tomorrows another day, and will hopefully complete the glued up of the last top. Will likely start machining for the aprons and the end caps. Kind of looking forward to cutting some big dovetails.

Roger

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How did I miss this thread for so long? Thanks for blazing the trail, Roger and for sharing your Ikea horror story! I know just what you mean about the store experience.

Keep us posted!

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That almost sounds like a UV-cured finish. Yeah, good luck removing it. It's possible with a belt sander, but that stuff is wicked amazing chemistry and durability. I got a chance to see UV-cured finish applied to drawer parts at a local massive drawer manufacturer. When they need to strip it, it goes through a series of wide-belt sanders.

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Final update to my bench build.

At this point the bench is as complete as it is likely to be. The last top glued up without incident, but was a big job for the wife and I, spreading glue, clocks ticking, applying all the cauls and clamps. Next up in the process was the machining and installation of the dog strip and aprons.

For my dog strip, I had a piece of 8/4 Hard Maple, so I ripped a piece of it on the TS and started the layout of the dog holes. The dog holes are spaced at 4" centers. 3/4" diameter forstner bit on the drill press and its ready to be glued onto the front edge of the tops.

http://i159.photobuc...ng/_DSC6550.jpg

The dog holes stop short of the left leg of the base, as the front vise will be mounted on the remaining space of the top outside of the leg.

http://i159.photobuc...ng/_DSC6554.jpg

In this picture you can see the aprons are installed, and the end cap on the right end is in place. When doing the glue up, I used an offcut from the dog strip to maintain the spacing for the wagon vise. There was alot of routing done on the endcaps, as I had made a breadboard kind of end on the tops, thinking that it would help if the tops decided to cup a bit.

While using the bench, before I had gotten around to gluing the tops up, I discovered that indeed the unsupported mass of the tops, had caused some deflection. About 1/16". I still had some extra stock from making the base, so made up 2 stretchers and installed them using a dado at each end, and tenons on the ends of the stretchers. Bolts and captured nuts so I can maintain the knock down status of the base.

http://i159.photobuc...ng/_DSC6551.jpg

Installing the wagon vise was challenging.

http://i159.photobuc...ng/_DSC6557.jpg

I made the vise traveler out of Red Elm turning stock that I have had laying around for ages. Careful layout was critical on this, as I found out. The boss that the traveler advances on had to be inset into the traveler, hole bored thru the traveler, and holes in both the apron, and end of the traveler stroke to house the end of the screw all had to be inline and square.

Upon assembly of the vise, I have a bind at the last 4 or 5 inches of travel, at the end of the screw. It turns out, my hole for the end of the screw had to be moved toward the apron 1/16". Redrill the hole, and re-assemble the vise, and now everything works well.

For a finish on the bench, I used a 50/50 mix of BLO and Turpentine. I put a coat on a day, spanned over 4 days.

Here is the finished product.

http://i159.photobuc...rking/bench.jpg

Thanks for reading, and I hope I have not bored you to death with my description of the build. It was a truly enjoyable project to do. I really do love working on it, and can't believe that I hadn't built it years ago.

Roger

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Wow Roger, that looks amazing. Very nice bench and great detailed write-up. I'm curious to know if you would go with the pre-made Ikea tops again. Did this speed up the build?

Kudos to your wife for helping with the glue-up, too! My wife wisely stays well clear of the shop at challenging moments like that. :)

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Aaron,

I would most definately use the Ikea tops again. First is the cost factor. $60 apiece for the Ikea tops vs $7.50 a bf for hard maple, I never priced other woods. It would take well over 60bf of lumber to make the same size top. Then you have to factor in all the machining time, then glue up time, then after all that is done, surfacing the slab on both side. With the Ikea tops, counting all the machining I did, routing the edges, breadboard ends, cutout for the wagon vise, sanding and glue up, I was done in less than 3 days total.

The top is certainly not as nice looking as Maple, or some of the other hardwoods, but a heck of alot better than SYP or any of the Firs.

All the apron stock, I had from previous purchases from a long time back, so I dont factor that into the cost of my build. All told, I think I used 12 2x10x8' Douglas Fir. Which I think were around $10 apiece. The cost of the tops were $180. The wagon vise was $40. So for around $340, I have a fully functional bench. I already had my face vise from years ago, again not factored in, but those aren't cheap if you need to buy one. I did not keep track of my build time, but would hazard a guess that the build was significantly less than 2 weeks total time.

It was a real fun build, but not something that I would like to repeat anytime soon. And that wagon vise, the more I use it, the more I like it.

Roger

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Very nice build, looks like it turned out great!

What was the thought process on the wagon vice versus a more conventional end vice or double screw tail vice? Pros and Cons?

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Very nice build, looks like it turned out great!

What was the thought process on the wagon vice versus a more conventional end vice or double screw tail vice? Pros and Cons?

Hi Tex,

When I originally started on this bench, with a construction lumber top, I had intended to use and make a normal tail vise. I have the hardware that I bought years ago for it so it would have cost me nothing at this stage. But after reading alot of posts and the various books on benches, I decided that the sagging issues were not something that I wanted to deal with. Plus there is really a lot of work just in the building and assembly of the vise.

The reason I didnt use the double screw was cost. At over $250 for the vise and cover, I just could not justify spending that much money right now. But for $40, I could get the screw for the wagon vise and be ok.

It just took a little thought on how to do the tops, screw and aprons to allow for the openness of the slot. Its absolutely great for cutting dovetails and doing tenon work. And with the end cap being bolted to the tops, if the the traveler needs to be worked on or replaced, I will just take the end cap off, and slide it out for servicing.

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Hi Tex,

When I originally started on this bench, with a construction lumber top, I had intended to use and make a normal tail vise. I have the hardware that I bought years ago for it so it would have cost me nothing at this stage. But after reading alot of posts and the various books on benches, I decided that the sagging issues were not something that I wanted to deal with. Plus there is really a lot of work just in the building and assembly of the vise.

The reason I didnt use the double screw was cost. At over $250 for the vise and cover, I just could not justify spending that much money right now. But for $40, I could get the screw for the wagon vise and be ok.

It just took a little thought on how to do the tops, screw and aprons to allow for the openness of the slot. Its absolutely great for cutting dovetails and doing tenon work. And with the end cap being bolted to the tops, if the the traveler needs to be worked on or replaced, I will just take the end cap off, and slide it out for servicing.

Thanks for sharing your thinking. I can see where the bolted end cap makes servicing it very easy. The Wagon vice looks like it pairs quite well with the dog hole strip.

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So what did you end up doing to prep the surfaces of the slabs before laminating. Also I'd like to see a detail of how that traveler fits to the vise hardware.

http://www.leevalley.com/US/wood/page.aspx?p=41664&cat=1,41659

If you look at the picture on the LV site, the boss that is for the traveler needs to be turned around the other way so the long nose points to the end of the screw. When I had the traveler block cut to dimension, I simply bored a large hole in it, just deep enough to allow the nose of that piece to fit entirely into the traveler block. Then, I thru bored a hole completely thru the traveler block to allow for passage of the screw. I also inlet the square boss of the screw traveler into the wooden traveler, so that it sat flush with the rear face of the traveler block. I do not have any pictures of this assembly, and hopefully my description provides you with enough information.

Roger

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Roger I think I am going to follow your lead and do the same thing, but maybe only attaching the top to an existing workbench that I have. How thick do you recommend making it if I'm putting it on top of an existing 2x12 surface? Do you think I'd need all 3 as you have? Your bench turned out REALLY nice btw, great work!

Thanks.

Will

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