Cutting a 20/4 beam into 10/4 halves


aengland
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I've got two sections of a laminated beam--84x16x5 (inches). Each is heavier than I can handle alone, so I'm not able to pick them up and shove through a TS or BS, and my BS doesn't have the throat depth to cut 16" tall, nor the motor umph to cut 20/4 for 7 feet. I have at my disposal an electric chain saw, a 350 Husq, a reciprocating saw, a circular saw, and several old Disston rip saws.

My goal is to create two 2 1/2 slabs for two shop workbenches. (I'm just not sure that I need a workbench with 32" of a 5" thick top.)

Given my options, how would you recommend that I halve these 84x16x5 beams into approximately 84x16x2.5 pieces?

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How much are you willing to pay? You can always call up your local mill or lumber yard and ask how much they charge to make a cut? It's probably going to be cheaper than buying a chainsaw guide.

I haven't considered any kind of "outsourced" solution. Given my available tools, I'm attempting this feat for the bragging rights (kinda, sorta). No, I'm just cheap. Unless it involves getting a new tool. ...but I can stop at any time. Really! I mean it.

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My Dad was talking about building a church where they needed to cut down 2X material. Each person would take a turn, cutting 2' at a time.

So sharpen the rip saws and have a party. Two beams, two teams. Have a prize for cut quality and speed.

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16" - 6 1/4" from both sides = 3 1/2" for the handsaw. It's pretty hard to justify a beam saw for one cut, though. Look up timber framers in your area, I'd be willing to split it for a 6-pack.

There is the Beam Machine, which is a little more reasonable. It will still probably take a number of passes and the final result isn't pretty, though.

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Curious about the lamination. How is it put together and what is it made of? How thick are the lamination and how are they oriented? Last beam I saw that was near that dimension was an engineered beam made up of ply basically very easy to bend it laterally but very solid vertically when in place. You may be able to rent a tool that will do this job easier for you dunno what is available in your area I know you dont want to spend money but think of it as a test drive on something you might buy. There is a local place here that is located midway between a very large lead zinc smelter and a pulp mill they rent tools to both places and they have some really interesting stuff that they bought just for one job at one of those mills. Might be a place like that near you and they might have a portable band saw mill you could rent for the day. If so take the Husq out and cut some trees down and make a day of it.

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Curious about the lamination. How is it put together and what is it made of? How thick are the lamination and how are they oriented? Last beam I saw that was near that dimension was an engineered beam made up of ply basically very easy to bend it laterally but very solid vertically when in place. You may be able to rent a tool that will do this job easier for you dunno what is available in your area I know you dont want to spend money but think of it as a test drive on something you might buy. There is a local place here that is located midway between a very large lead zinc smelter and a pulp mill they rent tools to both places and they have some really interesting stuff that they bought just for one job at one of those mills. Might be a place like that near you and they might have a portable band saw mill you could rent for the day. If so take the Husq out and cut some trees down and make a day of it.

The 16" of bean width consists basically of 2X material, though it is actually a little shy of 2" wide. The beam appears to have been flattened, since there's no groves between each separate board. Some form of glue has been used. The wood appears to have been kiln dried and is not cupped or bowed. The break sheered no more than about 4" deep into the 16" width when struck by the truck bed walls, and the entire breach area was about 6ft (3 on each side of the break). Rather than ripping between laminations, I aspire to cut two 2.5 halves from the 5" width.

However, I'll gladly entertain opinions on a better thickness for a work bench.

thanks

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A word of caution in case you haven't thought of it already. Make sure there are no nails/screws hidden inside :)..

Good luck, and keep us updated...

Well, I've waited six months, so a few more days won't bother me. At the moment, I'm second guessing my need to cut a 5" thick top into two 2.5" tops.

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Well, I've waited six months, so a few more days won't bother me. At the moment, I'm second guessing my need to cut a 5" thick top into two 2.5" tops.

Well, I can certainly see a real benefit to having a top that thick. Think of how stable that baby would be :)

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i see no reason to not leave it the full 5" thickness. you will have plenty of stability and weight. plus, you can sand it/hand plane it down a bunch of times if necessary. not to mention, if you put dog holes in it, they will have plenty of meat to keep em' stable. i mean, who have you ever heard say, "i wish my workbench top was thinner" i say go with the full beef!

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i see no reason to not leave it the full 5" thickness. you will have plenty of stability and weight. plus, you can sand it/hand plane it down a bunch of times if necessary. not to mention, if you put dog holes in it, they will have plenty of meat to keep em' stable. i mean, who have you ever heard say, "i wish my workbench top was thinner" i say go with the full beef!

Agreed. I e-mail the Schwarz once about bench sizes. In his first book, he mentioned that you should build the bench as big as you can. I asked him what the upper limits on that were, because I have some 2x6 SYP for my bench. He felt that right around 5" is the max, where is looks too bulky any bigger than that. If this is to be a benchtop, I would leave it as is.

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Agreed. I e-mail the Schwarz once about bench sizes. In his first book, he mentioned that you should build the bench as big as you can. I asked him what the upper limits on that were, because I have some 2x6 SYP for my bench. He felt that right around 5" is the max, where is looks too bulky any bigger than that. If this is to be a benchtop, I would leave it as is.

thanks guys!

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Just wanted to drive another nail into this dead horse. :)

The only "published" bench I have seen with a top less than 3" is the "Gluebo" bench by Schwarz/Fitzpatrick/Pop Woodworking. This top is about 2 3/4 if I remember correctly, and it is made of LVL which is an engineered beam material. It is significantly stiffer material than standard dimensional (2x) lumber and resists sagging much better. From your description of the laminated beam you will use, you probably wouldn't quite get a full 2 1/2" after cutting in half and flattening. It may even be worse if there is a funny release of internal forces inside the beam - causing warping. At 2 1/2", I'd be concerned about stiffness of the top, not to mention seasonal wood movement for a thinner top. For construction lumber benches you typically see tops at least 4" thick.

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Wow. I'm shocked at what I'm reading. A 2" thick bench top is adequate. 5" is way overkill. Why not just get an entire log and plane the top flat and call it a bench? I don't know what you guys build, but the furniture I build won't make a 2" thick fir top sag. Anything that would make it sag, I wouldn't want to lift onto it.

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It's not sagging under the weight of the project, it's moving when using a chisell and mallet, or when planning and putting your back into it. Those neanderthals really hate chasing their benches around the shop, or seeing them bounce when they pound on them, or watching them fold up under a sideways load.

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Okay, bounce I can understand. Isn't that why we chop mortises over a leg? I suppose a 5" thick bench would allow you to chop a mortise in the center of the bench. Mass is certainly good, but a thick top is not required to have a heavy bench. To the OP, what type of bench are you building?

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