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Thread: GlueLam workbench?

  1. #1
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    GlueLam workbench?

    I have an opportunity to pick up

    2 - 5 1/8 by 15"by 14 ' long glue lam beams. $100. each Brand new.

    I'm figuring I can make 1 workbench top (7' x 30") out of one beam, and would like to know if anybody has made a benchtop with gluelams, have taken a plane to 'em, etc. Also, is the cost reasonable? Gluelams aren't exactly something I can comparison shop at the Borg.

    Also, not having a beam saw, any suggestions on a good ways of cutting the beam insuring that I have clean square ends for vise mounting and such?
    It came to pass...
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  2. #2
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    I was just tried searching for this and can not find it. About a year ago or so there was a thread here about glue laminated beam bench tops and there was also an article in Fine WoodWorking. Can not recall if it was online or in the magazine.

    It has been done. As for ripping the top, you may need to find some one with a mill to do that for you. There is a guy in my area with the equipment. He also has a 57 inch wide planer. Likely to be someone in your area to do the same. Just have to find them.

    jim
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  3. #3
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    Gluelam should be the same as LVL. Chris Schwarz made an LVL benchtop (the whole bench actually) a while back and posted it on his blog. They call it the "Gluebo". Your benchtop should be solid as a rock.
    "Never eat more than you can lift" - Anon.

  4. #4
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  5. #5
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    Check out Meagan's Bench on Schwarz's blog. It is a split top of glulam construction. I think a very cool bench and much better than LVL. http://blog.woodworking-magazine.com...+This+One.aspx
    Last edited by Phillip Pattee; 02-22-2010 at 7:48 PM. Reason: added link

  6. #6
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    LVL is the laminated material in Megan Fitzpatrick's bench. It has many laminations per inch of thickness and LOTS of glue. The gluelam I have worked with is more like 3/4' stock (usually cedar ) face-joined together. There is a huge difference in weight between the two.

    Read all of the posts about making the LVL bench. One of them talks about frying a pretty good sized spiral cutter jointer. The bench turned out great because Chris built it and painted most of it to cover the ugly wood. If you decide to make one using LVL, just be aware that you will need some heavy -duty machinery and that it is going to be tough on any tool that touches it.

  7. #7
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    Yes, the glue is extremely hard on most of your tooling. The article in FWW about Megan's LVL bench was excellent and almost inspiring to attempt one myself. But in reality I cannot really afford the cost of the material along with replacing every blade on any tool that touches the stuff. It would be an extremely strong bench and actually has a very unique look to the top which is almost appealing. If you don't mind your tools taking a beating then have at it as it would be a great experience.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Shea View Post
    Yes, the glue is extremely hard on most of your tooling. The article in FWW about Megan's LVL bench was excellent and almost inspiring to attempt one myself. But in reality I cannot really afford the cost of the material along with replacing every blade on any tool that touches the stuff. It would be an extremely strong bench and actually has a very unique look to the top which is almost appealing. If you don't mind your tools taking a beating then have at it as it would be a great experience.
    I wouldn't go as far as to say you will have to replace every blade that touches it. I have used it a lot when building houses and it really isn't that bad on tools. I have cut tons and tons of it with my 7 1/4" circular without any noticeable dulling beyond the norm. The stuff is definitely easier on my tools than trex or mahogany, so take it for what it's worth. The one thing I would mention is that it is not always uniform thickness and may require some belt sanding to get it nice and uniform so you can glue it up, but after seeing this I think I will talk to some friends who still work in the industry and see about getting the cutoffs that we usually just tossed. If you can get the material for free, the cost of a blade is well worth it (and IMO you will not burn up a blade either way).

  9. #9
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    Just to clarify, there is a difference between glulams and microlams (LVL's). Glulams are made by face gluing 2x wood members together. Their size can vary based on the width of the 2x member and how many are joined together. There are also various grades from industrial (very rough) to architectural (good enough to be exposed) to premium.
    LVL's are like structural plywood (thinner veneers glued together) and are closer to actual dimensional lumber in size.
    They cut easy enough, but I don't think i would take a hand plane to them to level or smooth the surface.
    Attached are a couple of images to show the difference.

    Tom
    Attached Images Attached Images

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Scott View Post
    LVL's are like structural plywood (thinner veneers glued together) and are closer to actual dimensional lumber in size.
    Compared to gluelams, yes they are closer to dimentional, but microlams can be pretty big, we used some that were somewhere around 15" wide by 4" thick. They were monsters trying to get them into place.

  11. #11
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    Hi Tom-

    Thanks for the summary and comparison of glulam vs LVL -- I have a better picture of the differences now.

    Would it be feasible to use a section of architectural glulam for a workbench top? Even if a full-width beam isn't available then assembling a top from two or three smaller glulams would seem to save a bunch of time and effort.

    I'm assuming that the architectural beams are comparable to a bench made up from dimensional lumber and could be flattened with handplanes, etc.

    Any thoughts?

    -TH

  12. #12
    Hi there, I've recently finished building a workbench out of douglas fir gluelam beams. I used one 5"x12"x16" for the top and one 5"x5"x16" for the legs. I cut the top lengthwise and inserted a few boards of ash to make the dog holes and insert the wagon vise.

    To cut the gluelams, I just used a guided circular saw. Made the cut in the top as far as it would go, then fliped it over, and realigned the guide as carefully as I could, and cut it from the bottom. Jointed the sides and flattened the top with handplanes. As mentioned, it's very easy to work. I didn't have any problems with dulling tools at all.

    Would I do it again? Not really sure.. I think it's a fairly economical way of building a bench, and definitely makes it easier doing the lamination. However, I've found the douglas fir is too soft of a wood for a bench top, I've made little dent marks in my top since I've been using it for other projects while I was building it, and I haven't even put the first coat of finish on yet.

    The gluelam also has quite a few knots. Some of them were filled with woodfiller by the manufacturer, which was kind of unattractive. Luckily I had a side that didn't have any of the woodfiller, but it does have some crumbled knots which I plan to fill with epoxy someday. The other semi-annoying thing is that all the edges are rounded over, so you have to trim off all that material. I trimed the top with my circular saw, but I found it kinda tedious to get everything aligned. I trimed the legs with my bandsaw.

    Pictures of the bench before I installed the leg vise below.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  13. #13
    If they're the kind that are made of real wood laminated together, I actually think they would be GREAT for a workbench. If they're the kind that are like particleboard, not so much.

  14. #14
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    I think they'd work great - 5" thick top? Serious heavy-duty.

    Rough cut (even with a reciprocating/demo saw), assemble top, then for finish cut go part way thru with circular saw, flip it, circular saw again, then the rest of the way with hand saw. Grab the belt sander and have at it. Should be easy enough to get a workable end surface for vise mounting.

    I have a bunch of plastic hotel card-keys I collected during my travellin' days - consistent .030" - excellent ~ 1/32" shims, if you need a bit of shimming.
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