During the last 20 years, I’ve experimented with a lot of alternative (or odd) materials to build workbenches. Most worked fine. I think the raw materials are less important than their dimensions and the bench’s design.
Megan Fitzpatrick and I encountered laminated veneer lumber (in the video I erroneously call it LVL) used as a worksurface at a noodle restaurant near the Popular Woodworking offices. Of course, I’d seen LVL before in commercial construction. But the person who made these tables had cut slices of the stuff, rotated them 90° and glued them together. Basically, they had created a surface composed entirely of the edges of plywood.
So I helped Megan build a workbench using the stuff. It was featured on the cover of the November 2009 issue.
The benchtop has held up great during the last 11 years. It’s still as flat as the day we finished it. And it takes a beating, despite the fact that it’s only 2-1/2” thick. I wish we had time to rebuild the base. The video discusses the other modifications we’ve made to it over the years.
Some of the items shown in the video (these are not affiliate links)
- Gramercy holdfasts
- Lee Valley Quick-release Steel Vise (7” model)
- Veritas Quick-release Sliding Tail Vise
— Christopher Schwarz
21 thoughts on “Workbench Tour No. 7: LVL Workbench”
I remember the article about this workbench. If I remember correctly the sliding device that is under the top was initially referred to as a deadman. Considering that Megan was coming on board at that time one or another of those who was participating in construction of this workbench commented that the sliding device should perhaps be called the deadwoman. It is the only device that I have seen that holds work on a workbench that has faired curves on it. I think that this dead device is a particularly attractive design.
That’s the best looking bench babe I’ve ever seen. And yes, I realize I’m getting a pop in the arm next time I see her.
Nah – I’m much older now; I’ll have forgotten.
Good idea using the glulams. Years ago working on a townhouse complex, a windstorm blew a tall fir onto one of the newly finished unit and it snapped in two when it hit the glulam holding the roof over the balcony. The stuff is strong!
That is a great idea for a bench. Like the cover of the magazine says, the material is actually LVL which stands for laminated veneer lumber. Glulam is actually glued up dimesioned lumber and when put on its side looks more like a butcher block bench top. Glulam would actually be a great material for a bench and would already be glued up and ready to go.
Mixing up LVL and glulam has been a quirk of my brain for …. forever. Thanks for pointing it out. I’ll fix it in the text.
This should say glulam, right? Looks like a double-reverse brain quirk mixup. I guess to be expected during this time. I know my brain is definitely exhibiting some uncharacteristic behavior.
Yes. Just assume everything I say is wrong and you’ll be right.
Liar’s paradox redux?
Great series on the benches. Thanks. I have my bench’s top attached similarly and where the leg vise is I put in several large dominos to prevent it from shifting. Has worked really well.
The video of Megan jumping up and down on the bench is still a highlight. It certainly turned my attention to work bench construction.
When the world allows I would be interested in Fitz walking through her thoughts on the “Gluebeau”.
I am enjoying the series and it is a good supplement to the workbenches books. Much like the Anarchist Tool Chest series is a good supplement to that book.
Do you think it would be possible to keep the top from getting shoved back by the vise by drilling a large hole in both the leg and the underside of the top and shoving some kind of really stout peg in there, like some kind of ersatz tenon? I guess one could do a loose tenon, but the thought of hitting that stuff with an edge tool kind of makes me cringe.
We’ve tried that…twice, I’m afraid. It worked (each time) for a little while, but eventually, the leg-vise pressure pushed it out of line again. But hey – we have it working (again) for now!
Wow! The faces on a tenon really do more than we like to give credit for, I suppose…
I remember that PWW cover; it made me sad that I was older and happily married.
Really enjoying this series. Keep em coming!
What a coincidence! I had come across the article on the LVL workbench while I was looking at various workbench designs a year or so ago. By coincidence, and by happenstance, I saw some 8 foot pieces of 3-1/2 X 14 inch LVL for sale really, really cheap at a local lumberyard and I bought a couple plus extra in case I screw up the benchtop on the first try. The same place later sold a 6 X 9 Glue-Lam beam made from 2X 6 boards. (LVL isn’t quite the same as Glue-Lam, I’m told). This is long enough for the legs. I’ve acquired some very old recovered douglas fir beams and nice boards from some workshop sales for the rest of it and I just started building the benchtop at the beginning of this week. I think a lot of my design decisions are supported by your comments – but I’ll find out as I build it.
Looking at the bench legs, lags, etc… Any reason not to use tenon joints with the lvl material? I have been considering doing a benchtop with some leftover LVL for some time and recently read through your book on workbenches. I’m wondering if it would work out to use to your yellow pine/roubo from the book and build it with LVL strips instead? Thoughts would be most welcome.
I finished cutting LVL beams for a workbench top just last Friday. I bought someone else’s leftover LVL incredibly cheaply shortly after I stumbled onto Fitzgerald and Schwarz’s article on making an LVL workbench, and a short, two page evaluation after four years. Between then and now I’ve been collecting other wood for the rest of the bench.
I found this post and video this weekend. So I’m in about the same place you are. I am planning to install a leg vise, but I am aware of the problems that Chris described – and which were described in the short evaluation I referred to. The benchtop is the only part that’s being made from LVL. I am using a GlueLam beam – also somebody’s leftover, for the legs. It’s 5-1/2 X 9 and you can see in the cross section six 2X6 boards, a different kind of composite from LVL. As Megan and Chris did, I’m adding an edge of solid wood, not just for looks but to control splinters off the edge. So my plan is to mortice the benchtop – but not all the way through, and cut tenons on the legs – especially the one with the leg vise, and assemble it that way. This is the first Roubo-style workbench I’ve made, I’m open to observations and suggestions.
I hope it works out well for you. Since I’ll be laminating three strips of LVL for the legs, I’m thinking of creating the tenon as part of the glue up process. Not sure if it will work to the same with the mortises. This will be the first bench I have made as well, I’ll be doing with my woodworking students (high school aged), so it should be an adventure.
Comments are closed.