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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am planning on building a woodworking bench, using a glued up top. I have several slabs of well seasoned 8/4 rough milled maple that need to be ripped and planed. Doing some homework on the process of making this sort of workbench top, I have come across two references to using "flat sawn" lumber, oriented on edge, meaning the width of the individual boards is vertical, a series of which are glued together, across their thickness. One is from my "guru" pattern maker friend and the other is from a book (The Workbench, Lon Schleining). I'm trying to understand this, as I have been thinking it should be quarter sawn, as much as possible.

Primary question is: what is the rationale for using flat sawn? A corollary question is, will it be a problem including a significant proportion of quarter and rift sawn grain?

Thinking about how the wood will move, flat sawn will shrink/expand in its width with cupping toward the convex side. But glued up, it will be largely constrained from cupping, so the primary change in dimension would be in the thickness of the finished top. Quarter sawn will shrink/expand in its thickness more than width and in the glued up finished table top, the whole top would become wider or narrower. I'm sure if I have this wrong, all y'all will let me know.

If I were buying the lumber to make this workbench top, I might be able to select the grain in favor of flat sawn. But, with cutting the boards out of these slabs, there will be a range of grain orientation, with a significant amount being quarter, rift and some flat sawn.

I'm visiting friends and see they have a large "butcher block" island counter (1-1/2"x40"x72"), which has end grain orientations ranging from quarter sawn to rift sawn, but no flat sawn. If grain orientation matters in these sorts of glue ups, I would think this countertop would show it, eventually, but my assumption is that it will not.

Please help me understand,

Rick
 

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flatsawn wood/lumber is the least stable... it's major prone to cupping and twisting...

after you rip your flatsawn to the width that you want your bench top to be thick, rotate the slats 90° so that the original flatsawn face of the slat is vertical...
this will give your wood the most stability that you can out of it...
if you spline you will add a margin of additional stability...
cut the spline slots 1/3 in from both edges on one joint.. then center the spline on the next joint and so on...
always cut the slots from the same edge... ALWAYS!!! you want a self flushing to don't you???
minimal splining is all that is needed.. (what is the thinnest plywood you have on hand)???
cutting the slots will relieve some of the tension and compressions in the slats adding to stability...
bread boarding the ends would add a touch of class......

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
flatsawn wood/lumber is the least stable...

after you rip your flatsawn to the width that you want your bench top to be thick, rotate the slats 90° so that the original flatsawn face of the slat is vertical...
this will give your wood the most stability that you can out of it...

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Greetings, Stick,

Yes, we have been around this tree before... and are in agreement.

I understand that flat sawn is the least stable, which is why I am asking about (questioning the veracity of) these recommendations from what I would think are reliable sources for the "preferred" use of it for this purpose.

My initial inclination would be to use as much quarter sawn and then rift sawn, trying to avoid flat sawn. The slabs I have, have a decent proportion of what would become quarter and rift. If I have to get into the smaller pieces, which came from the sides of the tree, there will be more flat sawn. I would, on my own, try to avoid using any flat sawn.

So, given that, my question is really about trying to understand why these recommendations would FAVOR flat sawn and secondarily, would there be significant downsides to using quarter and rift sawn?

Rick
 
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w/ stability the primary concern, properly installed, quartersawn will give you a wide board w/ the face showing...
you can however, install QS w/ the edge showing and have absolutely no worries..,
flat or riftsawn will give you a narrow board (slat) w/ the edge showing...
if you install FS/RS w/ the face showing you will be more prone to experience most unwanted movement...
so mix and match.. waste nothing...
a butcher block style top will be your strongest most stable top what ever the grain orientation...
this is why commercial butcher block tops show the edges of the slats to the face... use any and everything, let nothing go to waste...

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How were your slabs dried? What is the moisture content? What are the final dimensions of the bench top? With slabs I would mill them to a rough dimension then sticker them and wait to see how they move after milling. The primary motivation for using flat sawn is cost. Properly dried maple is relatively stable, but all wood is going to move. With a work bench you will have to flatten it occasionally to maintain a level work surface.
I made my bench using kiln dried European Beech, primarily because it was less expensive than other options. In 6yrs I have had to flatten it once, easy to do with a sharp plane.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
I definitely understand cost as a major factor. It is in how I am approaching this whole endeavor and largely why I'm interested in using these slabs (got them for $30 each). If I had to buy a similar amount of seasoned maple, I wouldn't be doing it. However, I find it curious, that neither "source" mentioned cost in any way as a consideration. They were outright stand along statements and seemed to be solely in regard to grain orientation. Which is what puzzles me.

In answer to your questions: Sawn into 2" thick slabs, stored stickered in the same order as sawn from the log, 3 yrs in a barn, in eastern Oregon, relatively dry climate. Do not know the moisture content. Two are approx. 24/26" wide x 10 ft, one is a crotch and one is about 12" wide by 8ft.

Final dimensions yet to be determined. Likely 2-3" thick, 24-30" wide x 60-72" long. I'll likely have to do some butt splicing to get enough length out of smaller pieces in addition to any full length pieces I can get out of the slabs.

Rick
 

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even serious under framed work tops are seldom over 2'' thick...
1½~1¾'' is more the norm...
no under frame, 3'' plus...

why not select rip your slabs (@max thickness) into narrow T&G flooring and install that onto a sheet of ¾ ply mounted onto a serious frame???...
once ripped, flat sawn becomes a bit more stable...
 

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I would buy a decent moisture meter, I am always surprised by how much the MC varies in the wood I buy. I live in the PACNW with a high relative humidity. My next question is what do you expect out of your workbench? For me, my bench is the most important tool in my shop. It is used every day, and because of that I had specific "wants" when I made it. For years, I used benches that were marginal at best, and I always felt limited when using them. Having said that, I also got to the point of "paralysis by analysis" because there are so many options. I just had make a decision and live with it. Since you want to limit the top to the wood you have, consider a split top roubo design. It is a very functional design and reduces the amount of wood needed for the build.
 

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Wood moves due to changes in humidity in the wood. If the wood is dry and flat when you build the bench then it isn't going to change much in most shops over time. You live in a very dry region of Oregon so you shouldn't have too many issues with wood movement Rick. I always like to add truss rods in glue ups like that and they help keep the slab tight together and flat. Add plugs over the nuts with a water soluble glue like Lee Valleys Fish Glue and you can easily access the nuts on the truss rods if needed if the boards dry up and shrink a bit. Or leave them exposed on the back side if you will only be working from one side.
 
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I aborted the notion of sawing up those slab to make a workbench top.

I came to the conclusion - more accepted the reality - of how much work would be involved and that I have way more to do already and not enough time to do much of it. So, I'll likely change course and get another solid core door and make another support framework and like it says in the link, make the support frame more like a traditional woodworking bench.

I had transported the slabs to Portland last week to see about trading the slabs for some already milled hard maple or European Beech. I left them with my pattern maker friend who will see if any of his students want to make a table from them. Or he might do it and sell it. I'll get enough from them to buy the next solid core door, which I order locally.

Rick
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
...snip...
That large very dark brown area will be a nightmare to work with. Basically a large amount of waste wood.
Yes, quite true. That is a crotch area in one of the two smaller pieces. Initially, I was planning on high grading that piece for some of the solid wood further down. That is a pretty small portion of the overall slab and other slabs, so I wasn't very concerned about that area on that slab.

But none of that matters to me now, as I have aborted efforts to use those maple slabs for cutting down into pieces to glue up to make a workbench top. I came to an acceptance of how much work it was going to be and the fact that I have way more to do already than time to do much of it. Instead, I will finish the workbench top that I am just about done with that is a solid core door, that I have varnished and will use it as a utility workbench. And then get another birch veneered solid core door to make into a woodworking workbench. I had thoughts of doing this all along as I worked on both the support frame and top.

I had transported three of the four maple slabs to Portland, OR, to my pattern maker friend's shop. He had expressed interest in using them for making tables and selling them. He wasn't as interested once he saw them. The are just under 2" thick and the two large ones are warped slightly and flattening them will make them too thin for good tables. He will offer them to his woodworking students and/or make some tables of them himself. I just hope I get out of them what I paid, which will just about cover the cost of another solid core door. But I don't really care whether I get anything. It was a mildly costly learning experience.

I did keep the smallest slab and will try cutting it down and seeing if I can get some book-matched pieces to make some small boxes from. It is about 12"x8ft, but is more flat sawn, from the side of a trunk so there will be more wasted "live edge" on the side hidden from the camera.

Rick
 

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I am planning on building a woodworking bench, using a glued up top. I have several slabs of well seasoned 8/4 rough milled maple that need to be ripped and planed. Doing some homework on the process of making this sort of workbench top, I have come across two references to using "flat sawn" lumber, oriented on edge, meaning the width of the individual boards is vertical, a series of which are glued together, across their thickness. One is from my "guru" pattern maker friend and the other is from a book (The Workbench, Lon Schleining). I'm trying to understand this, as I have been thinking it should be quarter sawn, as much as possible.

Primary question is: what is the rationale for using flat sawn? A corollary question is, will it be a problem including a significant proportion of quarter and rift sawn grain?

Thinking about how the wood will move, flat sawn will shrink/expand in its width with cupping toward the convex side. But glued up, it will be largely constrained from cupping, so the primary change in dimension would be in the thickness of the finished top. Quarter sawn will shrink/expand in its thickness more than width and in the glued up finished table top, the whole top would become wider or narrower. I'm sure if I have this wrong, all y'all will let me know.

If I were buying the lumber to make this workbench top, I might be able to select the grain in favor of flat sawn. But, with cutting the boards out of these slabs, there will be a range of grain orientation, with a significant amount being quarter, rift and some flat sawn.

I'm visiting friends and see they have a large "butcher block" island counter (1-1/2"x40"x72"), which has end grain orientations ranging from quarter sawn to rift sawn, but no flat sawn. If grain orientation matters in these sorts of glue ups, I would think this countertop would show it, eventually, but my assumption is that it will not.

Please help me understand,

Rick
That photo of the finished butcherblock top in the photos looks a lot like the one I made in 76. Mine was 60 x 96 x 2-1/2 inches, made from 5 boards oak then one walnut and repeat. It was supported on a welded steel truss frame, trussed corner to opposite corner to prevent twisting. Slotted holes in the steel frame allow movement due to changes in humidity. I glued up three separate sections of about 20 inches wide each, all were held together by 5 each 3/8 inch threaded rods with nuts and washers. That way I could take it apart for moving, or resurfacing, both of which I've done 3 times. The first time, after glue up, I planed the entire 60 inch wide surface at one time with a hand plane. I'm still using the bench today.
 
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