I am sure there are woodworkers who just walk into the workshop and without much preparation, begin building. I’m not one of those woodworkers. I have to think about most construction processes. I want the feeling of a sound plan as I begin a woodworking session. Just mounting the workbench top to the base had me doing some considerable thinking about the best way to go about this step.
I had always thought I would simply add some keys to the top of the leg assembles. These keys would act like tenons and would mate to corresponding mortises in the two slabs. Like this…
An important aspect of this workbench design is the flat vertical plane formed by positioning the two top slabs flush with the legs. I know full well that adding the keys and then creating a mating mortise is a super exact process. I could see the mortises not aligning perfectly with the keys resulting in an alignment problem between the slabs and the legs.
I then thought of drilling holes for 3/4″ diameter oak dowels. I could position the slabs, lock them in place with clamps and then drill through the slabs continuing to drill, say 3/8″ or 1/2″ into the leg assemblies. Glue the dowels to the slabs with the weight of the slabs ensuring nothing moves. The drilling process would make for perfectly mating holes…
This is a good idea, but I did not have a drill bit long enough. And I had already begun thinking about the method I eventually used. I would mount keys to the bottom of the slabs positioning the keys so they fit against the inside corner of the legs…
In the image above, the blue keys are added to the bottom of the workbench top and the yellow blocks are mounted to the leg assembly cross members. I can easily add these two blocks while the slabs are positioned in place.
The yellow blocks also have holes for screws driven from below into the slabs. So far, this has proved to be a rock solid method of mounting the top. With this step completed, I basically have a functioning workbench.
Before I leave this step, I did also consider simply driving lag screws through the top into the base. At the Alabama Woodworkers Guild, there are multiple Nicholson style workbenches with their tops attached this way. But I did not want metal so close to the cutting edge of my tools, so I passed. As you can see, a lot of thought went into how I attached the top.
More thinking – the gap stop. This is the assembly which fills the center gap created by the split top design. Such things come in different sizes and configurations (see this). I have not seen much online about how gap stops function. I once saw a gap stop in action and there seemed to be some sort of block which helped the gap stop register in place. But said block was out of view and I can’t remember where I saw it (maybe it was this Mike Siemsen video at 10:51).
I did look at some Roubo workbench documentation at Benchcrafted.com (especially the image on page 7). Their plan for a split top Roubo shows a gap stop with a notch which appears to keep the gap stop from sliding left to right. It looked like when not in use the Benchcrafted gap stop rested slightly below the workbench top, and when in use, it was turned upside down causing the gap stop to rise above the bench surface. I went with this idea using some handsome quarter sawn white oak…
I decided to fill the left side of the gap stop so that tools like chisels would never accidentally make contact with the metal vise hardware below.
The good news is the workbench is now in working order. 🙂 The gap stop still needs to be planed flush with the bench top. The far end is a little high (the Benchcrafted images showed a gap stop which looked slightly below the bench surface, but I’ll simply keep mine flush with the top). I need to add the blocks which lock the gap stop in place which I’ll do this week.
Next up: add the Veritas Inset Vise and dog holes and I have begun thinking about how to finish the workbench. I’m leaning towards boiled linseed oil, but I am not sure. I welcome any input on this subject. Also, the future tool cabinet which will rest on the stretchers is now looking like a separate project. I’m getting close to calling the workbench finished.
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