Moravian Workbench
Comments 14

Moravian Workbench: Attaching the Top; Adding the Gap Stop

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…

Note the “keys” highlighted in blue.

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…

Note the oak dowels or the four dots in the slab tops.

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 this one, note the blue and yellow blocks.

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 keys in place.

Close-up.

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…

The gap stop parts and their location.

Note the long filler board to the left.

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.

Gap stop components.

Twenty-one clamps.

It fits very well.

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.

* * * * *

Have a question or comment about this post? Leave me a comment below; but I also like email. Use my contact form to send me an email (click here).

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14 Comments

  1. That is a lot of ways to attach a bench! I like the one you picked but I didn’t think of it on my bench 25 years ago (which had a full top) so I used threaded rod instead. It is still together though. I never finished the top either. Or took out the twist it has. Some day…

    • Ha! My first workbench top had twist in it. I never fixed it. I have thought about no finish for the top with BLO for everything else. But already I have gotten machine oil on the bench top and it bugs me.

  2. Tom McLellan says

    Hi Jeff. I just wanted to say that I like your blog and the projects.

    Tom. 😀

  3. Looking good. you do great stuff and think at a different level than I do. I’d be thinking of how long a screw I could buy and how many would I need.

    • Thanks for the compliment on my skills Andrew. What I didn’t write about was how I messed up the gap stop Saturday night and had to remake part of it on Sunday. 😀

  4. William C. says

    I literally just finished drilling matching dowel holes for holding the top of my Moravian inspired bench in place with the help of a friend, and now I’m sad I didn’t see this before I’d already done things that way. This is definitely a “D’oh, why didn’t I think of that!?” moment. Loving your bench so far, and many of the design points in your early sketches wound up in my copy, so thank you very much for posting all of this — it’s really helped me be successful in my own build.

    Cheers,
    Will

    • Hey William, thanks for letting me know my blog posts have been helpful. As you know, there are many ways to tackle a particular woodworking task. I find that the method selected is largely driven by what best suits the individual woodworker. So my method would be considered unusual by others; yet some would find it agreeable. I’d like to see photos of your completed workbench. You can reach me through my contact page here at my website.

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