Woodworking in the great white north.

Flattening the bench top

I took some pictures of this step, but they mysteriously got removed from the computer.  Sad day since I wanted to share the masses of sawdust that were created during this process, but alas it was not to be.

I was extremely careful to keep all of the lumber stickered and weighted down, even the slabs after I had milled them to final size.  So, it was rather annoying to say the least when I found out that my front slab had a little bit of a twist in it after being assembled onto the base.  I thought my ‘flattening’ step was going to be a non-issue.  Not so!

One corner had twisted up a fair bit and was going to present some difficulties with joinery and layout work since it was starting to twist right in the middle of the leg vise.  I was left with nothing but to attack it.

I used the approach that Marc Spagnuolo uses on his Roubo bench build in the Woodwhisperer Guild.  Without plagiarizing all his good work, the process involves setting up two rails along the benchtop sides and ensuring they are coplanar by criss crossing two cables/strings/whatever you’ve got until they just touch in the middle.  This gives you a base on which to run a router on a sled with a big router bit that will flatten the surface nearly perfectly.

If you’re serious about building a bench, I can’t encourage you enough to join the Guild and check out that build, it has helped me immeasurably in understanding the steps to take to make for a great bench.  I would have struggled with the flattening significantly had it not been for that one video!

When all was said and done, the surface was nice and flat and coplanar.  The only trouble, which is cosmetic more than anything, is that I took a piece of my end cap dovetail off in the process of getting the twist out of the front slab.  It’s there, I can see it, so can you if you look, but it’s good, it serves as a reminder to me that wood moves no matter how much you try to tame it.

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