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I've finally gotten close to finishing the workbench that the kind people here have given me input on (Need help understanding workbench design and build process).

I currently have two top slabs, each made up of eight glued-up/laminated 2x4s. I am still thinking about attaching them to the frame with dowels.

  1. Rather than gluing these two slabs together to form a giant slab, would it be acceptable to leave the top as two separate slabs, and attach each with a dowel on each side? The portability and lighter weight of two top slabs would be a benefit as the workbench may be moved occasionally.

  2. If that's okay, due to the fact that the frame is 24 inches deep and the slabs each ended up being around 11.75 inches deep after planing and gluing, is it okay to leave a gap in the middle? I've seen some benches with a trough in between two slabs, but never with a gap.

  3. Is a .75" dowel an acceptable size to use in a frame member that is only 1.5" wide, leaving only .375" on each side of the dowel?

  4. After I plane and attach the top, should this be left unfinished or are there acceptable methods of finishing to make the cheap pine look a little nicer and/or provide durability?

workbench top view

workbench side view

workbench front view

  • I look at that and I think "two vise screws and some dovetails and you have the biggest workmate you ever dreamed of." Just a thought... – Ecnerwal Jun 26 '17 at 20:38
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Your bench design is related to a style called "Roubo" named after a French woodworker who originated the design style. Many workbenches, including mine are based upon the Roubo split top. This photo shows a removable filler that is inserted in the 1 1/2" wide gap between the two slabs. When placed with one side up it is flush with the bench top surface providing a continuous surface. When inverted it protrudes above the top surface to provide a stop for boards useful for planing or other tasks. The slot in the center provides a very useful tool holder to drop saws, chisels or other tools into prevent them from rolling off the top while working on your project.

You are right on target mounting the two slabs independently. Dowels are fine. I would recommend placing one centered on each leg extending up into the slab and leg approx 1/1/2". That way you can use a larger diameter (or square dowel) of 1" to 1 1/2" width. Since the slabs will expand and contract and are only pinned to the base near the outside corners of the base, the slabs will expand into the gap in the center of the top. allow clearance between the filler insert and the gap of approx 1/4" to accommodate the seasonal changes in width.

As fr finishing the top. I would recommend leaving it natural. Friction between your work pieces and the top is good for holding the work in place during operations. In addition, your surface will get scratched and dented and may require planing to reestablish a level plane surface over the years. Refurbishing the top will be more difficult with an old finish surface in the way. Besides, I like the aesthetic of a well worn bench top. In my opinion, let the bench reveal its work history.

Roubo Split top Bench

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I have a small bench I made a few years ago with similar materials. I glued the top into a single slab, and cut mortises in the underside to match up with the tenons I cut out of the tops of the legs. I don't use anything but friction and the weight of the top to hold it on the legs. I finished the whole thing with several coats of Boiled Lindseed Oil (BLO). Since BLO is an oil that penetrates into the wood rather than a finish that goes over the top, you still have the wood feel, but gain some resistance to glue and spills. BLO can easily be reapplied when necessary. I have planed my bench smooth and refinished it over half a dozen times.

I have no metal fasteners at all in this table, just glue and joinery.

enter image description here

Here it is with the vise mounted and dog holes drilled.enter image description here

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