TThe Instructable "Build A Child's Workbench Any Size You Want" shows how to build a child's workbench but not how to construct the bench top. This is the second in a series of Instructables on building inexpensive stout bench tops. All will be suitable for a parent and child to build together even if they have little or no woodworking experience. This bench top was made from a short piece of a glulam beam. Glulan is short for glue laminated timber and is used to carry loads in the houses and other wooden structures.
Because it is laminated from narrower pieces it is more stable and won't twist or warp. It is also quite expensive. The good news is that you can find short pieces at construction sites. Many framing packages for tract houses are put together for several different options that will require different length beams. It is easier to just ship the largest dimension and cut to size. Also sometime beams are damaged or left in the mud. A little scouting around and you will find a piece
Step 1: To Trim or Not to Trim
TThe stub you find will be cut on one side and on the other is left as it came from the supplier. You need to decide if it needs to be trimmed. Shown are to pieces I snagged from a construction site dumpster. The one of the left has an end that does not look all that bad. (It has the industrial re-purposed look to it.) It is 5" thick, 14-3/4" wide, 31-1/2" long, and in my opinion is the perfect size for a bench top. If you are lucky enough to fine such a piece just clean it up with a wire brush, sand the edges, and skip the rest of this discussion.
The one on the right will have to be cut. This will require the use of a hand saw.
Step 2: Acquiring a Hand Saw
First don't panic! Using a hand saw to cut a beam is straightforward if you follow directions and find the right saw.
Maybe you have an old hand saw that belonged to Grandpa or a Great Grand Uncle, or you found for $5 at some flea market. DON"T USE IT! I'll explain why.
Old hand saws were great tools that, if taken care of, do an excellent job. That meant they were used by someone that knew how to take care of it and how to sharpen it. Between that person and you it has been abused and is now dull. A dull saw will ruin the experience and turn you off to hand tools. What you need is a cheap high quality thrown away panel saw.
A panel saw is the type of saw you picture an old carpenters using. The theory of American saw makers was the make the saw from steel that was hard enough for the teeth to hold an edge, but soft enough to sharpen. It was assumed that the user would sharpen the saw. (This would be done before every major job.) Some people would send their saws out to be sharpened. This caused the saw to be sharpen less often and be dull more of the time.
The Japanese saw makers took a different approach. They made saws from extremely hard steel that made the teeth difficult to sharpen. The idea was when the blade got dull, just replace it.
The European and American saw markers have come around to this idea and now make saws that with induction hardened teeth. The result is a saw that is easy to use for the beginner and sharp for a long long time.
Here are two saws I recommend.
This is one of the easiest saws I have ever used and has become the first saw I reach for. It has 8 tpi and is a good general purpose (jack) saw. It is a best seller in England but is hard to find in the United States. They can be found on Ebay for less than $20 (including shipping). My only regret with this saw is that I didn't buy it years earlier. It has a 20" blade which is manageable for a child to use. If a could only have one saw, this would be it.
This would be my second choice. At less than $10 it will do a good job. It has a 15" blade which makes it easy for a child to handle. With 9 tpi is doesn't cut as fast. It should be available locally.
Step 3: Mark and Notch the Cut Line
Use a square to mark cut lines on both the width and thickness of the beam. In this case the bench top will be 5" thick. 17-3/4" wide and 30" long. (Again this is also the ideal dimension of a bench top.) Take a knife and score the lines. It is better to score lightly several times than to score once really deep.
Then make a beveled cut, on the waster side, to form a notch. This gives the saw blade a grove to follow.
Step 4: Holding the Saw
A big part of sawing is to hold it correctly. Grab the handle but leave your index finger out. It will point where you want to cut. Loosely hold the handle a make long easy stokes. (If your knuckles or fingers turn white that you are holding it too hard.) Let the teeth do the work. If the saw binds it is because you are bending a blade a bit. The saw cuts on the push so go easy on the way back. You will get better with practice.
Step 5: Making the Cut
First check to see that there are not staples and nails in the cutting path. These very hard teeth do not handle metal very well. Place the beam on a short bench. Place the saw blade in the grove at the far corner of the beam and pull the blade back three time the set the cut. Then start cutting, making sure to stay on both lines. If you find you are getting off the line just nudge the saw back in place. Long easily strikes. This beam took about 10 minutes for me to cut. Hold the waste side to make sure it doesn't break off as you finish your cut.
Note: Once you get experienced with a hand saw you will find you can go faster than someone with a power saw. I was helping a friend install a deck. While my friend went to get his saw and extension cord I already had half the cuts made. I also didn't have to worry about managing an extension cord so I moved from joist to joist lickity split.
Step 6: Sand and Your Done
Clean up the edges with a bit a sand paper. You are now done. From direcctinss on buling the bench go to the Instructable " Build A Child's Workbench Any Size You Want".
Enjoy your new saw and bench. Remember, you are really making memories.