At some point in December, I decided I’d be building my bench out of Douglas Fir. As stated in Chris’s book, Doug Fir is stiff and moderately hard. It isn’t that heavy, but given the amount of material I’ll be using on the bench, the final product should be heavy enough. Also as recommended in the book, I realized that a big box store would be a fine place to get the lumber. 2×12s are readily available at every Home Depot and Lowes near me. I have a good table saw, joiner and planer – I’m preapred to do some hardcore stock preparation.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a pick-up truck. My wife and I have a mid-sized SUV and a Jeep Wrangler. Neither is safely able to bring home 12 foot lengths of anything. So I debated whether I should A) rent a truck from the store or B) examine each board at the store, layout a cut line, have it rough cut there and then put the pieces in our car. I didn’t want to spend hours at Home Depot carefully going over every board to try to strategically lay out a cut around all the knots and imperfections. I’m sort of anal about things, so I figured I’d spend forever combing over each board (which is why it is something I’d rather do at home, instead of in the aisle at the store). Therefore, I decided to go with option A. I’ve rented a truck at Home Depot many times before, so I know the drill well at this point.
I have a job that affords me literally no free time during the week. And I have two small kids, a house, errands, etc. that give me very minimal free time on the weekends. My first bit of free time was on Jan 3 – I was off from work, and the kids were in daycare…SCORE! I went to my nearest Home Depot, but their selection of 12’ 2×12s was horrible. They had some respectable looking 16’ lengths, but I didn’t think it would be too safe to put 16 footers on the back of the truck. I then went to Lowes, but their selection was even worse. I was frustrated and angry, so I left. I was defeated and without lumber. Workbench: 1, Andy: 0.
I then went back to Home Depot the next weekend, hoping they had dropped a new bundle of 12 footers down in the depleted bottom rack. But they hadn’t. I was in a time crunch, so I didn’t want to ask them drop a new bundle. Again I left. Again defeated. Again without lumber. Workbench: 2, Andy: 0.
My next bit of free time was this past Monday, MLK day. Again I was off from work, and daycare was open. This means I had another precious free day. I was determined to make sure I used the free time wisely and did not let the day end without me getting the stuff – no excuses. One of the benefits of living in the country’s most densely populated state is that within a 10 mile radius, there are literally at least 12 Home Depots or Lowes. I went to my go-to Home Depot. They still had the same worthless selection of 12 footers down on the rack. So I went to another Home Depot. They had a good selection to choose from, but both of their rental trucks were out. I then went to a third Home Depot. As I drove up, I saw they had two rental trucks in the parking lot – it was looking good so far. But their entire batch of 12 footers looked like it sat out in the rain for a year – no longer looking good. At that point, it was near lunch, and I was hungry and frustrated. I figured the only remedy to both problems was a sandwich. I figured I’d come home, eat lunch, and then go back to the second Home Depot. By that point, I figured at least one of their trucks should be back.
After lunch, I went back to the second Home Depot. I saw both rental trucks in their parking lot. Victory appeared to be within reach this time. Knowing the process for renting a truck, I walked into the rental area with my license, credit card and insurance card in hand. After looking at my insurance card, the guy said they can’t take my insurance! He might as well have kicked me in the balls. I had rented trucks from Home Depot probably 10 times before, most recently this past summer, and I never had any problems. He said it is a new policy. Apparently my particular insurance company doesn’t extend coverage to commercial rentals, and never did. However, up until recently, Home Depot never enforced NOT taking that insurance. So I called my insurer from the Home Depot parking lot. Sure enough, they don’t cover commercial rentals. This means I can’t rent from ANY Home Depot or Lowes…EVER! This was not good. So I left. Once again defeated. Once again woodless. Workbench: 3, Andy: 0. Things were not going as I had planned.
After going home and wallowing for a while, I realized that if I don’t get the stuff that day, I likely never would. So I decided I had no option but to spend the time carefully examining each board at the store, marking a rough cut, and having them cut it. Again, I always knew this was an option, but I figured it would take me hours of analyzing each board – something I would have rather done at home instead of in the aisle at Home Depot – before cutting them down.
After feeling dejected for a while, I man’d up and went back to the second Home Depot (the one with the good selection of stuff). The process ended up not being as bad or long as I thought. I took about 30 minutes to cull through their stack of 12’ 2×12s to pick the eight best, and then another 30 minutes to examine and mark a rough cut for each board. Add another 20 minutes to actually buy the wood, then have the guy cross cut each piece, and it was under an hour and a half all said and done. Much better than I expected. So $132 and about 90 minutes later, I loaded the stuff into the back of our car, and home I went. I should mention that I had to take out one of the two car seats to make room. I absolutely despise putting in and taking out car seats. Call me lazy, but that was another reason I wanted to rent a truck instead – I friggin’ hate moving car seats. I know, you probably think this whole car seat side story is a waste of words as far as this blog is concerned. But my loathing of having to move car seats is strong enough to warrant a few sentences here in my opinion. Sorry.
The wood was already kiln dried, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to stack it and let it acclimate and dry out a little more. And besides, I’m not going to have time to actually start working on the bench for the next week or two anyway.
So that’s it for now. The elusive lumber is finally in my possession. I feel like I’m over a big hump, and now the project should hopefully be enjoyable going forward. I was starting to develop a complex, sort of like the big box store gods did not want me to get my stuff. But in the end, I won. I think…
-- Andy Panko, Edison NJ, www.pankowoodworks.com