My Workbench #1: Lumber for the Top

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Blog entry by Eric posted 01-20-2008 05:14 PM 1446 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of My Workbench series Part 2: Questions About the Top »

One of the hardest things about building anything here is finding nice wood. It seems that if you want anything better than standard construction lumber, you’re up the creek. That’s bizarre in a country that does so much logging and has so much nice exotic wood (I guess it’s mostly exported).

At least for a bench, standard construction lumber is just fine. Since I’ll be using 2×6s for my legs, I needed something that would match it in thickness (I’ll be tenoning the legs up into the bench top). Thus these lovely 2×4s. But what kind of wood are they? I had to do some research to find out.

The most common lumber you can get at the local hardware stores is meranti and merbau. These are two different types, if I’m not mistaken, of the same species, Shorea. I thought that this would be what I’d be building my bench out of. Turns out that the stuff most readily available at the particular shop I went to (after checking out a few others) was kempas (scientific name koompassia malaccensis).

It’s a beautiful wood, in my opinion, and maybe this is in part due to the dark orange color and also because of its interlocked grain (which I had to look up to even know what that meant). Apparently, interlocked grain is pretty common for tropical woods. The one thing I didn’t know about was the difference between sapwood and heartwood. Only the heartwood has the nice dark orange color. The sapwood is pale and bland. I do have several boards of sapwood, and thought I had different wood altogether. Now I know. So I may have to go back and get some more heartwood, or just use the sapwood for my stretchers.

Here’s a pic of a board just as I got it from the hardware shop:


And here’s a portion of it after having been planed:


I look forward to seeing how this will look sanded down and with some oil on it!

[This entry was adapted from my blog Adventures in Woodworking, December 2007 and January 2008]

-- Eric at

5 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4160 days

#1 posted 01-20-2008 05:23 PM

a beautiful start :)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View gizmodyne's profile


1779 posts in 4090 days

#2 posted 01-20-2008 06:31 PM

Very cool. Thanks for the pics.

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke."

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3988 days

#3 posted 01-20-2008 06:56 PM

Great start. Looking forward to the rest.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Tomcat1066's profile


942 posts in 3796 days

#4 posted 01-21-2008 01:22 PM

Nice lumber! I can’t wait to see the finished bench :D

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View Jeff's profile


1010 posts in 4094 days

#5 posted 01-21-2008 03:46 PM

Yep, nice start. Nice chronicle of your adventures so far at your site as well. Looking forward to it.

-- Jeff, St. Paul, MN

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