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]