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Workbench Top Timber ??

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Forum topic by Joshua Morrissey posted 09-01-2010 01:11 PM 5047 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Joshua Morrissey

12 posts in 1579 days


09-01-2010 01:11 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question resource

I decided to build a new workbench and I have some ideas for the timber to use, but am not really sure. I am thinking of using long-leaf pine for the whole bench but i am having trouble finding some around. It would be extremely helpful if someone could give me some ideas/alternatives. It can’t be overly expensive but it needs to be durable enough to build a bench out of it????? HELP!!! (ps: not plywood/mdf)

-- Josh


16 replies so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27251 posts in 2566 days


#1 posted 09-01-2010 02:02 PM

Joshua, you might want to consider southern yellow pine. It is readily available at all the big box stores and it relatively inexpensive. This is what Chris Schwarz recommends in his book Workbenches From Design and Theory To Construction and Use.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View TheDane's profile

TheDane

3972 posts in 2407 days


#2 posted 09-01-2010 02:04 PM

I’m sorta partial to Douglas Fir … http://lumberjocks.com/projects/18261 and http://lumberjocks.com/projects/18929

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Rileysdad's profile

Rileysdad

110 posts in 2022 days


#3 posted 09-01-2010 02:34 PM

Joshua, I don’t know what types of wood are used in dimensional lumber in your part of Australia, but the characteristics of a wood for a workbench are resistance to bending and denting. It should also be fairly dense. Check out the 2×10s and 2×12s at your lumber yard. The idea here is to use the wood that’s available. The difference between the #1 best wood and the 10th best wood is not a big factor in the way the bench functions.

The Schwarz book is a good resource.

-- Measure twice, cut once, buy extra stock.

View Gregn's profile

Gregn

1642 posts in 1727 days


#4 posted 09-01-2010 06:59 PM

Not sure how good it is but it seems as Cypress Pine is a common native lumber there.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View Joshua Morrissey's profile

Joshua Morrissey

12 posts in 1579 days


#5 posted 09-01-2010 10:50 PM

thanks for the comments everyone. (scott bryan) i read about long leaf pine in a popular woodworking book written by Christopher Schwarz that says long-leaf pine is just another name for southern yellow pine so im still looking for other options.

-- Josh

View Joshua Morrissey's profile

Joshua Morrissey

12 posts in 1579 days


#6 posted 09-01-2010 10:58 PM

and i have seen at the workbench book by Schwarz before, i plan to buy it soon.

-- Josh

View phlepper's profile

phlepper

21 posts in 1997 days


#7 posted 09-02-2010 01:10 AM

Joshua,

I know you said you didn’t want MDF or ply, but if you’re having trouble finding inexpensive alternatives, you should think about MDF. I’ve created two workbenches with MDF (two slabs glued together for 1 1/2” thickness). Tough, durable, and inexpensive. Any issues with it in the future and you can easily replace it (I’ve never had to do that, though). If you want significantly more “heft” to it, you could go for 3” thick (four slabs), but two have been plenty rigid for me.

Here’s a picture of one of mine (with tail vise and bench dog holes):

MDF Workbench Top

See my blog entry about it here for the complete details.

phlepper

-- "A hammer in search of a nail..." (thelepperts.wordpress.com)

View Gofor's profile

Gofor

470 posts in 2531 days


#8 posted 09-02-2010 03:16 AM

Long leaf pine and SYP (southern yellow pine) are not the same. Here in North Carolina, long-leaf used to be plentiful, and was used in a lot of construction up to about 50 years ago. All the long-leafs were logged out, and now are a protected species in this state. They grow slower, are much harder and rot resistant than southern yellow pine, which now pretty much means loblolly pine, a faster growing tree, but still slower than slash pine which is now categorized in the SPF (spruce, fir, pine) classification. The loblollies are now getting more scarce, so its harder to find SYP anymore.

SYP will harden some over time, and will make a decent but soft surfaced bench. It is not too much harder and no stronger than cypress. I prefer oak, which is almost as cheap if you go to the sawyer.

To give you an idea of how long leaf pine (which is redder in color by the way) hardens, my Mother-in-Law’s house was built in the early 1950’s by my FIL (who died before finishing the trim inside). When I installed casings and trim on the interior doorways, I used a 20 oz framing hammer to drive in the finishing nails (had to use #8s). It was either that or pre-drill the holes, and after breaking 4 drill bits, I just went with stronger nails and a bigger hammer.

That said, there are many imports now from South America in the pine family (arauco is one) that are harder. You may find something in NSW that is dense and stable coming from Indonesia or South America that we here in the US can’t afford due to import costs. Probably a tree that takes 20-30 years before it gets to a 12” diameter trunk.

Go

-- Go http://ncwoodworker.net/pp/showgallery.php?cat=500&ppuser=730

View Joshua Morrissey's profile

Joshua Morrissey

12 posts in 1579 days


#9 posted 09-02-2010 09:56 AM

Thanks for the info ‘Gofor’ i really learnt a bit from that. Ive also looked at Cypress Pine and it is relatively common around NSW. I think Cypress is definitely another option. And good idea ‘Phlepper’, Although i would prefer a more natural look to my bench. An aesthetic view really. I will continue to research.

-- Josh

View Joshua Morrissey's profile

Joshua Morrissey

12 posts in 1579 days


#10 posted 09-02-2010 01:11 PM

Merbau??? i would rather a lighter colour timber although it is a very common timber locally. Any thoughts?
I also looked up Cypress Pine and it is the exactly what i need although unfortunately it is common to have knots all the way through it…not good for a workbench :(

-- Josh

View Chuck's profile

Chuck

27 posts in 1987 days


#11 posted 09-02-2010 03:36 PM

I picked up a bunch of 10/4 hickory with the though of turning it into a workbench. However, I’m not sure how easy it is to work with, but seems dense enough to make a heavy workbench.

-- Chuck, Preston CT, http://www.curtishome.net/

View Gofor's profile

Gofor

470 posts in 2531 days


#12 posted 09-03-2010 02:29 AM

Chuck: Hickory will make a really tough work bench surface, but will be somewhat tough to work with also. (A lot like kiln-dried white oak). It will splinter readily when planed against the grain, so, if possible, align the surface grain on your top so that all the grain runs in the same direction. Also will dull tools quickly, but so will white oak, hard maple, etc. 10/4 should be plenty thick to make a top, and remember that the bottom side only has to be milled straight and flat where a cross-member or support is going. You can flatten the bottom side if you want, but remember that only the areas of support or where a vise, etc mounts are the critical areas. This will apply if, like me, you end up using hand tools to do a lot of the work because your power tools aren’t big enough.

Go

-- Go http://ncwoodworker.net/pp/showgallery.php?cat=500&ppuser=730

View Joshua Morrissey's profile

Joshua Morrissey

12 posts in 1579 days


#13 posted 09-03-2010 09:02 AM

Tasmanian Oak?

-- Josh

View Joshua Morrissey's profile

Joshua Morrissey

12 posts in 1579 days


#14 posted 09-04-2010 06:01 AM

Forget Tas Oak. Ive been researching a lot and i have sent an email to many sawmills/timber specialists regarding A quote on White ash. Ive seen many projects on this website using this material and it fits the requirements. Hopefully I will hear back for the quote. By the way if anyone is interested i can post a google sketchup drawing of the bench.

-- Josh

View JimDaddyO's profile

JimDaddyO

288 posts in 1823 days


#15 posted 09-04-2010 01:18 PM

have you given any thought to useing a timberstrand or paralam wood…straight and square! Made from strands of wood glued together under high pressure.

-- I still have all my fingers

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