Wood Alder make a good laminated bench top?

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Forum topic by jcwalleye posted 02-12-2011 04:07 AM 4863 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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306 posts in 3246 days

02-12-2011 04:07 AM

Topic tags/keywords: bench top laminated top alder

I’m still trying to decide on which wood to use for laminating up a bench top. It’s got to be first affordable and second durable and stable. What are your thoughts on using Alder? It’s fairly inexpensive, fairly clear, there’s great availability in my area, and I can get 8/4, 6/4, or 5/4. But I don’t know if it too soft or unstable.

I thought of going with Ash but there is just no selection locally. I sure welcome your advice and experience.

-- Trees, a wonderful gift --Joe--

8 replies so far

View KMT's profile


603 posts in 2836 days

#1 posted 02-12-2011 05:38 AM

Mine is alder. I only just built it about about 45 days ago, so far it seems good. I was looking for something economical but better than just 2x lumber.

Martin BC

-- - Martin

View Don's profile


517 posts in 3246 days

#2 posted 02-12-2011 06:11 AM

Alders a good choice for benches. It’s plenty hard enough and affordable. I wouldn’t use an open pore wood like Ash. I used Poplar for my own bench because in my area it’s really cheap and readily available. If alder were cheaper here I would have used it instead.

-- Don - I wood work if I could. Redmond WA.

View Glen Peterson's profile

Glen Peterson

556 posts in 3229 days

#3 posted 02-14-2011 05:02 AM

I’d have to respectfully disagree with my fellow LJ’s. I don’t think alder is a particularly good choice for a woodworking bench top. When I lived in King County Washington I used alder a lot and it’s relatively soft. Your bench top will be covered with dings from dropping tools, etc. I really shouldn’t be critical. I was working on a 2’ x 4’ bench with a plywood top for many years before I made my first serious bench last year. It has a maple top. It’s hard as a rock, but it also has a few dings and bruises. But it’s a workbench afterall, not a tea table.
Good luck with your bench whatever you choose.

-- Glen

View rwyoung's profile


409 posts in 3645 days

#4 posted 02-14-2011 05:10 AM

It will work just fine. Soft or hard, so long as the bench is heavy and doesn’t bounce around. One side benefit to a softer top means if you were to slip and drop a project piece on the top, the top is more likely to be dinged up than the work piece. The obsession with using hard maple for benchtops puzzles me. I’d rather have a ding or dent in the top than a smashed corner of a drawer front. Just like I’m puzzled by the idea of using polyurethene on a benchtop making it slick. Flat and a little bit “grippy” works wonders.

-- Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3285 posts in 3282 days

#5 posted 02-14-2011 05:48 AM

My bench is butcher-block birch. I couldn’t afford maple. Alder is one of the softest of the hardwoods. On a personal note, I just built a knick-knack shelf of alder (I like the color when tung oil is applied) and I had the most serious allergic reaction to any wood to date- eyes swelling shut and all. I guess you might be all right, it depends on the person. I personally prefer a hard bench, but YMMV. Whatever you do, as mentioned above, make it heavy enough to keep from having your work bench end up as a dance-partner, that’s really annoying.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View Don's profile


517 posts in 3246 days

#6 posted 02-14-2011 05:51 AM

I totally agree with rwyoung. I don’tcare if I ding my bench, it’s a bench. I do care if I ding my projects. So I want my bench to be a softer wood than my projects.

-- Don - I wood work if I could. Redmond WA.

View jcwalleye's profile


306 posts in 3246 days

#7 posted 02-17-2011 12:13 AM

It’s good to learn all the advantages and disadvantages put forth for using Alder. It will help me make a better decision. I didn’t realize it was so soft but then again maybe that’s not much of a disadvantage. Are there are any other characteristics to Alder I should be aware of?

Thank you all for taking the time to reply.

-- Trees, a wonderful gift --Joe--

View QuarterSawn's profile


7 posts in 3633 days

#8 posted 02-17-2011 12:41 AM

I use knotty alder almost exclusively for cabinetry and furniture. It is kind of the “trendy” wood to use in the Pacific Northwest. It is rustic, yet can be finished beautifully with the right techniques. It is definitely not a hard wood and is relatively lightweight (not like pine, but more like maple). Anything you drop on it will leave a mark, so you need to add a bullet proof finish or just be okay with a nick here or there. As atomjack mentioned, if you have ANY allergies to wood you may want to avoid alder. It can definitely mess with your sinuses. I alway wear a respirator when working with alder.

Having said that, if it is cheap and available in your area (it’s not incredibly cheap where it is grown) then I would encourage you to go for it. Make sure it is nearly bone dry before milling and glue up. You will have one heck of a benchtop and I think you will be happy with the appearance.

-- Dwight

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