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What size lumber to start with for workbench top?

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Forum topic by BerBer5985 posted 12-21-2011 05:26 PM 3265 views 1 time favorited 34 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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BerBer5985

445 posts in 1882 days


12-21-2011 05:26 PM

I see a lot of people going different routes on the their workbenches in terms of what size stock to start with. I saw a bench that was done in douglas fir using 6×8 timbers, but I worry about running boards that long through the jointer and getting them right. I’ve determined that in an effort to save cost, I think fir is what I’ll be using for the top since it’s readily available here. If I can find southern yellow pine, I’ll use that, but so far it’s looking like fir. I was originally thinking just 2×4’s, but checking out some other benches, I think I want a 4-5” top. What do most people use and what are the recommended steps for milling pieces that large?

-- Greg, Owner, Quality Carpet One, www.qualitycarpetonecrofton.com


34 replies so far

View ChesapeakeBob's profile

ChesapeakeBob

365 posts in 2945 days


#1 posted 12-21-2011 05:51 PM

Greg, 2×4’s on edge would make an excellent top. Or, you could edge glue 2×6’s or 2×8’s. If you go this route, I’d use dowel pins or biscuits to maintain your alignment. What did decide on a vise? If it were me, I’d try to find a used Columbian on Ebay or Craig’s List.

-- Chesapeake Bob, Southern Maryland

View richgreer's profile

richgreer

4541 posts in 2537 days


#2 posted 12-21-2011 06:03 PM

A lot depends on your budget and your objectives for the work bench.

If you want a smooth flat surface, I would suggest looking at MDF. This workbench may be a good reference point for you.

http://www.woodsmithshop.com/episodes/season2/206/

You will see that you can download the plans for this workbench.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Sawkerf's profile

Sawkerf

1730 posts in 2531 days


#3 posted 12-21-2011 06:10 PM

My benchtop is essentially a torsion box with 2×6 framing and a piece of 3/4” ACX screwed to the framing. I built the framework 15 years ago and have replaced the ply 2-3 times over the years. It ain’t pretty, but it sure works good. – lol

-- Adversity doesn't build character...................it reveals it.

View helluvawreck's profile

helluvawreck

23152 posts in 2329 days


#4 posted 12-21-2011 06:20 PM

If it were me I’d go with 2-3/4 inch squares in a hardwood. These same squares would also work for the legs. Your rails might be 1-1/2×6 or even 8 inches.

I ran across a pretty good deal on some workbenches that are sold by Grizzly the other day. My son in law’s father got this model from Grizzly and I got to see it first hand and for $575 and at 338 lbs I was very impressed with it because it seemed to be well made.

helluvawreck

https://woodworkingexpo.wordpress.com

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View Don W's profile

Don W

17960 posts in 2030 days


#5 posted 12-21-2011 06:52 PM

I can’t improve on what Ryan posted in another thread.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.net

View crank49's profile

crank49

3981 posts in 2433 days


#6 posted 12-21-2011 07:38 PM

You build what works for you.
A work bench is a very personal thing.
What I like and what works for me might be totally wrong for someone else.

Having said that, I would strongly recommend reading the “Workbench Design Book” by Chris Schwarz.
http://lumberjocks.com/reviews/product/1781
I was half way through with my bench when I ran across this book.
I made a few adjustments to my design based on some of his recommendations and am glad I did.

I would suggest that anything over 3 1/2” thick will not fit some of the vises on the market.

-- Michael: Hillary has a long list of accomplishments, though most DAs would refer to them as felonies.

View Bertha's profile

Bertha

13003 posts in 2155 days


#7 posted 12-21-2011 07:45 PM

^agree with all above. I’d be sheepish about putting massive timbers through any of my middle-of-the-road equipment. I’m planning to build mine a bit thicker than most at 6” thick. I think it’s generally accepted that 3-4” of hardwood is typical. Of course with the width, how much pain can you endure in the form of glue-up. If you use thinner laminations, you can incorporate really nice square dogholes. I plan on running a 1” lamination along my bench hole rows and 3” thick everywhere else. Thanks for this great post.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View JoeMcGlynn's profile

JoeMcGlynn

219 posts in 1816 days


#8 posted 12-21-2011 07:46 PM

I’m building mine starting with some large (6×9) doug fir beams.
http://mcglynnonmaking.wordpress.com/tag/workbenches/

I think you bench design is driven by what kind of work you’re going to do. My intent is to do a lot of hand tool work initially, so I’m building something heavy so it doesn’t move around, with appropriate work holding for planing stock and cutting joinery. I need to draw up what I’m planning now that I’m getting close to having the beginnings of a bench top :)

-- Blog: http://mcglynnonmaking.wordpress.com/

View SnowFrog's profile

SnowFrog

102 posts in 2009 days


#9 posted 12-21-2011 07:53 PM

I have been planning to build somekind of bench/assembly table for a while too and find that how to build the top to be the most wide open of discussions. Solid or Torsion box, Hard wood, soft wood, MDF, Plywood. It is litterally biwildering.

I think you must first tell a bit more about your design and useage intentions. A bench you will use to bash and bang things on may not look the same as a bench that will be your assembly table. When you say work bench it is not the same picture that appears in everybody’s head.

As was said above it is a very personal thing.

-- One can dream, about a passion not yet fully fulfilled!

View JoeMcGlynn's profile

JoeMcGlynn

219 posts in 1816 days


#10 posted 12-21-2011 08:06 PM

One other thought, I’d recommend this book by Christopher Schwarz on workbench design.
http://www.lostartpress.com/product_p/bk-wbd01.htm

It provides dimensions and construction details for a bunch of different bench designs, along with an analysis of how well the bench worked for it’s intended purpose. I have most of the different “workbench” books and this is my favorite.

-- Blog: http://mcglynnonmaking.wordpress.com/

View BerBer5985's profile

BerBer5985

445 posts in 1882 days


#11 posted 12-21-2011 08:07 PM

I have that book on order. Should have it soon! ;) I’ll be reading that and his new one. Came in a package with a DVD. I really don’t want to use MDF to be honest. If I’m going to go through the effort of building the bench, I’d rather use solid wood. Just a personal preference. I had originally intended to use some hardwood flooring that had been taken up and i have a lot of longer boards left to using those to make the bench top, but it would only leave me with a 2” thick bench by the time I get done milling it all down. So my next option would be SYP (if I can find it) or Fir. My initial was just to buy 2×4’s and plane them square and glue them up, would leave me around 3 1/4” thick I would imagine. After doing my research, I think a solidly built leg vice with a wooden screw from Lake Erie Toolworks would do quite well for many years to come.

-- Greg, Owner, Quality Carpet One, www.qualitycarpetonecrofton.com

View Don W's profile

Don W

17960 posts in 2030 days


#12 posted 12-21-2011 08:20 PM

First I’d like to voice my opinion on torsion benches. As an assembly table, outfeed table or those types of tables its probably fine, but a real woodworking workbench needs to be heavy. Sturdy is not enough.

My bench is 2 1/2” Elm with a 5” maple skirt about 4” wide. I’m not saying thicker isn’t nicer, but I tried to move my bench just a few inches a while back, it plenty heavy enough for any type of woodworking that I’ll ever do, and I’ll bet I’m rougher on my stuff than 90% of the folks here. (I’m not very delicate when at work)

So, I’m not saying it’s not a good idea to make a bench that’s thicker, I would if I had the lumber and had it to do again. It’s just cool. I’m just suggesting it’s not by any means a requirement and if you’re more realistic than I typically am, 2 to 2 1/2 inch with a nice skirt will server you fine longer than you will need it to.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.net

View Bertha's profile

Bertha

13003 posts in 2155 days


#13 posted 12-21-2011 08:22 PM

^I’m with Don, if I don’t injure several people moving mine, it’s not heavy enough. :)

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View BerBer5985's profile

BerBer5985

445 posts in 1882 days


#14 posted 12-21-2011 08:55 PM

True, I will probably make myself a little joinery bench or something like I’ve seen with that oak flooring, but after trying to pull some of the nails out, it’d take weeks just to get the nails pulled out of the flooring knowing that by the time they’re milled, I’ll be working with 5/8” thick by 2” tall pieces. You need ALOT of those to make a 24” wide workbench, like 40 pieces roughly. That’s ALOT of nail pulling. Sooo, I’m thinking 2×4 or 4×6 lumber perhaps. Would be easier, but I just have a hardtime trying to fathom running a timer that large through my old craftsman jointer. That’s a heavy beast for a smallish jointer. I may use that oak flooring to glue up some panels and make some boxes or something.

-- Greg, Owner, Quality Carpet One, www.qualitycarpetonecrofton.com

View jmos's profile

jmos

736 posts in 1832 days


#15 posted 12-21-2011 09:27 PM

I second the recommendation for Chris Schwarz new book; very informative. He has pro’s and con’s for hard wood and soft, including that softwood tops are easier to flatten and more stable. His final recommendation is “The best workbench material is the biggest, driest stuff that you can buy right now. End of story.” (page 25).

Personally, I decided to use one idea from the book and go with LVL for the top. It’s the biggest, best stuff I can readily get in my area. My other option is 4/4 hardwood, and that is just too many layers and too much margin for error.

You gotta do what you gotta do.

-- John

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