Workbench Lumber Questions

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Forum topic by Infernal2 posted 07-02-2012 04:57 AM 1028 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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107 posts in 1617 days

07-02-2012 04:57 AM

My shop space is coming available this week and my temporary workbench is going to shortly be replaced though I am still trying to decide which form. My real question is regarding bench material. I’ve read and viewed any number of books and websites now regarding the wood and pursuing the most bang for my meager bucks, I’ve decided on Southern Yellow Pine. It’s available in my area in spades and its just a little more expensive than dirt.

HOWEVER, (big however) is said quality of Southern Yellow Pine. While I have a few hardwood dealers in my area their stock is priced rather big for my wallet but the cheaply available SYP, even in the larger 2×12x16 is about as clear as mud. No pin holes on these buddies, no, we are talking shotgun hole sized knots, even on the best quality. Really, about the clearest I can find in my area is KDAT and unfortunately, its treated (but boy is it perfectly clear and perfectly expensive).

Has anyone building recently experienced a similar issue? What have you done to bridge the gap? I’ve used everything from Woodfinder to the Forestry service in an attempt to meet these demands. What does “acceptable” look like to you in SYP?

So I’m rapidly approaching wit’s end on the future of this build

4 replies so far

View jmos's profile


716 posts in 1789 days

#1 posted 07-02-2012 12:06 PM

Have you tried saw mills? I’m surprised you can’t find SYP in your neck of the woods. Up by me, in Jersey, no one has SYP.

Barring that, you might need to start thinking of alternatives. To paraphrase Schwarz, you want “big, dry, and cheap.” Pretty much anything can make a good bench; both hardwood and softwood have advantages.

I ended up using LVL, which is made out of 1/8” SYP plys laminated together. It comes in beams and is used to support large spans in construction. I blogged the build if you’re interested.

-- John

View benchbuilder's profile


265 posts in 1870 days

#2 posted 07-02-2012 12:07 PM

Try going with shorter stock, 8’ and 10’ x 10” and 12” wide, look for stock that when its ripped you can get clear faces about an inch from each edge. The bench top you can do this with just one edge, the top edge of the workbench. The base should have clear face stock for the legs and stretchers, but if you can’t find it, than as close as possible, its not that big an issue for the base. Just plan your glue ups so the worst or knotiest is in the center and not seen. I would still go with the SYP and dig through the piles to find the best of what you need, if its cheap, buy extra to get enough clear or near clear. Use a hardwood around the bench top. You could even do the same for the base legs and stretchers to accent the knots. You may even have to drive to the next town or towns to find what you need, don’t give up, theres always a way to do it. Good luck with your build.

View Infernal2's profile


107 posts in 1617 days

#3 posted 07-03-2012 01:48 AM

Thanks for the help so far.

@JMOS, Yep, I’ve tried sawmills, treatment plants, and sawmizer owners, none of which can provide a decent quality SYP. I considered LVL which I have in my area but the cost is a little more than I’m willing to pay. To be honest, for the cost of LVL I can probably just go for a classic workbench hardwood.

@benchbuilder, I’ve considered going smaller stock as well but while the larger rips aren’t attractive, the smaller 2xs look like they’ve been chewed by a dog. I’m heading to southern Georgia in a week and may end up picking up my SYP there instead.

View WDHLT15's profile


1562 posts in 1896 days

#4 posted 07-03-2012 01:53 AM


If you come through Middle Georgia, come by and see me. I have some very nice SYP that I cut off my own property. Trees were 75 years old. I will send you a PM.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

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