wood for work bench

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Forum topic by pmelchman posted 05-13-2013 01:24 PM 2518 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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85 posts in 3055 days

05-13-2013 01:24 PM

what are the most ideal wood for work bench? what is not ideal? pros/cons opinions welcome input of any type.


-- Patrick

16 replies so far

View MrFid's profile


873 posts in 1806 days

#1 posted 05-13-2013 01:28 PM

Ideal: hard and heavy (maple, ash, mdf if you’re cheap like me)

Not ideal: tile, laminate, eggs, cardboard, etc.

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

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1454 posts in 2886 days

#2 posted 05-13-2013 01:29 PM

You could use all kinds of woods. Maple is a popular choice, as is doug fir and southern yellow pine (SYP). My bench is made entirely of doug fir and works quite well. For the base you could use whatever you want, and for the top, there seem to be two schools of thought: one is to use a softer wood so that it doesn’t damage your work piece, the other is to go with something good and hard to last a really long time. Either way you will need to periodically flatten your bench top (something I need to do….)

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15093 posts in 2520 days

#3 posted 05-13-2013 01:35 PM

- Hard is good (see link above)
- What you have access to is good; you’ll need plenty
- What you can afford is good; some parts of your bench will be bought (vices, dogs, etc., unless you do wedges. See Shipwright’s amazing bench and leg vise hear on LJs, for example)

I’ve seen benches of big box 2x material as well as LVL. Red and white oak, walnut and paduak too. Maple and cherry. If I were to build another, hickory is what I’d try to find. It’s nasty-tough, and heavy. So hard to work with, though.

My .02.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

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4594 posts in 2252 days

#4 posted 05-13-2013 01:40 PM

I’d use whatever you can get cheaply. Lots of folks have had good luck w/ SYP. I can’t get that here, so I used a combination of ash and poplar on mine.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View redSLED's profile


790 posts in 1794 days

#5 posted 05-13-2013 03:14 PM

I believe most benches are built around decisions like the ones below instead of someone trying to identify an “ideal” wood. Also, in spite of rationalizations I think most folk in the end choose their wood based mostly on #6. overall for their beloved workbench.

1. Budget dependent
2. Length of build time (joining, gluing up exotic/hardwoods or screwing together 2×4s, MDF)
3. Copying existing popular bench designs showcasing certain woods vs. your own ‘hybrid’ design
4. Decision to use available reclaimed wood vs. just buying what you want
5. Your bench top will get a lot of heavy use – therefore hardwood top or at least hardwood edging with “sacrificial” (replaceable) MDF/hardboard/plywood top
6. Personal affinity for certain woods – maple vs. oak, pine vs douglas fir, etc.
7. Weight of bench perhaps (hard vs soft wood) – for mobility/transportability

-- Perfection is the difference between too much and not enough.

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 2853 days

#6 posted 05-13-2013 03:47 PM

What type of bench are you building?

Here’s a blog post I wrote when I was working on my bench:

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View BubbaIBA's profile


384 posts in 2278 days

#7 posted 05-13-2013 03:52 PM

“what are the most ideal wood for work bench?...”

Depends. Are you building a work bench or a piece of furniture to show off your wood working skills. If it is a work bench go with heavy, cheap, and stiff. DF or SYP from the Big Box fits the bill very well. Around a $100 USD you can have the wood for a 24”X96” with base work bench. I built one 30 years ago with the thought that once I had a little more money I would build a “good” bench out of maple or birch. Never needed to, the SYP one is still working just fine and I built another one out of SYP last year that I expect will work as long as I have left.

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Kaleb the Swede

1807 posts in 1871 days

#8 posted 05-13-2013 04:14 PM

I made mine out of all pallet wood, and recycled wood. Most of it was hardwood like maple and oak, that I found in pallets. It’s my first so I thought it would work great for a time. Ideal? If I had to do it again I would build one like Mr. Allan Little did on I like the idea of a larger work surface. His top is a singe piece of 5×5 baltic birch. I’ll save the nice looking wood for furniture.

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View PurpLev's profile


8534 posts in 3550 days

#9 posted 05-13-2013 05:17 PM

ideal = available locally and cheap. Of those that meet this statement, the harder the wood the better (while still remaining available and cheap that is). this could vary greatly depending on location. can be Maple, Birch, Oak, Beech, Yellow Southern Pine (SYP) or similar.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View MrRon's profile


4627 posts in 3145 days

#10 posted 05-13-2013 06:05 PM

The top is the real concern. You can use any wood you like for the base, even plywood. I would stay away from MDF. Legs made of that stuff get easily damaged at the floor.

View pmelchman's profile


85 posts in 3055 days

#11 posted 05-13-2013 06:53 PM

@ brandon,

I have decided on the 21st century workbench done by bob lang

-- Patrick

View RonInOhio's profile


721 posts in 2765 days

#12 posted 05-13-2013 06:57 PM

Ash is a good workbench wood. As is popular. Should be a little easier on the pocketbook
than maple.

If you wanted a hardwood top you could still build the frame out of a softer wood. Easier to mill,more
cost effective, etc.

Hardwood butcher block tops can be purchased if you want to avoid the hassle/time of glue-ups and hand planing your own top.

View sgmdwk's profile


308 posts in 1774 days

#13 posted 05-13-2013 07:20 PM

I just finished a really solid bench with three layers of 3/4 inch oak plywood laminated for the top (horrors!). It is flat, heavy and was much cheaper and easier to make than building a traditional top with no bench to work on. In the future, if I have the inclination, I can use my current bench to build a new top for the really heavy, solid base I built.

-- Dave K.

View waho6o9's profile


8096 posts in 2478 days

#14 posted 05-13-2013 08:05 PM

Grizzly has some nice ready made tops that are cost effective, all things considered.

View BentheViking's profile


1782 posts in 2465 days

#15 posted 05-14-2013 01:58 AM

When I build mine I’m going to use 2x for the frame, pallet wood for the shelf, and plywood topped with hickory flooring and hickory trim. I think that will give me the best balance of cost and durability.

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

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