How should I incorporate this Ipe into my workbench build?

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Forum topic by AndySensei posted 11-09-2013 02:41 PM 1150 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 1145 days

11-09-2013 02:41 PM

Topic tags/keywords: bench ipe workbench advice vise lamination

I have a choice to make in the near future: How do I use the of Ipe my neighbor gave me?

Some background info: I’ve been living in Japan for the past 7 years, and jumped back into woodworking around a year ago. It has been tough sourcing quality hardwood here for reasonable prices. My neighbor has been air drying some Ipe for a while (leftovers/rejects from his workplace), and offered to give me a whole bunch, because he is an awesome guy. I have 18 boards, rough, about 6’ long general 2×4 dimensions.

My next project is a proper woodworking bench. I bought and read Chris Shwartz’s newest book on workbenches, and have come up with a few design ideas. I would like to laminate the top using the Ipe, as it would give me an approx. 20”-24” wide by about 72” long benchtop. After researching and practicing some machining on the rough cut boards, I realize this will be a bit of a challenge. I might be up for it, as this is a good opportunity to make a heavy, hard, sturdy bench. It would also be good to use a lamination for the top because I want to install a wagon vise using a shoulder vise screw I ordered. I have a medium sized old face vise I plan on using as well. I would LOVE to make a leg vise, but can’t afford the hardware right now. I guess I could always retrofit one in the future (when I feel like punishing myself with that task). The legs and stretchers will probably be reclaimed framing lumber (4×6s most likely) since I have a source for free demolition wood from time to time.

I would also consider making the legs and stretchers out of the Ipe, and making the top out of some large Douglas Fir 4×6 posts, or Japanese Red Pine 4×6s. The problem would be installing the wagon vise. I’m wondering if using 3 4×6s and a few 2×4s (to install the sliding wagon vise runners) would be a good idea?

I could always just make the entire bench out of cheap framing lumber, and use the Ipe for some outdoor furniture. But I feel like that is giving up on a challenge. Plus an Ipe bench will be pretty badass.

BTW, I have no planer or jointer. I have been slowly using a router planing sled to flatten the Ipe, and using my #6 fore plane (with a fence) as a jointer plane. This is not the most ideal situation. The boards will get surfaced eventually, but its slow going.

ANY suggestions would be welcome. I’m sure I’ll figure out a solution eventually, and all options are still open. I have plenty of time to decide on what to do, as that lumber won’t be dressed for a little while.


3 replies so far

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8159 posts in 3069 days

#1 posted 11-09-2013 03:31 PM

I prefer a light colored bench because of the way it reflects light.

View a1Jim's profile


115177 posts in 2998 days

#2 posted 11-09-2013 03:48 PM

Hi Andrew
Ipe is a tough,hard wood that holds up to a lot of abuse, as a bench top it may be very hard for you to leval with the tools you have. If your thinking of using the Ipe on top of fir you will have to consider that the fir will have more wood movement than the Ipe. 4×6” material sounds like a bit of an overkill for your top and even more so if you laminate Ipe on top of it,many folks that want to use 2×4 fir on edge as a bench top . A good work bench needs to have a fair amount of weight to it but you don’t want it so heavy you will need a fork lift to move it. :)
All said and done I think your idea about using the Ipe for out door furniture might be the best route to go.

-- Custom furniture

View shopdog's profile


575 posts in 2907 days

#3 posted 11-09-2013 05:07 PM

I agree with Jim.
I build Ipe decks for a living, so I know how tough it is to work with…
If you had a jointer and planer, you could mill up some decent boards with your rough stock.
Without those machines, it would be EXTREMELY difficult to make a good bench top with it.
I build things with my leftover Ipe.
Maybe that would be a better way to use your Ipe.

-- Steve--

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