Woodworking Bench - What Wood to Use?

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Forum topic by skogie1 posted 02-23-2015 10:51 PM 1250 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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117 posts in 1389 days

02-23-2015 10:51 PM

Two years ago I built a bench and as it turns out the plan I used off the internet stunk. I didn’t know enough then to see that the top would warp and flex but now it’s a mess. I want to build another top this year and I’m wondering what wood people like for their benches. I know Maple is popular but it’s also expensive. Anyone use Doug Fir? I’m leaning toward gluing up 2×4’s of Doug Fir but I want to hear what other people have to say first. Is it too soft? For that matter, how much does tabletop hardness really matter in the real world once you’re using the bench? Thanks in advance.

11 replies so far

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7954 posts in 2175 days

#1 posted 02-23-2015 10:53 PM

Buy 2×10’s and rip out the bench from either side of the pith. Much better than just buying 2×4’s.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

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5675 posts in 2236 days

#2 posted 02-23-2015 10:56 PM

Christopher Schwarz gives the best advice for workbench building material.

The material should be cheap, easy to get, heavy (if possible), dry-ish and heavy (if possible). After a few years of use, your bench will look like every other used bench – beat up, broke in and awesome.

Use whatever you can get that’s cheap and accessible. My main bench is SPF construction lumber and Paul Sellers has built many benches from box store 2×4’s. My small travelling bench was made from red oak trucking skids that I got dirt cheap. Both benches work well.

Some people want a hard, dense bench because it will wear for a long time. Others want a softer wood so if you drop a project piece, it’s more likely to damage the bench instead of the project. No right or wrong answer for bench material.

Edit: +1 to jmart’s advice if you go the Doug Fir route. When I built my SPF bench, I looked at the 2×12’s, and 2×10’s, but the 2×8’s at the store had the best grain and fewest knots, so that’s what I used. 2×4’s are usually made from fast growing small trees, while wider lumber is made from older, more mature trees.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

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Richard H

489 posts in 1706 days

#3 posted 02-23-2015 11:02 PM

I used 4X6’s (get the better quality ones from the lumber yard). Fewer glue lines and big heavy timbers. Four of them glued together (~22”) is a good width to. They also make really big legs if you use the cutoffs for that. I consider it a temporary bench in that I want to build a much bigger version with different vise options when I get more room but it does what I need it to for now. I have no complaints about the Douglas Fir being to soft.

It’s a whole lot better than my lighter weight bench I had before when planning and is sturdy, heavy and solid.

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117 posts in 1389 days

#4 posted 02-23-2015 11:54 PM

Thanks for the advice gentlemen. Sounds like there are no objections to douglas fir and sounds like it is a good idea to go with thicker stock than I was planning. Thanks again.

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117 posts in 1389 days

#5 posted 02-23-2015 11:55 PM

Thanks for the advice gentlemen. Sounds like there are no objections to douglas fir and sounds like it is a good idea to go with thicker stock than I was planning. Thanks again.

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2965 posts in 1506 days

#6 posted 02-25-2015 06:10 PM

If you’re going to build one, build one that will last, that’s what I say :)

Like, Schwarz, I believe in hard, heavy wood for a top.
Hard maple or beech are the “go to” woods I guess.

I capped the ends of my bench with 3 X 3 doug fir and I’m not impressed at the durability. I don’t have alot of experience with it, but is seems too soft and prone to splitting. If you use it, I would definitely use something hard like oak for the end caps and front edge.

You could look at hickory. I think even SYP will work. My benchtop is a bowling alley lane (SYP) and plenty hard enough
I love Paul Sellers, but I would never, ever use that whitewood 2×4’s for a top.

One more thing: no matter what you’re top is made of, you have to have a well constructed, heavy base or else any top will flex and warp.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

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4765 posts in 2376 days

#7 posted 02-25-2015 06:36 PM

I used a mix of poplar and ash for my Roubo. I has held up well.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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308 posts in 1898 days

#8 posted 02-26-2015 03:05 PM

I built my bench a couple years ago. The base is as heavy as I could make it. The top is three layers of 3/4 inch plywood laminated together with oak edging. Someday I will make a new top and will have a nice flat bench to reference from while I work.

-- Dave K.

View Andre's profile


1888 posts in 1831 days

#9 posted 02-26-2015 03:21 PM

I am building one now, got a great deal on some 20 year old Birch that was rough cut and stacked in a barn.
I grabbed 2×4, 2×6 and some 4×6s, wish I had taken it all!
Watch the local listings for C/L or check with local saw mills.

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View Gentile's profile


306 posts in 1844 days

#10 posted 02-27-2015 05:27 PM

I put a reclaimed, 1 3/4” thick, solid core door on my bench. It was only a “temporary” top until I could come up with a laminated top. 10 years later it’s still on and works fine…

-- "I cut it twice and it's still too short"

View Drew's profile


350 posts in 3125 days

#11 posted 02-27-2015 05:59 PM

I used a yellow pine glue lam for my top and lvl’s for the base. All free from local lumberyard.

Here is my LJ blog showing the construction.


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