Wood for workbench top

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Forum topic by Joel_B posted 03-18-2015 02:28 PM 1547 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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342 posts in 1379 days

03-18-2015 02:28 PM

I found this LoBolly Pine reclaimed wood locally.
It is 2.5 inches thick and 5 inches wide with a tongue and groove.
The sample piece seems pretty flat but I wood be running it through a jointer and/or planer.
I figured for a 25” x 72” top it would weigh around 100 lbs.
Since this wood is wide and has T&G I think it would make it easier to glue up the top.
Also its probably pretty dry and ready to use.
I would be make a base out of some cheaper wood possibly DF or Ash.
So would this wood make a good top? I know its not really hard but not really soft and I don’t mind if gets a few dents.
Also I am thinking the base could have some struts that run across the width of the bench to keep the top from sagging

-- Joel, Encinitas, CA

16 replies so far

View Joel_B's profile


342 posts in 1379 days

#1 posted 03-18-2015 03:07 PM

False alarm, I gave it the hammer test and it is too soft.
Back to the search

-- Joel, Encinitas, CA

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2485 days

#2 posted 03-18-2015 03:54 PM

Joel, go ahead and use the Loblolly. It’s just a sub-species of SYP.
Cover the top with 3/4” maple flooring. That way you have a hard wood top and the inexpensive body of pine.
I made a counter top for a bar in Wyoming that way once, it cost them about $1000 less and was as solid as they get.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

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9464 posts in 1484 days

#3 posted 03-18-2015 04:17 PM

Hell. I’m using poplar and I think it’s even softer than pine. I’d rather have dings in the bench than the work. But that’s me.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View Mosquito's profile


9305 posts in 2291 days

#4 posted 03-18-2015 04:25 PM

What TheFridge said. If it’s cheap and accessible, go for it. There are many benches made from SYP that work great

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2368 days

#5 posted 03-18-2015 05:23 PM

I’m just wrapping up my benchtop build with DF. Yeah, I can hit it with a hammer and dent it. It’s a workbench, not a dining table, and the price was right. If most of the boards have the grain oriented like the one you posted, I’d rip them and reglue them on edge (would result in a near quartersawn top, which may be slightly more durable/stable since you’re not hitting it on the face).

I say use it as is, and if you decide to upgrade later, you’ll have a good bench to build the next bench on.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View chrisstef's profile


17386 posts in 3005 days

#6 posted 03-18-2015 05:43 PM

Im with the posters above. Cheap is good and no matter what ya got it’ll work as a bench. I also think Ed has a good idea with using it on edge. You should get some nice vertical grain showing through.

I will say that I have milled a bunch of that stuff before and its full of pitch. Here in new England I find that stuff used in the old factories for flooring.

Also, id suggest against burning it. A guy that rents space in our warehouse burned a bunch of it (like 2 trailers worth) and id be willing to bet his chimney fire was due to all the creosote build up from burning sappy wood.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2368 days

#7 posted 03-18-2015 05:46 PM

Might want to give it the once over with the metal detector before milling it. Looks like in the one you posted there may be a nail hole where they attached the T&G.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View Joel_B's profile


342 posts in 1379 days

#8 posted 03-19-2015 01:46 AM

Turns out this stuff is $7 per bd ft.
So for a top that is 72×24 x 3.5 its going to cost around $350.
They also have some DF 3X material which may be old growth so much better than what you can buy new.
Turns out the pine came from a tobacco factory in Lexington, TN
There are some other reclaimed wood dealers further away I could maybe get a better price on.
I am weighing the cost of build vs buy.
My wife wants me to buy one so I can start making furniture.
The only one I could see buying is the Sjoberg Elite 1500 which costs $2000
I am not sure how much to budget for vises, a Vertitas face and tail vice runs about $600.
Lee Valley has some cheaper vises but not sure if they are worthwhile.

-- Joel, Encinitas, CA

View MT_Stringer's profile


3168 posts in 3229 days

#9 posted 03-19-2015 02:44 AM

I bought a solid core door at the Habitat Restore store for $8.25 including tax. :-) Almost 2 inches thick. Another time, a guy gave me a solid core door. That is what I made my top out of with Formica laminated on top. It is starting to look bad, but boy, has it been used. :-)

Like posted above, it is not a dining table. :-)

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View Mykos's profile


103 posts in 1793 days

#10 posted 03-19-2015 03:09 AM

My latest bench is Douglas Fir and is working well so I think the SYP would be just fine. I wouldn’t choose to use boards with that grain orientation though. Quartersawn is much more stable. Flattening benches is something you want to do as little as possible.

View splatman's profile


586 posts in 1397 days

#11 posted 03-19-2015 03:27 AM

+1 on what everyone here said.
That kind of old wood is best used for rustic furniture and the like.
If you find cheap/free T&G lumber, glue it into 2 panels, each as big as your planned bench top. Cut one plank in half, so the seams in one panel are offset (think brick wall). Glue the panels together to make a thick slab of wood. Turn that into your bench top.

If your T&G lumber is flatsawn, and you want QS, rip the boards like this: 1/4 width | 1/2w | 1/4w, then glue the 1/4w boards together T to G, so you’re using the T&Gs, not sending them to the tinder pile, so less wood is wasted.

If you find some old hardwood flooring, or just some old hardwood, use that for your bench surface, a la Dallas’s suggestion.

If you’re concerned about denting your workpieces, cut a sheet of thin plywood to match your bench top, and cover that with cardboard, foam rubber (use cheap mousepads), a layer of soft wood, or other soft material. Fasten the plywood down with some screws. Or just use cardboard (with double-stick tape). Buying a new water heater or fridge? Save the box it comes in. Up to 4 reversible, disposable bench top covers!

View rwe2156's profile


2925 posts in 1479 days

#12 posted 03-19-2015 04:45 PM

My bench is made from a piece of bowling lane of SYP.
I’ve got douglas fir endcaps I recycled from a beam that too soft for a benchtop, IMO.

For cheap, 2 layers of glued up MDF will give you a top, but it won’t be a good one.
You can insert a lenght of hardwood to put dogholes in.

I think SYP turned on edge would work pretty good.
Joint up some 2×4’s, laminate them and flatten them.

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

View benchbuilder's profile


284 posts in 2449 days

#13 posted 04-07-2015 12:04 PM

Hey fridge, i also have a poplar bench top, have had it for 22 years now, its only 2.75” now because i have flattened it a few times. But its as good as the day i built it. No wrong wood to use on a bench top, well too wrong..

View jdh122's profile


1012 posts in 2816 days

#14 posted 04-07-2015 12:18 PM

I can’t believe anyone would think that wood is worth $7 per bf. Seems insane to me. Price varies a lot regionally, but that’s way more than I pay for most domestic hardwoods.
Softwoods work fine for a workbench top, just need to be trued up more often. Mine is made of spruce, which is way softer than SYP, and it works well. But not at that kind of price.
As far as vises go: while you probably get more when you pay more (the Veritas twin-screw is really nice, and quick-release is also a good feature), you can do good work, including holding most things for handtools, for a lot less than $600. I have 2 regular all-steel vises on my bench, one on the end and the other on the side (with wooden jaws thick enough to put a bench dog in). Less than $100 total, and I’m satisfied with them.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View WoodNSawdust's profile


1417 posts in 1175 days

#15 posted 04-07-2015 01:42 PM

I found a nice looking solid oak table with a bad leg. Table top is 24” x 60” x 2”. I cut the legs off and had a bench top. It may not be as big as everyone would want but it fulfills my needs. The moral is maybe you can find a top at a fair price.

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

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