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Wood Selection Question - My New Workbench Journey

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Forum topic by Joshua Oehler posted 05-24-2015 01:11 AM 1036 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Joshua Oehler

169 posts in 1157 days


05-24-2015 01:11 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question workbench

So I am about to embark on building my first (and long overdue) workbench. I have to keep this one on a budget. I have a couple of wood river vises that I got from woodcraft and I am getting ready to buy the materials. I am going the budget route of lumber from the box store. Being in Southwest Florida maple is not a common, easily obtainable wood and I can not find a store around here that even carries clearly marked douglas fir. Not in the thicknesses I need for a workbench anyways. So Pine it is. After making a prelim trip to scout out the wood piles my choices are Southern Yellow Pine, SFP or Whitewood.

From looking through the piles the SYP was actually the most beat up, twisted and knot filled bunch in the store in 2×4. The SFP was fairly clear but would require a little digging due to twists & bows and such. The whitewood I looked through was clear and dead straight. during my research I was under the impression that whitewood was pretty much garbage that they could not label as anything else. I did however look at their SYP 2×10 and although they were not as clean as the whitewood it was pretty straight and twist free

So this leads to my 2 part question
1. How much difference am I actually going to notice down the road between these 3 wood selections. I have no problem searching through for the perfect SYP if indeed I will notice a big difference but would rather save the effort if I will not notice the difference.

2. Am I better off buying 2×10’s and ripping them in 1/2 vs. buying 2×4’s. I am not concerned about the little bit of extra time this will take.

One more side note. This will not be a huge bench and it will be pretty close to a split top roubo bench with the exception of it have a large face vise vs. a leg vise. I may save up and buy a benchcrafted leg vise and add it to the other side of the bench at a later date which is why I am building the bench in that style now. the final dimensions will be aroun 2ft x 5ft

-- - "But old news can change, as memories float downstream. So don't judge me by my failures, only by my dreams"


9 replies so far

View TheFridge's profile

TheFridge

5765 posts in 952 days


#1 posted 05-24-2015 01:48 AM

if you are a glutton for punishment, like I am, you can find a cabinet shop and relieve them of their offcuts. Most will gladly give them away. Some might force you to take more. I built a 2 3/4” thick x 20” x 48” butcher block bench top for dirt cheap. Took a couple weeks but it isn’t as bad as you might think. It’s pretty much a production run. A few steps but with a lot of the same parts. Check my bench blog out . It only cost me a gallon of glue and some wax paper.

Just an option.

If choosing between white wood and SYP I’d go SYP. Harder and heavier. Not by a whole lot but still so.

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

View Pezking7p's profile

Pezking7p

3097 posts in 1118 days


#2 posted 05-24-2015 02:26 AM

SYP is a great material and what I would choose for any budget bench. Go to the 2×12 section and pick through them carefully. Be choosy. I would consider letting them set for a month before using them to dry them out a bit.

-- -Dan

View bondogaposis's profile

bondogaposis

4036 posts in 1817 days


#3 posted 05-24-2015 04:24 AM

2. Am I better off buying 2×10’s and ripping them in 1/2 vs. buying 2×4’s. I am not concerned about the little bit of extra time this will take.

Yes, I would go that route. Look at the 2×12’s as well. The wider boards are of higher quality and you can work around the defects and get some nice wood if you select your boards carefully try to figure out when they first put out the lumber so you get first shot at the pile before they picked over.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View jdh122's profile

jdh122

879 posts in 2284 days


#4 posted 05-24-2015 10:23 AM

Definitely go for the pine. Whitewood is very soft. SFP would probably be OK, but SYP is much harder and stronger. You would be better using wider boards and ripping them down. Be picky, choose slow-growth boards with more rings and let them acclimatize in your shop for a while.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View benchbuilder's profile

benchbuilder

265 posts in 1917 days


#5 posted 05-24-2015 12:04 PM

Not much i can add here, except, use the 2×12s and as stated look them over carefully. You can rip them to after cutting off the rounded edge, about 3 1/16” on each side if the board. Rip to 3 3/8” and be slow and carefull about your glue up. One or two boards at a time is easy and best, you can control the fit and end up with a better top thats easier to plane with less planing. As said here, let it set in your shop for a few mos. this will give you strighter boards when ripping. Just my experience. Check out all the big box stores and lumber yards, 84 and such. Take your time, you will save money, work and end up with a better workbench.

View Joshua Oehler's profile

Joshua Oehler

169 posts in 1157 days


#6 posted 05-24-2015 04:15 PM

Thanks a lot everyone. You have confirmed what I thought I should do!

-- - "But old news can change, as memories float downstream. So don't judge me by my failures, only by my dreams"

View rwe2156's profile

rwe2156

2198 posts in 947 days


#7 posted 05-24-2015 11:12 PM



1. How much difference am I actually going to notice down the road between these 3 wood selections. I have no problem searching through for the perfect SYP if indeed I will notice a big difference but would rather save the effort if I will not notice the difference.

You will notice quite a diff between SYP and other woods due to the fact that SYP is a “harder” softwood. IMO spruce (whitewood) is just too soft, but I have seen people make usable benches.

Couple thoughts and a word of caution:

Yes, you have a much better chance of knotless wood buying the wider lumber. Oftentimes, there will be quarter sawn grain (or nearly so) on the edges, particularly with the wider boards like 2×10 or 12.

My caution is be ware that most lumber at the big boxes is construction grade and as such, is usually too moist to use, to be prepared for warping and twisting off the saw. I would cut the material way oversized and figure materials based on milling down to at least 1 1/8” thick.

I would recommend looking at a bonafide lumber yard. Frequently, the wider boards have been sitting around awhile so they are cured a little better.

This will not be a huge bench and it will be pretty close to a split top roubo bench with the exception of it have a large face vise vs. a leg vise. I may save up and buy a benchcrafted leg vise and add it to the other side of the bench at a later date which is why I am building the bench in that style now. the final dimensions will be aroun 2ft x 5ft

- Joshua Oehler

Joshua, have you considered a butcher block top? I think 2 – 1 1/2” thick slabs laminated to give you a 3” top would be the fastest, most reliable way to go, if you can swing it. I’ve seen them come up from time to time on Craigslist and I know Grizzly sells them.

Good luck. When you get ready to flatten the top, I can help you with a simple way to do that.

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

View Joshua Oehler's profile

Joshua Oehler

169 posts in 1157 days


#8 posted 05-25-2015 02:25 PM

Joshua, have you considered a butcher block top? I think 2 – 1 1/2” thick slabs laminated to give you a 3” top would be the fastest, most reliable way to go, if you can swing it. I ve seen them come up from time to time on Craigslist and I know Grizzly sells them.

Good luck. When you get ready to flatten the top, I can help you with a simple way to do that.

- Robert Engel

That was actually my first though. My problem with doing it that way was the amount of time that it would take to retrofit a prebuilt top with a wagon vise,face vise, flush double mortise & tenon legs etc. I would be really concerned with messing up the top. Laminatting one myself I can not glue up the last few laminations to insure proper fitting etc

-- - "But old news can change, as memories float downstream. So don't judge me by my failures, only by my dreams"

View BubbaIBA's profile

BubbaIBA

383 posts in 1843 days


#9 posted 05-26-2015 06:43 PM



So I am about to embark on building my first (and long overdue) workbench. I have to keep this one on a budget. I have a couple of wood river vises that I got from woodcraft and I am getting ready to buy the materials. I am going the budget route of lumber from the box store. Being in Southwest Florida maple is not a common, easily obtainable wood and I can not find a store around here that even carries clearly marked douglas fir. Not in the thicknesses I need for a workbench anyways. So Pine it is. After making a prelim trip to scout out the wood piles my choices are Southern Yellow Pine, SFP or Whitewood.

From looking through the piles the SYP was actually the most beat up, twisted and knot filled bunch in the store in 2×4. The SFP was fairly clear but would require a little digging due to twists & bows and such. The whitewood I looked through was clear and dead straight. during my research I was under the impression that whitewood was pretty much garbage that they could not label as anything else. I did however look at their SYP 2×10 and although they were not as clean as the whitewood it was pretty straight and twist free

So this leads to my 2 part question
1. How much difference am I actually going to notice down the road between these 3 wood selections. I have no problem searching through for the perfect SYP if indeed I will notice a big difference but would rather save the effort if I will not notice the difference.

2. Am I better off buying 2×10 s and ripping them in 1/2 vs. buying 2×4 s. I am not concerned about the little bit of extra time this will take.

One more side note. This will not be a huge bench and it will be pretty close to a split top roubo bench with the exception of it have a large face vise vs. a leg vise. I may save up and buy a benchcrafted leg vise and add it to the other side of the bench at a later date which is why I am building the bench in that style now. the final dimensions will be aroun 2ft x 5ft

- Joshua Oehler

Joshua,

I have built a few work benches, I expect more than most on this forum. Especially for a first bench a good motto is: Build it simple, build it cheap, heavy and strong, and most important build it quickly. Through mortises, tail vises, and leg vises add to the complexity and time to build, loose “em. A metal QR vise for a face vise and add stops, battens and holdfasts to do everything a tail, wagon, or twin screw vise can do and they will do it better, quicker, and easier. For joinery also keep it simple, use housed M/T joints and either peg or draw bore ‘em. Many of the benches you see on this site have taken a long time to build and are overly complex with “features” that are seldom used and/or get in the way of doing work.

Take a look at this video, if you have not watched before. It features a bench that can be built in a weekend and costs very little. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvhn-PAfEW4

Here is the base of a DF bench I just finished helping a friend build:

Here is a SYP bench where I didn’t follow my own advice and installed a leg vise and a wagon vise. I worked on it less that two years before building another without either vise.

This is the latest made from European Beech with a English QR vise that I’ve used since the 70’s, no tail or wagon vise, and an English style apron. It is near perfect for my work and was built in less than two months while working full time at the day job and keeping MsBubba happy:

If you can find SYP use it otherwise use wood that is cheap and heavy. When buying construction grade wood buy the widest and longest you can find i.e. 12”X16’. With 12” boards the heart will be in the center so your split out boards will be QS and long boards will usually come from the lower part of the tree and should have fewer knots.

ken

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