Sunday, December 11, 2011

Observation #2

Make your bench out of good quality, relatively dry construction lumber, reclaimed lumber or a softer hardwood.  If you can, make the top a full 2" thick.  There is certainly nothing wrong with using construction lumber for the top but the 2" gives you assurance that your holdfasts will hold without blocks and has numerous other advantages.  In our area, there are many suitable choices available for $3.50 per bf or less.  I paid $3.  There are 32 bf in the top, so that's $96.  The total cost of all materials would still be less than $200 for the most important woodworking appliance you have.  If you can't go this way, just use construction lumber and add bearers.

Finding suitable material was the hardest part of building this bench for me.  Dry construction lumber just isn't available here in the midst of douglas fir forests.  The best looking construction lumber I saw was #1 & btr 6x6s.    They seem to be generally available in higher grades, likely to meet structural specifications.  I thought very seriously about buying some and resawing them.  I am lucky that I have a bandsaw that will do it, but you could use a circular saw, cutting on both sides and finishing with a handsaw.  You'd have to wait awhile for it to dry before constructing the bench, over a summer here.  Reclaimed lumber would be a great option and that was my first choice.  Unfortunately, it is so popular here that it costs more than new lumber.  I feel very fortunate that I found a small custom mill with a kiln and I decided to spend the extra money to use premium lumber, but it wasn't necessary.  Had I not done this, I probably would have made the base out of construction lumber and purchased two softer hardwood planks for the top.

There is no reason not to build this bench entirely from 2x6s if that is what you find.

I used 120 bf .  You could use less but, given the price of construction lumber, why not add mass and rigidity?

Bottom line:  You just have to see what's available at a price you can afford, just as a 19th century craftsman would have done.


  1. I was at one of the big-box stores in Hillsboro yesterday, looking through the 2x12's for lumber for the bench I'm starting. It was some of the nastiest stuff I've seen. most of the boards were cupped- some checked right down the center for most of their length. They were all very heavy, even for green. The big-box stores around here sell some pretty awful lumber.

    My parents just moved to Nampa, and I'm thinking about having my dad buy my lumber there and truck it back. It's hard to believe, but the doug-fir he can get is better than what I can get.

    Where did you track down a mill?

  2. I had the same problem as you guys. It seems weird, since I live on the Olympic Peninsula in WA, which still has a few trees on it. I'm told that the good stuff is sitting down on the waterfront to be shipped overseas…but regardless, the 2x12 lumber at the Borg is twisted, knotted, cupped, and crooked every time I look, in all lengths. It might be even worse after wringing the water out.

    Our local lumberyard had better quality 2x12s, but they were still knotted. That's why I ended up using 8/4 (1-3/4") S3S poplar at <$3/bf for the top, 6/4 poplar for the skirt, and 2x6 KDHT Doug fir from the lumberyard for the base. That gave knot-free top and skirt for a good work surface with easy flattening and boring, and an inexpensive base. I'd prefer the lumber that Andy found, which looks like really nice stuff, but I think poplar is a good alternative. You might also find decent fir 4x12s, but I was worried about drying time for those.

  3. I searched for a year and a half, beginning with Bob Rozaieski's first podcast on his bench. You just have to keep looking. If you could find reclaimed lumber, that would be a good alternative. Here are possibilities I found on the internet:

    You could also go to Crosscuts in Portland and see what they have available. I know they have 8/4 poplar, for example.

  4. Thanks for the link to urban hardwood's site... I think for what he listed his prices are better than Crosscut.

    I'm looking to build a roubo style bench, so I'm looking for some 4x12-ish timbers. that I can glue up. My hope is that I can find big enough planks, that I don't have to do a lot of laminations to get a 20" wide top.