I found a local sawmill that sells great looking rough sawn full dimension lumber. This is all air-dried. After getting the lumber home, I realized it was rather wet, measuring between 14 and 24%, with most being somewhere around 18. I guess I have taken my kiln dried, banana shaped Home Depot lumber for granted!
My question is, what moisture content would be a maximum for me to begin to build this lumber in to a workbench? I was really hoping to use my time off this Christmas to build it, but if I have to wait to build a lifetime bench, then so be it.
Construction wood is often dried to 18% and then stored in unheated warehouses. At ordinary stable levels of relative humidity, such wood will be perfectly OK to make a workbench from. By use of bench bolts, which can be tightend and loosened, leg and stretcher joints can be maintained. Supposedly there could be some warp of the benchtop, though I’ve not experienced it. And the top can always be re-flattened.
Sjöberg’s benches are dried to 7%, and the company recommends oiling if the bench will not be used in a warm stable indoor climate. Apparently, furniture dry can be negative for woodworking sometimes.
Please note that I’ve no experience from the “Paul Sellers Workbench” (English bench). My bench is a variation of the LN bench.
What a pleasant way to enjoy Christmas.
Store it in your workshop for a week or two to acclimate. Cut to rough size and let it rest for a week or two more. Assuming you don’t get wild winter / summer variations in temperature and humidity it should be pretty stable by then. How you design the workbench, and construct the joinery will allow you to compensate for movement if you really think it will be a problem.
You can always put a sacrificial sheet of hardboard over the top to help even things out in case you don’t feel up to a bit of planing to level it out after its been set up for a while.
My workshop can vary between 25-30 C in the summer with the doors open and 5C in the wet / cold winter with the door closed and an electric radiator running. My workbenches are made with man made boards in a torsion box design, so I don’t suffer too much with movement. This is more because I keep trying new designs in cheap material, that end up being quite robust, rather than through any specific design intent.
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