I am going to start building a workbench based on Paul’s design. Is there any reason I can’t use solid slabs of wood for the top? Let’s saw a 2X12 if I plane it down for 8/4? Will I lose some rigidity in the top? I know for the well board I can use a solid piece because I saw them this way when I went to the New School in Upstate NY. Heading to Home Depot soon to look for lumber.
I think everyone forgets one important aspect of the top when laminated like Paul does…it is HEAVY. Using hand planes requires a substantial bench to resist skidding along the floor. The lamination also makes the wood much less likely to twist, bow, or cup because of the way it is designed. I used 2×12’s for the aprons and well board, but I think it would be a mistake to use them for the top, having built one following the instructions after using another bench that did not have a laminated top (different construction type, but probably similar in weight to a bench with a thinner top like you are proposing.
Since you say you are going to Home Depot, I’m going to assume you are from the US. If that is the case you won’t be able to get 8/4 out of a 2×12, as the actual dimensions of a 2×12 in the US are usually only 1 1/2″ by 11 1/4″.
I decided to go with a laminated top after all. I ended up going to my local sawyer at lunch. He had 2X4s (typical 1.5X3.5 yield) with square edges. I also bought some 2X12s for the aprons and he had nice square true 4X4s I bought for the legs. I spent a little more than I really wanted to but the wood I picked out is pretty nice for eastern pine and I like giving business to the local guy. Plus he lets me pick through the pile as long as I put things back.
Andy you are right and that’s why I decided to go with the laminated top.
Thanks Jonathan and David for chiming in. David nice bench!
Any tips on picking out lumber. I went to my local HD and Lowe’s and the lumber looks like junk.
Maybe I just don’t have experience picking stuff out.
I’m guessing I’m not really looking for totally knot-less stuff, but what I should I look for for a good board for the workbench? For real projects like the wall clock?
Most of the big box stores stuff was split or had 20 knots on a face, half of them chipped out a bit. Of the rest, I still saw knots but maybe they weren’t “bad” or “hard” knots, whatever that means, or knots that go all the way through, or… something.
Any pointers would be helpful.
I hear ya about the crap 2×4’s at home depot. Honestly i think i got lucky the day i went to buy the wood for my bench. All I see nowadays is pure junk. If I was planning to make another bench, the only way I think I can use HD stuff is to check out their stock every time I go there and accumulate good ones over time. In reality I’d probably just go to a local lumber yard where they have good stuff already.
One other thing: the last time I bought 2×4’s at HD, I was picking through the pallet with another person who was also unhappy with the quality. Turned out he went and complained and they bought down a fresh pallet. Of course it was still mostly junk. lol
EDIT: one other thing that I actually considered was to make a table using home depot redwood 2×4’s. I don’t know if your local HD has it, but the ones in Northern California at least carry Mendocino redwood. They cost a bit more, but they’re consistently better quality than the KD whitewood 2×4’s. I also found out that they are kiln-dried (at least, some of them are). The downside is that they’re pretty soft, softer than pine I’d say. But I don’t think I’d mind that.
Paul makes this note in his blog about the tops… ‘For my bench I used spruce and was able to find lengths that were fairly consistent in grain, straight and minimally knotted. ‘
When i built my top, I found some knots areas were probably bigger for the purpose, but with a sharp plane i was not presented with any real problems. For me the part about good grain and straight trumped out over the occasional larger knot. We have to work with what is available, since I live fairly close to a home centre, I made several trips only picking the best they had at the time. Hope that helps.
Something you might consider, if you have the means to break them down, is looking at the larger boards. 2X12s for example. The bigger lumber tends to be clearer as they have to have bigger trees to cut it from. If you’re choosey, you can get many boards that end up having quartersawn grain orientation once they’re broken down.
I don’t have a truck but maybe I can have a friend help.
I don’t think I have the skill to rip myself or even *cleanly* xcut with hand tools without some practice. And I’d like the bench & vise before practicing of course. And that’s after learning sharpening to get my secondhand tools in working order. Ripping seems like one of the tougher skills especially a really long board.
However, a friend is a machineworker (hee) and should be able to rip and xcut a 2″x12″x16′ (1.5″x11.25″x16′) into 6 1.5″x3″x8′, which makes for 1 benchtop.
So I may just need to find 5-6 healthy boards and it’ll cost about $140-170. It’s slightly more expensive than getting all 2×4’s I think. IDK maybe I’ll just go to both big boxes twice per week while I’m learning how to restore and sharpen my stuff. Hopefully I’ll be able to find the like 32 boards needed if I calculate right. 6 per benchtop (12), 6 for wellboard (18), 3 per apron (24), 2 per leg plus rails and such (32).
Since I’m brand new I’m not sure how to really read the knots and tell what’s OK. I’m not sure how much trouble they’ll give me in planing with a sharp plane blade or how much they impact glue up. I’m pretty sure the rough, chipped ones are bad news but maybe the others aren’t so bad, especially if they don’t go all the way through.
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