Welcome! Forums Project Series Workbench Using American Construction Grade Lumber

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  • #393582
    Tom Bird
    Participant

    Anyone willing to chat about their experience or thoughts on making this bench with American construction grade lumber?

    Because it is what I have available, and because I am on a tight budget, I plan to build most of it out of 2x4s, even though I know that that is going to mean a lot more work planing and edge gluing to come up with a sufficiently wide wellboard and set of aprons. Ugh… oh well. Just more opportunity to develope my skills!

    Any thoughts on altering some of the dimensions from the available plans and drawings, in order to make this project more friendly to these materials? For example, I’m thinking maybe skinnier legs so that they could be made from two 2x4s laminated together?

    Any guidance would be appreciated!

    Thanks!
    Nervous New Guy

    #393691
    Arthur Coates
    Participant

    I made mine from common SPF 2×4 (1.5 x 3.5) studs as sold in Indiana USA last spring and it was featured in the projects page. My legs were laminated from 3 pieces. It will help to pick out, plane out and cut around a few defects such as wane, splits and knots. It is just part of any work with wood being a natural material.

    #393715
    Eric Lundholm
    Participant

    buy Kiln dried lumber (look for KD on the tag) and go through the pile and find good boards. you might have to hit more than one store and more than one trip to find all the lumber you need. It is doable. If you have not done so watch his other bench build on youtube.

    #393719
    Larry Geib
    Participant

    First off, where are you?

    Different parts of the country will have different species readily available. In the SE, for instance you might be looking mostly at Southern yellow pine.the NW might feature Spruce-pine fir or Douglass-fir — Western Larch as options at a good price. Try and find a lumber dealer that will let you pick through their stacks. Be neat and put back neatly what you take out.
    Id look at the Doug-fir stacks.
    The western Larch in those stacks will have pronounced reddish late wood and be denser. Go for those if you can.

    Look for a grade stamp for starters. Generally the grades are something like Select, #1,#2,#3,common, and stud grade. (Western Wood Products assn) Save time by looking through the #2 stacks, or what some dealers sell at “#2 and better” or “standard & better” which will have some #1 or even sometimes Select pieces in it.

    Look at this page to help you interpret the grading stamps so you know what you are getting. In other regions, obviously use the lumber association that rules there, but they are mostly the same nationwide.

    https://www.wwpa.org/western-lumber/interpreting-grade-stamps

    Avoid pits, which is the center of the tree. You’ll just get wood that doesn’t behave well and look like …

    Try for wood that is straight and tending toward quartersawn. The grain will show was lines on all four surfaces, especially in the boards you will see on the finished bench. You can build a bench with virtually no flat grain showing if you pick through the stack.

    Sight down the pieces to check they are mostly straight.

    No wain, no twist, no checks except in the areas you will be cutting off. You can tolerate a LITTLE twist in the pieces you will glue up if you have good clamps.

    As to sizing, the tops are 2×3 (US designation) or 3×2. In the USA, they will actually be 1 1/2” x 2 1/2”.

    At first the legs look like an odd size, but you can get there by just ripping a 4×6 lengthwise. A 4×6 is 3 1/2” x 5 1/2” which ripped will give two pieces 3 1/2” x 2 3/4” minus the saw cut … close enough.

    A single 8 footer will get you all four legs. About $12 near me.

    The closest standard size for the aprons will be 1 1/2” x 11 1/4” which is a standard dressed 2×12. Look for ones with no pith or edge join thinner pieces. If it upsets you that your apron is a tad thin or narrow, add a glued strip.
    The apron will probably be more stable if you glue up smaller pieces anyway. Most cheaper grade 2×12 has pith running right down the middle. Cut that out and join the outsides of the board with An added piece to get fullwidth if you can’t find 2×12 without the pith.

    Likewise, other pieces can be ripped down or built up from standard lumber.

    Lastly, look in the yellow pages for recycled lumber dealers. The ones near me offer old lumber that’s rough sawn and full dimensions. Often it is from first growth forests with tighter grain. It will be more work to plane it all, but you’ll probably get a better bench.

    You might even find a 100 year old slab for the top that will make your bench a treasure. I just bough a piece of slab that had been sitting in a mill for 100 years or more for not much more than the same amount of material from a box store.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by Larry Geib.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by Larry Geib.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by Larry Geib.
    #393752
    Clifford
    Participant

    I also I made mine from common SPF 2×4 (1.5 x 3.5) studs as sold in Idaho USA. I will say that I used a Dewalt planer (dw734) to get rid of the rounded edges common here in the USA for construction grade lumber. I just laminated what I needed together and planed to get the sizes required. Fortunately none of the individual component parts (i.e. aprons, well, top, legs etc.) exceeded the 12.5 inch width limit of the planer.

    #393843
    aanghelescu
    Participant

    I made mine from 2×4 kiln dried Douglass Fir (Rosenborg brand, bought at Lowes in the NE). For the legs I bought 4×4 – they worked better than the 2×4, as they twisted less during the 6 months between buying the stock and actually using it. It took several trips to find enough good boards – often they were still too wet, or, just as often, too knotty.

    If I were to build it again, I’d consider using 4×4 throughout – they’re a tad more expensive, but it’s less work and less is wasted – to the point I think it evens out in the end.

    I’ve been extremely happy with it, and it’s been almost two years. Hope to say the same in another 30 years.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by aanghelescu.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by aanghelescu.
    #393904
    Ed
    Participant

    One thing I’ve encountered with construction lumber is that it can come from rapid growth trees with hard, thin rings separated by wide, soft or almost spongy material. This can make it extremely difficult to chop a mortise or do other of cuts across end grain without encountering torn or even crushed fibers. It can also mean a piece that is more easily bruised or dented. Neither of these things should put you off. Just be aware of them. If you chop a mortise and see crushed, torn grain at the ends of the mortise, be aware that it isn’t entirely you and may be unavoidable without extraordinarily sharp tools. The good news is that it does not matter one bit. The end grain in a mortise has little effect on glue strength. Glue strength really comes from the face grain glue surface, which you will be able to pare cleanly. If you didn’t know that, you could frustrate yourself.

    If you are selecting construction lumber from the stack (or dealers) and have a choice between two pieces, one of which has more tightly spaced growth rings, you might favor it.

    One thing that confuses me is that it sounds like you are planning to glue up 2×4 for width in places like aprons where you could wider material, even 2×12. If so, why not just get the wider material, but perhaps I’ve misunderstood.

    #393959
    Tom Bird
    Participant

    Wow! I so appreciate the wealth of knowledge that has just been dropped on me. Thanks everyone!

    First off, where are you?

    I’m from the midwest. Wisconsin, to be precise

    At first the legs look like an odd size, but you can get there by just ripping a 4×6 lengthwise. A 4×6 is 3 1/2” x 5 1/2” which ripped will give two pieces 3 1/2” x 2 3/4” minus the saw cut … close enough.

    I really like this idea, even though it sounds like it will yield legs that are about a 1/4″ small in both directions. Not a big deal, right?

    One thing that confuses me is that it sounds like you are planning to glue up 2×4 for width in places like aprons where you could wider material, even 2×12. If so, why not just get the wider material, but perhaps I’ve misunderstood.

    I am only stuck on the glueing up 2x4s idea, because I already have a collection of new and recycled 2x4s at my disposal, BUT it will not be enough for the whole bench, so I probably WILL end up treating myself to some wider material. You did not misunderstand. I did not explain my scenario very well.

    …it was featured in the projects page.

    Arthur, I found the picture of yours. Very nice!

    Thanks again guys! I’ve got a lot to study, a shopping list to carefully contemplate (and save up for!), and stacks of lumber to dig through, but first… time to sharpen up some tools!

    Tom

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by Tom Bird.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by Tom Bird.
    #393991
    Franiel
    Participant

    In my experience from building a bench out of Home Depot 2x4s, longer boards are often better than the shorter ones. Don’t be afraid to ask them to cross cut for you if it won’t fit in your car. Or, bring a handsaw to the parking lot.

    #394023
    Larry Geib
    Participant

    I really like this idea, even though it sounds like it will yield legs that are about a 1/4″ small in both directions. Not a big deal, right?

    It only yields a 1/4” smaller in one dimension. It yields half a saw kerf smaller in the other. Rip on a band saw and you are talking 1/64”.

    Depending on how carefully you saw, that’s right on spec by the time you are done planing all the surfaces. You don’t have to plane off the rounded corners on the saw cut.
    Those standard rounded corners are 1/8” radius. Paul planes the wood until they are gone.

    If you want exact dimensions, you will have to start with a 6×8 and break that down for your legs and do two or three rips. If you are building without power saws, you are asking for more work and waste.
    Remember Paul has interpreted from euro dimensions found there. He has added a note to the intro page explaining that.

    In all cases USA sizes will be slightly different. The USA sizes have been uniform since millworks standardized finished lumber sizes to sell to the gummint in WW1 ( the war to end all wars, aka the end of history)

    A quarter inch won’t matter a hoot for any dimensioned lumber in this build as long as you are aware some finished sizes may be slightly different if you don’t allow for that. Your bench will be just as strong.

    Don’t forget the recycled lumber option. Old growth lumber is often straighter grained and tighter grained, and it will be well seasoned. Old dressed material is often 3 5/8”
    And if you buy rough sawn, all dimensions will be 1/2”or more larger.

    I grew up in West Allis for a few years right on the Milwaukee Road line. I can still hear those trains rumbling by. Your lumber probably came from the NW on that track.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by Larry Geib.
    #394273
    Derek Long
    Participant

    Regular home center kiln-dried 2×4 and 2×6 work just fine for the top and stretchers. You can use home center 4×4 for the legs, or 4×6 beams (which will almost always be green and you have to let them dry out), or glue up two 2×4’s or 2×6’s.

    I used 4×6 green Doug Fir beams for my workbench legs, let them dry out for a year in the garage, worked great. They were still a bit wet in the middle when I chopped out the mortises, but it worked fine and they didn’t change dimension.

    I also just used home center kiln dried 2×10 for the aprons. If you don’t want to glue up a well board, just use a 2×10 or even a 1×10 (1×10 is plenty rigid once you screw it down to the bearers).

    It depends on what you have available near you. Change to suit what works for you.

    Derek Long
    Denver, Colorado

    Attachments:
    #394405
    Larry Geib
    Participant

    Great looking bench, Derek.

    It strikes me that this is a substantially more massive bench than the one Paul designed this time around. Folks should keep that in mind that his new design is more portable for those folks who tend to move.

    32C3C559-7DB7-4E96-B676-111ECC4DA889

    I also noticed he laminated his apron from three pieces.

    Attachments:
    #394459
    Joshua Bourgery
    Participant

    Building mine out of 2×4 premium fir from Home Depot, they are about $1.50 more per board, but I found them to be better quality stock than the standard SPF.

    As far as altering the dimensions, I shrunk the length of my bench top to 5’0″ so I could use the off cuts from a standard 8′ board to glue up the legs (it works out well that you have exactly the number of off cuts for (2) 2×4’s per leg). I’ll probably also shorten the leg length slightly to accommodate a thicker top.

    A quick word of advice: as you are prepping the stock for the top, take a few swipes off narrow edges with the plane and mark the direction of the grain with a pencil. When you laminate the top, you can look to align all the grain directions on at least one side (the top face of your bench), this will make your life so much easier when you are planning down the heavy round-overs after you glue up; it’ll also give you a nice smooth finish on the top without any tear out.

    Best of luck

    #395008
    Tom Bird
    Participant

    When you laminate the top, you can look to align all the grain directions on at least one side (the top face of your bench), this will make your life so much easier when you are planning…

    Great idea!

    Tom

    #406605
    Erin
    Participant

    I made my top from laminated 2x3s. My aprons are two 2×6 boards glued together. For my legs I used a 12ft 4×4. It took me an hour to go through the entire pile, but I found one that was dry and straight. My rails are the cut-offs from my aprons, and I’ll most likely use 2x4s for my well board. My dimensions aren’t spot on–some are bigger and some are smaller, but I’m hoping I’ll end up with a decent looking bench.

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