View Full Version : My procrastination ends

Dave Anderson NH
09-14-2008, 9:44 PM
I've been planning, and planning, and planning to build a new bench to replace my 20 year old one for some 2+ years now. Sound familiar? I had been hit with a classic case of paralysis by analysis and each set of plans I drew up and reviewed lacked something, had too much of something else, and caused me to reconsider. Finally about a 16 months ago I went out and found some nominal 4" x 4" stock of a "South American Mahogany" which my lumber yard had on sale in 12 foot lengths for use as high end decking posts. Actual measurement is 3.25" x 3.25". This stuff is incredibly hard and dense and is unlike any mahogany I've ever seen or worked with before, but it's not surprising since there are actually some 120+ species of true mahoganies. It had a bit higher moisture content than I was used to, so I rough cut it slightly oversize, stickered it, and let it dry for an additional year.

Last weekend I planed it to a finished 3.125" square and began to lay out the joinery. An hour here and an hour there on some nights last week coupled with about 14 hours this weekend got most of the base completed. I should complete the base next Sunday and then it's off to the lumberyard to buy the material for the top. I'm still mulling over the choice of Ash vs Hard maple for the top. My Yankee sense says to go with the ash since it's about $2.50/ bdft vs the maple at $4.90/bdft. Unfortunately I would really like the closed pore structure of the maple though both are plenty durable enough. Tune in next week to discover my choice.... thrift vs consumerism.

Dave Anderson NH
09-14-2008, 9:47 PM
I forgot the pix. Yes, it did happen.

Johnny Kleso
09-14-2008, 10:06 PM
Nice Looking Deck Wood :)

Bruce Page
09-14-2008, 10:25 PM
Looking good Dave. That's a serious dovetail.

Lee Hingle
09-14-2008, 11:44 PM
My vote is consumerism - go with the maple. In 20 years when you are on SS, your next bench top can be out of the ash ;)


Jim Becker
09-15-2008, 8:33 AM
Wow...great looking base.

What about so-called "soft maple" for the top? It may be less expensive than hard, and it's still darn hard!

Dave Anderson NH
09-15-2008, 8:44 AM
Hi Jim,

For the paltry difference in price between the hard and soft maple, I'd go with the hard. Up our way there is only about a $.50/bdft difference.

John Shuk
09-15-2008, 8:45 AM
Great looking base. I vote for maple.
I like the look of it better for a bench.
That's my only reason.

Stephen Shepherd
09-15-2008, 9:40 AM
I would choose the soft maple for the top as you don't want your bench top to be harder than what you will be working on, on the bench. I make mine out of pine and I know if I put an antique on my bench to work on it, the top will not damage the work.

It is also easier on your tools if you jamb them into the bench top, although that never happens to me.


Alan DuBoff
09-15-2008, 11:31 AM
Nice looking base Dave, looks stout, and the wood looks beautiful.

Seems that price is often a factor for benches, and it's understandable since the difference in cost in this case for you is about 2x. For a top that is 3"x30"x84" (7' long), it seems that's about 50 bf aprox. So you would be looking at $125 vs $250. Of course another 10% for waste...

I lucked out and found a deal on hard maple at $0.50/bf, so that decided it for me, but had I got ash at that price, my bench would be ash right now.;)

I've heard Stephen's argument from more than one person to have a soft bench, but that doesn't make sense to me, although some do a good job at quantifying it. If it's ebony awls that your crafting, hard maple shouldn't be a problem in that regard. In Stephen's case where he might be working on fragile antiques, this could make sense to have a soft top, but for myself I don't see doing too much work on antiques as I haven't been able to find many at reasonable prices...I would love to have a problem where I had to worry about not damaging a piece of antique furniture on my hard maple bench, so far that hasn't been an issue. :(

Maybe I'm just not seeing the problem, but if I did have an antique that I was working on, and I did secure it to my bench, that piece won't be bouncing on the bench, hopefully, it will be secure. I guess I'll just have to take my chances in case that situation ever does happen, but my plan would be to work it on the bench that I have. :rolleyes:

As far as edge tools and a softer top being easier on them, that makes no sense to me at all. I often work hard maple, walnut, and have some paduk and hickory at hand as well...those aren't going to be easy on my edge tools either...not that I'm about to worry about it, a water stone goes a long way to help that problem out...

I say use the wood that you best feel comfortable with, in the end there is some difference in cost, but once you buy the wood it's probably a moot point, and this bench will probably provide you with years of use, no matter what wood you use. If you do use Ash, and have the open grain, and it continues to bother you over time, that extra $$$s would have been a small price to pay for not having to let that cross your mind every time you look at the open grain. OTOH, maybe that will never be a problem...

Jim Nardi
09-15-2008, 11:41 AM
I'd of bought more of that Leg stock you used. I don't buy into making the top out of softer wood either.

Mike Henderson
09-15-2008, 12:01 PM
Thanks for sharing your journey. I had to laugh at your comment "paralysis by analysis" - I fall into that all the time! I have to remind myself that "the perfect is the enemy of the good*".


*Voltaire, "Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien"