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Thread: Wood Choice for Workbench

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Question Wood Choice for Workbench

    I'm a hybrid woodworker which is why I posting this in this forum instead of the neanderthal one. I may be building a new workbench. I'm 100% sold on a split-top Roubo with Benchcrafted vises. However, I am trying to decide on the wood species to use in it's construction. I've seen and read about using both hardwoods and softwoods. My first thought was of hard maple for it's durability. My second thought was of douglas fir for it's relative ease of maintenance (flattening). Of course there are many many other possibilities. And that is just for the top. The structure is a whole other story. There, oak is a strong candidate (pun intended).

    So I guess my question is what have you, or would you, use and why?

    If there are already threads on this topic, I apologize for the repeat. I didn't find any specifically on it when I did a search. Although I am certain it must have been discussed on here countless times within various other threads.
    "I've cut the dang thing three times and it's STILL too darn short"
    Name withheld to protect the guilty

    Stew Hagerty

  2. #2
    I used dimensioned lumber, fence posts and "all thread". It's a good looking, functional and relatively inexpensive bench. It is rock solid and has been for 8 years. I never cry when I nick/dent/scratch/cut this bench. It flattens well and easily. It handles any task I throw at it, from planing, to sawing, to assembling. A few details follow if you are interested.....

    I built my top from 2x4s, glued face-to-face. I built my base this way: I made 2 identical "sides" for the base, each using two 4x4 douglas fir fence posts for the legs and four 2x4s to connect the 2 legs together in a unit. I connected the two base units together using two 2x6 stretchers and "all thread".

    YMMV.
    Fred
    Last edited by Frederick Skelly; 07-03-2018 at 7:11 PM. Reason: Deleted last paragraph
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2007
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    Sydney, Australia
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    I prefer a softer species for the benchtop - its easier to work, easier to maintain & less likely to damage projects you place on it. And likely cheaper than hardwoods.

    Douglass Fir is excellent -if you can find old growth with tight grain that would be ideal.

    For a spilt top, see if you can find some 12" x 4" - maybe from a demolition center/timber recycling supplier.

    While not quite a traditional design, see my bench renovation project pictures here - I have a 12x3 as the main bench surface.
    http://www.woodworkforums.com/f213/b...ovation-205992

    DSC_0367crop.JPG

    DSC_0369.jpg
    Last edited by Ross Manning; 07-03-2018 at 7:14 PM.

  4. #4
    That's one heck of a nice bench Ross!
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  5. #5
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    Thanks! It works really well & is rock solid.

    I can highly recommend the Hovarter X-Link, I just used a cheap vise screw & it works as a fantastic quick to adjust vise due to the scissor mechanism.

  6. #6
    My bench top is poplar and it does dent pretty easily, but I don't use it that much. I just built one for my daughter ans son in law and used all hardwood/multiple species and it looks nice, maple/red oak,walnut/white oak/cherry. What I did was just shopped hardwoods on Craig's list that was cheap. A lot of baby boomer woodworkers are unloading wood from their shops.

    If I used something soft like poplar or a soft wood I would glue a strip of something hard on the edges as that takes te brunt of the abuse.

    Don't worry, be happy! Good luck!

  7. #7
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    Stew, I've had both. I'm on bench number six now. Hard maple on an Adjust a Bench now. Big long (10 ft. 4" thick hard maple before this one). I couldn't move that one or I would still have it. Here is what I found. I did a lot of chopping, mortises, dovetails. You always have that sweet part where you like to chop. Even though you are careful and don't chop thru much you still beat on that one spot. Softwood just doesn't seem to hold up. Each one of those hits goes thru that whole area and weakens the wood by crushing and it just gives up. I would at least have hard maple on the side of the bench where you think your sweet spot will be. The rest would not matter to me. If your not doing a lot of work that requires a lot of hits any good solid wood will do, fir, yellow pine, ash. Just an opinion of course.
    Jim

  8. #8
    I have read a lot of posts about this. Yellow pine seems to be a happy medium. It's a harder soft wood. If you do finer woodworking it may be better to have something a little softer. I will probably build my first bench from yellow pine and see how I like it. I have a lumber Mill about 5 miles from my house and have easy access to some good stuff. I may end up building a second bench out of White oak or Ash. I can get them for about $1 a board foot...or less depending on the day. Heck, I think a Walnut bench would be beautiful.

  9. #9
    I used hard maple for my first bench for its density and relatively low cost where I lived at the time (southern Indiana, 35 years ago.) It held up very well and stayed flat. I recently built a new bench and used European beech since around here it was cheaper than maple, much better quality, and I found it easier to mill. I like the look, too. Iíve worked with SYP for other projects and agree it would be a good choice for its stability but you still have the early wood/late wood difference in densityÖ which may not matter to you one bit. Iíve made shop furniture of Doug fir and I like the look. Here in Oregon it is easy to come by but not as common in the Eastern US. Can be splintery. I probably would prefer a harder and denser wood for a top but it would be fine for a base.

    Another good choice is ash if it is available near you. For me, between ash and oak would be a coin flip.

    Lots of choices that would work. It may come down to what your budget can afford and what is available in the dimensions you want where you live.

  10. #10
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    I'm a weekender and just finished up a split-top Roubo with benchcrafted hardware. While way more expensive than yellow pine in these parts, I decided to use hard maple because I figured I'm already spending $$$ on the hardware I might as well make this a damn fine bench. I don't have any regrets. I think any hard hardwood would be fine and I'd stay away from pine if you want the top to last.

    36176101_10156381104483497_715798339018293248_o.jpg

  11. #11
    For a workbench top, find something that is at least relatively hard, readily available in good quality & quantity, and fairly cheap. If possible, go for a lighter wood also, so it is easier to see on the bench. I used hard maple for my Frid bench tops for those reasons; oak and ash were also options, but I know all those woods can be too expensive for a bench top in some places. It really just depends on what is easy to get in your area; what is cheap and good in one part of the country may not be in another. SYP is pretty uncommon here for example, except in roof trusses.

    Note, if you are going to use thicker wood, make sure it has been dried properly.

  12. #12
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    Nothing wrong with using hardwood if thats what you really want.

    But for all the talk about durability advantages of hardwoods, I'll offer this:

    That slab of Doug Fir on my bench above has been the primary top for my benches for over 25 years of regular use. And I don't baby it.

    The design above is the third iteration of workbench I've used it on.

    I would go with something that is inexpensive and reasonably dense. Mass is your friend.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Shattuck View Post
    I'm a weekender and just finished up a split-top Roubo with benchcrafted hardware. While way more expensive than yellow pine in these parts, I decided to use hard maple because I figured I'm already spending $$$ on the hardware I might as well make this a damn fine bench. I don't have any regrets. I think any hard hardwood would be fine and I'd stay away from pine if you want the top to last.
    Great work Nick!!

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Shattuck View Post
    I'd stay away from pine if you want the top to last.
    Beautiful bench Nick! Like the hardware too. Been thinking about a Hovarter or Benchcrafted vise but haven't convinced myself yet.

    Hey BTW, my pine bench top has lasted just fine. I don't expect to need to replace it. Have you had a different experience?

    Fred
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ross Manning View Post
    Great work Nick!!
    Thank you!

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