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Thread: What wood to use for a bench?

  1. #1
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    What wood to use for a bench?

    Hello guys,
    I hope that I am right with my thread in this sub-forum. If not, then please move my thread.
    It is about the following: I would like to build a small bench for my front yard.
    But I don't know anything about the different materials and tools. Therefore I need tips. What kind of wood is best for this? It should of course be robust!
    Thanks for the help
    Tobi Jones

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Best?
    I'd take a long hard look at salvaged Redwood.
    http://www.redwoodsalvagesales.com/custom-furniture.htm
    My granddad always said, :As one door closes, another opens".
    Wonderful man, terrible cabinet maker...

  3. #3
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    I have a porch swing that has lived outdoors for over 25 years and is still going strong. It is made from western red cedar with stainless steel hardware.

    We could give more precise advice if you would enter your general location in the world into your profile. Your IP indicates you are located in Germany.
    Lee Schierer
    Captain USNR(Ret)

    My advice, comments and suggestions are free, but it costs money to run the site. If you found something of value here please give a little something back by becoming a contributor! Please Contribute

  4. #4
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    Because of the location thing that Lee mentions, I'll provide a general statement: Some species of wood are better at withstanding weather and insects than others. For where I live, I'd likely choose white oak for an outdoor project if I wanted to use a locally harvested species. I'm not particularly fond of oak, so I'd consider non-local species, too, such as Ipe, teak, etc.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  5. #5
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    I made a bench using Ipe. Still going strong. Not the easiest wood to work with though.
    Stand for something, or you'll fall for anything.

  6. #6
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    Great thank you guys for your recommendations!
    Yes, I am from Germany. From Munich to be exact. But I don't live downtown. We have a nice house in the suburb of Munich
    So I think I am gonna go with Redwood. Do I need a special coating afterwards?
    Tobi Jones

  7. #7
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    Nov 2006
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    Do I need a special coating afterwards?
    On exterior redwood?
    Oil based semi transparent wood stain if you can find it over there.
    Most any semi transparent wood stain if you can't find oil based.

    Redwood really needs nothing in the way of a finish though. The only reason to give it a finish is to change it's color.
    My granddad always said, :As one door closes, another opens".
    Wonderful man, terrible cabinet maker...

  8. #8
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    Apr 2013
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    Kansas City
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    I cant even find redwood here in the US midwest - hard to imagine what it would cost over there. If you don't put a finish on it, it will turn gray, whatever wood you choose. It will probably turn gray anyway, just slower with a finish. I think I'd talk to a local wood dealer, and see what is commonly used for outdoor wood.
    Hobbyist

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2021
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    So I was at my local timber merchant yesterday. And sure enough, he didn't have any redwood. What a pity. But instead he recommended Douglas fir, spruce or pine. I finally decided on Douglas fir because it seems to be easy to work with. He also said that a coating is urgently needed. I don't know yet whether I will paint the bench or not.
    I then asked him what he thought of a ceramic coating, but he said he had no experience with it. This is what I mean: https://nano-care.com/ceramic-coatings/
    It should not only be waterproof, but also make the paint (if I apply one) last longer and protect it from UV radiation and heat so that the wood doesn't warp. Do you think this is necessary?
    This weekend I will start building the bench before the weather here in Germany gets worse again...
    I will keep you updated!
    Tobi Jones

  10. #10
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    I cant even find redwood here in the US midwest - hard to imagine what it would cost over there
    There's a number of places that sell reclaimed old growth redwood.
    It is expensive though.
    (LOL! Had I known that our old 1956-made picnic table would be an even trade for a late model car at some point, I'd have urged my dad to keep it and not toss it into the fire!)

    I then asked him what he thought of a ceramic coating, but he said he had no experience with it. This is what I mean: https://nano-care.com/ceramic-coatings/
    I love Torque Detail I used it on my 2019 Kona & after two years, it still looks fabulous.
    It does however have a lot of silicone in it. I contacted Torque support to find out if it did or not. They did say it did - but - would not say anything more about it - understandably. All the others probably do too.
    That would/could cause serious issues down the road if you want or need to recoat the bench.

    Speaking of which - Doug Fir - I had skirt boards around the perimeter of my deck that were 2X10 Doug Fir. I left them uncoated for over 12 years & they stood up to all the bad weather we get here in NE Ohio.
    Good Doug Fir is an excellent choice for outdoor - IMHO.

    I do recommend some sort of coating on it though - do as I say, not as I did. I only did it because I had a lot of those boards in case I needed to replace one.
    My granddad always said, :As one door closes, another opens".
    Wonderful man, terrible cabinet maker...

  11. #11
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    Douglas Fir is great wood, but it tends to peel away / splinter at any sharp edges, which could be nasty if someone is sitting on a bench with bare legs. Well, more than many woods in any case.

    The spring growth is soft as marshmallow, and the summer growth is hard as hard toffee, so if there is run-out in the grain it can lift up easily at an edge. Rounding over edges can help with this. Otherwise good luck! And come back here to post some photos when you're finished.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gibney View Post
    Douglas Fir is great wood, but it tends to peel away / splinter at any sharp edges, which could be nasty if someone is sitting on a bench with bare legs...
    ^^^ This. We used Doug Fir for some interior and exterior cladding products at the architectural millwork I was at and it wouldn't necessarily be my first choice. Most of the timber we had access to was new-growth, so really soft. Not sure if it's available in the Munich area but modified woods like Accoya or Kebony would be excellent choices. Good luck in your search.

    Erik
    Felder USA Territory Representative: Central & South Texas

  13. #13
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    Douglas Fir holds up quite well outdoors if it does not touch the ground and can dry out between storms. Boiled linseed oil makes a great finish for it if you put on an additional coat every year or so. It stays flexible, so it is less likely to crack or peel than other finishes. The smell goes away after a couple of days in the Sun, but I don't mind the smell at all. Add a foot or spacer below the fir legs to keep it above the ground.

    There is one important thing to remember about boiled linseed oil though -

    This oil reacts with the air and spontaneous combustion is possible in your oil soaked waste rags if they are left behind in a pile. This reaction can produce enough heat to actually start a fire in as little time as an hour or so. Don't leave your finishing rags where they can burn down your shop. I once left a linseed oil soaked rag piled up on the end of my bench while I re-arranged the other end of my shop to make a place to put my project while it dried. This took me away from my workbench for maybe 45 minutes. When I went back to the bench and picked up the rag, it's center was almost hot enough to burn my hand. When the rag is laid out flat or spread out in any way or on your project the air flowing over it can remove the heat from the drying reaction, but it cannot when the rag is bunched up in a pile.

    I now have a lidded 5 gallon metal pail that I half fill with water when doing any oil finishing. When I complete my finish application using any oil based finish, my oil soaked rags that I used go into the pail of water and the lid goes back on. The next day, or when I get the chance, I wring out the rags and put them in the trash outside the building. Before the pail, at my former home, I would drape my finishing rags over my neighbor's chain link fence to dry. Then put them in the trash after they dried. His fence was behind my shop with bushes on his side of the fence to make the rags on it hard to see. Of course, I asked permission first and he allowed it.

    Charley

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Lent View Post
    Douglas Fir holds up quite well outdoors if it does not touch the ground and can dry out between storms. Boiled linseed oil makes a great finish for it if you put on an additional coat every year or so. It stays flexible, so it is less likely to crack or peel than other finishes. The smell goes away after a couple of days in the Sun, but I don't mind the smell at all. Add a foot or spacer below the fir legs to keep it above the ground.

    There is one important thing to remember about boiled linseed oil though -

    This oil reacts with the air and spontaneous combustion is possible in your oil soaked waste rags if they are left behind in a pile. This reaction can produce enough heat to actually start a fire in as little time as an hour or so. Don't leave your finishing rags where they can burn down your shop. I once left a linseed oil soaked rag piled up on the end of my bench while I re-arranged the other end of my shop to make a place to put my project while it dried. This took me away from my workbench for maybe 45 minutes. When I went back to the bench and picked up the rag, it's center was almost hot enough to burn my hand. When the rag is laid out flat or spread out in any way or on your project the air flowing over it can remove the heat from the drying reaction, but it cannot when the rag is bunched up in a pile.

    I now have a lidded 5 gallon metal pail that I half fill with water when doing any oil finishing. When I complete my finish application using any oil based finish, my oil soaked rags that I used go into the pail of water and the lid goes back on. The next day, or when I get the chance, I wring out the rags and put them in the trash outside the building. Before the pail, at my former home, I would drape my finishing rags over my neighbor's chain link fence to dry. Then put them in the trash after they dried. His fence was behind my shop with bushes on his side of the fence to make the rags on it hard to see. Of course, I asked permission first and he allowed it.

    Charley
    I'm surprised you suggested boiled linseed oil for outdoor use. I understood that since it is an organic oil, it is very susceptible to many types of mold and fungi. I've seen some outdoor projects that are black from it.
    If any untreated wood is placed on the ground, it will rot and attract termites and carpenter ants in through the end grain. Some form up a little dam on the bottom of the legs and pour 1/2" of epoxy as a water barrier. Others place the wood on concrete patio stones. Personally, I'd use pressure treated for the structure and make the rest from white oak. I'm glad the dealer didn't have redwood. The current stuff being cut has only a fraction of the rot resistance of old growth. Any sapwood on young cut redwood rots about as fast as pine. It's still sold on the stories of the past, and not current data.

  15. #15
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    My outdoor bench is metal, fabricated from some powder coated steel that was previously a forklift battery charging rack. I primed the fresh welds, but never bothered to paint the rest of it. I use it primarily for weed whip repairs and for spray painting, so it has plenty of extra coats of protection on the top of it. All of my Real Woodworking is done inside my shop on wooden benches with 1/4" hardboard (MDF) tops, so I can replace the tops when they get messed up. To me, fir is too expensive now to be making a workbench for in doors or out doors. My indoor workbenches are spf construction lumber with the MDF tops. Cheap and strong with easily replaceable top surfaces. I use power tools and only rarely use a vice on the workbench, so no dog holes in the workbench either. The double sided clamp extrusions usually hold my work in place when needed. I do have bench vises, but not for horizontal panel woodworking.

    Charley

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