Workbench material

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Forum topic by Geoff posted 02-10-2012 05:29 AM 1612 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 2565 days

02-10-2012 05:29 AM

Hi all. Let me start by saying I have been lurking for quite some some time , very new to woodworking and am amazed and inspired by the info. and knowledge on this site.

I’m going to build a workbench for my second real project . My son in law gave me several fir 4”x12”x10’ s . My question is, is there any reason to rip these down and laminate them for the bench top or just use them as is after joining and planing. The lumber has been sitting in a dry shed for several years after being salvaged off a jobsite and are very straight. This bench is being built on a very tight budget – free – so any other material is not an option. There is enough material to do the entire bench plus several sticks left over. I would prefer the look of to a 30” wide bench in only 3 pieces. any input would be great .


-- We don't stop playing because We grow old, We grow old because We stop playing

9 replies so far

View KPW's profile


226 posts in 2636 days

#1 posted 02-10-2012 12:42 PM

Hi Geoff, Welcome to L J. My opinion is that Fir is a bit soft for a bench top. That being said, it is plenty thick and I used 4×4 fir for my base. Just expect to have a few more dents and dings than with a harder wood. Making it flat is more important. Good luck and go for it!


-- Ken --------- never try and put 5 lbs. of tenon in a 3 lb. mortise.

View woodrookieII's profile


273 posts in 2931 days

#2 posted 02-10-2012 12:53 PM

The top of my workbench is 3/4 MDF on top of 3/4 plywood, nice and flat, which as KPW mentioned is very important. When the MDF gets all ugly, I just flip it over.


View William's profile


9950 posts in 3110 days

#3 posted 02-10-2012 01:46 PM

It’s a matter of personal choice.

I, for example, have a workbench that consists of a kitchen table (an old surdy one) that was picked up off the curb. On top of that is 2×4 runner to be large enough to hold a 4×8 sheet of particle board. I get the particle board free from a company here that throws it away. When the “benchtop” gets too messed up, I thrown another sheet on and screw it down on top of the old one.
I’m perfectly happy with it. I can screw things to my bench, finish on my bench, beat the living hell out of my bench.
I’ve considered building a nice bench for my shop and decided I’m happy enough with my setup that I have no desire to go through the trouble.


View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3238 days

#4 posted 02-10-2012 02:35 PM

I would recommend you read the Workbench Design Book by Chris Schwarz.
Fir will make a perfectly good bench. Flat is the most important feature you can have.
It will be a bit soft, but that just means if you drop a part on it, the bench will dent, instead of your part.

I would personally question a 30” wide bench, I like 25”, but that’s what is great about building your own, you can have it your way. I would, again, recommend you read the book because then you will know why you might have one preference over another.

View canadianchips's profile


2626 posts in 3264 days

#5 posted 02-10-2012 02:39 PM

If it were ME: I would rip the 4”x 12” in half , using the 4” x 6” on edge to create the top. The edge grain is tighter than the the face grain. 8 pieces 4” wide will make a 32” wide bench.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View KPW's profile


226 posts in 2636 days

#6 posted 02-10-2012 10:36 PM

C- chips has the right idea. The 4” thickness will make a great bench top. I have a big old Stanley No. 8 plane that is good for flattening. If you don’t have one, see if you can borrow one. I’d lone you mine but Oregon is a bit of a drive from Maine. Just take your time and I,m sure it will come out great! Show us some pics along the way.


-- Ken --------- never try and put 5 lbs. of tenon in a 3 lb. mortise.

View Geoff's profile


2 posts in 2565 days

#7 posted 02-11-2012 05:57 AM

Thanks to you all for the reply’s and input. Canadianchips, i really like the idea of ripping and using the edge, I think that will be the route I take. It was rather coincidental that i had checked out the book by Chris Schwarz from the library and while re-reading the book for the fourth time my son in law showed up with the wood completely by surprise. I can live with the soft wood for the top, the price is right. KPW – Main isn’t that far is it ? I also recently came across my Grandfathers hand planes and just finished restoring the No. 4 the next will be what I believe is a no. 7. Hope these will work, Hope to keep you posted.

-- We don't stop playing because We grow old, We grow old because We stop playing

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15975 posts in 2886 days

#8 posted 02-11-2012 06:06 AM

Goeff – it sounds like you’ve gotten good input and I’d just add encouragement. Concur Chip’s rip suggestion, too. Congrats on the hand planes, the journey with those tools is simply awesome.

Looking forward to seeing your bench come together!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View KPW's profile


226 posts in 2636 days

#9 posted 02-13-2012 02:03 PM

Geoff, The #7 is just a tad smaller than the #8. Tune it up, set it light, and plane at about a 45 degree angle from as many directions as the grain will allow. Keep checking with a good straight edge and you’ll be suprised at how quickly it will go. Good luck and enjoy.

-- Ken --------- never try and put 5 lbs. of tenon in a 3 lb. mortise.

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