Walnut Workbench... what do you think?

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Blog entry by Blake posted 01-28-2009 08:09 PM 8446 reads 1 time favorited 50 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I might have an opportunity to acquire enough stock (free) to build a workbench but it is Clairo Walnut.

I am not sure if a dark workbench is a good thing. I know it would be gorgeous but how practical would it be? I was only able to find one dark workbench on the internet. Here is a photo of the one I found:

Beggars can’t be choosers. But I would be tempted to build furniture with the walnut and wait for something else to build the bench. But I would really like to build a bench. And the friend who might give me the wood is giving it to me because he knows I need a bench and he has lots of extra Clairo walnut.

If I am going to spend the time to build a bench I would expect to build it in a way that would last me a lifetime (or a few lifetimes).

Let me know what your thoughts are.

-- Happy woodworking!

50 comments so far

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 4930 days

#1 posted 01-28-2009 08:12 PM

a walnut workbench would be nice. i mean if you can get it for free why not.

View motthunter's profile


2141 posts in 4960 days

#2 posted 01-28-2009 08:19 PM

I would not do that. Claro walnut can make such beautiful projects. Save it for that and make your bench out of more conventional materials. Claro is so expensive… especially if it is nice. If you want a dark bench, use a good penetrating dye or stain..

-- making sawdust....

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 5489 days

#3 posted 01-28-2009 08:23 PM

sell a project or two from the walnut to buy some Maple or whatever – and your friends walnut will, technically, be going into the bench. – perhaps put a couple scrap pieces of it in there – a detail on the vise, legs or ends.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View Dennis Zongker's profile

Dennis Zongker

2856 posts in 4754 days

#4 posted 01-28-2009 08:25 PM

You are lucky to find Clairo walnut. I would build a bench. It would have a lot of meaning behind it. And the bench would last a life time. Then you would find even more time to woodwork. Congrats & good luck.

-- Dennis Zongker

View Tony's profile


995 posts in 5192 days

#5 posted 01-28-2009 08:29 PM

It would look fantastic, but a couple of points to think about.

How hard is the wood?
Think about using a cheaper hard wood (Birch, Beech, Maple) and keep the walnut for a higher status project.
Dark wood – it may be difficult to find small dark things on the bench (drill bits etcetera)

Whatever you decide to build the bench from, the hardware (vices) are where you will spend the money, do not skimp on these, a good set will last you a lifetime or more (unlike me with my cheap ones). By the way, I tend to use the tail vice with dogs a lot more than the side vice.

-- Tony - All things are possible, just some things are more difficult than others! - SKYPE: Heron2005 (

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 4930 days

#6 posted 01-28-2009 08:36 PM

also you have to see the wood. if its choice lumber FAS really nice no sapwood then projects might be the way to go. but if it has knots or sapwood or isnt the best lookin stuff a workbench would be a really good use for it.

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 4890 days

#7 posted 01-28-2009 08:38 PM

I know you mention costas a concern, but chris schwarz seems to think that southern yellow pine (often found at home centers) is a great material and cheap. Using anything more costly sounds like it might be an asthetic choice. here is a link to an article he wrote. I wish I could tell you more, but I don’t have his book yet. I’m ordering it soon though. good luck!

I guess the link I provided wasn’t where I originally read about SYP. It is actually in the preview of his book (that has me convinced I need to buy it). Hopefully this link works:

View Nils's profile


141 posts in 5026 days

#8 posted 01-28-2009 08:41 PM

I would definitely keep looking for some less distinguished wood for the bench. But as someone pointed out – it’s a bird in the hand, and if what you want is a bench, build a bench!

-- Nils Davis, Menlo Park, CA

View Damian Penney's profile

Damian Penney

1141 posts in 5153 days

#9 posted 01-28-2009 08:43 PM

I’d keep the claro for furniture, it’s too pretty to have hidden from view deep inside a top. I don’t think a dark bench would be a problem though, it’s a nice dilemma to have :)

-- I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 5261 days

#10 posted 01-28-2009 09:03 PM

At 43 yrs old I am in denial about how much more light that I need to see my detail work. My personal need for a light colored bench is great. Last night I was struggling to see some lines that I made on my black walnut stock.

I think that it comes down to personal choice and needs. I would like to suggest a light colored bench is best but there is no rule against using a darker wood as the material. But when you hit the point that I am at with your vision, you may wish that you had made it out of something lighter.

I love my benches with the white laminate. They make the shop bright and it is easy to take photos of projects on them.

Really the choice is yours on this one, there is not right or wrong.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View StevenAntonucci's profile


355 posts in 5100 days

#11 posted 01-28-2009 09:05 PM

Free walnut for a bench? Awesome. Go for it.

Lots of folks advising to save it for a “better” project, but what project could be more important to a woodworker than HIS PRIMARY BENCH! You will use it in the shop every time you visit, and it will bring you joy for the rest of your life.

Or you could use the MDF that I did and have a big pile of QSWO in the corner waiting for someday… (like me)

-- Steven

View JuniorJoiner's profile


497 posts in 4602 days

#12 posted 01-28-2009 09:17 PM

My question would be, do you have room to store the walnut if you don’t use it for a bench?
walnut is great to work with, and you have to start at the bottom for a bench anyway. so build the base from it, and see how you feel working with it.
If you like it, keep going.

-- Junior -Quality is never an accident-it is the reward for the effort involved.

View lew's profile


13385 posts in 4917 days

#13 posted 01-28-2009 09:28 PM

Pretty ambitious project for a guy who was quitting woodworking ;^)

Personally, I like walnut furniture. Todd has an excellent point about lighting.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View mmh's profile


3689 posts in 4884 days

#14 posted 01-28-2009 10:01 PM

I would save the Claro Walnut for a fine piece of furniture and use cheap light colored wood for the workbench. If you send me the Claro Walnut, I’ll send you Maple! Some of my best canes are made from feathered grained Claro Walnut. Can I come over and visit your friend?

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View depictureboy's profile


420 posts in 4804 days

#15 posted 01-28-2009 10:40 PM

Save the walnut. Its too precious to use for a workbench.

-- If you can't build it, code it. If you can't code it, build it. But always ALWAYS take a picture.

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