My Ultimate Workbench Build #3: Some of this wood is pithing me off!

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Blog entry by RS Woodworks posted 07-09-2011 02:34 AM 11549 reads 3 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Baby got legs!!! Part 3 of My Ultimate Workbench Build series Part 4: A sneak peak at the top layout... maple and walnut in love!! »

Ah the pith. That very core of the tree, that for some reason, is remarkably unstable in use as lumber. The inclusion of the pith in some of the beams I have obtained all but ruins an otherwise solid thick chunk of wood. It really pithes me off.

All kidding aside. I can probably still make some good use out of these beams, even the ones with the pith in them, with some thought into my cuts.

I was contacted last week by an old woodworking acquaintance, Maxwell. He told me he saw my blog and he had some more beams for me that I might be able to use for my bench. I went and saw him and had a great visit. We chatted for about an hour about life, tools and wood. A great conversation by my measure. And then he gave me the wood, for free! Can’t beat a visit like that. Thanks again Max! I really appreciate it.

So here is what I got from him:

5 Fir beams

4 hardwood beams

I started by cutting off an end slice of each beam, to see what kind of wood I was working with. I was quite surprised at the width of the growth rings on the fir!

The hardwood beams turned out to be two maple, a birch, and the last one (first one in the pic) is either oak or ash, I’m not 100% sure.

Before I mill lumber, especially rough old beams like this, I am careful to go aver them with a metal detector.

Fortunately in all this wood, I only found one nail. There were some rusted remnants of washers in some of the larger holes you see, but those were either cut off completely, or are deep enough that they won’t cause a problem with initial jointing.

One of the longer maple beams was so badly twisted, that it wasn’t even worth running over the jointer. It’s such a badly warped beam because it is the pith of the tree. I guess it’s pretty common to include the pith in rough grade beams like this, but it won’t be included in my bench. So here is what I have after running one face and one edge over the jointer.

So that, plus the beams I showed in my last blog entry, will most likely all be used in some form or the other on this bench. I will be using hardwood for the legs for sure, most likely the oak, and maybe one or two of the maple. I’m gonna pick the best ones for the legs. The rest will likely be cut up for stretchers and other parts of this bench.

For the top, I bought some 10’ maple boards, in 8/4 by 6.5” plus widths. They cost me $3.85/bft. That’s not a bad price around here. The walnut boards you see here I had bought off a guy some time ago. I got those, and a bunch of other maple, oak, and pine, for $200. At the time I figured it to be about $1000 worth of lumber I got. Anyway, the walnut will also be use in the bench top.

And here it all is together!

I also have plenty of other wood on hand on my lumber rack. Some of it will also be used for parts on this bench. For example the 7.5” wide 8/4 oak board seen here may be used (in part) for the leg vise chop and/or sliding deadman. Essentially, I will decide what lumber to use for what parts, as I build them. The goal will be to use up as much of what I already have on hand first, before having to buy more. But, in some instances, I already know I will have to buy a few more boards, like some more 8/4 walnut for the twin screw end vise parts.

Well that’s about all I’ve got for you for now, thanks for looking and following along with me. And I apologize for the delays between blogs. Work and family life still take precedence, but I promise, this thing will progress!

Oh, and one more thing… in case your wondering what the heck this thing is going to look like: here is my fancy high tech, highly detailed plans and drawings for this bench. This is ALL I’ll be working off of. Hopefully my work bench isn’t as lop-sided as my drawing is!! Hahaha!!

-- I restore the finest vintage tools! If you need a nice plane, saw, marking tool or brace, please let me know!

9 comments so far

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 4458 days

#1 posted 07-09-2011 02:36 AM

Great blog.

Great drawing ! I’m thinking … Picasso ??

I’ll eagerly follow along :-)

-- -- Neil

View gillyd's profile


136 posts in 3930 days

#2 posted 07-09-2011 03:17 AM

Very good pictures and very good explanation, I am following along as well.

View bigike's profile


4059 posts in 4573 days

#3 posted 07-09-2011 03:41 AM

very nice work that is a great haul of wood you got there I can only wish to ever get that much wood at one time.

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop, http://[email protected]

View ChuckV's profile (online now)


3445 posts in 4811 days

#4 posted 07-09-2011 03:58 AM


I just stumbled upon this series. Now I am all caught up and looking forward to watching your progress. Thanks so much for taking the time to tell your story.

-- "Join the chorus if you can. It'll make of you an honest man." - I. Anderson

View HalDougherty's profile


1820 posts in 4521 days

#5 posted 07-09-2011 01:14 PM

Great blog post. Very detailed and informative. The center of a log always splits! It’s the nature of the beast. When I saw logs for lumber, I cut a cant by slabbing the outside till I have a square blank as big as I can get it. Then I cut boards off to get the most beautiful wood (I carve gunstocks with most of my wood). When I’m cutting walnut or cherry, I cut the widest boards I ca from the top down to 2 or 3 inches from the center of the log, then flip it 180 degrees and take of boards till the cant is either 4 or 6 inches thick, Then I turn it 90 degrees and take off 4 or 6 inch boards till the cant is 4” X 4” or 4” X 4” depending on what I need. I use them to hold the lumber I’m stacking and I never have enough. I also use them as beams for building sheds, but never for furniture unless they have some spectacular feature like this bench. It’s the center slab of a maple bench that was just too pretty to make into a beam to lay in the mud and hold stacks of lumber.
Click for details

-- Hal, Tennessee

View jeffbranch's profile


110 posts in 3937 days

#6 posted 07-09-2011 01:40 PM

I agree with Hal – nice post. I’ll be watching your progress. I need a bench like what you are building.



View RS Woodworks's profile

RS Woodworks

533 posts in 4536 days

#7 posted 07-09-2011 04:42 PM

Thanks for the comments and for following my blog guys! I appreciate it. Hal, thanks for the explanation. If you ever have a piece of nice figured wood that your just dying to put in the mail, I’ll let you put my address on it if you like! :D

I am hoping to start cutting the boards for the top to rough with (just over 3”) sometime over the next few days. Then I can run them over my jointer as well. They are too wide to face joint with my 6” jointer as they are, so I’m going to rip them on the bandsaw first. I’m at a bit of a stand still in my shop with a lot of things while my planer is in for service. :(

-- I restore the finest vintage tools! If you need a nice plane, saw, marking tool or brace, please let me know!

View garywebb96's profile


4 posts in 3799 days

#8 posted 07-10-2011 11:29 PM

very nice work that is a great haul of wood you got there I can only wish to ever get that much wood at one time.

—Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop, http://[email protected]
Ditto to that Ike. A stack of maple and walnut like that, down here in FL, take out another mortgage.

-- Give a man a hammer and he'll bust his thumb.

View ergeek's profile


7 posts in 3807 days

#9 posted 07-12-2011 01:16 PM

Nice job so far Ryan! Great blog – following with great interest.

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