Building the 21st Centure Bench - Manini Style #1: Getting Started - Rough Lumber Arrives

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Blog entry by FrankoManini posted 03-01-2010 04:59 AM 2141 reads 1 time favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Building the 21st Centure Bench - Manini Style series Part 2: Setting Up for the Work »

A few years ago, I like so many others, caught a little thing called “The Handtool Bug”. It is an insidious affliction causing one to examine their shop essentials and workflow, and to open one’s wallet far too frequently. I thought a I had a grasp on things until I read Christopher Schwartz’s book, “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use”. It was then that I realized how woefully inadequate my bench was for hand tool work. After much research, I’ve decided, nay comitted, to building the 21st Century Workbench designed by Robert Lang of Popular Woodworking fame.

I’ve got a job that regularly puts me into 30 hours of weekly overtime I can’t claim back (sore point), a young family consisting of my lovely wife and two boys aged 6 and 3, and I am an avid hunter and fisherman. Did I mention I like to golf too? So finding time is a challenge for a big project, but I’ll fit it in. This might take me a year of Sundays, or maybe I can get it done in 3 months, I’m not sure. But stick with me and follow along as I share my splinters, boast of brilliance, and curse catastrophe. I’ll try to illustrate key points and share moments where I’ve learned lessons, or made and overcome mistakes.

So let’s get on with it already!

On February 22nd, the project began in earnest when I took delivery of more than 300 board feet (I only need about half of this amount for the bench) of old growth Douglas Fir. It was all 8” wide, and mostly 8/4 stock. This log was culled from a tree removed from private property in Victoria BC Canada. The irony is that it was destined for firewood before I tagged it for the bench!

From Bench Build
Doulas Fir delivered to my doorstep.

The wood is lovely, tight grained, and nearly dry enough to work. I’ll stack and sticker it in my shop and let it acclimate for a week or two and then I’ll get down to cutting to rough size, starting with the benchtop components.


From Bench Build
(Stacked in the shop.)!

Here are a couple more shots of the wood showing its range of colour, and the HUGENESS of it’s girth.

From Bench Build
Douglas Fir ranges in colour from a light tan, similar to ash, to a reddish hue.

From Bench Build
Mostly 8/4 stock, with three 4/4 planks, all of this wood is quartersawn – or very close to it.

I hope you will check back often to see how this project unfolds. It is one of my largest builds to date, and I am certain I will feel a great sense of accomplishment once it is complete… if not relief.


-- - If my wife asks, I got ALL of my tools on sale.

4 comments so far

View bigike's profile


4057 posts in 3851 days

#1 posted 03-01-2010 05:07 AM

hell yea i’ll be hea! I want to know how much was paid for all that wood?

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

View joeyfitz's profile


1 post in 3571 days

#2 posted 03-01-2010 05:15 AM

I own the Schwartz book, and have dreams of building the same bench. +1 to Ike’s query on the cost of the wood.

View FrankoManini's profile


40 posts in 4078 days

#3 posted 03-01-2010 07:58 AM


I hand selected each board from a stack of more than 500 board feet of 8/4 stock. At the end of the day, I couldn’t stop at the 150 bf I calculated I needed – including waste. I ended up with 250 bf of 8/4 stock. Total cost was less than $500.00.

I have found an awesome sawyer here in Victoria. He runs a tree service business, and custom mills nice logs for furniture rather than firewood. Custom milled to my specs (i.e. a 8/4 board will mill to a full 2” thick), kiln dried, and delivered to my door. And I get to pick which boards I want. If any one on Vancouver Island is looking for bench wood, let me know and I’ll connect you to Mark.

I should also have noted that Chris Schwartz sent me a note a ways back confirming my suspicion that Douglas Fir would be an excellent bench wood. He uses Souther Yellow Pine where he lives, but of course, it’s not available here.


-- - If my wife asks, I got ALL of my tools on sale.

View RusticJoy's profile


27 posts in 4227 days

#4 posted 03-01-2010 07:18 PM

I look forward to reading and seeing more of your bench build. I plan on building a bench myself this summer.

-- Dave Wert, U.S. Army

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