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Forum topic by Bradb7888 posted 04-27-2017 03:37 AM 1283 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Bradb7888's profile


13 posts in 1129 days

04-27-2017 03:37 AM

Topic tags/keywords: walnut table bench question farm

I just posted a different question and got such an overwhelming helpful response that I figured I would get this lingering question off my mind..

A while back my sister asked me to build her a mudroom bench. She wanted to paint half and stain the top. I ended up using 3/4 veneered plywood and she painted the whole thing. Looking back, I bet I could have used MDF.

I currently have someone at work that wants me to build a foyer table, farm style with the top stained dark and bottom painted white. This is apparently what everyone wants in their kitchens and living rooms these days.

Here’s my question: I don’t want to charge an arm and a leg by getting hardwoods like walnut for the tops and especially the sides if they are going to get painted over, so what kind of wood do I get? In my recent post, I had a comment that said to steer clear of the Home Depot softwoods as they will shrink and warp, so how do I stay cost effective while delivering a quality product to someone?

If possible, can I get suggestions for both projects?
Here are some links to examples:

16 replies so far

View ColonelTravis's profile


1976 posts in 2495 days

#1 posted 04-27-2017 03:46 AM

Poplar is the cheap-wood-to-paint-over choice for me for most everything.

View Logan Windram's profile

Logan Windram

347 posts in 3063 days

#2 posted 04-27-2017 03:47 AM

The real driver in your price to do a project will be time, lumber cost is less a consideration.

If you’re going to paint it, use poplar, or if you want a heavier feel, soft maple. Both relatively inexpensive.

View LittleShaver's profile


608 posts in 1220 days

#3 posted 04-27-2017 01:26 PM

Poplar also takes stain well so you can get the painted bottom and stained top with one wood. Poplar is also an easy wood to work with. Easy on cutting tools, not prone to burning, takes any kind of finish well. It is a little soft for a hardwood so it is best for light use areas. I’d never use it for a kitchen table but it should be fine for a foyer table.

-- Sawdust Maker

View gargey's profile


1013 posts in 1376 days

#4 posted 04-27-2017 01:51 PM

Go to IKEA, buy a screwdriver, have it delivered to their house and show up with it.

BTW, poplar is prone to blotch w stains.

View Lazyman's profile


4468 posts in 1988 days

#5 posted 04-27-2017 01:53 PM

For the top, you might want to look at a a hardwood veneered plywood. You could even buy veneer and make your own if you cannot find the veneered plywood you want. You can use some banding or solid wood of the same species to hide the edges. For the painted legs, the poplar is a good choice.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Rich's profile


5126 posts in 1190 days

#6 posted 04-27-2017 02:01 PM

I’ll add alder to the list. With proper techniques, it stains beautifully, and is very easy to mill. It’s sometimes called poor man’s cherry.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View pontic's profile


706 posts in 1209 days

#7 posted 04-27-2017 02:08 PM

Go to IKEA, buy a screwdriver, have it delivered to their house and show up with it.

BTW, poplar is prone to blotch w stains.

- gargey

Too funny.

-- Illigitimii non carburundum sum

View jmartel's profile


8685 posts in 2751 days

#8 posted 04-27-2017 02:13 PM

I’m not a huge fan of Poplar or Alder for benchtops and things like that. Too soft and will dent and scratch easily. Go with soft maple. Bit more expensive, way more durable.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4249 days

#9 posted 04-27-2017 02:41 PM

View Woodknack's profile


13002 posts in 2981 days

#10 posted 04-27-2017 05:42 PM

If they are buying the lumber, buy a low to medium cost hardwood. Don’t worry if they paint it. We can grow more.

-- Rick M,

View 000's profile


2859 posts in 1500 days

#11 posted 04-27-2017 08:21 PM

Work for richer clients! To them your prices will seem less expensive.

Materials are a small part, it’s your labor and overhead that costs the most.

View DrDirt's profile


4600 posts in 4343 days

#12 posted 04-27-2017 08:29 PM

Not much to add – as others like Logan said…. Time is where the cost is.

But if you are going to do like we USUALLY do and essentially work for nothing – materials can add up.

Also varies by region. Back in Pennsylvania – Red Oak was cheaper than Poplar.

Don’t know where in the country you are, but check out costs at your lumber yard and figure out what is ‘cheap’ in you area.

And know that at a hardwood dealer, you can pay less for Maple, than you do for “lumber” at a big box store. Look to In colorado, Aspen is the ‘inexpensive secondary wood’

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View tomsteve's profile


986 posts in 1820 days

#13 posted 04-27-2017 08:38 PM

this one, id build out of plywood. possibly oak ply edge banded top.or an edge glued board like this:

which was used for the top on this one
and it looks like pine.

I personally wouldn’t use MDF. chips easy and aint the funnest to join 2 pieces together.

” I don’t want to charge an arm and a leg …”
change your attitude. you charge what the material and your labor will be worth. go cheap on materials and you will eventually not like doing the work. go cheap on your labor and you will eventually not like doing the work.

IF they don’t know how much you put into the one you made for your sister, once they hear the price, they will probably be going to ikea. many people think handmade will be less expensive.
you could, however, get your lumber price down if you buy it by the trainload.

View Kazooman's profile


1408 posts in 2553 days

#14 posted 04-27-2017 09:33 PM

Back in my college days (a long, long time ago) we got by with any sort of boards and some cinder blocks. Cheap and sturdy bookshelves. Perhaps some of your customers would enjoy the “retro” look. Wooden orange crates were also popular, but they stopped using them ages ago. You can purchase replicas for some major league bucks. Who knew at the time that we should have saved all of this stuff. The return on investment would have put shame to the stock market.

View canadianchips's profile


2632 posts in 3598 days

#15 posted 04-28-2017 02:10 AM

The farm style tables are very popular.
Old wood for the tops….the greyer the better…..perhaps you can salvage old buildings.
Another source might be construction sites. Sometimes they throw 4-6 ft pieces in dumpster. If its being painted spruce, fir, doesnt matter.
I would AVOID MDF for these tables. It will bite you in” ass” later on !
I used to use salvaged Walnut, Oak, or other real good woods…...didnt matter to clients, they wanted a table that size ? What i was made from really didnt matter !
The days of symetrical, straight, even, sanded smooth are gone. People want primitive, rough and even unfinished !

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

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