Wood selection question for Moravian workbench build

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Forum topic by controlfreak posted 06-16-2020 06:56 PM 820 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2284 posts in 726 days

06-16-2020 06:56 PM

This base is southern yellow pine with some red oak mixed in. The tool tray will also be SYP. I am trying to determine what I will use for the actual work surface. My possibilities that I have been mulling over are.

A solid piece of oak – I would need something reclaimed so won’t warp or split. It would also need to be about 6’ 4” long and 3 1/2” thick after milling. I would need to get as flat as possible via hand plane because I am not sure a 13” piece of wood will fit in my 13” DW planer. I have no idea where to even look for such a beast.

Wood that I can laminate.

Maple for hardness but cost and availability may both be issues here.

I can also go with southern yellow pine even if it is a bit soft.. I found some that is free of knots but it is KDAT (Kiln Dried After Treatment). It doesn’t look green but after being Kiln dried twice the actual dimension is 7 3/4” for the 2×8’ which will put me at 4 boards each if I cut into 8’ and rip. It is $51.75 ea. so I would need $155.00 worth to get me there. It is relatively cheap and easy to replace later if needed.

Any thoughts on my options or other ideas?

10 replies so far

View LittleShaver's profile


758 posts in 1744 days

#1 posted 06-16-2020 07:29 PM

It’s a work bench, use whatever you can get your hands on that fits your budget. I got some ancient wood boards from a neighbor’s barn for mine. He tells me they actually came from a wood bridge nearby. They were ugly as sin when I got them, but after wrangling them around to mill them up, the bench turned out pretty good. Been using it for a few months and already have an accumulation of stains, dents, dings, and nicks. Each one adds character to a working surface. When it get really bad, it will be back to the hand planes to clean it up. It was quite a workout getting it flat the first time, I expect it will be easier the next.

-- Sawdust Maker

View avsmusic1's profile


682 posts in 1810 days

#2 posted 06-17-2020 01:03 PM

I’d just use whatever hardwood you can get easily and cheaply for the top. SYP wouldn’t be a bad alternative but spending time debating the merits between oak, rock maple, ash, etc isn’t worth it

I’m building with soft (red) maple b/c it was super cheap to get in thick slab form locally and still solid

View johnstoneb's profile


3167 posts in 3298 days

#3 posted 06-17-2020 03:46 PM

The SYP would be great for a bench. Really hard wood on a bench top is not always the best wood. It can chip and splinter and can damage softer wood. It better to dent the bench with the project than dent the project with the bench.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View therealSteveN's profile


8009 posts in 1699 days

#4 posted 06-17-2020 04:15 PM

It s a work bench, use whatever you can get your hands on that fits your budget.

- LittleShaver

I’m in total agreement with this. Having had a number of benches through the years I have liked working on the ones with softer tops. So if I have a direction, it leans toward a hardwood frame/base, and a softer top. That said the most important thing is that very first line in the above quote. It applies to benches, as well as all woodworking projects.

-- Think safe, be safe

View controlfreak's profile


2284 posts in 726 days

#5 posted 06-17-2020 04:44 PM

I have reached out to some reclaimed lumber dealers within driving distance to see if they have any oak slabs that I can use in a solid top but doubt I will hear back, So SYP it is. I will check to see if any retailers have any kiln dried that is cheaper to make work. Even if I end up with some knots as long as I face them down I can live with it. I am done overthinking this. I have the wagon vise on the way so it’s almost time to start.

View SMP's profile (online now)


4214 posts in 1030 days

#6 posted 06-17-2020 06:00 PM

Where I live to get oak that thick costs a fortune per BF compared to softer woods or even to thinner oak. SYP is great for a workbench, especially to maintain the portability of a moravian.

View controlfreak's profile


2284 posts in 726 days

#7 posted 06-27-2020 10:49 AM

Well I have just received a reply from a reclaimed lumber that can get me a 100 old kiln dried S4S slab of oak for $550. This would be harder than pine, period correct for the bench. It would save me the milling and gluing time for the SYS version. I also see he has heart pine which would make a pretty top. Hmm, Now I have to make a decision.

View avsmusic1's profile


682 posts in 1810 days

#8 posted 06-27-2020 06:36 PM

That seems mighty expensive
I’d ask how big the piece is just for curiosity, b/c there is nearly no size I can see here worth spending that for a bench. That’s more that I’ll have all in on my red maple bench

Also, what may leave their shop as s4s may not still be perfect still when you go to use it

View Sycamoray's profile


86 posts in 365 days

#9 posted 06-27-2020 07:17 PM

I would suggest leaving the reclaimed wood for the current fashionable uses – bar tops, kitchen cabinet doors, all that stuff on Instagram. That’s why reclaimed costs so much these days, after all.

I’m not clear on why you specified “period correct for the bench” in your last message. Is that important to you? If so, laminating many pieces of SYP wouldn’t be period correct, either.

To be clear, I support your implied desire to have a bench which you enjoy looking at. My current bench is ugly, and the next one (part of which is still vertical with leaves on it) won’t be pretty, but it’ll be from my land. And that’s important to me.

View bondogaposis's profile


6000 posts in 3476 days

#10 posted 06-27-2020 08:21 PM

The front edge of a workbench is where the rubber meets the road. I build my Roubo top from yellow poplar and used ash for the front edge. After 5 years of use I don’t regret that decision. Virtually all of the wear is in the ash.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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