Work Bench Conundrum

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Forum topic by richardwootton posted 10-23-2013 09:35 PM 1511 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1701 posts in 2561 days

10-23-2013 09:35 PM

I have finally started in on my work bench build, and decided to go the cheap route and use construction grade “whitewood” aka SPF (Spruce, Pine, Fir) for the build. I have ripped the rounded edges off, laminated the first portion for the top, which comes out to about sixteen inches wide, and doesn’t include some extra width plus the dog hole strip and area for a wagon vise. That should bring my top to about 22” wide, and after flattening, just under 3” thick.

Here’s where the problem comes into play. This stuff is RIDICULOUSLY soft, it feels like friggin’ Balsa wood. Then I stumbled across a guy selling TONS of true 4×4 8’6” Oak posts (and some Hickory that I’ll pass on) for about 12 bucks a piece! That’s about $1.05 per board foot.

My question is, should I go buy the oak and start a new bench build, since I’m not very far into the current build? Or, go buy the oak, stack it up and use it for something else and keep on with my current bench build? Perhaps somewhere in between, build two benches and use the one with construction materials for and assembly, or joinery bench?

What would the wise LJer do?

-- Richard, Hot Springs, Ar -- Galoot In Training

16 replies so far

View mantwi's profile


312 posts in 2502 days

#1 posted 10-23-2013 09:41 PM

I would buy the oak. It will make a bench top that will stand the test of time and you can always use the pine for building clamp racks or any of the many storage solutions needed in a wood shop. By the way $1.05 a bd ft is a great price, go for it. Just consider the pine a practice run.

View oldretiredjim's profile


206 posts in 2991 days

#2 posted 10-23-2013 09:49 PM

I started out even cheaper with a solid core exterior door from habitat. I used it for about a year testing size and uses. mine is more of an assembly table than lj “workbench”. i found a laminted oak (I think) slab 1 3/4” thick that probably was some kind of floor for a trailer (tractor) and replaced the original. I have since cut up some of the original to use as mobile platforms for different stuff so not wasted. I think building shop furniture is something most of us do in stages. Gives us a frame of reference for the next step. It’s all a journey anyway. Whatever you build for today will need to be replaced later – after you drill it by mistake, glue and/or finish it by mistake, drive a screw into it by mistake, move into a different shop configuration, etc.

View paratrooper34's profile


915 posts in 3557 days

#3 posted 10-23-2013 10:11 PM

Richard, I don’t think you have a conundrum, I think you have an opportunity to make a major improvement in your original design. If I were you, I would get the oak and build the top from that. I imagine you would be peeved down the road at having such a soft top that got tore up pretty easily and wishing you had picked up the oak you found for a helluva good price. Go for it and be sure to post pictures of your new bench.

-- Mike

View Don W's profile (online now)

Don W

19425 posts in 3173 days

#4 posted 10-23-2013 10:36 PM

I agree, get the oak.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View bondogaposis's profile


5605 posts in 2956 days

#5 posted 10-23-2013 11:19 PM

If you are not liking the softwood top now you are going to hate it down the road and kick yourself for not going oak, make yourself happy get the oak.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View jap's profile


1251 posts in 2659 days

#6 posted 10-23-2013 11:19 PM

oak,oak, and more oak,

-- Joel

View theoldfart's profile (online now)


11053 posts in 3056 days

#7 posted 10-23-2013 11:32 PM

Use the oak! The soft whitewood will allow stuff to get embedded in it and mark up your work. dog holes will stretch on the top. Dogs and cats living together oops. I’m building mine from red oak for durability and most benches I’ve seen have been hardwood. You’ll be much happier in the long run.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View redSLED's profile


790 posts in 2498 days

#8 posted 10-24-2013 12:49 AM

One more vote for oak. Looking forward to your workbench photos on LJ.

-- Perfection is the difference between too much and not enough.

View 12strings's profile


434 posts in 2990 days

#9 posted 10-24-2013 02:03 AM

I’ll agree, as I actually tried to make a version of the milkmans workbench out of soft pine. The dog holes just don’t work in soft wood…they get bigger every time you use them. I scrapped it.

-- I'm strictly hand-tool only...unless the power tool is faster and easier!

View woodenwarrior's profile


255 posts in 2800 days

#10 posted 10-24-2013 02:07 AM

Oak. I think in the end you’ll be happier with the performance of it. I will almost promise you will have “buyers remorse” with the pine.

-- Do or do not...there is no try - Master Yoda

View Tedstor's profile


1678 posts in 3238 days

#11 posted 10-24-2013 02:07 AM

Maybe its been mentioned- but you could buy enough Oak for the top, and use the SPF for the base??

View rockindavan's profile


299 posts in 3241 days

#12 posted 10-24-2013 03:04 AM

I would make sure that the posts weren’t cut from the pith, otherwise they will check like crazy and warp pretty bad. You can always use the pine top as a general workbench.

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 3090 days

#13 posted 10-24-2013 03:16 PM

Sounds like you’re asking us to validate the decision you’ve already made. :)

Get the oak, you’ll be happier in the long run. And in the more immediate future too, I imagine.

-- Brian Timmons -

View richardwootton's profile


1701 posts in 2561 days

#14 posted 10-24-2013 06:07 PM

Thanks for all the responses folks. I’ll be picking up 10 or 12 of them on Sunday. I’ll post a picture once I get them home.
Rockindavan, I’ll definitely be avoiding the pith, and looking for as much quarter sawn as I can find.

One good thing about having the soft pine top is that I now have a large, dead flat surface to work on. I’m going to add some stretchers between the two beefy saw horses it’s currently sitting on and have that be my bench building bench.

-- Richard, Hot Springs, Ar -- Galoot In Training

View dbray45's profile


3328 posts in 3382 days

#15 posted 10-24-2013 06:27 PM

Get the oak, build the pine one first. Figure out all the mistakes you made with the pine one – then build the oak one. keep the pine one for assemble and paint work.

-- David in Palm Bay, FL

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