Chris Schwarz's Blog

Need Wood for a Workbench? Woodworking in America

For many woodworkers, the biggest stumbling block when building a workbench is finding the right raw materials and the proper workbench design. I can say this with authority because my mailbox is jammed daily with questions about workbenches.

I am quite picky about my workbench designs (if you’re reading my blog I don’t need to say any more on this), and I’m picky about the quality of my raw material. I think you can use almost any species to build a workbench, but I have three favorites: maple, Southern yellow pine and ash.

Next month at our Woodworking in America Conference (Oct. 2-4 in Valley Forge, Pa.), Horizon Evolutions will be offering special “workbench bundles” of Pennsylvania ash that have the right amount of wood (plus 15 percent waste) for three of my favorite workbench designs. There will be bundles for the French-style Roubo workbench, the English/German Holtzapffel workbench and Robert W. Lang’s 21st-century Workbench. (You can see drawings of all three benches here.)

The Holtzapffel workbench I built for Woodworking Magazine.

Each bundle contains enough 4/4, 8/4 and (yes!) 12/4 kiln-dried ash so you can make your bench with the fewest laminations possible (without buying a whole tree). The material will be clear and defect free, according to Pete Terbovich at Horizon, but it will not be selected for color.

“So there will be some white sapwood along with some brown heartwood,” Terbovich wrote in an e-mail. “The good thing about Pennsylvania Ash is that the heartwood is a very light brown compared to most Ash heartwood, so the color should be attractive.”

Here are the prices on the kits: The 21st-century Workbench contains about 130 board feet of ash and is $600. The Holtzapffel Workbench has about 76 board feet and is $425. The Roubo Workbench has about 118 board feet of ash and is $650.

And if you still need a plan for one of these three benches, Horizon will be offering free printouts of our complete plans for these three benches. Plus, many suppliers of workbench hardware will be at Woodworking in America, including Lee Valley Tools, Lie-Nielsen and Benchcrafted. So the conference is a veritable one-stop shopping place for anyone building a workbench.

By the way, admission to the Marketplace is completely free. So even if you aren’t registered for the conference, you can visit the Marketplace and buy everything you need for your bench.

Oh, and one more thing: All three of these workbenches , the Roubo, the Holtzapffel and the 21st-century Workbench , will be at the conference, so you’ll be able to kick the tires on those designs , plus the designs at the Benchcrafted, Lee Valley and Lie-Nielsen booths.

If you are interested in reserving a workbench kit for yourself, get in touch with Pete Terbovich at Horizon: pterbo@horizonwood.com or 814-772-1651.

If a workbench is in your future, a fact-finding mission to Valley Forge is in order for next month. Read all about the conference here.

– Christopher Schwarz


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16 thoughts on “Need Wood for a Workbench? Woodworking in America

  1. Pete Terbovich

    Hi All,

    Just wanted to add that due to popular demand, we’re offering a couple of extra options for the Holtzapffel and Roubo ash bundles.

    –Knockdown Holtzapffel Workbench–
    For an additional $15, we can include the extra material for the double upper stretcher needed to make the knockdown version of the Holtzapffel. However, we are not providing the hardware for this bolt-together design.

    –Shelf for Roubo Workbench–
    For an additional $45, we can supply enough 4/4 ash lumber to make the shelf which rests on the stretchers of this bench. This is an added accessory which Chris Schwarz mentions in his design… who can’t use some extra surface area to stash tools???

    And on a final note, after talking with Janeel from Benchcrafted (great vises), we’ve found that the Roubo bundle we’re offering contains enough material to build his to-be-published Roubo-style, split-top bench. Check out the Benchcrafted blog for more details on his design.

    Please contact me for any details or questions. See you all at the WIA conference!

  2. Alan in little Washington (NC)

    I don’t want to take anything away from Horizon Evolutions, but there is another, little-known source of Hardwood tops in Bally, PA, just 30 mi. N. of Valley Forge. While not a retailer, Bally Block is a major supplier of Hard Maple, Ash, etc. tops to builders, designers, and retailers such as Woodcraft, Grizzly, etc. It is not generally known that they also sell a limited number of seconds and returns from their factory with proceeds going towards the company’s employee picnic fund. I picked up a nice 3" x 30" x 72" top recently at a price far below the cost of rough maple alone. They redressed it for me on their wide belt sander and also sold me sufficient rough-cut 8/4 Maple for my aprons and vise jaws. It might make a nice side trip for conference attendees with shallower pockets. Call ahead for hours and talk to Russell about availability since the economy has forced a reduction in their hours and inventory is constantly changing.

  3. Pete Terbovich

    Regarding John Lytle’s post:

    Hi John,

    Thanks for the nod! We’ll be looking forward to seeing you at the conference.

    The digital photos of our wood sets are a constant challenge for us. First, off the figured wood is a challenge in itself. Secondly, a lot of what we have is roughsawn so the "fuzz" of the unsurfaced lumber causes some problems. Lastly, we do not have an area where we have good, adjustable, lighting that we can tweak for the photos.

    Luckily, two of these three are somewhat easy to remedy. We’re trying some new things with the lighting thanks to some suggestions by Tom Finch who I met at the WIA Conference in August, and it seems to be helping. Also we’re currently installing a 36" Timesavers planer/sander so we can offer some more surfacing on our wood; makes for better photos as well.

    Thanks again for the comment, and hopefully someday our photos will show the true quality of our hardwoods!

  4. John Lytle

    I am really glad to see Horizon attending the conference. I recently bought a flitch of Curly Cherry from them and the price was highly competitive and shipping was fast. The Cherry is being featured on Chester County Chest of Drawers (from Glen’s book) and a Pennsylvania Blanket Chest, again the Huey plan for the recent PopWood article.

    Take a look at the web page and some of the sets they have listed. The actual quality is better then the pictures show.

    John

  5. AAAndrew

    Oh, maaan!

    First, I’m almost done with my bench and you come along with a bundle that would have made it much easier and cheaper. Great.

    That just adds to my depression. I was at last year’s WIA and absolutely loved it. This year it happened to overlap with our big vacation so I can’t go, and now you add this level of disappointment to it as well. Y’all are just out to make me miserable during my vacation.
    🙂

    I cannot recommend WIA in nearly glowing enough terms. Because we’re taking this vacation and I’m burning up so much vacation time, I wasn’t able to hit the design conference and the hand tools one is right smack in the middle of the vacation, that this year is out of the question. But next year, you better believe I’m hitting both. You just cannot get a better woodworking experience, period.

    I certainly hope both conferences will be back next year. I’m sure its been rough this year with the economy, but it sounds like y’all have done a quality job and have started what should be a most excellent tradition of conferences.

    Thanks to everyone at Woodworking and Pop Woodworking for their commitment to the craft, the history and the joy of woodworking. Keep up the great work.

    AAAndrew

  6. James Ryan

    Hi Chris

    In a very quite humble voice is there a sketch up drawing of the 21st-century Workbench? Sorry I did not see it on the link?

    PS – Thank you for working hard at making my hobby enjoyable.
    Thank you

  7. Pete Terbovich

    I’d like to thank Chris and the people at Woodworking Magazine for this great opportunity! I attended the Furniture Design and Construction Conference in August and was completely blown away by the caliber of the presenters who lectured and educated there. Anyone who attended knows it was a first-class event; I’m excited for the conference in Valley Forge to get underway.

    Soon we will have all of the details of each ash bundle for the three styles of workbenches listed on our website under the Item of the Month section (http://horizonevolutions.com/unique-item-month.html), feel free to contact me with any questions! Thanks again Chris!!

  8. Andy

    Looks like a nice deal! And a bench is next on my to-do list – but I need to get wood OUT of my shop, not bring more in!
    Anyway, I’m very excited about seeing/trying the three benches you mentioned at WIA. I’m wondering, though, if Megan’s "Gluebo" will also be making an appearance? I keep coming back to that bolt-together design (albiet made with hardwoods), and I’d be very interested in seeing it in person. Also looking forward to the plans in next month’s PWW mag!
    Thanks!

  9. Dave

    I recently scored a load of 8/4 Ash that was air dried for a couple of years and then finished off in the kiln for $1.75/bf. I took home about 275 bf for $500. Clearly more than enough to build the Roubo and have a fair amount left over for future projects. I’ll be starting into the milling in the next week or so.

  10. Sharon Lev

    better come to the conference with a uhaul 😉

    luckily I just finished my bench otherwise this would be really tempting… I tried and tried to invent my own design, but ended up giving up, and went with a design based on the roubo – just made the most sense for my needs.

    Thanks for the workbenches book – it played a big part in sealing the deal for me in design choice. (although it was really me being lazy using reclaimed bowling alley – and the roubo design made it easier for me)

  11. Bob Demers

    Chris
    Since we are on the subject of bench materials, what do you think of using bamboo for a bench top?
    http://www.nwbamboo.com/materials.html

    You can get laminated bamboo top of 1 1/2 in thick. Im wondering how it would perform in such an application.
    Ever tried or gave that any thought?

    Im sure hardwood would be better, but im curious

    Bob

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