Chris Schwarz's Blog

The Six-board, $100 Workbench

At long last, Megan Fitzpatrick (shown actual size in the photo above) and I began work on a new workbench for Woodworking in America. We’re building this one from Eastern white pine timber left over from a log cabin that was built 10 years ago.

These six hunks of pine were kiln-dried then sat in a covered shed, where they checked a bit, gathered a bunch of spiderwebs and became covered in dirt.

Megan (who is really quite tiny as you can see in the photo above), snagged the entire lot for $100 after spotting an ad on Craigslist.com.

After bringing these boards into the shop and running some of them down to experiment with the material, I’ve become convinced that log home supplies might just be an excellent source of lumber for a workbench.

This week I chatted with a salesman from Discount Log Home Supplies in East Canton, Ohio, about getting some prices for “cants,” which are squared-off timbers. This company sells several species, though the Ohio yard stocks Eastern White Pine, which has been kiln dried to 11-15 percent. It comes rough-sawn and is basically No. 2 common.

After some calculations, I figure than an 8′ Roubo-style bench would require about 104 board feet of 5″ x 5″ x 8′ boards, plus about 21 board feet for waste. The company charges 85 cents a board foot plus the trucking charge ($1.75 a loaded mile). 

In the end, it would cost us about $160 to $170 for the material for a single bench.

That is not bad, considering that the top will be made of four pieces and there are no other glue-ups.

I was so encouraged by this that I asked Kelly Mehler at the Kelly Mehler School of Woodworking if I could teach a workbench class in 2011 using these massive timbers as the raw material.

And I think he’s game.

Today Megan (my foul-mouthed featherboard) and I sliced into the material after tuning up our massive Grizzly band saw (a fine bear it is!) and knocking down the six slabs into manageable pieces that we could wrestle through the bear.

As the dirt, spiderwebs and checks dropped away, Megan and I could only “ooh” and “aah” at this beautiful and massive material. This is going to be a fine-looking bench.

More details tomorrow. Now I need a massage.

– Christopher Schwarz

Other Workbench and Vise Resources

– You can pre-order my new book on workbenches titled “The Workbench Design Book,” which features a French design much like the one we’re building here. If you order it now, you’ll save 20 percent. Here’s the link to our store.

– As always, I recommend you check out workbenchdesign.net for all your geeky workbench needs.

– Check out the new Sliding Tail Vise from Veritas.

Benchcrafted has a new version of its awesome tail vise. Plus new instructions you can download from the company’s site.

– And be sure to check out the wooden vise screws from Lake Erie Toolworks. Very nice.

16 thoughts on “The Six-board, $100 Workbench

  1. Kerry Doyle

    Hmmm… Looks like DIY channel’s Blog Cabin may find its ultimate demise in PWW’s recycling of their materials.
    Using salvaged materials enhances a project with an additional story, kind of like old-timers with scars.

  2. George Clark

    Have you no shame? Now you are raving about one of the two species you rejected in your book. "(excepting basswood and the soft white pines)" page 14. Is balsa next?

  3. Kevin Thomas

    Seems like just 3 years ago you taught your first workbench class at Kelly’s. Are you sure he’s up for another? I know I’d like a Roubo to sit next to my Holtzapffel.

  4. Bob Demers

    ”My life as an outfeed table” Too funny Megan 🙂
    Swanz, white pine is just fine for a bench top, and remember that there are a wide range of white pine species.
    Eastern Canadian White pine, you would have trouble denting with your fingernails. Some of the pines wood I come accross is quite dense (old growth) and has a soul warming smell when cut into.

    My latest, rouboesque bench, was built with old pine, and some maple, work just great as a bench, and was cheap to boot

  5. Charles Davis

    Love this post… reminds me of that movie "Honey I Shrunk the Managing Editor". I can’t believe you guys are handling that massive stock. I hope you had some sort of out-feed table for the band saw. Foul-mouthed featherboard… too funny.

    Conrad, this is not the magazine. This is the blog where they talk about what’s going on. Clearly making benches for WIA is what’s going on at the moment. Plus this post wasn’t even about workbenches so much as it was about the unique building material that they came across.

  6. David Gendron

    Good looking wood! I got the wood for my next bench, DF 4x12x16(feet) for the top, $90(canadian $$) and for the legs, I found a piece of DF 6x12x8(feet)…. so so far I’m at 90 bucks for my bench!

    What is the stile of bench you and Megan will buid?
    Cheers

  7. Tom

    I scored seven 4" x 6" x 8′ New Zealand pine timbers at $1.00 a foot from a wood salvage yard in Philadelphia I found on Craigslist. That plus a few 2" x 8" cost me a total of $68.00 for my bench. The New Zealand pine is very light in color, but works like yellow pine.

    Since I have an old vise laying around for the end, all I need to but yet is the screw to make the leg vise..

  8. Lee Laird

    Chris-

    Great to hear another potential alternative keeping the costs down for a sturdy bench. Helps keep the extra change in the pocket to purchase nicer woods for projects, or maybe even some nice hand tools. 😉

    Best,

  9. Swanz

    White pine would be very soft for a bench top. I can put
    deep scratches in white pine by just pressing down with a finger nail. That price she got was a steal though. Looking forward to the finished product.

  10. Niels

    Chris,
    Don’t ever change! Can’t wait for the details on the latest benchening.
    A Schwarz without benches is like a day without sunshine… or enough clamps.
    cheers,

  11. Conrad Bennett

    Love your blog, Love your magazine but…enough about benches already. Seems that is all you talk about these days.

    Conrad

  12. Christopher Schwarz

    I don’t know how heavy they are. Lighter than yellow pine, that’s for sure. I’ll have a better feel for the weight when we get it into more manageable chunks.

    Chris

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