During the last few years, I’ve been using giant 6×6 softwood timbers to build workbenches for classes and customers. These big hunks look old school and make the construction process quick and painless – the top has only three glue lines.
Of course, the problem for most people is finding this wood. You can find it on Craigslist at times, or through a timber frame supplier. But neither of these sources is reliable. The Craigslist stuff can be world-class worm food. And the lumberyards for timber frames have little interest in dealing with people who want to build a workbench. Heck I couldn’t get them to return my calls when placing a cash order for the material for 10 workbenches – and this was during a recession.
So I’ve got great news for you. Hardwoodtogo.com now offers special bundled packs of 6×6 Douglas fir for a Roubo-style workbench – enough for an 8’ top and the four legs (you supply the 2x material for the stretchers, a minor expense).
The cost is pretty fair in my book: $468 plus shipping.
This material is excellent. It’s from the same source that I used recently to build 17 workbenches at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. It’s kiln dried on the surface and fairly dry in the middle – 12 to 18 percent. Unlike some 6×6 fir I’ve encountered, this stuff is stable and won’t spray you with water when you rip it.
Also good to know: This stuff does not contain the heart (or pith), so it is remarkably free of splits or checks. As someone who practically bathed in this stuff for weeks, I cannot gush enough about it.
If you are considering building an old-school French workbench, this is a great way to get the material with a mouse click. And it will probably save you about 20 hours of shop time compared to laminating up the top and legs from 2x material, which is what I did in 2005.
So check it out here, bench builders.
— Christopher Schwarz
Want to see movies of these benches being built with these timbers? Check these out:
French Workbench in Douglas Fir, Day 1
Build a Hand-tool Bench With Power Tools? Yup.
Do You Need Glue?
Workbench Assembly. With Glue.