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wood for workbench

With my sawhorses ready and waiting, the plan clear in my mind and hardware in place, it’s time to start progressing the workbench project. On balance, I think I’d say the U.S. has easier access to timber suitable for workbenches than we do in the U.K. I say that after enviously looking on at Jay Bates collecting long, wide, planed and untreated Southern Yellow Pine for his workbench project.

I use the term “easier” because for all the assimilation and mixed blessings that the Big Orange Retail Giants have brought, ease of access does prove very useful. Although I can’t pick up timber of the same standard from the U.K. BORGs, I can work with what they stock and I can call in after work during the week or at the weekend. Please don’t take this as the only option. If you have a local small-scale supplier with good timber, then do please support them.

Wood For Workbench

Although some might have a touch of sick in their mouths after seeing “Studwork” grade timber, please just hear me out. My mind is not fully made up yet…although my motivation for this project is making a robust and practical workbench that is very affordable so I could not help but review this option.

From the outside, you might assume I’m a bit of a hand-tool zealot. Nothing could be further from the truth. I try to have fun, and fun for me does not include trying to take rough stock to planed without a workbench. Running my eye over the timber in the store, I was reasonably pleased with how straight it was, and how clean the surface finish was. That was in sharp contrast to the wood branded as “construction grade” shown in the very top photo set – it was cupped and twisted, and full of surface defects.

Workbench Shelf

There was also some tongue-and-groove, which would work great for the shelf. So while my mind is not made up, this looks like a contender.

— Graham Haydon

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  • Kelly Craig

    While the quality of lumberyard lumber has dropped, significantly, since I started woodworking, it remains it can be used for a variety of projects.

    I started using 2x’s for things like unique, custom picture frames over forty years ago. Decades later, they look as good as when they were first introduced to a poster or print.

    Starting out, I was lucky. Though I lived in the Pacific Northwet, the yard I frequented had covered storage areas, which made a night and day difference in the moisture content of the wood. This went a long way toward saving me from my own ignorance.

    Even early on, choosing the light 2x’s over the heavy ones was a no brainer. Once inside my wood stove heated shop, it didn’t take long to get the moisture content down to a level I could build with. Too, using the wood for things like picture frames meant the ends were mitered and joined, which affected how the wood dried more.

    I never could understand why even fine furniture builders did not seal the insides of cabinets and drawers. It just seemed doing so would give the item a fighting chance of survival when moving it from, say, England to Arizona, since doing so would slow the speed at which the item lost or gained moisture.

    Later on, I even applied non-hardening oils to things like wide, thin drawer bottoms, before sealing with poly. Obviously, the oil replaced lost moisture. Later, I learned doing this even disappeared cracks and splits, after the swelled back up. Of course, wood full of oil and poly will not take on any or as much moisture, and the oil doesn’t evaporate off, like water does (instead, it wicks cell to cell).

    So, yeah, you can us 2x’s. You can even use the heartwood discarded in this article, if you use the right techniques.

  • Bill Lattanzio

    Lately, I’ve been quite impressed with the construction grade lumber at the local yards and the depot. After a little experimentation it was easier than I imagined it would be to make some very nice “furniture” boards. Most of the construction lumber in this area is Fir, though at times you will find spruce or pine. But fir takes a lovely clear finish, and IMO makes a nice workbench. And good news for many woodworkers: it’s relatively cheap.

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