When I was planning my “petite Roubo” 18 months ago or so, the original idea that Christopher Schwarz and I cooked up was to use one slab of wood for an 18″ to 20″-wide top, because that would be historically accurate.
Slabs of wood that are 4″ thick were, however, easier to find a century or two ago than they are today, so the choices were limited.
After a bit of searching, we came across Bark House, a North Carolina-based company that specializes in (among other things) massive slabs of wood suitable for live-edge mantels, bar tops and the like. So we placed an order.
I don’t recall how we decided on cedar – or if Bark House decided on it for us. All I know is that a few weeks later, a truck with a flatbed trailer pulled up to our loading dock with what looked like half a log strapped it.
We fully intended to use it for the benchtop. But then we pulled out the moisture meter. While I don’t recall the exact number that registered, I’m pretty sure it was in the low 20s. By the time that acclimates, I may be eligible for social security.
Plan B it was: a 4″-thick laminated pine top, with some letf-over log cabin logs scavenged from Craigslist.
Now, however, as we prepare to move Popular Woodworking Magazine one mile down the road to our new magazine office and shop (seriously – we’ll still in the same ZIP code), that honkin’ big slab of cedar remains on our wood rack.
I suggested we hold a design contest, and build the winning entry. I was told that was a horrible idea.
Almost everything I’ve built has been out of pine, cherry, walnut and maple. I’ve never worked with cedar beyond lining a blanket chest with S4S lumber. Cedar, I’m assured, is a b*tch with which to work.
I still think it would make an awesome bench…at about 18″ high, set across two tree stumps outside the new shop, so we have a place to sit and eat lunch. But that seems rather a waste of a lovely piece of wood.
So no contest. But I’d still like to hear your ideas for this slab. Feel free to drop by the new shop in a few weeks; we can sit on the new bench and chat about it.
• If you happen to have a massive slab of, say, Southern yellow pine, and want to build an awesome workbench with it (you can, of course, laminate the top if you prefer) check out Christopher Schwarz’s most recent book on the subject: “The Workbench Design Book” (inside which you’ll find the model for my little bench…though mine has much shorter legs).