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Good, cheap bench building material.

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  • Good, cheap bench building material.

    I would like opinions on what type of wood would be best to build a nice, solid work bench that will take some abuse. I like working with hand tools, so it will be abused. I am hoping to not spend a ridiculous amount on this however.
    Any advice is greatly appreciated!
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  • #2

    Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

    Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

    Be opportunistic. If you keep your eyes open, and have some time to wait, you will stumble upon something that could be perfect.

    A friend of mine was about to break down and drop some dough on wood for a bench when they happened into a salvage place. They had a crap load of wood in that had apparently been a mega-pallet for some shipping containers (I can't picture it myself, but that's what they told him). Regardless of what it was from, they were just trying to get rid of it. It was dirty, but dry, straight, heavy and hard. And cheap. He milled it up, and is halfway done the bench. Looks great so far!

    Good luck!

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    • #3

      Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

      Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

      Ash is a good choice. Usually cheaper than oak or maple. Plenty hard for workbench and easy to work with. I built my workbench with maple using mostly hand tools. It was a pain to dress so much maple with hand plane (the blade get dull very fast).

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      • #4

        Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

        Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

        ash is pretty cheap these days because of the mearald ash borer, but you'll want dry stuff

        and because much of it is from back yards and parks, be careful of hardware embedded in it

        also consider pieces of parralam beams, shorts are usually cheap at a local building center(not a big box place)
        my shop is a beaver lodge
        steve, sarnia, ont




        1940's Craftmaster Lathe

        https://www.facebook.com/artistryinwoodca/

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        • #5

          Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

          Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

          If this is a plain ordinary working bench use ordinary spruce dimensional lumber. Legs from 4x4 or 2x6. Stringers from 2x6. Top from 2x4 set on edge and glued together. Cover with a sheet of 3/4 ply that can be replaced. 2x6 legs configured in an L may be best.

          A bottom shelf can be included or bottom cabinets.

          The 2x6 stringers make it easy to attach a vise or two. An inexpensive one can be made from pipe clamp.
          Egon
          from
          The South Shore, Nova Scotia

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          • #6

            Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

            Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

            Hello there Joinery Junkie. I have two workbenches; a fancy good one made out of elm and a ordinary workbench built with 2 - 4 and plywood. The fancy one has nice joints and a tray behind to keep my tools in. The ugly workbench has a frame of two by fours and two shelves underneath. The top I just glued two layers of 3 -4 inch plywood together. I put a Record vise on one end. The fancy bench I just keep fancy tools in the numerous drawers. But I work on my ugly brute because I don't have to be careful of nicks or scratches or stain dripping on it. It is for hard use and it gets used hard. Have a fun time making your new workbench.

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            • #7

              Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

              Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

              http://forum.canadianwoodworking.com...ch+with+spruce

              This is a thread that contains plans and instructions for building "Bob and Dave's Good, Fast, and Cheap Bench", a laminated top of solid wood and with hand tools.....there are some good hints about sorting thru big box 'construction softwood' material and letting it dry more.......

              good luck

              michael
              Last edited by michaely; 12-30-2010, 07:31 PM. Reason: spelling!

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              • #8

                Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

                Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

                I've never wanted a work of art bench that I'd be afraid of dumping glue and finish all over not to mention the occassional errant drill bit piercing the surface.

                Mine is a collection of adjacent particle board carcasses filled with birch faced drawers. The top is 2 thicknesses of 3/4"MDF and to protect my beautiful MDF surface there is a throw-away layer of 1/8" Masonite.

                billh

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                • #9

                  Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

                  Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

                  I built a variance of the "Bob and Daves" bench out of 2 bys. The top is laminated 2x4s on edge trimmed to 3 inches wide with splines to keep in aligned when gluing up. The 4x4 legs are two 2x4 laminated with dados in each for the mortise and tenon joints. 2x10's used for the stringers. I drilled 3/4 inch holes for the bench dogs. It has two 7" bench vises. A coating of shellac to seal it up. Very cheap, very solid, very practical. Takes a beating, never moves and easily cleans up with a plane and a new coat of shellac when need be. I can't imagine wasting good maple on a bench. It's a tool not furniture.

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                  • #10

                    Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

                    Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

                    A local lumber supplier might sell Gluelam beams. The last 16" deep ones I bought were made of stacked 2x3 sized material. Around 8$ a foot. Very strong, flat and stable when laid flat. I sold the 3' waste cutoffs here and they were gobbled up in minutes.
                    Paul

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                    • #11

                      Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

                      Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

                      Joinery Junkie,
                      Many businesses have pallets and crate wood they are looking to give away (rather than pay to have it hauled away) and you may be able to find some longer pieces in larger sizes if you check around. Unfortunately pallet wood is often "not the best wood" and may have been treated with chemicals to control spread of pests (too bad this practice is too late for the Elms, American Chestnut, and others).

                      Glue-lam beams have been mentioned as an option, if you can find a section long enough for a top, although these are softwood species.

                      I have made very serviceable bench tops using layers of plywood laminated up into a 3-inch thickness (check if you need a specific thickness for your bench vise to mount to easily). If you go this route, put Baltic Birch ply on the top layer of the plywood sandwich, it is very hard and since has no voids in the interior ply's it will support your work and take a pounding. Install a hardwood frame around the perimeter of the plywood and it will look go and take a lot of abuse for not a lot of money. Plus the plywood will not move with seasonal moisture changes in your shop.

                      A final option, I used an old flat 3'x7' solid core commercial door (was damaged one side and got it for $20.00 at a Re-Store) and it worked for many years for me until I had the time to build a better top, at which time I just switched out the top and left the rest of the bench as is. Come to think of it, that is why my bench is 36x84, was built to match the door!

                      Good luck and enjoy the craft.

                      Robert.
                      If you can't grow it, catch it, or build it, what makes you think you need it?

                      Comment

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                      • #12

                        Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

                        Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

                        Apologies for the late reply....but here's my 2 cents worth:

                        My current (and temporary) bench was built over a weekend with 2X4 and 2X6 material based on a plan I saw in a magazine. The top is nothing but a solid core door, oversized, that I picked up at a Habitat Restore for 20 bucks. Total cost for the bench including the top was less then a hundred bucks. It is solid and very stable.
                        I liked the plan because there was no need for dadoes or mortise/tenon work...if you have a handsaw and can cut square, you can make this. And I don't worry about messing up the top...I'm planning on making a new one anyway. Like I said, this one is only temporary.
                        If you are interested in more info/pics I can pm you.

                        Cheers
                        Bill

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                        • #13

                          Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

                          Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

                          Saw an interesting source for wood - old church pews. Usually Ash or Oak and large flat surfaces. Thinking about it, lamination of two layers would be about the right thickness. Hmmm

                          Robert.
                          If you can't grow it, catch it, or build it, what makes you think you need it?

                          Comment


                          • #14

                            Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

                            Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

                            I just finished putting a bench along 1 wall in my shop and used 2 X 3 for the frame with lots of support and 3/4 MDF for the top which I then put some sheet laminate that I picked up in the clearance section of home depot a few years ago for about $5 a sheet. Total for the workbench which is 32" by about 13' was around $50. I haven't completed the storage underneath or up above yet but it is solid and working very well and only took a day to finish off.
                            Jamie www.turneddesignsbyjamie.etsy.com

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                            • #15

                              Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

                              Re: Good, cheap bench building material.

                              You can pick up firedoor blanks pretty cheaply - I got a couple at an auction for about $5 each. They are heavy, solid and flat. I havent pierced them for dogholes etc but they are great for working on , glue ups etc.
                              Cheers

                              Tim

                              www.timbowdin.com

                              'If you can't fix it with a hammer, you've got an electrical problem'

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