Is pine too soft for workbench top?

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Hope y'all had a good Turkey Day...
I'm going to build a workbench and I like the "butcherblock" look--multiple pieces of wood laminated together to make the top. I'd love to do maple, but can't spend the bux for that. I thought about squaring off the ends of pine 2X4s and laminating those together. But would pine be too soft? I'm not doing production work, and it'd be a light-to-medium workbench.
Thoughts?
Jim
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my pine/fir bench top has been steaming long fine now for quite a few years. The really good thing about it is I don't go into a complete panic every time something spills or a drill bit or chisel slips and gouges things up a bit. Every couple of years I take a plane to it and clean it up. I've probably got another fifteen or twenty years of that left before I have to make up a new one.
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| | The really good thing about it is I don't go into a complete panic every | time something spills or a drill bit or chisel slips and gouges things up a | bit.
This is why I don't see spending kilobucks on a bench. Well, of course sometimes you're paying for the usability features -- vises, etc. -- that really do aid your work. But I don't see spending money on fine wood and finish for a table on which I'm going to be banging, scraping, slicing, painting, etc. I gotta have something I don't feel bad about progressively destroying as I work.
I'm in the process of building some small benches. (Most of my projects are small.) But right now I have a set of old kitchen cabinets with a big slab of ply across the top. Every so often I sand it down a bit and slap on some varnish to keep stuff from soaking in. I don't care what it looks like; it's a utilitarian surface.
I remember a church that put a theatrical stage in their parish hall. They put a hardwood floor on it and finished it like they would have done a basketball court. And of course they jealously guarded the floor, with the result that nothing theatrical could ever really be done. Contrast that with the hardwood floors of actual working stages. We drive screws into those, paint them, scrape them up, etc. Part of owning a stage means accepting the cost of putting down new wood every 7-10 years when it gets too chewed up to be useful.
--Jay
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Greetings,
Too soft or not depends on what you plan to do. Pine does often have sap in it. You may want to use fir instead and pay a little more. If you find the surface too soft and can live without seeing the wood grain, you could lay a .25 inch thick sheet of MDF on top of it and put molding aroung the edge to hold it in place.
You will build a second workbench no matter how much planning and expense you put into the first one. You might as well cut costs on the first on by not using maple.
Sincerely, Bill Thomas
PC Gameplayer wrote:

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I built a bench out of 2x12's pine about 30 years ago ... moved it from Florida to Texas to Florida to North Carolina (Whew at 50 cents a pound on the Van lines).. but use it every day and it is still going strong... it has been hammered, screwed, cut, spilled, stained and even burned with a Oxy/Acetylene torch..
Have at it!

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On 1 Dec 2003 12:30:16 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (PC Gameplayer) wrote:

I just saw one today, Jim...at Home Depot. You might wanna stop in and take a look at their setup.
I have 2 benches...1 MDF & 1 1/2 plywood. Most times, when I drill into some stock, I don't even put down a scrap piece of stop! lol
The holes kinda give it character.
Are you gonna glue them? I wouldn't even do that. Just lay them side by side and run some countersunk screws into 'em.
Good luck.
Have a nice week...
Trent
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Built my bench a couple of years ago out of pine, upset me the first time I messed up and drilled into it, now getting close to planing it, the thing is a workhorse, like a wood hauling truck, gonna get dings, would really hate to have a nice bench to worry about.

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chefbob wrote:

By that logic we should not have any fine tools ether. They may get broken after all. There is something wrong with this approach. By the way, my bench is also butt ugly but still...
Dmitri
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Actually it's your logic that has a bit of a problem when you only equate a fine workbench with the wood used rather then the functionality of the piece. It's somewhat like considering a chisel made of, say, as an extreme example, gold, a finer woodworking tool then one made of a good grade steel because of the materials they were made from. The former, while worth many times the latter, would be useless as a fine woodworking tool because it would be incapable of performing it's designed function.
Consequently, a well designed bench that performs in it's assigned role year after year.is a fine woodworking tool regardless of what it is made of. One that doesn't come up to snuff for whatever reason, and, no matter what is made of, is certainly not a fine woodworking tool.
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Mike G wrote:

point out that drilling arbitrary holes by accident or otherwise does not seem to make bench a fine woodworking tool or improve its qualities.
Dmitri
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Sure, if you say so.
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Mike G.
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (PC Gameplayer) wrote in message

Go for it. I built my bench out of SYP and it's been just fine. I bought 2x10's as the 2x4's I was able to find were crap. Most of the 2x10's were "centercut", so I was able to rip off two strips from each board a shade over 3" wide with pretty good (almost q-sawn) faces.
You can see it at:
http://www.swt.edu/~cv01/bench03.jpg
Of course, since that picture was taken, I have drilled dogholes, and in general beat the holy crap out of the thing. One of these days I'll get around to re-planing the top, but it's not a big priority. It's held up fine, and I'm not overly-concerned when I put a ding in it.
Eventually I'll probably build another bench and retire this one to being a sharpening station or such. But I'm in no hurry.
Chuck Vance
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On 2 Dec 2003 05:21:23 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@swt.edu (Conan the Librarian) wrote:

I think that's one of the neat features about an inexpensive bench. If you need a new hole, ya just DRILL one! lol
I often put a screw in here and there...when I need a stop in a special location...then just take out the screw when done.
Have a nice week...
Trent
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PC Gameplayer wrote:

Depends on the pine. Southern Yellow Pine is actually pretty hard. Douglas Fir (most 2x4s) is much softer...and many call it pine, even though it isn't.
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Chris Merrill
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On Wed, 03 Dec 2003 03:19:52 GMT, Chris Merrill

Achshally, Doug Fir is not much softer than the hardest yellow pines and harder than some species (e.g shortleaf pine), at least according to the tables in FPL's "Wood as an Engineering Material" handbook. My bench is made of Doug Fir, and it's plenty hard. Nowhere near as hard as maple or birch (or beech, Jeff), but still pretty hard.
You must be thinking of SPF (Spruce-Pine-Fir) construction lumber, which is all fairly soft.
Doug Fir (and the western larch it is graded with) and the southern yellow pines are not dissimilar in appearance. About 10-12 years ago, my mother-in-law in Guelph, Ontario wanted a valance to cover her curtain rods. All the woodwork in the ca. 1940 house was stained Douglas Fir (or, at least, that's what it looked like to me and further research confirmed it). So, being a good little western Canadian, I innocently headed to the local borgs to get some clear "double-dressed" Doug Fir, as we call it. No luck. None of the borgs had any Doug Fir, which really surprised me. Some did not even know what it was. Finally, I went to a hardwood dealer that was a few blocks from her house. After I wiped up all the drool, the guy told me they didn't have any Doug Fir either, but he suggested using SYP instead. Same grain pattern as Fir, except the colour had less of an orange cast.
After getting them to rip the two boards I bought, I built the valance with some old hand tools. I was quite proud of myself for having done a really nice job with crappy tools. I got a lot of admiration and earned many brownie points, not for the fine woodworking job, but for the fine finishing job and the match with the colour of the rest of the trim. All I did was get a few small cans of stain, and mixed them until I thought it was close, and sloshed the RBS (tmLJ) on with a rag. Go figure.
Luigi Replace "no" with "yk" for real email address
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Chris Merrill wrote:

Yet another reading-the-replies thread, so I'm not sure exactly what the OP was after.
My workbench top is made out of standard 2x6 construction grade mystery lumber. Looks and smells like one of the lighter flavors of pineywood, not SYP.
I planed off the high spots and lag screwed a supplemental top made from someone's old, discarded table. The table is walnut veneer over poplar, which is another not-very-hard wood.
It has held up pretty well so far, except the time I got pissed off at a finger joint and beat the crap out of it to jam it together (in a test piece, mind you...) I made a pretty ugly finger-joint-shaped dent through the veneer and into the core.
It's not exactly a long-wearing solution, but I think it will get me through to a point when I can afford to do something better at least. If it gets too ugly, I can just cover it with hardboard without losing an unacceptable amount of working range from the pop-up dog on my front vise.
Having a reasonable facsimile of a proper workbench with dog holes and whatnot has been *very* useful, and I don't regret this a bit. Much better than nothing.
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I'm the OP, and your answers (plus those of others) were what I was looking for. My plan is to use 2Xsomething's, get them to about 3" thick, and laminate them together. And it won't exactly be "butcherblock" like I said...I'll use just about the full length of the 2Xsomethings...in other words, my plan for the bench top is to take 10-12 1.5X3 (finished length) boards, laminate them together so the benchtop ends up being 3" thick, and cut it to a 6 ft. length.
I'll look for SYP first, and settle for pine/whatever if I can't find it.
And I've gotten similar replies from other folks--along the lines of "it'll do do until you can upgrade to something better". That's all I'm looking for right now--something that I can use for a few years, (potentially) beat the crap out of, and not feel too bad about it. :-P
Thanks, all...
Jim
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I'm also planning a new bench and a maple top is way over budget. I happened to be at Lowes and priced some Glulam (engineered wood beams of glued up 2-by pine). They could order a couple 14"x66"x3.5" pieces for around $60 - seem perfect to glue together for a nice top. Wouldn't cost much more then buying a pile of 2x4's and save a lot ot time and frustration laminating them together. The Glulam sample they had looked real nice. Anyone try this for a top? Steve
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The current Shopnotes has an article on a folding workbench for your garage that used Duglas Fir for the top. The article said it should hold up but they were designing a bench for a home do it your self kind of situation and not for every day pounding. I have re read this article a few times and I think I am going to build a small top like this for a secondary bench. Maybe 40" x 16" that will go on the wall opposite my current bench (that always has a big pile on it). My thinking is a couple of 2x10's ripped and glued should last a while and would be cheap to replace.

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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (PC Gameplayer) wrote in message

Jim, I built seven workbenches out of construction lumber. If you make one a planer comes in handy to surface the 3 1/2" faces prior to gluing. Most construction lumber is not completely flat. A jointer will do but more work. I would bore holes for allthread at approximately 20" centers, keeps pieces tight if work area is subject to heat and humidity changes.I saw the edges to remove the roundover, after glueup I run thru planer to surface. I do this in stages because my planer can do up to 13" wide.First bench was made for a large millwork installation, boss liked so much he wanted one for home. The rest of the benches were made for other tradesmen on this job to take home. For a while I thought I'd never get back to installing millwork. Each bench took me about 30 hours to make.
mike
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