I'm getting ready to build a new workbench to replace my old MDF
Where I live, hard maple and beech are about the same price (beech is
slightly less). I gather from reading archives that most people
recommend one of these two choices ... but given a roughly equal
price, is there any advantage in one versus the other?
I've worked hard maple but have never used beech.
Beech is what might be called a shifty wood. Fagus grandifolia is American
beech, AKA red beech, white beech, winter beech. It needs great care in
seasoning because of its high shrinkage rate. It is also not stable after it is
seasoned. Still, it makes good flooring, butcher blocks, chairs, handles and
other items. Given a choice between Acer saccharum and beech, I'd jump on the
maple every time. It needs rapid drying to prevent stain, but seasons well and
is a fairlys table wood after seasoning. It makes superb floors and is used in
bowling alleys and pins because of its hardness and stability.
It's hard to find green around here (central VA), and is expensive otherwise,
even in the straightgrained, plain wood you want for a workbench, but is a fine
wood that takes a very, very smooth finish.
"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that
it is his duty." George Bernard Shaw, Caesar and Cleopatra (1901)
I'd change the 'f' to a t. Not worth the risk on beech. Sort of brittle,
I would, however, not shirk at using "soft" (A rubrum) maple either.
Abundant and pretty cheap, because it has relatively large heartwood area,
and isn't as attractive for furniture, which a bench shouldn't be.
May I butt in? I need advice too. I will use my gorrilla-rack work bench, with
the top metal parts that hold the top assmbled upside-down so they can be
"filled" with the wood, I really can't afford very much maple but my grandmother
gave me her old maple breakfast table, should be about 7 or 8 BF of wood,
need a full 10 BF @ 1" thick for the top only, using a cheaper wood underneath
like maybe poplar, laminated on. Will this idea work? Or should I use another
(If I used all maple I would need a full 30 BF and that would be WAY too
expensive! 24"x60"x3" thick)
I bought a stack of old woodwork related mags in a public library, and saw both
your birdhouse books advertised in one of them, pretty neat!
If that's what you're going to use for leg support, then consider using CDX
plywood to build up the thickness, with the maple top. The differences
won't be apparent in use.
You can build a perfectly servicable bench from construction grade lumber,
using the right joinery. While maple is great, don't let the lack of a
great bench stop you from working on the projects you really want to build.
If you want to build an heirloom bench later, when time, space and money
allow, you'll be more experienced, and do a better job.
Good advice, thank you. But what does CDX mean? The other concern about plywood,
while I did consider it, is those holes to be drilled for hold-downs and bench dogs.
imagine that pressure will be applied toward the sides of the holes at the lower ends,
eventually that ply will begin to break down and chip? I can also imagine DF 2x4's
also develope cracks because of the wide grain structure. I heard that poplar is only
little harder than DF (much local) but has a much better grain, tighter, and lower
CDX describes the grade of plywood. CDX has one face side, with many
repaired knots & splits, and a back side, X, with essentially whatever
happens to come out. In other words, rough construction grade.
What I'm recommending is a method that will get you a perfectly usable
bench top, spending less than $40 and a weekend morning's work, plus
whatever you were planning on spending with the recycled maple.
I built a bench as my second large woodworking project, with DF
undercarriage, and baltic birch cabinet grade ply as the top. It's not an
heirloom, but some of the stuff I've built with it since is pretty special
to the family and the folks who have received it. When the bench wears
out, I'll stop beating on it, and it becomes an assembly bench, or a place
to pile tools and junk bench. Or firewood. It is, in other words, a means
to an end, and not an end in itself.
Others have their opinions, to which they are certainly welcome. To me, a
bench is a large clamping device, and not much more.
firstname.lastname@example.org (Robert Bonomi) wrote in
Well, maybe. That sounds familiar, actually. I'm certainly not the expert
My point was mostly, that not all parts of the bench need to made with
'furniture grade' material, in order to be useful.
CDX is the grade of plywood. One side grade C, the other side grade
D, the X is for "cross this off the pretty list." Basically, the
crappiest stuff that still qualifies as plywood.
The other concern about plywood,
It'll probably be awhile, but when it does happen, drill out the
holes, tap some dowels into the (now larger) holes, and re-drill your
dog holes. I did the same thing in a SPF (Spruce/Pine/Fir) bench with
an MDF top.
I can also imagine DF 2x4's will
I can't imagine anywhere in America that poplar would be cheaper than
construction-grade lumber, but what do I know? Don't answer that. I
would give serious consideration to Jummywood (Southern Yellow Pine).
It's only slightly more expensive than white wood and twice as hard
and plenny dense for a workbench.
As always, YMMV.
Sorry I meant "cheaper than maple". But that southern yellow pine sounds like
the right idea if it is low on knots, maybe that doesn't matter. I saw a chart that
says SYP is a very hard and heavy wood. Thanks much for the input on that.
Poplar, either aspen or tulip variety, is fine as a secondary wood. I'm not
sure what you mean by laminated here, but make sure you use freshly machined
wood, good adhesive, and clamp well (sandbags work on wide surfaces, as do flue
blocks and cement blocks and even bricks--set on rough boards to protect the
good surface--if you don't have a vacuum press, which most of us don't).
"I think the most un-American thing you can say is, 'You can't say that.' "
A woodworking glue--NOT contact cement--with as long an open time as you can
get. You want to be able to finick your way around and make sure everything
lines up. I'd use Titebond Extend or a reasonable facsimile thereof.
"I think the most un-American thing you can say is, 'You can't say that.'"
I like it. WOrth it? That's subjective as hell for any tool. I plan to use it
for some years, I'm impressed with the construction, find it generally accurate
and easy to use, with a couple features I'd change (but I'd like to change one
or two features on just about every tool I've ever used), but is it worth the
price? Personally, I do all my Sears & J. C. Penney shopping on sales days, so
it would then be well worth the price.
Didn't someone say they got an introductory model for under 800 bucks?
But, yeah, it's worth the price.
"I think the most un-American thing you can say is, 'You can't say that.'"
On 22 Jul 2004 11:59:56 -0700, n email@example.com (Nate Perkins)
Which side of the Atlantic ?
European maple is rare, expensive and of undistinguished quality, but
our beech is good. US hard maple is the wood of choice for
benchmaking, but all the US beech I've seen has been rubbish.
In the US (Colorado). The hardwood lumber yard has hard maple for
around $3.20/bf, and "steamed European beech" for about $3.00/bf.
Thanks to all you guys for your kind replies.
Fort Collins, CO US
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