Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ordering Lumber

Dear Benchcrafted,
I am interested in making a bench but I want to know what my total cost is going to be. How much lumber, and what size will I need? Is maple the best? white oak? I am not certain. Thank you! Jesse

When we wrote the instructions for our bench plans we intentionally omitted a cut list. Why? We think they detach the woodworker from developing a feel for the project. In our view, you should build the bench from the measured drawings and develop your own strategy for getting the necessary parts from the stock you have available to you, and according to how you work. Some may have access to 12/4 or even 16/4 lumber. This would make the top much quicker to build, as well as the legs. On the other hand, we've build this bench using 6/4 lumber for the top. We've also built this bench using only 8/4 lumber for all parts, and that's what we recommend in the instructions. That thickness is widely available. As for what species to use, that's not something we can make an out-and-out recommendation on. There are many fine woods you can build this bench from. Ash, hard maple, soft maple, yellow pine, douglas fir, beech, etc. You must decide what to use based on how much effort you want to put into building the bench, and perhaps how much you want to spend. Hard maple is expensive in the northwest, but much cheaper in the Great Lakes area. Don't discount the labor difference between using hard maple or ash vs. douglas fir. If you've never built a project of this size, you will remember the process for the rest of your life if you use hard maple or ash. If you are relatively new to woodworking we will recommend a wood. Soft maple. It's widely available, inexpensive (about the price of poplar) and easily worked. It makes a great Split-Top Roubo.

For further information, here is an excerpt from our Split-Top Roubo instructions.

· Choosing wood ·

The prototype for this bench was built using soft maple. We think this is an ideal wood for benches. It’s easy to work, heavy enough, stiff enough, inexpensive and readily available. However, we also have built benches from hard maple and ash. These are all excellent woods. Hard maple, although expensive in many areas, is the traditional choice. The abundance and low cost of ash have made it a popular choice lately. It’s stiffer than hard maple and it makes a very beautiful and functional bench. Softwoods like yellow pine and douglas fir are also considerations. These are probably the least expensive choices, but not everyone likes the idea of a softwood bench. The dimensions of this bench mean its going to stay put regardless of species, so using a softwood might make sense--it has some “give” in the top surface, meaning that its less likely to damage a hardwood project part than a harder bench. Beech, if you have it in your area, is also an excellent choice. No matter what wood you choose, get it in the shop and let it rest for a bit before starting the bench.

· Ordering lumber ·

You’re going to need about 150 board feet of rough 8/4 lumber for the bench. If you’re able to pick through the lumber at your local yard, try to find boards for the top that are either around 5” wide or at least 10” wide. This is usually enough to straight-line rip and joint the boards for the top. If you end up with a bunch of boards around 6” or 7”, you’ll end up with a lot of waste when you rip the boards for the top, and you might find yourself short on stock as the project moves along. When we build this bench we order 200 board feet of 8/4 stock, straight-line ripped and skip planed. We do have some leftover, but this comes in handy for building accessories and other projects. The best way however is to make up a rough list of what you need from the measured drawings and pick through the stack at the yard for the best boards.

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