workbench top lumber dimensions


bholland
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Hi everyone. I got a question about building a bench top. I can get 16/4 ash for about 6.50 a bf and 6/4 for 3.50 with 12/4 for 4.90. I would personally like a 3 inch table top or around there. 

What makes the most sense? Would I try and get 6/4 boards with 3ish-inch increments wide (3.5 wide, 7in wide) or 16/4 boards and set them wide? I can't figure out what is cheaper. I assume I am going to just edge glue them all. I assume I want the cheapest board per board ft but with 6/4, I would probably need about 15 boards. Is that right?

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Ooh man, if I could get 16/4, I happily would use that over a big glue up of 6/4 boards. With no functional difference, I prefer the look of thick sticks for the top.

Between face and edge there shouldn't be much of a difference since board footage is a volumetric measurement.

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As Brendon said, board feet is the same, so 6/4 is your least costly option. I would pick the thinner boards and laminate them, as they are more likely to be fully dried, and less likely to warp or twist. Thick beams look really cool, but if they aren't dry through and through, they can cause trouble.

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I agree that thinner boards laminated together will offer more stability and require less re-flattening over time.  Depending on how you use your bench, you may re-flatten more often.  Some folks cut into the bench and scar it with chisel, saw and other marks and then re-flatten once things get too chewed up.  I use a bench hook and other such items since my preferred bench top is laminate layers of ply and MDF.  Any errant scars of any size get filled with epoxy and flattened the next time I am using some.  Oddly, the deepest scar on my bench came from dropping something on it from the rafters, not woodworking :D

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So it sounds like everyone's scared of wood movement and reflattening in the future.. But why? We all know it should be dry no matter what thickness so Getting properly dried lumber should make this all but a non issue. 

Building with 16/4 would be a LOT faster and waste much less wood. Instead of face jointing and planing 20 6/4 sticks which still remove thickness from each, I would happily do 7 16/4 with less than half the glue ups.

After movement and ease of work, you have looks: totally subjective but imo, thicker looks better

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33 minutes ago, Brendon_t said:

So it sounds like everyone's scared of wood movement and reflattening in the future.. But why? We all know it should be dry no matter what thickness so Getting properly dried lumber should make this all but a non issue.

On the face i agree with you entirely. In practice i have a bench that isn't flat and it bothers me a ton. Have i flattened it? Nope I'd rather build projects than flatten my bench.

On the flip side the time i save now can get me back to projects faster and then i can invest time in the future to re-flatten it when i might have more. This is appealing to me and i might try and find some nice thick stuff to make my bench from.

From my reading it seems like there is no avoiding re flattening your bench either it's just how long until you have to.

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1 hour ago, Brendon_t said:

So it sounds like everyone's scared of wood movement and reflattening in the future.. But why? We all know it should be dry no matter what thickness so Getting properly dried lumber should make this all but a non issue. 

Building with 16/4 would be a LOT faster and waste much less wood. Instead of face jointing and planing 20 6/4 sticks which still remove thickness from each, I would happily do 7 16/4 with less than half the glue ups.

After movement and ease of work, you have looks: totally subjective but imo, thicker looks better

Once wood is properly & fully dried, that's not the end of movement. Seasonal RH easily varies by tens of percent, so it's gonna move. The twisting & warping is usually minor enough to not be an issue in the case of furniture, but with a bench, I want it to be as flat as possible season to season. I might expect to have to flatten that bench (I haven't with mine) at some point a year or 2 after construction but beyond that I'd rather be using the bench than flattening it.

I have no argument with you regarding looks.

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2 hours ago, Chestnut said:

On the face i agree with you entirely. In practice i have a bench that isn't flat and it bothers me a ton. Have i flattened it? Nope I'd rather build projects than flatten my bench.

On the flip side the time i save now can get me back to projects faster and then i can invest time in the future to re-flatten it when i might have more. This is appealing to me and i might try and find some nice thick stuff to make my bench from.

 

Imo, if you work on it and it's made of wood, you'll like have to flatten it eventually.

You're working on your bench that's out of flat and you don't care to flatten it so it's not that big of a deal to you. Honestly, it isn't to me either. But I still haven't heard anything that's different between the glue ups that make a difference

Like stated below, Even if you don't work on it, seasonal changes may make it needed anyway...

Sooo... With that said.. why not go with the easiest construction? 

1 hour ago, drzaius said:

Once wood is properly & fully dried, that's not the end of movement. Seasonal RH easily varies by tens of percent, so it's gonna move. The twisting & warping is usually minor enough to not be an issue in the case of furniture, but with a bench, I want it to be as flat as possible season to season. I might expect to have to flatten that bench (I haven't with mine) at some point a year or 2 after construction but beyond that I'd rather be using the bench than flattening it.

 

It feels to me like were giving advice that we don't follow because of an ideal.. 

 

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18 minutes ago, Ronn W said:

I come down on the side of using 6/4 and more pieces.  Hint. when you laminate the pieces, try to have all the peices with the grain in the same direction, so that if you ever use a plane on  it, you 1won't get tearout.

This is excellent advice in more than just bench making.

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1 hour ago, Ronn W said:

I come down on the side of using 6/4 and more pieces.  Hint. when you laminate the pieces, try to have all the peices with the grain in the same direction, so that if you ever use a plane on  it, you 1won't get tearout.

Can you give any reason as to why you come down there?

Good hint too no matter the thickness used.

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2 hours ago, Brendon_t said:

It feels to me like were giving advice that we don't follow because of an ideal.. 

Not at all. To each their own. I just wanted to make clear my rationale & to inform others of the implications of the lumber choices made. I know sometimes I come off as being preachy, but that's not my intention at all. I think I get it from my dad, who was the master lecturer of all time :(

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36 minutes ago, drzaius said:

Not at all. To each their own. I just wanted to make clear my rationale & to inform others of the implications of the lumber choices made. I know sometimes I come off as being preachy, but that's not my intention at all. I think I get it from my dad, who was the master lecturer of all time :(

I'm not trying to start crap or call anyone out. I just can't figure out why people would recommend more glue ups, more milling, more room for error and use thinner lumber when Both are presumably equally dry, both being face glued giving edge grain show faces. 

I've seen many threads over the years when someone asks about gluing together 845, 4/4 boards for a top and everyone tells them to get thicker lumber. Now, someone has the option and is told to go thin and I haven't heard a reason that isn't the same with both..

If the general idea is that the 3.5" thick dressed lumber will move substantially More, than 1.5" in a glue up, enough to warp your whole thing, while also acknowledging that most people will flatten their bench regardless of thickness of laminations, And knowing it's so little of an issue that some leave it....., I can't get on board. I'm confused honestly and trying to follow the train of thought.

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33 minutes ago, Brendon_t said:

I'm not trying to start crap or call anyone out. I just can't figure out why people would recommend more glue ups, more milling, more room for error and use thinner lumber when Both are presumably equally dry, both being face glued giving edge grain show faces. 

I've seen many threads over the years when someone asks about gluing together 845, 4/4 boards for a top and everyone tells them to get thicker lumber. Now, someone has the option and is told to go thin and I haven't heard a reason that isn't the same with both..

If the general idea is that the 3.5" thick dressed lumber will move substantially More, than 1.5" in a glue up, enough to warp your whole thing, while also acknowledging that most people will flatten their bench regardless of thickness of laminations, And knowing it's so little of an issue that some leave it....., I can't get on board. I'm confused honestly and trying to follow the train of thought.

I agree.  If I had the option (without spending a fortune) I would have to loved to use 12/4 or 16/4 lumber for my bench.

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4 minutes ago, wtnhighlander said:

Well, there is also the fact that the 6/4 mentioned above is $3 less per board foot.

To me, that's the big factor, particularly on a project that uses as much lumber as a bench top.

 

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Only my 2 pennies. 

I built my 8.5 foot roubo using silver maple slabs for everything. 

I flattened the top 2 years ago, and it’s as flat as the day I finished. 

That said, I don’t think it matters in use. The decision (as always) is do you want to pay more, or do you want to work harder. 

Either way you end up with a cool bench. 

Only you know if you have excess time, or excess money. 

Chris

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19 hours ago, drzaius said:

Once wood is properly & fully dried, that's not the end of movement. Seasonal RH easily varies by tens of percent, so it's gonna move.

Ding, ding, ding :)

I also use mine as an assembly surface at times so being flat, true and level to mother earth is important to me. This is not the primary use of a workbench. It is a material holding tool and used in that fashion, true flatness is not as much of a concern.  We sometimes get caught up splitting hairs on fairly general issues; I apologize for when I contribute to that :)

 

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36 minutes ago, gee-dub said:

Ding, ding, ding :)

I also use mine as an assembly surface at times so being flat, true and level to mother earth is important to me. This is not the primary use of a workbench. It is a material holding tool and used in that fashion, true flatness is not as much of a concern.  We sometimes get caught up splitting hairs on fairly general issues; I apologize for when I contribute to that :)

 

Do you level off your bench that often? I know i don't have a level in my shop. I know this because i spent 30 min last night trying to find one.

11 hours ago, drzaius said:

Not bad at all. I didn't do any butt joints, but I did glue up a few narrow pieces that were less than the 4" I wanted for the top.

This is what i thought. I never see anyone do it in benches. I got quite a few 10 foot boards which would create quite a few awkward length cut offs so i was thinking of just putting them in the center of the slabs.

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3 hours ago, Chestnut said:

This is what i thought. I never see anyone do it in benches. I got quite a few 10 foot boards which would create quite a few awkward length cut offs so i was thinking of just putting them in the center of the slabs.

I don't see any reason not to use shorts. I had some defects in a couple of the long 8/4 boards that I cut out and laminated a piece in, although I just faced it to the bottom. There's so much glue surface in the bench top that even if you didn't reinforce the ends I don't think it's going anywhere.

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16 hours ago, Chestnut said:

So now that we're all worked up.... :D. What is the consensus on shorts. If some of the lamination in the top are 2 shorter boards ended together is that bad? In my mind i can't see how it would make a difference especially if they have a floating tenon or 2 between them.

I'm asking for a friend that may or may not have a lot of 8/4 cherry shorts they don't know what to do with ;).

Honestly, I about went with scarf joined shorts when I about ran out of material.  I'd have zero issue.

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