I have to be honest and admit that to begin with (just like in the design stage) my sights were set a little too high when it came to the timber I was looking to use for the workbench.
I briefly flirted with the idea of using hardwood, maybe Beech or even Oak at a push, but as I mentioned in my last post, the cost of these woods was far too expensive. Similarly, Douglas Fir and Southern Yellow Pine were also a little out of my league, which was a tough pill to swallow at first; I really would have liked to have been able to use this wood, as the engineering characteristics for these woods supplied in Chris Schwarz’s Workbench Book really do make them seem like a good choice.
After coming out of my romantic haze with making a workbench out of the finest woods I could get my hands on, it dawned on me: This is a workbench. On this bench I will make other projects that are of finer quality. This workbench will be my workshop’s work-horse and it will be bashed and bruised in no time.
So I began looking at cheaper timber options. Something robust yet inexpensive. This led me to B&Q in the end. I looked at a number of timber merchants and came close to purchasing a few times. But in the end I opted for Rough Sawn Timber from B&Q over the Planed All Round timber alternatives (a decision I would not repeat).
In total I think that I spent around £130.00 on the timber for this project. Not too bad considering that a commercial bench of this mass and substance would cost at least 3 or 4 times that much (probably a lot more than that).
Note: I think it would have cost me around £40 more to use Planed All Round timber. In hindsight, this might have been the direction take as planing the sawn wood took a great deal of time.
My Cutting list for the Bench was as follows:
12 off 3″ x 2″
15 off 2″ x 4″
1 off 4″ x 1″
Each of the lengths were approximately 8 – 9ft in length. The 3″ x 2″ timber would make up the two halves of the bench top while the 2″ x 4″s would be used for the aprons, legs, leg stretchers and bearers. The 4″ x 1″ would be used as a reversible planing stop that will sit in between the two bench tops.
I let the timber sit in my garage for around a month before starting to work on it; allowing it at least some acclimatisation to the conditions it would be “living in”.
To build the bench, I loosely followed the video series on YouTube from Paul Sellers. So rather than go into too much detail on these steps, I will give a quick summary with a few photos and suggest that for a more detailed look at the process, visit Paul’s YouTube Channel Here.
My first task was to Plane the timber that would be laminated to become the bench tops, ensuring the surfaces are smooth. To do this I used a Stanley No4 Smoothing Plane. I used this plane primarily because it is the only plane I own that is in a good enough condition to be used to achieve consistent results.
Once planed, I carried out a dry run with the timber to make sure that it will laminate well. I laid out the pieces as they would be glued and applied clamps. All went well.
When it came to gluing up the laminations for the bench tops, I had a slight problem with the glue that I was using. It was standard PVA (it can be seen in one of the images above) and unfortunately the dispenser/container it was in had several leaks, meaning I was getting glue everywhere! So I had to quickly shift from the PVA to a tub of Titebond that I had recently purchased from Axminster Tools. I had to make the switch mid glue-up so it threw me off balance a little bit, resulting in me not taking the time to ensure the laminations were aligned as well as could be.
After I switched to Titebond, the glue up of the bench tops went reasonably well.
If I am honest, given the opportunity to repeat this I would take more care in making sure that the laminations were perfectly aligned. After gluing up both bench tops, I found that it got easier with the second top and even easier with the aprons.
Not having the laminations aligned caused me problems when planing the bench tops/aprons to be square and flat. The amount of work this added (as there was much more material to take off) really did teach me a lesson!!
Once again I turned to my Stanley No4 plane for smoothing and flattening the Aprons and Bench tops. While a 4 1/2 or 5 1/2 may have been a better option, the No4 served me well and after a days work, my bench tops and aprons were smooth, flat and square.
Next Step, making the legs, stretchers and leg frames…….