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"Off the shelf" vs DIY workbenches

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Phil Pascoe

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Stick to redwood rather than white (spruce). It's a bit more expensive but much easier to work. The end product will be better. Select it yourself if you can, not that there's much chance of that now. If you choose to go cheap and use CLS be aware the that corners are all rounded which makes some working (and all marking out) difficult. make yourself a cutting list and order a bit extra - you can mark out all the pieces to avoid damaged parts, bad knots and splits. See what lengths the merchant keeps - they'll be 3.1m, 3.8m, 4.8m or whatever - you can work out what comes out of what (within reason).
 

thetyreman

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agree with sticking to redwood, the knots in spruce (which is CLS) are very unfriendly to hand tools, unless you can self select and know every single piece is knot free then don't bother, the quality of redwood this year has reduced dramatically though where I go and I'd consider using something like douglas fir or if you can find any southern yellow pine, at least for the worktop, it will make life much easier when it comes to having to reflatten it with a handplane.
 
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Jameshow

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The cls from Wickes seems to be quite decent.

Dense close grained timber with few knots.

I'd pick through the pack for the best lengths.

Cheers James
 

Peri

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One autumn about 15 years ago B&Q were selling off pine decking at a stupidly low price - something like £1 for an 8' 5"x1.5". A load of those, a sheet of ply, and a record vice from a car boot made me a bench that isn't flat, isn't heavy enough and isn't big enough (but is the right height!). When I first made it I thought it was brilliant !

Every year or so I intend to make something bigger and sturdier with all the features and gizmo's mine lacks......... but, well, it works and I make stuff on it :)

Thing is, when I built it there were things I was convinced I'd need, but it turns out I don't miss not having - and there's things I never knew about at the time, that now I'd really like !

Point is, if you're going to build your own bench I think it's a good idea to make a basic one, do some carpentry, develop a style and get an idea of what it is you really need. You might want the state-of-the-art, fighter-plane-technology, laser leveled beast, but all you might actually need is a door over two trestles haha
 

docw

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I must admit that the one left in my workshop by the previous owners left a lot to be desired so I went to YouTube for a few ideas. I eventually went for what seemed the quickest option, using the Simpson Strong tie workbench kit. Found it for £49.95 on Screwfix but after some research found it £10 cheaper. Add a couple of 8x4 sheets of 18mm ply depending how large you want it, some CLS timber and I had a rigid, strong workbench which does everything I need. It took 2 hours to put together. Cheating? Maybe, but I needed a decent workbench quickly and If I ever need to move it or change its size it will be a simple job.
 

Knotty Norm

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Not to encourage you to delay but three is a modern bench design on a YT channel called Hooked On Wood that I think is just gorgeous as well as very functional. If I had my time again I'd be very tempted ..... :)
 

MayKitt

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Not to encourage you to delay but three is a modern bench design on a YT channel called Hooked On Wood that I think is just gorgeous as well as very functional. If I had my time again I'd be very tempted ..... :)
Is that the "Building my ultimate workbench" YT Norm?
 

SteL

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Do you not have a local timber yard near you? Before I started my bench build I had a go at some of the joints using leftover timber from B & Q and it would fall to bits if I put a tool near it. I thought that was just my ineptitude but I think that was only 90% of the problem. I ordered redwood from my local timber merchant and although visually it didn't seem much different to me, it was a hell of a lot easier to work with. That was lockdown v1 and I couldn't choose the timber myself so I ordered over so I could get around the splits etc.

Also, if you're doing a planked top with aprons, you're best asking what lengths they do so you can work out how much you need because you will need full-lengths. They did massive 16ft lengths of 9x2 so I could get 2 planks out of 1 length and backache moving them.
 

MayKitt

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Do you not have a local timber yard near you? Before I started my bench build I had a go at some of the joints using leftover timber from B & Q and it would fall to bits if I put a tool near it. I thought that was just my ineptitude but I think that was only 90% of the problem. I ordered redwood from my local timber merchant and although visually it didn't seem much different to me, it was a hell of a lot easier to work with. That was lockdown v1 and I couldn't choose the timber myself so I ordered over so I could get around the splits etc.

Also, if you're doing a planked top with aprons, you're best asking what lengths they do so you can work out how much you need because you will need full-lengths. They did massive 16ft lengths of 9x2 so I could get 2 planks out of 1 length and backache moving them.
Thanks for the reply SteL. I've got a builder's merchant very close. I've had timber from them for various DIY jobs over the years, including timber for rafters on a lean-to extension on our house. For this bench job, I feel that I want to step up a little so your comment on working with good timber is useful. Getting to know timber grades seems to be quite difficult though.
 

Phil Pascoe

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Work with you suppier rather than against them. They have a living to make. If for instance you need 24 x 1m pieces for something, don't order six 4.1m's, have a cutting list and ask for enough timber to get 24 x 1m legths. You might end up with odd lengths, damaged pieces, pieces with bad knots, splits or kicks in the middle, but you'll be able to cut around them and end up with better timber and possibly some firewood. it gives them a chance to get rid of flawed material, but it doesn'r affect your end usage. The same goes for sheet stuff - if you need 2m of a 2.4m sheet ask if they've got any damaged - often you can pick up a sheet with a corner knocked off for half of the price. They have to get rid of it somehow, and if you deal with the regularly, look afer them - they tend to look after you better when you need perfect material.
 

SteL

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Getting to know timber grades seems to be quite difficult though.
I know, I can't help there. I think the grade I got was called 5th -- whatever that means! It seems "unsorted" is the best (I think).
 

Knotty Norm

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Is that the "Building my ultimate workbench" YT Norm?
Yes, I believe that is one of the videos on the channel in which the bench features. In fact I see that there are 2 episodes devoted to the build and plans are available. A YT search for Hooked on Wood Workbench brings them up.
 

spb

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I know, I can't help there. I think the grade I got was called 5th -- whatever that means! It seems "unsorted" is the best (I think).
In the UK market for Scandinavian redwood, this is essentially right. The Nordic countries have a traditional appearance grading system for softwoods that runs from I (the best) to VI (not the best); grades I-IV are generally packaged and sold together as 'unsorted', and 'fifths' is Grade V timber.

For most purposes in this country, none of this applies to hardwoods, or in fact to anything except redwood. Other than for constructional softwood which is graded by strength, suppliers make their own rules about what, if any, grading they do and what constitutes a defect in each grade.
 

thetyreman

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In the UK market for Scandinavian redwood, this is essentially right. The Nordic countries have a traditional appearance grading system for softwoods that runs from I (the best) to VI (not the best); grades I-IV are generally packaged and sold together as 'unsorted', and 'fifths' is Grade V timber.

For most purposes in this country, none of this applies to hardwoods, or in fact to anything except redwood. Other than for constructional softwood which is graded by strength, suppliers make their own rules about what, if any, grading they do and what constitutes a defect in each grade.
you learn something new everyday thanks.
 

AJB Temple

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Not to encourage you to delay but three is a modern bench design on a YT channel called Hooked On Wood that I think is just gorgeous as well as very functional. If I had my time again I'd be very tempted ..... :)
That is an excellent workbench system. Really top notch for a small workshop. Thanks for posting. This is the link. Quite cheap to build as well.
 

Woody2Shoes

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In the UK market for Scandinavian redwood, this is essentially right. The Nordic countries have a traditional appearance grading system for softwoods that runs from I (the best) to VI (not the best); grades I-IV are generally packaged and sold together as 'unsorted', and 'fifths' is Grade V timber.

For most purposes in this country, none of this applies to hardwoods, or in fact to anything except redwood. Other than for constructional softwood which is graded by strength, suppliers make their own rules about what, if any, grading they do and what constitutes a defect in each grade.
It's a teensy bit more complicated - there are two grading systems Russian and Scandinavian! Needless to say, the lower grades are ropier in the Russian system! Also, CLS simply refers to the standardised dimensions and grading system used in Canada (usually of construction-grade, spruce, timber, but not necessarily) - where we sometimes get timber from - Canadian Lumber Standard.

 

Peri

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For a beginner with very limited tools, basic skills and not much cash, I thought this was very good.

 

TobyT

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Years ago in another house/shed I built a reasonable bench from laminated 2x4 with a hardboard top (for replacement, although it never was) and a tenoned frame bolted to a wall, the build is on here somewhere buried in the forums. It lasted until I moved out about 4 years later. I've been in my current property for about 5 years and keep meaning to build a new one. However as the last one took a while and I now have many other things to occupy me it never quite happened and I have been working off an old-school workmate and cheap B&Q trestles when I want something bigger..
So last Thursday, prompted by this thread, I logged onto ebay and googled school workbench. By Saturday I was £80 lighter and in possession of a rather beat up example.
WorkbenchTop.jpg


It is a softwood of some sort, and rather beaten up by years of schoolboy abuse. Including a number of 6" nails through the top (I've hammered them back through from the other side here).
WorkbenchWithNails.jpg


I was going to sand and plane down the top, but there is so much metal work embedded in there that I think I may just replace the top at some point. The frame is rigid (checking on that and lack of visible woodworm were check I made with the seller) so I'm happy. Ideally I will replace the top and aprons with some better bits of timber, but in the spirit of quick and dirty it may end up with a sheet of 18mm ply on top. For the moment it is usable and I will use as is.

It did come with 3 vices (a 4th had obviously been there but was now missing), and interesting mix of 52 1/2, 52, and 52 P. The only work so far is to remove one of the vices and tighten the fixings and replace the wooden facings on the other two. They do need a proper strip and clean though.
The side rails are somewhat chopped about but it doesn't seem to affect rigisity at the moment.
WOrkbenchVice.jpg
 
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