Sunday, July 25, 2010

Shop Girl: The bench base

Since last we spoke, I've gone and made the base for the woodworking bench:

The process to get from here to yon was a bit involved, though, so I'm going to present it to you in little snippets (or teasers, whichever your pleasure) over the next few days.

First things first, I needed to take all this raw lumber:

...and turn it into milled pieces with which to work, as in these fine examples of cherry (partially milled on the left, milled on the right):

So I used a jointer (not shown) and a thickness planer (shown below):

The thickness planer, as you can see below, removes a lot of wood on the way to turning a piece of raw lumber into a precisely milled board:

But not to worry, since the sawdust goes to a good cause:

A few words about the lumber. First, when you go to your local fine wood purveyor (and no, I don't mean Big Box Hardware), you want to ask for wood sized in quarter-inch thicknesses. For example, I wanted boards that were two inches thick, so I asked for 8-quarter wood. Don't ask me why they do it this way--it's some esoteric reason that I've forgotten. I don't make the rules. I just follow them.

Asking for wood in quarter thicknesses will put you squarely in the "One of us" camp.

Second, I am making the base out of cherry because it is durable, easy to work with, and just darned pretty. Also, it is magic. Cherry starts out medium light and turns darker and darker over time. It has something to do with light exposure, and I used to know the scientific reason for it, but I've forgotten. It is in that part of my brain where I've stored the reason we ask for wood in quarter thicknesses.

Third, I am making the top out of soft maple instead of hard maple because a) soft maple is hard enough, b) it is easier to mill without ruining your machines, and c) I am not made of money.

Maple is also durable and pretty, though not darned pretty like cherry, and it is not magic. That is okay though, since everything can't be magic. 

Only cherry.


  1. Wow, I am in awe that you have a planer. And I did not know about the magic of cherry. Though, my brother in law may know of it. He turns wood pieces into bowls, plates, and vases. Your bench base looks very neat, professional and well-made. Like something I'd see on a PBS show!

  2. I like reading posts showcasing any talent I lack - and woodworking is one of the many things I can't do. It must be very satisfying. I look forward to seeing your finished bench.
    If you find out how to access those parts of the brain presently unavailable please let me know. I have lots of info stored in there!

  3. teasers - you saucy minx you!!! Wow, you sure know wood. look slike you're off to a good start and can't wait to see what else you've gotten done!

  4. I was planning to ask you about the wood as soon as I finished reading. You must have known that you would get many questions about it. I am planning on building the cabinets for my new kitchen and thus I am following your blog with great interest - even more interest than I had before I planned on building these cabinets. :)


  5. Carol--Thanks! I never thought I'd be compared to a PBS show--high compliment indeed.

    EG--I will certainly tell you when I figure it out. I think there are many of us waiting to know.

    Mary C--Stay tuned.

    Lindy--The cabinet project sounds interesting. Good luck on it!

  6. Esoteric... what a great SAT word. I feel like my vocabulary grows a little more each time I read your blog.

    Also, is that your compost bin with the sawdust in it? Because if so, holy cow. I want to make one like that when I grow up.

  7. Eileen--Yep, that's one of my compost bins. Shouldn't you be study medicine right now, or something?

  8. Okay, that is so cool. You are definitely "one of them." Did I ever tell you we remodeled our entire house, doubling its size? It took us six years to finish. Someday when not so traumatized, I'll write about it.

    You are one cool girl.~~Dee

  9. Geez, Susan, I should have envisioned you were a talented woodworker, too.

    I am totally in awe of folks who can actually build stuff. Themselves. With saws. Etc. It looks like a wonderful project.


  10. You amaze me. I can't even get my head around figuring that kind of stuff out!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.