The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Break out the lumber.

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The other day a (non-woodworking) neighbor came into my garage while I was sharpening and commented on my workbench, in particular the new leg vise I just completed. He seemed fascinated by the fact that it was possible to make a vise, though I told him that I only made the chop and ordered the actual hardware; he was impressed nonetheless. But I think he was most impressed over the board I used for the chop itself, as he remarked over it several times. When I told him it was just a 2×10 from the Home Depot that I planed down and sanded, he wondered if I had ever made furniture from two-by lumber. I told him that I hadn’t, but it did get me to thinking.

The truth is, I sort-of had made a piece of furniture from construction material. A few years back I built a plant stand using some (fir?) which originally had been a floor joist. It was rough sawn, and not fully dimensioned like two-by stock from a home center, but it was definitely construction lumber. I had no problems with the material, and it certainly worked easy enough, and because it was older, it had already dried. Though I didn’t really care in particular for that plant stand after the fact, the material was just fine.

Attached and ready to go.

Cleaned up fir can look great.

When I made the chop for my leg vise, I picked through the lumber rack at the Depot for about 5 minutes and selected 3 or 4 boards that looked the best. The board I chose was flattest, but any one of them would have likely worked, as they were all clear and had nice grain. In fact, had I chosen to do it, I could easily have ripped down (2) three-inch wide boards which were nearly quarter-sawn from several of those boards; perfect for making a very nice face frame. My point being I could have purchased four two-by’s for a very reasonable cost and with just a little effort turned them into some nice material for woodworking.

Strangely, maybe serendipitously, I saved a few of the cut-offs from the leg vise because the grain was so nice. Last night, as I was sharpening, I planed one of them lightly just for the hell of it, and liked what I saw. It then occurred to me that the leg vice chop was all the proof I needed. Looking at that chop, I could easily see that board used in a piece of furniture, more importantly, I could see an entire piece of furniture made from the same.

Straight grained fir taken from a two-by

Straight grained fir taken from a two-by

Would make a nice table leg

Would make a nice table leg

Right now, the only thing holding me back is storage space. If I am going to make an attempt to build furniture from construction lumber, I’m not going to go about it piecemeal. I would go to the home center or lumber yard, pick out at least half a dozen or so boards, and saw and plane them to rough size for drying all at once. But I don’t have the space to allow that much lumber to dry, at least not if I want to woodwork in the meanwhile.  So if I do this I’m hoping a member of the family with a lot more space than I comes through for me.

After I finish my current project I may just give this a go, as I think this could be an interesting experiment. I know I’m hardly the first person to use construction lumber for furniture making. But I have never seen anybody attempt to make “fine furniture” using only two-by stock. I’m not trying to be a trend setter. Woodworking material is expensive, and seemingly getting more expensive by the minute. I once thought tools were the biggest expense in woodworking, but it seems that wood has easily surpassed that mark. So If I can figure out a way to cut a few corners yet not skimp on quality, then I’m going to attempt to make it happen in any way possible.

This may make a nice construction lumber project...

This may make a nice construction lumber project…

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14 Comments

  1. Randall says:

    I’m looking forward to seeing what you might come up with in this experiment. I haven’t went out of my way looking for 2x stock projects but I do know that jay bates has a very nice series going on YouTube building a bedroom suite out of it and I have to say I’m impressed.

  2. Greg Merritt says:

    Welcome to the dark side! While I have yet to build and entire project from construction lumber, the Chinese Gate Bench came close, I do turn to the 2x stuff for leg material quite often.
    http://hillbillydaiku.com/2015/02/08/chinese-gate-bench-progress-1/
    You have my interest and I look forward to seeing where you go with this.

    • billlattpa says:

      I think it will be a good experiment for the winter months. Like you, I’ve used construction lumber for a piece here or there, my A&C bookcase in particular, but I’ve never gone full two-by. It’s wood, right? If the grain is nice, and it’s dry, then why not?
      Thanks.
      Bill

  3. Kinderhook88 says:

    I’ve built a few pieces out of construction lumber. Nothing I would take to the fair, but certainly utilitarian. I would sticker it for a week or two if I was going to resaw it into thinner stock, just to be safe.

    • billlattpa says:

      Yeah, everything I’ve dealt with has been pretty wet. I figure it will be a good experiment for the winter.
      Thanks.
      Bill

      • Kinderhook88 says:

        If you can be patient, wait for them to rotate their stock. When the pile gets down to the last culling, they will bring the next hack down from the upper shelves where it has been warm and dry. The boards in the middle of the hack will usually be the straightest.

  4. BikerDad says:

    I’ve made two pieces from construction lumber, one a custom sized bookcase from pine 1x, the other a full size bed from Douglas Fir. Both were made primarily with power tools. The DF is a bit strange when it comes to sanding. The difference between earlywood and latewood is profound, leading to divots/scallops as the softer earlywood (?) is sanded away far faster than the latewood.

    • billlattpa says:

      I’ve been doing some research, and it seems that the best bet is to find the widest boards available which contain the pith, the idea being all of the material adjacent will be heartwood/straight grained. Once I finish my current project I’m going to start checking around. Thanks for the tips!
      Bill

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