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.
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.
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.