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Woodworking newbie here.

For fine woodworking, I understand you should let wood dry and get accustomed to your shop (or ideally wherever the finished product will live). Okay so of course that make sense for a huge slab of wood, but is that necessary (or even smart?) for gluing up cheap pine 2x4s?

If I glue them up right away they probably won't be dry but they'll be straight(ish). If I wait then it will likely be a lot more effort to square them back up (especially as I don't have a jointer).

I've watched various YouTube videos where someone shows how to make their version of a simple workbench and I don't ever see anyone talking about letting the wood dry so I'm thinking that most of them don't. Of course, this also raises another question of whether the finishing process will (or can) seal the wood in such a way that it can't dry out any further thus protecting it from warping?

  • Since you're building a workbench from scratch, were you thinking of using a lamination of 2x material for the top? If you were, have you come across laminations of board material, ply, MDF and/or particleboard as a way to create a top? This can be cost effective (it depends on your local sources and exactly how you're building) and there's a lot else to recommend the method for creating a workbench top. I think one of the clear advantages for someone starting out with no jointer or planer is they start out flat and remain flat, so no flattening job now or ever in the future. – Graphus Jan 27 at 7:39
  • Note that it's not necessarily just a case of letting the wood dry. Most wood you buy has probably been kiln dried already. Depending on your climate, in aclimatising to your local environment, the wood might actually become wetter. The thing is to let it get to an equilibrium. – MarkH Jan 27 at 10:57
  • @MarkH, yes that's right. But in the case of SPF I think it safe to assume it will be drying out some since it's now infamous for being dried poorly. – Graphus Jan 28 at 6:19
  • For a real-world example of what we're talking about here, this video of a workbench build from Rex Kruger was published a couple of days ago, youtube.com/watch?v=zcq1LQq08lk. At about 5:58 you can see it bucks the trend of they're not just not talking about it, and shows why it can be so important with 2x material. – Graphus Jan 30 at 12:57
  • @Graphus I actually watched that yesterday. – BVernon Jan 30 at 19:37
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For fine woodworking, I understand you should let wood dry and get accustomed to your shop (or ideally wherever the finished product will live). Okay so of course that make sense for a huge slab of wood, but is that necessary (or even smart?) for gluing up cheap pine 2x4s?

Yes, not just smart but many consider it mandatory. This is partly based on the wood, the location and the shop environment of course, but in general cheap 2x material is wood that would possibly benefit most from the wait!

You can substitute for fine woodworking with in woodworking in the first sentence BTW. All types of woodworking can benefit from letting the material acclimate to the local conditions. I've seen multiple examples of what can happen when you bring some new wood into the shop and use it immediately.

Of course there are times when you can't wait – and by can't I mean can't, not I don't want to ^_^ — and the kicker is you can get away with it. But where you can wait you should1.

If I glue them up right away they probably won't be dry but they'll be straight(ish).

  1. They won't glue as well as they would if a little dryer.
  2. The final product starting out straight is absolutely no guarantee they'll stay straight. Never underestimate the power of wood that wants to move — it can crack concrete and bend metal, think what it might be able to do to other wood (or weak glue joints).

If I wait then it will likely be a lot more effort to square them back up (especially as I don't have a jointer).

To acclimate the wood and get the best outcome sticker it, with heavy weight on top. The weight can be as heavy as you can easily manage, a small stack of cinder blocks or buckets/old paint tins full of wet sand are some good alternatives if you don't have exercise weights you can use.

Then leave it for at least a couple of weeks. As is often the case in woodworking, no harm in waiting longer.

I've watched various YouTube videos where someone shows how to make their version of a simple workbench and I don't ever see anyone talking about letting the wood dry so I'm thinking that most of them don't.

I believe you're correct, they're not just not talking about it, most aren't doing it2.

Of course, this also raises another question of whether the finishing process will (or can) seal the wood in such a way that it can't dry out any further thus protecting it from warping?

Take it as a given that you can't do this. Essentially this is possible, but it's not really feasible on a furniture item. Additionally, such a coating might be very undesirable on a workbench..... think bowling alley in socks!


1 Worth pointing out that other people's success doing this has A, no bearing on whether you will have equal success, in your location with the wood you've bought, and B, is actually no predictor of their future success doing so because even the wood where they are can and will vary. The world is full of "I'd never had a problem doing this before...." stories!

2 But I'm willing to bet many of these same people are also using table saws with the guard removed, and often no splitter or riving knife fitted either, are using their jointer without push sticks, have no guard of any description on their router tables....

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  • Cool. Guess I may as well buy some extra wood for my next projects then so it will be ready when I find out what those projects might be. – BVernon Jan 26 at 21:54
  • ".... think bowling alley in socks!" -- Love it! – Greg Nickoloff Jan 27 at 19:09
  • For a starter project I decided I'm going to try to make an end grain pine cutting board. I think I might actually try to make two... one where I cut the 2x4s right away and another where I use the rest of the same 2x4s after they dry. I think in a project like this where I'm gluing thin slices together it probably won't matter much but it will be interesting to see if the former warps after some time. Hopefully I'll remember to come share the results in 6 months or so :) – BVernon Jan 29 at 7:24
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I made one years ago just riped the rounded edge off and glued the boards up. It was for a "butcher block" type table it worked the hard part keeping the boards aligned while gluing up. The top ended up around 3" thick.

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    -1 This is anecdotal and not really a clear answer to the question being raised. Please consider expanding your answer or converting it to a comment. What kind of wood? Was it dry? How did dryness relate to aligning the boards? – Ashlar Jan 26 at 18:39
  • So you ripped with a table saw then, no jointing/planing? I'm trying decide whether I want to invest in a planer yet or not. – BVernon Jan 26 at 21:35
  • @Ashlar I think it's safe to assume he made it from spf based on context. – BVernon Jan 26 at 21:40
  • @Ashlar This is actually a fine answer. It's been a year and he doesn't mention any problem with the table now, he says what type of table, and mentions to be aware of the glue up issue. And yeah, I suppose by strict definition it's an "anecdote," but the problem with anecdotes is only whether they are actually true... not whether they are useful. And this is a personal experience... I have no reason to think someone is just making up personal experiences here. While not authoritative, answers like this are still very helpful. – BVernon Jan 26 at 21:51
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    @graphus Yes, my experiences at SO are probably why this has become a huge pet peeve of mine. And by "my" experiences, I don't mean the way I've been treated for my own answers so much as when I'm trying to get an answer for a question and someone comes and starts attacking a person trying to answer my question and I'm like "Hey, I need that guy; be nice to him!" lol – BVernon Jan 29 at 7:17

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