New workbenches for Madrona Labs

What’s more satisfying than a lot of new, uncluttered, horizontal space? I just finished up this project, part of the infrastructure for making new Soundplanes. Whoops, clutter is forming already.

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Each bench is made up of two long pieces of fir butcher block, about 2″ by 12″ by 8′, bought from Earthwise here in Seattle. Earthwise is just a few blocks from the bigger Second Use, and both are great places to find salvaged building materials, always worth checking out before buying something new.

The cabinets underneath are surplus dormitory dressers from UW Surplus. They were an amazing deal for the amount of storage space they offer, $20 each I think. Always check UW Surplus.

The fir butcher block came into my hands pretty raw and fuzzy with lots of big planer skips and other marks. One pair of pieces had around an 1/8″ curve across the whole length, which I took out by hand with a jack plane. The process for taking off lots of material is to go diagonally, first one way then the other in an X, and check progress with a straight edge every so often. Around two hours of work got both boards nicely flat, and my arms nicely tired.


Then I used the smoothing plane for a very satisfying smoothing pass.


Following the smoothing, I used SculpWood epoxy to fill the holes and fix in place some of the bigger flakes that threatened to turn into splinters someday. I’m satisfied with the way the SculpWood worked, though the oatmeal color is not super appealing. I might experiment and see if it can be tinted black somehow. I also glued down some flakes with a CA superglue where that made more sense.

A handheld belt sander with an 80 grit belt was the best tool I found for knocking things down flat after the epoxy.

Then three coats of Satin finish Varathane water-based polyurethane got the benches into the finished state shown above: a first coat on both sides of the board, sanded to 120 grit on top, another coat sanded to 220, and a final coat just left to dry. The Varathane dries in two hours at around 70 degrees just as claimed, has no objectionable solvent odor, smelling if anything kind of like Elmer’s glue, and the matte finish is nice to the touch. I like this product.