How to Find Large Wood Slabs for Workbench Tops

//How to Find Large Wood Slabs for Workbench Tops

Stack of thick slab lumber for workbench tops

Last year I bought six large slabs for workbench tops in my school, and I’ve had a lot of readers and students ask me where they can purchase beefy slabs like these. I can certainly share my source for people who live within reasonable driving distance to my school, but for everyone else I’ll just have to tell you what to look for in your area.

Ambrosia maple or spalted maple moravian workbench top

Almost without exception the least expensive way to find slabs like these, is to have them custom cut from a log at a small sawmill. The further away from a city the sawmill is, the more affordable the slabs are likely to be. The Ambrosia maple slab on the Moravian workbench (pictured above) was cut to my specifications, and then dried by me (well, it’s probably not dry yet, but enough to be functional). I had these maple Moravian workbench tops, and my red oak Roubo workbench slab tops cut and delivered by a guy named Lesley Caudle, a friend of Will Myers.

Lesley Caudle mill write sitting on stack of workbench slabs

Leslie lives in a rural part of North Carolina, outside of Winston Salem, and has actually been cutting, drying, & selling kits for Roubo & Moravian workbenches.  Will Myers’ article (here) shows Leslie’s sawmill and the Roubo kits. I’m not sure what his current inventory looks like, but I’m sure he’ll cut more for you, and you can contact Lesley at [email protected]

The soft maple Moravian tops cost $75 each and the Roubo kits (which includes the slab top, legs, stretchers, & vise chop) were about $500 each (plus a delivery charge for him to drive them up to Virginia).

FYI, to fill up Leslie’s truck, and save on the delivery charge, I bought two extra Roubo kits. I still have one left, so contact me here if you’re interested in purchasing the last Roubo workbench kit…but hurry, because my wife is tired of it sitting  under our front porch!

Newly finished red oak Roubo workbench

And this is how the two Roubo workbenches looked as they neared completion.

Newly finished red oak Roubo workbench

A lot of people own bandsaw mills, and can cut your slab workbench tops for a pretty reasonable rate, and can often supply the logs for you (like my friend Todd Horne). Just ask woodworkers around your area, or search for people selling lumber on sites like Craigslist. Most won’t carry slabs this big, but they’ll be happy to cut some just for you. You can watch my video about getting lumber cut from a bandsaw mill here.

And if the sawmill doesn’t have exactly what you want, you can just buy your own log at a log yard, and transport it yourself to the sawmill. You can also check out a previous article & video that I did with Elia Bizzarri about choosing a log at a log yard (here).

Elia Bizzarri using a chainsaw to cut a log for windsor chair making

One thing to keep in mind is that workbench slab tops are not meant to be perfect and flawless. So don’t get too picky when you go to a sawmill. Large air-dried wood like this almost always has checking and insect holes (even after you square it up), but heck, that’s all in style these days, so there’s no problem! I use butterfly / bow tie inlays to arrest the checking, and I think it looks really great.

Roubo workbench build with winding sticks and hand plane

2018-06-27T14:25:07+00:00

About the Author:

Joshua loves mixing his passion for traditional hand tool woodworking with his ability to teach in a simple manner. He lives on a small farm in Earlysville, Virginia with his wife and four children, and builds furniture in his workshop / woodworking school.

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William Wonneberger

I’d like to visit your shop if that’s possible. I live just north of Harrisonburg and have my own shop. I’m a retired high school teacher and I’m playing around with mostly hand tools making bowls, spoons and some simple furniture.
Nice website!
Bill W

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