Reader Questions: Benchtops, Trestle Tables and West Coast Lumber


Sweet jiminy I don’t need any more mail, tasks or obligations. If you have a woodworking question, you can usually find answers by using the search box on the right-hand sidebar. If you have a question about your order or a product, you can always send a note to [email protected].

Listen beautiful relax classics on our Youtube channel.

But occasionally I do get a question or two through the mail or friends that bears answering. Here are two good questions – and one that I cannot answer.

Benchtop Thickness

Robert in Vista, Calif., asks about an apparent contradiction in my writing. At one point I wrote that 4” is the maximum thickness for a benchtop that works with holdfasts. Later, I recommend 4” to 6”. What gives?

When I wrote my first articles on workbenches about 20 years ago (which led to my first book), the world of holdfasts looked like this: tons of crappy cast ones and a few custom blacksmith holdfasts. So I bought every holdfast I could. I helped Don Weber make me one. And when I tested them, I couldn’t get any of them to work in a benchtop that was thicker than 4”.

And so I reported my findings.

As interest in holdfasts grew, better ones became available. We started making one with a 1” shaft. These better holdfasts worked in thick benchtops. I can get ours to seat in a block that is 10” thick. But 10” is silly for a benchtop. I think 6” is the maximum I’d use.


Trestle Table Flex

James in Twentynine Palms, Calif., asks about the trestle table I built for Woodworking Magazine exactly one coon’s age ago. When his kids sit on the table, he sees the supports below the top flexing under their weight. Is this a known problem?

The trestle table is flexible; that’s one of the nice things about it. As long as nothing is groaning under the weight of the kids, you’re probably fine. The table is like an I-beam with a wooden skin on top. It’s quite strong and remains one of my favorite designs.

However, I cannot vouch for your joinery or the mass of your children. I can report that my table has survived many strange evenings.

James also writes to ask if I have any tips for sourcing wood on the West Coast (he’s new there). Species, places to buy etc.

As a Kentuckian, I have zero experience with West Coast lumberyards, except for buying alder and fir. Perhaps the readers could offer some ideas about good local woods for furniture.

— Christopher Schwarz


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