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post #1 of 33 Old 07-25-2020, 12:12 AM Thread Starter
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picking lumber from home center

I am wanting to make a couple of torsion boxes, one for a desk top and one for a nice flat sturdy bench top in order to make model airplanes. I never have made a torsion box before and I was thinking of using 1 X 4 by ripping them down to 2" to 3". I do not have a planer or jointer so making things square is tough. So my anguish is that I go to Home Depot and could look through a pile for an hour and never find even one straight piece. It does not matter if I look for 1x4 or 2x4, etc. I need straight pieces for the torsion box and not having the tools to make the pieces I need so I need some advice. The desk top needs to be 24" x 72" x 2" and then the workbench top 30" x 60" x 2".

1) How do you get good pieces of 1x4 or 2x4, etc.?
2) Am I using the correct material for the torsion box?
3) Thought about 2S wood but the HD near me does not carry 2S wood. Do I need to look for 2S or 4S wood?

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post #2 of 33 Old 07-25-2020, 08:28 AM
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Ive seen a few designs using cabinet grade plywood.

You could cut the plywood into strips to use as the frame members. You can even have Home Depot use there panel saw for you to get the plywood to managable sizes. The dont charge for it. But most wont cut smaller then 8 or 12” sections for safety reasons.

Or you could use poplar or other surfaced on 4 sides hardwood, which is also sold at the Depot near the trim usually.

Ive made several work bench tops and desk tops prior to having planers and such from rough cedar that turned out well.

Just takes more time with a sander.

Another option would be a butcher block style countertop which would be pretty much ready to go.

Hardwood flooring, prefinished or not, and hardwood stair treads would also be options requiring less surface prep.


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post #3 of 33 Old 07-25-2020, 12:51 PM
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you buy the best pcs you can find.
put them in the shop.
wait two weeks.
slice/dice them to 4S.
for a torsion box, a straight table saw rip is entirely sufficient. no 5000" joiner required.



a store brand credit card often gives you more days to return lumber (and products) that have gone bonkers.
you cannot trust any of it.
buy it.
store it.
then see if it's still suitable.
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post #4 of 33 Old 07-25-2020, 01:00 PM
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Plywood for the top and bottom? The only pieces that have to be absolutely straight are the edging pieces. 3/4" plywood for the top, 1/2" ply for the bottom, and 3/4" ply or 1 x material for the internal honeycomb.....to get to an approximate 2" thickness. The ends of the honeycomb pieces should be square so that the butt joints are tight. You can attach the honeycomb pieces together with staples....you don't need to half lap. The glue is what secures the top and bottom to the internal honeycomb. Wrap the edges with a hardwood. The edging will cover the edges of the top and bottom plys. Rip the edging to exact width or attach overwidth and flush trim with a router.
You didn't mention what you have for tools.
Another option is to make the internal honeycomb from a sheet of plywood. Just make a bunch of cutouts in the sheet to reduce the weight. The cutouts can be any shape.....cut them with a hole saw or make plunge cuts with whatever tool you have.

Last edited by JIMMIEM; 07-25-2020 at 01:08 PM. Reason: Add info
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post #5 of 33 Old 07-25-2020, 10:58 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by JIMMIEM View Post
Plywood for the top and bottom? The only pieces that have to be absolutely straight are the edging pieces. 3/4" plywood for the top, 1/2" ply for the bottom, and 3/4" ply or 1 x material for the internal honeycomb.....to get to an approximate 2" thickness. The ends of the honeycomb pieces should be square so that the butt joints are tight. You can attach the honeycomb pieces together with staples....you don't need to half lap. The glue is what secures the top and bottom to the internal honeycomb. Wrap the edges with a hardwood. The edging will cover the edges of the top and bottom plys. Rip the edging to exact width or attach overwidth and flush trim with a router.
You didn't mention what you have for tools.
Another option is to make the internal honeycomb from a sheet of plywood. Just make a bunch of cutouts in the sheet to reduce the weight. The cutouts can be any shape.....cut them with a hole saw or make plunge cuts with whatever tool you have.
My plan was to use 1/4" plywood with 1x4" pine trimmed down to do the torsion area with 1x4 frame around the torsion area then add 1/2" plywood on top. Use a router with a flush trim bit around the edges. Then take some maple or walnut glued to the sides like a frame around the whole thing. At least for the desk, the bench does not have to be so fancy.

The 1x4's bother me because I have never been able to find a 1x4x60" straight and without having a planer or joiner getting straight to do mating notches for the torsion part. I know where HD keeps their 4S boards (not sure if it is really 4S) but it is rather expensive to use as filler material. I watched Steve Ramsey on You Tube make a frame 3/4" and then put the 4" face to make the torsion part. I wish there was someone around me who could help me with this. I will figure it out. Hopefully find a way to get a planer then figure out how to plane parallel faces.

One thought is to use 1/2" or 3/4" MDF as the torsion section. It really needs to be flat and strong.

Last edited by scott67; 07-25-2020 at 11:01 PM.
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post #6 of 33 Old 07-26-2020, 07:10 AM
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Best to use a stable wood like plywood or MDF for a torsion box.

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post #7 of 33 Old 07-26-2020, 07:51 AM
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Got any reputable lumber yards near you? I really don't like box stores for lumber beyond just a few boards not to mention they overcharge for most of it and it's often been picked through until all that's left is junk lumber. Ever seen a customer buy a truck load from Lowes and know they won't be able to use half of it? I needed a piece of oak plywood, went to lowes and had to dig down 4 sheets to find one that wasn't damaged. Two had screws in the middle of the sheets..The other two had been dropped on edge..
It took me awhile, but I finally found two very good sources for high quality lumber. They're not the cheapest in town, but I know that pretty much anything I buy from them will be useable and they're going to stand behind whatever isn't useable.
I know that doesn't help you for the task at hand, but it's something that you should look into for future purchases.

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Last edited by allpurpose; 07-26-2020 at 07:55 AM.
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post #8 of 33 Old 07-26-2020, 08:04 AM
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S2S = surfaced 2 sides, S4S = surfaced 4 sides

I agree with ripping plywood for the strips. Do you have a good flat level surface to construct the tops, if not, what ever you construct the top on will have the same configuration.
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post #9 of 33 Old 07-26-2020, 08:59 AM
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If you want to use the 1x4

Then buy longer then 60”

Buy 8 or 10 ft boards.

Usually you can find at least 2/3 of the board will be strait, then just cut off at the good sections, use the cut offs for non critical parts or some other projects.

Also there are ways to use a table saw alone to true up a board. Just look up “straitening a board with a tablesaw” on youtube.

A bunch of videos will come up with ways to manage without a jointer.


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post #10 of 33 Old 07-26-2020, 09:50 AM
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Jointer Plane -

If you can stand it, you can use a non-power tool to make boards straight.
Like many tools, buy it for the current task and it will just continue to be useful.
A jointer plane is the classic way to make straight edges and helps make flat faces.
Great investment, used ones with a good sole can be tuned and used for life.

I bought a low cost 6" power jointer. It's great for preparing stock. If I didn't
have it, I'd consider using the tablesaw or router or circular saw or even a hand-rip saw
with a straight-edge like a piece of aluminum, a salvaged desk or table-top, or even the
one good straight board I was able to scavenge. Once you get one straight edge, you
can use it to make others. But if you're going to keep woodworking it does tend to
require a certain minimum of tools -- or at least good technique!
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post #11 of 33 Old 07-26-2020, 10:50 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by allpurpose View Post
Got any reputable lumber yards near you? I really don't like box stores for lumber beyond just a few boards not to mention they overcharge for most of it and it's often been picked through until all that's left is junk lumber. Ever seen a customer buy a truck load from Lowes and know they won't be able to use half of it? I needed a piece of oak plywood, went to lowes and had to dig down 4 sheets to find one that wasn't damaged. Two had screws in the middle of the sheets..The other two had been dropped on edge..
It took me awhile, but I finally found two very good sources for high quality lumber. They're not the cheapest in town, but I know that pretty much anything I buy from them will be useable and they're going to stand behind whatever isn't useable.
I know that doesn't help you for the task at hand, but it's something that you should look into for future purchases.
Yes there is one good lumber yard about an hour away. I usually get Baltic Birch Plywood from them because HD or Lowes do not carry Baltic Birch only Birch and is not very good. A lot of voids from the box store birch. I do not want to use good Baltic Birch for torsion box filler.

Thanks.
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post #12 of 33 Old 07-26-2020, 10:58 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rodango View Post
If you can stand it, you can use a non-power tool to make boards straight.
Like many tools, buy it for the current task and it will just continue to be useful.
A jointer plane is the classic way to make straight edges and helps make flat faces.
Great investment, used ones with a good sole can be tuned and used for life.

I bought a low cost 6" power jointer. It's great for preparing stock. If I didn't
have it, I'd consider using the tablesaw or router or circular saw or even a hand-rip saw
with a straight-edge like a piece of aluminum, a salvaged desk or table-top, or even the
one good straight board I was able to scavenge. Once you get one straight edge, you
can use it to make others. But if you're going to keep woodworking it does tend to
require a certain minimum of tools -- or at least good technique!
I do have a couple of hand planes, no jack planes. I do not really know how to use them plus I know I have to sharpen them and so far sharpening stones are rather expensive. Plus, I do not really know how to use them.

With my tablesaw, I did make a small jig to give me a nice joining edge but nothing as long as 60". I tried cutting a couple of 2x4 by ripping them along the 3-1/2" face by raising the blade height and go down one face and flip and repeat. I did not exactly get a real good face the was flat. I need a planer but slowly working up to that. My income is no unlimited...yet
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post #13 of 33 Old 07-26-2020, 11:05 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by furnacefighter15 View Post
If you want to use the 1x4

Then buy longer then 60”

Buy 8 or 10 ft boards.

Usually you can find at least 2/3 of the board will be strait, then just cut off at the good sections, use the cut offs for non critical parts or some other projects.

Also there are ways to use a table saw alone to true up a board. Just look up “straitening a board with a tablesaw” on youtube.

A bunch of videos will come up with ways to manage without a jointer.


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I have looked at a couple of the You Tube videos for truing up without a joiner. There are a couple of jigs you can make. Part of my problem is using those methods for the 3-1/2" face. The jigs I have seen would not accommodate a 1x4, along the 3-1/2" face. Just too thin. I want to keep my fingers.

I would entertain the MDF as a torsion box but the top would be heavy. I am looking for something not quite so heavy. I guess I will need to look into maybe walnut 1x2 or 1x1 strips. Maybe even use poplar.

Thanks for the advice.
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post #14 of 33 Old 07-27-2020, 05:11 AM
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I have always used MDF for torsion boxes. The end grain of ply soaks up a lot of glue and a good joining is not always possible. Not a problem with MDF. Only down side to MDF is the weight.
Pine from a big box store is always a gamble as to whether it will stay straight. I would not even consider it.

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post #15 of 33 Old 07-27-2020, 01:22 PM
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Use a Cheap Door

Use a cheap door for a really flat surface to work off of to make your torsion box table top.
When I get ready, I will buy a solid core door for around $40 and build my torsion box on top of it. The door will always come in handy so it's not a complete loss.
I will probably just glue down some 3/4" ply y\to both sides and use it as a spare work surface.

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post #16 of 33 Old 07-27-2020, 01:47 PM
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We always used dado in our torsion boxes unless we were making something too big...
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post #17 of 33 Old 07-27-2020, 05:13 PM
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I was starting to think I was the only one.

BTW, is that hardwood sides and legs or plywood? Cant tell from the photos.

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Last edited by Tony B; 07-27-2020 at 05:20 PM.
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post #18 of 33 Old 07-27-2020, 08:21 PM
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Plywood
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post #19 of 33 Old 07-27-2020, 10:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rebelwork View Post
We always used dado in our torsion boxes unless we were making something too big...
When you make all those dados like that for the crossovers, did you gang cut, or one at a time? And table saw or other?

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post #20 of 33 Old 07-27-2020, 10:19 PM Thread Starter
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Use a cheap door for a really flat surface to work off of to make your torsion box table top.
When I get ready, I will buy a solid core door for around $40 and build my torsion box on top of it. The door will always come in handy so it's not a complete loss.
I will probably just glue down some 3/4" ply y\to both sides and use it as a spare work surface.
I was looking for solid core doors at Home Depot but none of them with flat faces. It never occurred to glue plywood to both sides to it. That wouldn't matter if it had panels or not. Good idea for making a quick assembly table.
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