The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How thick does a board need to be for homemade furniture?

Hanging counter

Homemade countertopWe've been having fun with amateur furniture-making this winter and are learning a lot in the process. For example, what's the optimal board thickness for a table- or countertop? The answer seems to depend on how the board will be supported. Atop our marked-down cabinet, we easily got away with a 3/4-inch-thick board because the thin countertop is supported over nearly its entire lower surface with the cabinet edges. Even a half-inch board might have worked as well.

On the other hand, a 3/4" board wasn't good enough for our bathtub counter project (pictured at the top of this post). We got the whole thing pretty much assembled, then had to take it back apart when we realized that a board hung from chains (for easy removal when the tub flips down) needs to be considerably thicker than three-quarters of an inch. I didn't even go so far as to test the countertop with our heavy stand mixer --- just Mark pressing down in the middle proved we'd either need a thicker board or would have to build a frame underneath to prevent bowing.

Homemade tableHow about our 1-inch-thick tabletop? That board has done very well supported on the back edge plus on two legs along the front edge despite being a full four feet long by two feet wide. So that's definitely a thick board that will go the distance. Here's hoping using a similar product for our hanging counter will do the trick as well.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Stiffness depends on two factors; shape and material.

The resistance against bending of a solid board increases with the third power of the board thickness. So a 1 inch board resists bending 8 times better than a 1/2 inch board. The deflection of a board supported at the ends scales linearly with the size of the load and with the third power of the length of the span. These are fundamental properties of the geometry and true for all materials.

Wood being a natural material varies a lot in its properties. Both between species but also from tree to tree.

If a solid board is too heavy, two relatively thin sheets of plywood with a frame and some braces bonded or screwed between them can be almost as stiff as a solid board.

Comment by Roland_Smith Fri Jan 29 18:15:28 2016

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