1x4 lumber for benchwork

I am getting ready to try and build benchwork, again.  Will 1x4's be strong enough to support climbing on top of the layout. I weigh about 207. I tried using 2x4's and that was a disaster that I don't want to repeat as they warped and twisted so bad that I scrapped them. Lowe's and Menards has some good pricing on these and are supposed to be prime grade 1x4's.I will space them on 16" centers and rip some in half to make L girder joists. I also looked into birch plywood but it's $50.00 a sheet so that's to expensive. Also looked into MIANNE can't afford that either. I have to get this right this time. I have about 868 sq. feet, maybe a little more to build my layout. Thanks in advance for all replies.

One thing about trains, it doesn't matter where they are going, it's having the sense to get on.

Original Post

If your layout requires that you walk around on it, you have the wrong design, room or scale. Really. Never mind the lumber. Even - or especially - with layouts, Less is often More.

Inconvenience is the enemy of enjoying a layout, and climbing around on the layout has to top the inconvenience list.

Better to go to HO or S is it helps you access everything.

1" x 4"s will definitely be strong enough to support your weight.  Used on edge, like joists, spaced at 24" on center, will be sufficient.  Once the plywood top is fastened it acts like bridging between joists and will strengthen the entire assembly.  I would not try to span more than 4'-0", with the 1 x 4s however.   

I would use the 1 x 4s as is, i.e.. full size to make any L girders.  Ripping them into 1 3/4" rips will compromise their strength.

Also make the legs using 1 x 4s in an L girder configuration.  

If your layout will be free standing, not attached to any walls, you will need some diagonal bracing.

As for the table top, look into 1/2" OSB.  There's no need to use birch plywood.   

 

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

D500 posted:

If your layout requires that you walk around on it, you have the wrong design, room or scale. Really. Never mind the lumber. Even - or especially - with layouts, Less is often More.

Inconvenience is the enemy of enjoying a layout, and climbing around on the layout has to top the inconvenience list.

Better to go to HO or S is it helps you access everything.

I totally disagree. Our layout was not all that large, however by using 1"X4" lumber, with a 1"X 2" glued on the top in the "L girder" configuration, up to 5 BIG adults could be up on top of the layout (on hands & knees) laying track, soldering wire feeds, ballasting and doing scenery. The layout was fee-standing and not connected to anything, yet it never moved at all, even if you bumped into a corner.

D500 posted:

If your layout requires that you walk around on it, you have the wrong design, room or scale. Really. Never mind the lumber. Even - or especially - with layouts, Less is often More.

Inconvenience is the enemy of enjoying a layout, and climbing around on the layout has to top the inconvenience list.

Better to go to HO or S is it helps you access everything.

The layout will have plenty of access area's. This will not be a giant table and I am leaving 2' around the back and sides. No way would I go to HO. I have wanted a large layout since I was a kid. Now I have a 1200 SQ' building just for trains.

One thing about trains, it doesn't matter where they are going, it's having the sense to get on.

rattler21 posted:

Ever try to build a castle on sand?  A few dollars extra on legs for your layout will pay dividends in the long run.  Lumber yards have decent pieces of wood which may be a bit pricier but may also better suit your purpose.  If you're building a twenty year layout, another $50 spent on lumber won't make a bit of difference one way or the other in the budget but may save you a lot of headaches in the future.  John in Lanisng, ILL

I will have 1x4 L girder style legs. One thing Dad taught me was to do it right or don't do it.

One thing about trains, it doesn't matter where they are going, it's having the sense to get on.

Dan Padova posted:

1" x 4"s will definitely be strong enough to support your weight.  Used on edge, like joists, spaced at 24" on center, will be sufficient.  Once the plywood top is fastened it acts like bridging between joists and will strengthen the entire assembly.  I would not try to span more than 4'-0", with the 1 x 4s however.   

I would use the 1 x 4s as is, i.e.. full size to make any L girders.  Ripping them into 1 3/4" rips will compromise their strength.

Also make the legs using 1 x 4s in an L girder configuration.  

If your layout will be free standing, not attached to any walls, you will need some diagonal bracing.

As for the table top, look into 1/2" OSB.  There's no need to use birch plywood.   

 

All of the above, with one addition.  If you expect the benchwork to be permanent, run a bead of glue or liquid nails on each 1x4 before screwing the plywood or OSB down.  This will add a LOT of strength and rigidity.

If you have a genuine lumber yard slice a 4 x 8 sheet of shop grade Birch/Maple  plywood into 3 1/2" strips 8' long  it will yield 13 pieces.  The per piece will come in about $4.50 to $5.00 aprox.  This will provide the most stable of benchwork frames.

Solid dimensional lumber will warp.  Can not give an account of the many solid wood layouts I have had to straighten. 

For decking the best deal is Advantech at 84 lumber for about  $30.00 per 4 x 8 x 3/4" sheet.  The density makes it much quitter than 1/2" plywood or OSB.

For demonstration purpose I built a 200'  long around the wall layout using all popular benchwork methods and you can hear the difference as the train moves from one construction style to another.

Friday 8.5.11 001

1 x 4 (3/4 x 3 1/2) plywood sides and cross members on 16" centers

Friday 8.5.11 006

13' x 29' staging loop.  Floor taped to determine aisle size restrictions.

Friday 8.5.11 009

Predrill wire management holes and run most wires b/4 decking.

Friday 8.5.11 010

Below: beads of silicone on all mating surfaces with decking pre positioned on dowels and gently clamped in place with gussets holding plywood butting edges even.  Helps in sound control.

Friday 8.5.11 015

I have now retired from benchwork to finish my own RR.

 

 

Eternity is a long time to have been wrong.

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I totally agree with Tom T on using ripped 3/4 plywood as your framework.  I did exactly that with our club's display layout years ago, and the sections show no sign of warping or bowing.  I screwed and glued all sections when assembling them.  We don't walk on our sections, and were interested more in light weight for ease of portability and transfer from trailer to set-up site.  That's why we used 1" and 2" foam for the tops.  Here are a few photos of the construction:

The sections are held together upon assembly with carriage bolts and wing nuts.  The legs (again for portability) are 2" pvc pipes with carriage bolts on the ends for adjustment on irregular floor surfaces.  Again, not for walking on, but with 3' widths, it's not necessary. 

 

 

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Dennis posted:

I used 1"x4" over my entire layout.  1/2" plywood on top.

Me too.  It would be even better to do the ripped plywood method but I haven't had any issues with the 1x4's.  I did cut 2x4 triangles to block the corners.  Super strong.

All,

I've used 2x4 lumber, as well as 1x4 and confidently will say that both are quite satisfactory for layout (1800 sq ft) instruction.    I have not yet used 3/4" plywood, but who knows what the future will bring.  Surface (top) lumber of choice has been 1/2" sheathing plywood.  Tip:  if there's a contractor building homes hear you, ask if you can have his cutouts and sheathing trim pieces.  The pieces come free to you, and it saves him/her tipping fees at the landfill.

What is unequivocally, and persistently true is that quality  of the lumber makes ALL the difference in the world.  Use only first quality kiln-dried doulas fir 2x4s and buy them from a REAL lumber dealer.  Good top grade 1x4s are your other option.  Run as fast as you can from "twisted sister" pine at any of the big box stores! 

Local  lumber folks are more than happy to let you pick your lumber if needed, especially if you explain what you're doing.    The few additional pennies you will pay for that will more than offset the hours spent with crappy lumber, or worse, with a layout that changes shape with every season.  

Don

 

 

Don

Don Sierakowski 111617 posted:

All,

I've used 2x4 lumber, as well as 1x4 and confidently will say that both are quite satisfactory for layout (1800 sq ft) instruction.    I have not yet used 3/4" plywood, but who knows what the future will bring.  Surface (top) lumber of choice has been 1/2" sheathing plywood.  Tip:  if there's a contractor building homes hear you, ask if you can have his cutouts and sheathing trim pieces.  The pieces come free to you, and it saves him/her tipping fees at the landfill.

What is unequivocally, and persistently true is that quality  of the lumber makes ALL the difference in the world.  Use only first quality kiln-dried doulas fir 2x4s and buy them from a REAL lumber dealer.  Good top grade 1x4s are your other option.  Run as fast as you can from "twisted sister" pine at any of the big box stores! 

Local  lumber folks are more than happy to let you pick your lumber if needed, especially if you explain what you're doing.    The few additional pennies you will pay for that will more than offset the hours spent with crappy lumber, or worse, with a layout that changes shape with every season.  

Don

 

 

That's the problem I ran into. Bought 2x4's at the local lumber yard. They were straight when I bought them but after being in the train building which is heated and air conditioned plus a dehumidifier they warped after I had 28' of table built. It is extremely hard to find good lumber around here. The 1x4's I mentioned using I have my choice of species from pine, oak or poplar.

One thing about trains, it doesn't matter where they are going, it's having the sense to get on.

I have used 1 x 4 pine in the L girder construction method.  The only change I made on the last 2 sections (16 foot long L girders with 4 legs)  is that I used 1 x 4 mahogany decking or meranti (same species) for the longer L - girders.   I discovered this wood at work, it costs about 60% more than the pine, but is much stronger and heavier, and I hate excessive number of layout legs as I do alot of cruising around underneath on my creeper.   If you find a lumber yard that stocks it, it's used for high end decking for folks that don't want PVC Azeks decks...   It runs around $1.60 per running foot.  My local lumber yard sells clear select pine ( 1 x 4 )  for $1.05 per foot, and #2 pine (1 x 4) for $0.60 per foot.

Having said that, my son and I installed a ceiling above the first phase of the layout (23' x 20') after it was built and in place which required getting up on the layout in most places, he weighs about 225 and I weigh in at 205.  That was built with 1 x 4 pine L girders, and 1 x 4 pine joists.... No problems...   As pointed out over and over again here on the forum,  2 x 4's are overkill and most will warp and twist,    1 x 4 produce a much better finished product without the headaches of warping and twisting...   All my legs are 2 x 2 any larger in my opinion is overkill, and you can still install a 3/8 x 16 Tee Nut in the bottom of the leg for height adjustment,  I use 3/8 x 16 carriage bolts with the rounded head. 

PLEASE do NOT climb on top of your layout. It is an inconvenience, will become tiresome quickly, will be super expensive to correct in change. Think about this for a second. What will happen to your scenery on your lap if you are up on top of it climbing around?

It is really poor poor planning to do something like that. I'm not trying to be critical or a pain in the rear. I'm trying to save you a lot of pain time and trouble. Too many railroads in the past were spaghetti bowls of track looping around with no Rhyme or Reason with many spots on them that couldn't possibly be reached. That is a recipe for disaster.

Always keep everything within 30 in of reach out of an absolute maximum. That means cut out access holes or have aisleways along your layout where you can easily walk up and reach everything. Don't do it to yourself! Please go to my YouTube video for the glacier line and check out the video concerning reach the title of it is something to the effect of don't do it to yourself.

 

 

 

 

feet posted:

I will have 1x4 L girder style legs. One thing Dad taught me was to do it right or don't do it.

My dad was a perfectionist when it came to building anything and the one thing he drilled in my head as a young lad was that you'll always find time to do it right the 2nd  time so make darn sure you take the time to do it right the 1st time.

Wild Mary (AKA Nick) Retired & "Riding The Wild Mary"

 

 

Forum Member Since 24 Sept. 2004

 

Dan Padova posted:
As for the table top, look into 1/2" OSB.  There's no need to use birch plywood.  

Gotta' disagree with the OSB, I've seen too many issues with it swelling to consider it's use for my layout.   I'll spend the extra money for plywood!

Absolutely agree on the OSB caution.  

All wood absorbs moisture in humidity and will dry out indoors.  That’s why it is advisable to get your kiln-dried wood and use what you have within a day or two of moving it indoors.  It may want to move a bit, but if you have it securely fastened ( think framing nailer and/or screws) you will beat the wood into submission.  

Consistent temperature and humidity would be a huge long-term plus🤔

Don

+1 on 1x4s being sufficient to support a layout.  Over two decades of module building, I have purchased carefully selected 8 ft 1x3s and 1x4s from the big box stores and stacked them in the corner of the shop.  There are times when I don't buy any from some the poor stock on hand.  These are air dried at least a year before I use them so twist and warp of cut pieces is minimal, but I usually discard one or two out of a dozen.  It's wood, and new growth at that.  It wants to change shape, sometimes immediately after you cut it to length.  If you are purchasing a lot of lumber at once, you can't discriminate that much and may have a higher reject percentage.  Ripping 3/4" birch ply to framing dimensions sounds competitive on cost and the wood is stable, so that is the way to go IMHO.

A table with 2x2 legs (braced) will support a LOT of weight.  3/8" carriage bolts and a T-nut allow height adjustment.  A 3/4" rubber tip will fit over the end of the carriage bolt.

I found that elevated track sections (4" to 7" wide) cut out of 3/4" birch for seasonal layouts have proven stable even in crappy summer storage conditions.  I can't say the same for 3/4" fir or pine ply.

I used 1x4 for the framing, with a cross brace every two feet, very happy.  Most of my tops are 4x8.  1x2 plywood on top with the legs being 2x2s.  Got all my lumbar from Menards, "select" pine I believe for the 1x4 and the 2x2s.

Just a few things to add to the wealth of information above:

1. When selecting boards, don't pick ones that were cut right from the center of the tree. Those love to warp, twist, or even split. Boards with the end-grain parallel to the short edge are most stable (of course, those are just the ones you won't find in the cheap grades!) Also stay away from boards that are significantly heavier than their fellows. And leave behind any where the grain on the face of the board runs diagonally.

2. Definitely let your lumber acclimate to layout space for some time (weeks, preferably) before cutting it.

3. I think you will be fine with L-girders made from a 1x4 on edge with a 1.75" flange. All the flange is for is to keep the 1x4 from bending sideways when a load is put on it. OTOH, I find that ripping lumber is miserable. It might just be miserable enough to spend extra to avoid it. Some places you can get 1x3s to use as flanges.

4. The layout at my parents' has been in place for some 17 years. It is 30 x 17, and uses 1/2" OSB on top, and 2x2 legs, with diagonal bracing. We have had no problems with either, though we don't climb on it. It is in a basement, too.

FWIW!

I used 2x3's as they were cheaper then 2x4's and 1x4's.  I also have a 1/2" plywood top with 1/2" sound board on tot of that.  I can climb on top of it all I want and it's not moving.  And ignore those saying never climb on top.  It is so much easier and comfortable sitting on the table to lay track then to be reaching over.  Now once I have the track all down and buildings and trees on it I don't ever plan on getting on it again as all the track can be reached from the edge, but it's nice knowing it is strong enough if need be.

I used 1x4 lumber for my current layout.  It is more than sufficient to climb on top of.  It is not L girder but just typical framing.  Mine are two feet on center with 1/2 inch plywood on top.  I predrilled all my wire holes on a drill press before assembly.  I however put everything together with kreg joints aka pocket holes.  I am absolutely impressed with the strength.  I did not glue anything so I can modify without too much fuss.  

I like Tom Tee's method of using 3/4" shop grade plywood ripped into 1"x4"s. I'd have to check, but I would guess it won't cost much more (if any) than buying select or #2 & better dimensional lumber and it will be much more stable. Also, following Tom's posts here for a while I think he has tried many different methods and this is what he likes best. His benchwork looks like furniture and fit for your formal living room!

I also agree with the others about a good grade of smooth one side plywood for your top. I used 1/2" sandply from Home Depot for mine, but Tom Tee and many others have said the 3/4" would be more sound absorbing (quieter). I know Tom and probably all the others are more experienced than I am at benchwork, I believe what they say. However, I have not priced the difference between 1/2" & 3/4" plywood for sometime? 

FWIW and for my layout, I used Mianne benchwork (I am sold on that stuff!) and the 1/2" sandply for my layout. I've been quite pleased with it. It's very solid and has no problem holding my weight of 175# (give or take a couple #s). I have Atlas track which is pretty quiet so that helps. Maybe makes up somewhat for using the 1/2" plywood as well? As far as the sandply form HD, when I got mine it looked much better than their birch plywood, more plys and a fewer voids in the plys, at least along the edges where you could see. I believe the sandply was either the same price or just slightly more per sheet, very close anyway. HD cut it for me (no charge) so I could handle it myself.

I tried to get the best I could for the money I had, make it as convenient for my poor old back and knees as I could, with as little mess involved as possible.

Fortunately I model the Rock Island.  Warped landscape timbers, old barn boards, a hatchet, a chainsaw, 16-penny nails and a ball peen hammer yield all the appropriate bench work I need. 

Paul  

Ship Rock Island ROCKET FREIGHT

 

2 Rails?  3 Rails?  Doesn't matter, I can't count that high anyway.

When I die, I'm not sure if I want to go to heaven , or go be with all my friends .

Coach Joe,  Many ways to get curved side frames.  the tightest are steam bent.  Here are some photos.

IMG_4541

Shade tree photos 002

IMG_8682

Walk in add on waffle module bottom & top view 007

Walk in add on waffle module bottom & top view 004

 

An  OGR advertiser, Custom Benchwork can make this kind of thing for you.  I am retired.

Eternity is a long time to have been wrong.

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I used 1X4s for my layout with 2X4 legs bolted on. Just 1X4 pine ladder frame construction with cross braces every 2 feet. 1/2 OSB as a top. Plenty strong and no warping in the last 8 years. I should note that even though my layout is in the basement the area is heated and cooled by forced air, so not a huge amount of temperature swings.

Santa Fe, All the Way

D500 posted:

If your layout requires that you walk around on it, you have the wrong design, room or scale. Really. Never mind the lumber. Even - or especially - with layouts, Less is often More.

Inconvenience is the enemy of enjoying a layout, and climbing around on the layout has to top the inconvenience list.

Better to go to HO or S is it helps you access everything.

I, too, totally disagree.  There are many situations that require one to stand on a layout - apply ballast to remote areas, changing light bulbs, routine maintenance, or constructing items closer to walls.

It's better to plan for these activities with access hatches or holes.  Here's an example from my PRR Panhandle 2, now under construction.  I have a Staging Area where someone can swap loaded cars for empties, vice-versa, and make up trains.  The area has storage racks for extra cars;  getting to those requires someone to stand on the layout.  

The Staging Area also has access to the only window in the basement, which has a fan for exhausting smoke and built-up heat.  Reaching the fan to turn it on/off and to open/close the window requires standing on the layout.

The dark, smudgy areas are designated spots for standing on the layout although one can stand anywhere on it.  It's strong enough.  Construction is a ribbing of 2"x2" with a 5/8" plywood table top.  The blue section at the top is the window.  The white areas are holes in the table top for the operator to do his/her thing with cars and trains.  The green vertical line is the divider (with backdrop) between the rest of the layout and the Staging Area.  It has display racks on it.  So does the wall to the extreme right (above the double cross-over).

PRR Panhandle 2.0 v036-Right-Cropped

George

TCA, NMRA, PRRT&HS Modeling the PRR Panhandle Division between 1948-1957.

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feet posted:

That's the problem I ran into. Bought 2x4's at the local lumber yard. They were straight when I bought them but after being in the train building which is heated and air conditioned plus a dehumidifier they warped after I had 28' of table built. 

Harbor freight carries a good electric hand planer if you want to try to save some of those two-bys.  

Montclaire posted:
feet posted:

That's the problem I ran into. Bought 2x4's at the local lumber yard. They were straight when I bought them but after being in the train building which is heated and air conditioned plus a dehumidifier they warped after I had 28' of table built. 

Harbor freight carries a good electric hand planer if you want to try to save some of those two-bys.  

Good idea but they warped so bad all they were good for is fire wood. Seems like everybody around here gets their lumber from the same place. And to make matters worse it is stored outside in a lean to. 

One thing about trains, it doesn't matter where they are going, it's having the sense to get on.

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