BDSM Workshop: Materials

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The materials page briefly covers the things you'll use to build the BDSM Workshop projects, including lumber, metal, fasteners, adhesives, and surface treatments.


Most of these projects are commonly built with wood. Wood comes in many shapes, sizes, grades, and types, and you'll find a huge assortment at most hardware stores and lumberyards. Some exotic woods can only be found at specialty stores, which are notoriously pricey. Generally, lumber breaks down into softwoods, hardwoods, and exotic hardwoods.


The most common softwoods are fir and pine. Structural lumber, such as construction-grade 2x4s, is cheap and easy to work with... this is Douglas fir. Pine typically arrives in 3/4" thickness (1" by whatever), either as "knotty" or "clear" (minimal knots). Most dungeon furniture is made of these woods, and they're perfectly appropriate for all of the projects on this site.

Standard plywood is also softwood, although it's been chopped and reassembled into into sheet form. Plywood is a good choice for surfaces, but you should avoid the lowest grades which will have voids in the interior layers. The other options for surfaces are particle board and hardboard. Both are basically sawdust glued into shape, and are cheaper than ply. Particle board is especially susceptible to chipping and breaking, and should be avoided unless you plan to laminate it. Hardboard is a better choice, but must be sealed from moisture and may bend over time.

Softwoods tend to require significant shaping, sanding, and filling. Be especially careful to sand down any area where splintering may occur. Luckily, these woods are, as the name implies, soft. Select your pieces carefully to avoid splits and knots in any stressed member. Finish with paint, stain, and/or varnish.


Hardwoods are more dense than softwoods, and therefore "harder" (duh!). They are more difficult to cut and sand, and are also more expensive. Common hardwoods include maple, oak and poplar. Oak is my personal favorite of all lumber because of its beauty and durability. It's readily available, and you can buy oak-faced plywood for surfaces. Try to avoid painting over these fine woods.

Exotic Hardwoods

Just a brief note here. Exotic hardwoods like ebony, mahogany, and teak are very expensive and relatively difficult to work. Using them can create beautiful, unique pieces. However, pieces are extremely expensive. Don't invest here unless you're confident in your skills.


The advantages of metal should be pretty clear: strength, durability, formability. The disadvantage is that it's difficult to work. Most people can't afford the equipment to do large-scale metal projects. However, all of the projects here could concievably by done in metal.

Some parts must be metal for reasonable performance, and sometimes it just makes more sense. Typically, we'll be using cold-rolled steel, zinc-plated steel brackets, or metal water pipe. These are available at any large hardware store.

Projects here will stick to things that can be done with a hacksaw and metal file. More advanced metal working is not difficult, but requires some specialized equipment (oxyacetelene or arc welder, etc).


Fasteners include bolts, screws, and nails. You'll use a lot of them, and I assume I don't need to say much. Occasionally, you may see recommendations for special fasteners like stainless steel, grade 5 or 8, etc.


Permanently constructed furniture of quality relies on jointery and adhesives to hold together, although screws may be used to hold things in place while the glue dries. The basic adhesive is wood glue.. Elmers is the most common. Buy a big bottle. Metal can be glued with specialty epoxies, although I bolt it together more often. Contact cement may also be useful, and is a must for laminate.

When glueing, keep a few things in mind. Surface preparation is critical. Surfaces must be clean, espcially free of oils, and should match up well. More glue is not a quick fit for poorly fitted parts. A slight roughness generally improves adherence. More is not necessarily better.. use enough glue to fully coat, but not enough to create puddles or drips. Clamp or screw your pieces and let them dry thoroughly before handling.

Surface Treatments

Surface treatments include everything you might put on a visible surface of your project. We'll look at them in the same order they'll be used.


Fillers cover holes or flaws in a wooden piece, and you'll use them often. Common options include wood putties and a paste of glue and sawdust. Apply with a putty knife, spatula, or finger. Fill deep areas in multiple coats, or you'll get horrible cracking as it dries. Overfill, then sand down. Wood putties don't take stain, so unless you're painting your project, match the color of any stain as closely as possible.


There are a huge number of paint options. My favorite is a latex epoxy, fast drying although it has neither the luster nor durability of a true epoxy paint. Whatever you use, remeber that surface preparation is the key to an attractive job. Sand your work to a mirror-smooth surface, then work a little longer for good measure. Paint hides flaws of color, but not flaws of laziness. Always apply at least two coats.. read the can, since it may recommend light sanding between coats. Also, don't skimp on brushes. A good paintbrush really does make a difference. Clean well and you can use it many times.

Stains and Varnishes

These non-opaque treatments are used to color wood and bring out its luster. Whether your project is in pine or exotic teak, the right stain can create a beautiful, natural wood piece that compliments your decor. Generally, apply with a soft cloth, wool dauber, or brush. Wipe off excess and let dry. Protect with a few coats of polyurethane. Look HERE for a complete discussion of these treatments.


There are other protective treatments, but polyurethane is my personal favorite. It's a plastic mix that gives a durable and beautiful finish. If you have a favorite protective treatment, stick with it as long as it works for you. If not, give Varathane Professional a try. I think it has excellent working characteristics and gives an excellent result. I've started using a satin finish, although I find gloss more attractive. Why? Gloss tends to be more difficult to photograph.


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