Monthly Archives: October 2013

Roubo Bench Project

After reading about workbench designs from the past on Chris Schwarz’s blog, I purchased both books on benches that he wrote;  “Workbenches  from Design & Theory to Construction & Use” and “The Workbench Design Book”  Both offered a lot of good insight as to what makes a bench work well for the user.  Armed with that information, I set out to build a no compromise bench, based on the design of Andre Roubo, an eighteenth century French cabinetmaker. First, I had to find thick, wide wood.  , Hollister’s Sawmill, located in Columbia, PA, had some beautiful 4″ thick ash that was just what I needed.   The entire bench, except the shelf was built from three pieces of wood.

Roubo-Bench-1

  The top center board measured 18″ wide, to which a strip was added on each side, allowing the mortises for the legs and the square dog holes to be easily cut in.  Because of the size of the top, it needed to be worked with hand tools.  The edges were dressed first, and the side strips were glued on.  The end cap was fit and fastened in place with Spax brand lag screws, after which the bottom surface was flattened by hand.

Once the top was together, the 4″ x 6″ legs were made with a mortise and sliding dovetail going through the top.  Not only is this joint strong, but it has a pleasing look too.

Roubo-Bench-5

Installing and fitting the vice hardware was done before the legs were fastened in place.  I chose Benchcrafted hardware, a very high quality product made in the US.  I am quite pleased with the smooth operation of both the tail and leg vice, and the thorough instructions for installation.

Note that the legs have a live edge on the inside corners.  I wanted to use as much wood as possible from the plank, so left it as cut. The vice chop, and also the sliding dead man, are walnut.

At this point, the stretchers were made with draw bored mortise and tenon joints, and the bench was assembled.  I had help with this process, as there was a lot to do in a short amount of time.  Plus, it was heavy!

After glue up, the top was flattened with hand planes, a straight edge, and winding sticks.  This took a couple of sessions to complete, as there was some twist in the top and a fair amount of material had to be removed from the high spots.

I added a shelf and sliding dead man plus made a dog for every hole. The finish is  two coats of Danish oil.  Overall length is 84″ (the maximum I could get out of the wood), and 23″ deep.  Total weight is 370 pounds.  Very sturdy indeed.  I hope to soon add hold fast holes to the top.

So far, I am very pleased with how the bench works for me.  Having a solid work surface and vices that grip securely and smoothly are a big help and make hand tool woodworking much more efficient and pleasurable.