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Roubo Workbench #1: Getting Started

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Blog entry by Brandon posted 910 days ago 5923 reads 4 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Roubo Workbench series Part 2: Choosing the Material »

The Predecessors

One of the first projects that I made when I first started woodworking in 2010 was a workbench for the garage. All 2×4 construction with a 3/4” thick top of white pine. I made all the cuts on my newly acquired miter saw and actually assembled the thing in the living room. Here’s a picture.

It was a decent garage/general purpose bench, but too tall and light to be a woodworking bench. I ended up cutting the length down and put it in the laundry closet where I keep a lot of my tools. Now it holds a tool box and a general purpose vise . . . and collects clutter fabulously.

My second bench was really an outfeed table for my table saw. It had a 5/4 MDF top with formica and lots of storage underneath. It also had casters and a wood vise, or at least what Harbor Freight calls a wood vise. Nevetherless, it was pretty heavy, large (60” x 30”), and could take a beating. Here are a couple of photos (from the Moxon vise post).

On the downside, the bench was too high (it was an outfeed table after all), and the casters made it move around on me while planing (even when they were locked). Plus, it wasn’t designed to be a proper workbench and so the vise set up was not really thought through. I’m glad I had it to get me where I am now, but it surely made me realize how much I needed a good woodworking bench.

The Criteria for a New Bench

Having those two previous benches helped me figure out what I wanted in a new bench. Some of the basic criteria included the following:

Thick top for dogholes
Heavy materials
Sturdy and solid construction (through tenon joinery)
Well-conceived vise layout aligned with dogholes
Be able to work the edges, face, and ends of boards
Lower height for hand planing
Nice aesthetic

I’m sure there were more. I had been leaning on building a Roubo bench because of its aesthetics, but I still needed a little more guidance since I didn’t want to have to build another bench for many many years to come. The wife got me Chris Schwarz’s 2007 book on workbenches, which featured plans for building both the French (Roubo) and English (Nicholson) benches, plus it contained a lot of other fun things to read. If you’re about to build a bench, I’d highly recommend it. Reading Schwarz’s book really solidified the choice to make mine a Roubo style bench and gave me numerous helpful tips along the way. I didn’t follow his plans exactly, but they were very influential on my design. I also decided not to incorporate a crochet because I think it was superfluous with the leg vise, and the planing stop, but I can always add that later if I choose. I decided that the dimensions would be around 63” by 26” and about 34” high. Yet the issue that perplexed me most was how to decide on what wood to use. That will be the topic for the next blog.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"



13 comments so far

View lysdexic's profile

lysdexic

4773 posts in 1207 days


#1 posted 910 days ago

This is like a friggn trailer to a movie. We all know you’ve got the bench built and in use. :^\

The anticipation. I like it. Looking forward to the next installment.

-- It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe. - Muhammad Ali

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

9492 posts in 1202 days


#2 posted 910 days ago

I beg your pardon, by my crochet is not superfluous. And his feelings would be hurt if he knew your said so… :-)

Looking forward the build reports!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive

View jmos's profile

jmos

681 posts in 953 days


#3 posted 910 days ago

Brandon,

Nice post.

I’ll try to take a look at Schwarz’s older book and see what’s not in the new one. [For anyone confused, Brandon posted on my blog about the same topic and I’m replying on his.]

Good luck on the build.

-- John

View Brandon's profile

Brandon

4136 posts in 1535 days


#4 posted 910 days ago

Sorry for such harsh words, Smitty. I just don’t see myself using the crochet if there’s a leg vise. They look cool, don’t get me wrong. Actually, I’d be interested in hearing why you like both—I definitely do have the room to add one. I just figured I’d keep getting my belt loops caught in it or something. :-)

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View Brandon's profile

Brandon

4136 posts in 1535 days


#5 posted 910 days ago

Thanks jmos. Actually the build is complete, as of today. Now I’m just going back and blogging about it. I’ll add the bench as a project soon.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View Brit's profile

Brit

5103 posts in 1427 days


#6 posted 910 days ago

Great blog Brandon. Way to keep us in suspense! Retrospectively is the best way to blog. Personally, I don’t mind the wait at all as long as there aren’t 100 episodes. :-)

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3299 posts in 1238 days


#7 posted 909 days ago

I agree. I am looking forward to seeing your bench come about.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View thedude50's profile

thedude50

3503 posts in 1062 days


#8 posted 909 days ago

looking good

-- when I am not on Lumberjocks I am on @ http://thisoldworkshop.com where we allow free speech

View saddletramp's profile

saddletramp

994 posts in 1222 days


#9 posted 908 days ago

To crochet or not to crochet,
That is the Question.
Whether tis nobler in the mind
to take the hook against a sea of wool
and by opposing afghan it ….......... OOPS, wrong crochet!! :-O

Nice bench BTW

-- ♫♪♪♫♫ Saddletramp, saddletramp, I'm as free as the breeze and I ride where I please, saddletramp ♪♪♪♫♪ ...... Bob W....NW Michigan (Traverse City area)

View Dave's profile

Dave

11133 posts in 1424 days


#10 posted 907 days ago

Brandon I cant wait to see the outcome. Now as far as the wood type. The question I would have for myself is are you going for durability or functionality? I recommend this podcast to watch and give you some more ideas on the wood type. http://www.logancabinetshoppe.com/podcast-the-workbench.html
Bob makes you think about it in a different way.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are." http://chiselandforge.com

View justholler's profile

justholler

62 posts in 907 days


#11 posted 907 days ago

I too would like my workbench to be my outfeed table….I’m about 6 foot 3 tall so I think the height would not be an issue. If you say how tall you are maybe that would explain to me why the outfeed height is to high for you.

-- Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most..... Twain

View justholler's profile

justholler

62 posts in 907 days


#12 posted 907 days ago

disregard the height question…I found your finished product and that answered it. What a fabulous job you did!

-- Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most..... Twain

View Brandon's profile

Brandon

4136 posts in 1535 days


#13 posted 906 days ago

Thanks Justholler, if you’re planning on making the workbench your outfeed table, I would just recommend not using casters and overbuilding it. Do you plane on doing a lot of hand planing? If not, the height shouldn’t even matter as much. Best of luck to you!

Superdav, thanks for the link to the podcasts. I watched a few of them and found them helpful.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

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