Salvaged Wood Roubo Style Workbench #1: Top (mostly) and legs (well, leg)

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Blog entry by Bugnurd posted 11-07-2014 01:56 AM 4389 reads 2 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Salvaged Wood Roubo Style Workbench series Part 2: Legs, joints, and the top gets wider »

My office building where I work is upgrading their HVAC system, and the new equipment was delivered packed in long crates. The wood was going to be scrapped so I loaded up my hatchback and brought it home. Now I figure I have to make a proper workbench, since I’ve been making do with a wobbly 1950’s kitchen table on hairpin legs (cool table, but it makes a crappy workbench).

I like how the Roubo style benches look, and they seem pretty straightforward to build. I found Chris Schwarz’s 2011 article on his “Petite Roubo” (PDF can be found here). These are the plans that I’m roughly following. I’ve also been soaking in all the videos and blogs on workbenches of all kinds. Basically, I’ve been building this bench in my head for the past 6 months.

Let me also preface this by saying that I am a complete amateur, teaching myself as I go, so I may be doing things incorrectly. Feel free to constructively criticize my work methods! I figure I’ll make all my mistakes on this build with free wood, so when I’m ready to make a “nice” bench out of hardwood I’ll know what I’m doing.

I don’t have any power tools yet (besides a handheld drill) so I’ll be using hand tools for this build.

First I flattened the faces of my long 2×4s so they would laminate together nice and tight. I’m basically following Paul Sellers’ method from his workbench YouTube series.

Next, I laminated them together with wood glue. It was a lot easier than I thought.

I flattened the top so I have a decent work surface to work on the legs. Just a quick go with a Stanley No. 5 to even it out. I checked for twist, and it was perfect. Lucky me!

Next, I glued up some 2×6s for the legs. I decided to try the method that David Barron describes in this video. It seemed easier than chopping mortises.

I flattened and squared the sides of the leg, then cut the bottom square in the miter box.

One leg pretty much done. Just got to do that three more times.

Thanks for looking! Hopefully I’ll make more progress soon and I’ll share it in the next installment.

-- Marc -- Worcester, MA

3 comments so far

View NormG's profile


6378 posts in 3242 days

#1 posted 11-07-2014 04:56 AM

Congrats on the salvaged wood. Great workbench to build

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View Rhoots's profile


11 posts in 1537 days

#2 posted 11-07-2014 03:05 PM

First off, you’re going about this completely the right way. Most people who want to get into woodworking read a few magazines then run out and buy a table saw, then a router, then a jointer, bandsaw, and it goes on and on until, like me, you have no room in your shop to get anything done. The fact that you’re building this project with hand tools deserves huge accolades. Put off buying any machinery for as long as you can. Spend the money instead on some really nice hand tools. You’ll be a better craftsman for it because you’re learning basic, fundamental skills that a lot of us skipped over because we immediately became dependent on machines.
I’ve been woodworking for over 40 years now. I started off using power tools and machinery only because my dad had a table saw in the garage. I learned to use that and pretty much thought cutting a board by hand was stupid. About 10 years ago I started getting more interested in hand tool work and found that I had been doing everything in a manufacturing mindset. It really doesn’t take a lot of skill to set up a machine and push a board through. I also discovered my shop is configured totally wrong; The bench is too high (and you should pay close attention to that) for hand work, the vises on my bench are on the wrong ends, &c, &c.
So most of my machines are now for sale, and when I finally get some space back I’ll be building a new bench myself. My wife has her eye on the old bench for a dining table what with the current trend for “rustic” and “reclaimed” stuff. Funny – you have an old dining table for a bench and I have an old bench that is destined to become a dining table.
Anyway, good luck on the project and don’t worry about making mistakes and don’t worry about a hardwood bench in the future. You’ll find with this one you won’t need it. Looking forward to seeing the progress.

View handsawgeek's profile


657 posts in 1634 days

#3 posted 11-10-2014 07:28 PM

What a great project this is… It’s good to see someone undertaking a large-scale endeavor involving hand tools and 2-by lumber. I am doing a similar thing with my lathe stand project. (Check out my blog series.)
I am in total agreement with Rhoots’ comments above. There is a lot to be said for building useful items with hand tools rather than relying on electrons for everything, not to mention missing out on tried and true skills development that you just can’t get from using machines. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t use power tools if I ran a business where making parts in volume would be the norm, but for one-off pieces of furniture and gift items, you can’t beat hand tools. The cool thing is you are building an essential shop tool that will be the heart of all the rest of your woodworking projects. Don’t be led into believing that a fancy hardwood bench is the only way to go. You will get a lifetime of use out of your salvaged construction lumber bench. Thanks for sharing, and enjoy the ride!

-- Ed

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