Roubo-ish Workbench #1: Roubo modifications - please poke holes in this design

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Blog entry by John posted 05-02-2012 01:46 PM 4221 reads 1 time favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Roubo-ish Workbench series Part 2: new design (final) construction under way »

My dear LJ friends and community! Please tell me what you like/dislike about this idea.

the thought is to make a roubo workbench out of 4×4 nominal lumber (Lowes has 4×4 doug fir for about $1 a linear foot)

This will be my first of two roubos, so this one is practice. The second will be “true to Schwarz” and made from big timbers with a big wooden screw (from Erie) and a real wagon vise (probably from bench crafted) – but this first one will have a metal screw and a quick release bench vise driving the dog.

M&T (cheat M&T) for the front legs, but the back legs are more scandinavian (maybe?) – allows for unrestricted seasonal movement of the top – contemplating pegs or lag screws in elongated slots toward the back to affix.

PLEASE BE CRITICAL – POST YOUR THOUGHTS no holds barred. Where possible I will integrate your suggestions into the bench and keep the sketchup updated. THANK YOU!

sketchup model at



-- John - Central PA -

13 comments so far

View lew's profile


12062 posts in 3756 days

#1 posted 05-02-2012 02:21 PM

I would add storage provisions under the bench.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 2999 days

#2 posted 05-02-2012 02:42 PM

I second the storage.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View jmos's profile


827 posts in 2370 days

#3 posted 05-02-2012 03:16 PM

Overall it looks like a nice design. A couple of thought to consider, or not.

I would think about the trestle feet. Unless you are 100% sure of the height you want your bench, I would make it a little tall, and you can cut the legs down if you decide you want it shorter later. Hard to make shorter with trestle feet.

Storage below is nice, or you can just use the floor. Depends on what you plan to store. I added a shelf on the wall behind my bench for storage and I keep bench jigs under the bench on the floor. I was planning on adding a shelf, but it’s dropped way low on my ‘to do’ list.

Sliding board jack is handy for those boards that don’t reach the end of you bench. Not sure how long you’re going for, if it’s a long bench you might want to consider one.

I agree with keeping the legs flush with the top in front, you might want to consider doing the same in back. May come in handy at some point for clamping, especially if you may use the bench from both sides.

As you seem to be doing square dog holes, you might want to plan on some additional holes in the top for additional options. Of course you can always easily add round holes later if you have mixed round and square hardware. Adding square holes later is not so easy.

Good luck.

-- John

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2476 days

#4 posted 05-02-2012 03:56 PM

The way you have drawn the legs is inefficient, you will probably blow out the end grain on the mortise for the support legs sitting on the floor.

I imagine there is something wrong with the drawing on the leg that has the dog holes. Is the apron sitting on the support leg and then the leg on the apron? The how do you plan to make the small part that goes under the apron?

A couple of your dog holes is being blocked by the top supports.

I get the feeling that your idea is not bad, but that you are new to SU drawing, seems to me there are drawing mistakes rather than design mistakes.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2655 days

#5 posted 05-02-2012 04:04 PM

I might rethink the joinery on the frond and back stretchers, break out the through tennon for that part. I liked the way you joined the top with a tenon at the front but not the back…this is good for movement. Add a shelf to the bottom but more storage than that interfers with your clamps.

Also how far ar the dog holes from the front of your bench? Try and get them within about 2 inches from the fron’t if you want to use joinery planes effectivly.

One last note…are you building this bench by hand? If so I would try and build the bench out of larger stock to keep the component count down (laminating 2×4 stock by hand without a bench is a drag). Instead of 2×4s for the top, go to your local building yard one 4”x12”x16 cut in half and glued together would make a very solid top and you would get there faster. Diddo on the base components. I would use 4×6…it might add a bit to the final price of the bench but the time you are going to save is going to be worth it.

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

View Marco Cecala's profile

Marco Cecala

189 posts in 4034 days

#6 posted 05-02-2012 04:55 PM

Round dog holes and a sliding vise have been a real advantage for me. A shelf below just looked like a dust catcher for me. I don’t miss it. A tail vise, like the Benchcrafted is a good idea too. If you opt not to install one, you can use a Veritas dog hole clamp and bench dogs. Effective and cheap.

View John's profile


341 posts in 3799 days

#7 posted 05-02-2012 05:26 PM

Excellent feedback! Thank you all!

Lew & David, when you say “storage” I think you mean a shelf at the stretchers… yes, agreed, good use of space; a shelf at the stretchers is a good use of space, good spot to store a Moxon vise for instance.

I like JMOS’s idea of a shelf, or maybe a bin, behind the bench mounted to the wall. Also JMOS you are ight about clamping all around, I envision this being up against a wall most of the time, but being able to pull it out for big projects and 360 access is something to think about. Sliding board jack (deadman) also a great idea.

JMOS and Marco: round holes it will be – square look cool, but round are so much more useful especially for after market stuff like hold downs.

JGM0658, yes the legs are inefficient and will take a LOT of mortising – lot of work to what end? Good point. Also you are correct that the sketchup has some superfluous lines – below are hopefully better view of that joint – which of course also highlights how labor intensive it would be. Needs some simplifying and redesign.

RGTools, yes building by hand – I have a supply of doug fir 4×4’s that I want to use, but if I need more I should look into larger stock. a 4×12x16 would be a nice find!

Marco do you have the veritas dog hole clamp? do you find it sufficient for large boards?

Great discussion; keep em coming and thank you!



-- John - Central PA -

View BrettMcD's profile


13 posts in 2536 days

#8 posted 05-03-2012 03:40 AM

Alright I’ll play. Hopefully this doesn’t come out the wrong way. After all this is YOUR workbench and you are the only one that really matters

What I love about your design
1.) Cheap (if you hate it you can always give it a viking funeral from my experience that is very satisfying)
2.) Leg Vise (strong easy to make and inexpensive)
3.) Square Dog holes (closer to the front edge would be better IMHO)

What I would change.
1.) The base I think trying to combine the roubo and the European trestle base makes it to complicated and eliminates the benefits of either design.
2.) Legs need to be straight legs I would use a 12 foot long 4”x6” Mortised into the top just as you have but have the front and back legs line up.
3.) RG mentioned the 4X12X16’ for the top that is a great idea especially if you are working by hand and don’t have an army of clamps at your shop. I would not glue the two slabs together I would leave a gap in the top between the two and make the top a split top. Less glue up and a handy place for a planing stop (i.e. Benchcrafted, Mike Siemsen, Logan Cabinet Shoppe)
4.) Benchcrafted wheel hardware for the leg vise I think it is around $40? but that would help the leg vise from being so clunky when you are opening it. That is what I hated about mine the weight of the chop causes a lot of friction. I think the money spent on that might make it so you felt like you wouldn’t need to upgrade unless you wanted to.
5.) If this is a intermediate bench what will you do with the vise hardware when you build the really nice one. In my shop I simply don’t have room for two benches so I wouldn’t want to spend a lot of money on the vise if I couldn’t keep them. the reason I mention this is because I wanted to suggest a wagon vise like on the woodsmith workbench that uses the shoulder vise screw from Lee Valley for $30 might be something to look into.

Alright to long of a post I know. Bottom line is build it now don’t try to design it for too long I would set a goal to start building within a month. You will be glad you have a workbench in any shape or form. don’t worry about making mistakes you will discover what YOU like and what YOU don’t. good luck

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2655 days

#9 posted 05-03-2012 07:05 PM

I think Brett’s last sentance is the most important out of all of it (not that the rest was not good).

Build it, work with it and design you dream bench over time.

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

View tsangell's profile


216 posts in 2694 days

#10 posted 05-03-2012 10:32 PM

If you’re building a bench like this, it’s probably to do things like chopping mortises and cutting tenons. I think it’s worth the exercise of using strong, traditional joinery – both for the practice and result.

View Marco Cecala's profile

Marco Cecala

189 posts in 4034 days

#11 posted 05-03-2012 10:46 PM

I have the dog hole clamps. They will do OK, but if you get medieval on some traversing with a scrub, the board can wander. The best solution is the Benchcrafted wagon vise. I’m also going to put the Veritas Quick release sliding vise on the opposite corner,41659 it will allow me to clamp small stock right to the edge of the bench.

The dog holes on the other side are behind the legs so they sit 4” back. I also put plug strips on opposite corners to plug in lights I attached to 3/4 inch dowels so I can put light anywhere.

The bench hold downs from Tools for Working Wood are the best, I hide glued leather to them and am very happy.

View John's profile


341 posts in 3799 days

#12 posted 05-08-2012 08:06 PM

Thank you Brett! I think you’re right – this design is like the Castro’s cattle, recessive genes from both parents.

Gonna redesign as a left-handed Roubo (based on sonny boy being a southpaw and where it will sit in my new tiny shop) and see if I can rescue this, my latest CL find for the leg vise.


-- John - Central PA -

View John's profile


341 posts in 3799 days

#13 posted 05-08-2012 08:07 PM

RGTools and Tsangell – you are both right – thanks for the input!

Marco, that is one beautiful bench! an inspiration!

-- John - Central PA -

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