My Roubo Build #7: Some Considerations Along the Way, or a Cry for Help

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Blog entry by naomi weiss posted 05-17-2010 06:55 AM 2808 reads 0 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 6: Starting to Look Like a Proper Bench: The Top Part 7 of My Roubo Build series Part 8: Shiftless »

As i have been building this thing, i have had my nose in the Schwarz’s book. However, i cringed when during my review i read this:

Once you look at the characteristics that make a species good for a workbench, you see that white oak, Southern yellow pine, fir, poplar or just about any species (excepting bass wood and the soft white pines) will perform brilliantly. (p.14)

And for some salt in the wound:

Anyone who has purchased a white pine 2×4 bench from a home center can attest to this fact: These benches are easy to beat. They dent when you look at them wrong. (p. 16)

Now, why do i mention this? I am building my Roubo out of white pine. I live in Israel—trees are not plentiful. I paid about 1000 NIS for my lumber (i think around $270)—but this includes all the lumber for the bottom shelf, to be fair. Ouch. That’s also about 1/3 of my student stipend. When i was at the lumber place, the guy offered me this other lumber, but it was about double the price, and it looked funny, and i don’t trust that guy—i feel like he was trying to pass off warped lumber to some stupid woman. Perhaps i should have considered it for just the top…either way, i am beginning to get a bit nervous about how soft the top will be. I am wondering if a thin layer of laminate will help. Or if there’s something i can do to toughen it up? This would be ideal—they i wouldn’t have to mess with workbench covers. How about a layer of epoxy over the whole top?
Also, does anyone have any ideas about the hangover (of the ends) of the bench? Since i am doing a knock-down version, i am losing some inches. I wonder if that makes a difference with regards to the overall length of the bench. Thanks in advance, LJs! I know there will be opinions shared!

-- 'Humility is a duty in great ones, as well as in idiots'--Jeremy Taylor

18 comments so far

View OutPutter's profile


1199 posts in 4231 days

#1 posted 05-17-2010 07:03 AM


My opinion is that a workbench is meant to be used and abused. There is no sucha thing as a dead flat workbench that’s been used. There’s no need for it to be dead flat either. Just needs to hold wood and support things without a lot of moving.

Somewhere along the way, probably when home style planers were introduced, woodworkers started to think about dead flat workbenches. In the past, the workbenches were made with flat sawn “whatever they could get” wood. Do you think those benches were immune to wood movement? Naw, me neither.

Good luck,

-- Jim

View a1Jim's profile


117420 posts in 3817 days

#2 posted 05-17-2010 07:28 AM

I see It’s made to be used epoxy will just chip off a little at a time

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View patron's profile


13641 posts in 3581 days

#3 posted 05-17-2010 07:34 AM

anything you make will be just fine , naomi .
as jim said , many benches were as catch can .

the work bench just needs to be sturdy ,
i have lower cabinets ,
with a particle board top .

it has worked for 15 years !

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View JohnnyW's profile


83 posts in 3271 days

#4 posted 05-17-2010 08:08 AM

I just read Chris Schwarz’s book too. There’s a comment where he visited Sam Maloof’s workshop, and found that he was using solid core doors on sawhorses and he’s supposed to be one of the best woodworkers alive!

So don’t worry too much!.

Your bench will be heavy, stable and pretty flat. The top will get a bit dented, but that doesn’t really matter. As it’s thick, you have plenty of material to flatten it every year or so and bring back a smooth top.

-- John

View mafe's profile


11771 posts in 3330 days

#5 posted 05-17-2010 08:40 AM

Mi Naomi,
I would not worry at all, make it solid, or fasten it to the wall or the floor, what you need is stability.
If the wood will tear, yes, any wood would, but enjoy it, especially the estetic part – it just get’s more beautiful as it goes. Do not try to change that.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View antmjr's profile


262 posts in 3424 days

#6 posted 05-17-2010 08:59 AM

I too think you are going on well, I for one have simple work tops, made out of low-grade spruce, and I prefer them to my old aristocratic bench, which, by the way, was built in Wien many years ago by someones who had your same name :-)

So don’t give up, your name is your lucky charm!!!

-- Antonio

View DoctorDan's profile


281 posts in 3255 days

#7 posted 05-17-2010 10:03 AM

Having not used white pine… I can’t say for sure. Assuming it’s similar to our local soft softwood radiata pine it shouldn’t be a problem. If it gets a few dints… who cares. It’s a bench. Better then an hard bench putting a dent in your project. The above suggestions of epoxy and laminates in my mind will serve to unnecessarily uglify it.

-- Daniel -

View stefang's profile


16219 posts in 3575 days

#8 posted 05-17-2010 12:55 PM

Hi Naomi. My advice is to listen to the advice given above. You can always keep a platter with a cleat attached for holding in your vise (say stored hanging on the back of your bench that can put on the top when you are doing heavy pounding, if you are concerned about big dents.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Walt M.'s profile

Walt M.

245 posts in 3251 days

#9 posted 05-17-2010 02:31 PM

Ditto to everyone’s advice. I have benches that have solid core doors, cheap plywood and frames out of white pine.
They work just fine.
I think the more important point is that they don’t wobble or rack when your sawing or planing a board
and buy the best vises your budget allows.

View ratchet's profile


1391 posts in 4027 days

#10 posted 05-17-2010 03:50 PM

Naomi; All good advice above. I’d like to echo Daniels comments about having the workbench top dent instead of your expensive hardwood project that you spent many hours over! Make it sturdy and dont worry about what your material is…you will be flattening the top about every year or 2 anyway.
Keep going.

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 3238 days

#11 posted 05-17-2010 03:57 PM

I would use it as is and then when it started getting dinged up too much, I would flatten it and inset a facing of tempered masonite hardboard.

I love benches but they are a tool to be used and not just for decoration.

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View naomi weiss's profile

naomi weiss

207 posts in 3634 days

#12 posted 05-17-2010 04:10 PM

Antonio—thanks for posting that cool picture!
Everyone—you’re all absolutely right about a bench getting knocked about. It will make me a little sad but my main concern is, or was, that it might get dinged up to the extent that it will effect my work. I guess there’s no concern for that, though, based on everyone’s comments…

Another question:
i have 4 pieces for my 2 little stretchers. i don’t know what happened, but 2 of the pieces are much heavier (wetter?) than the others. I would say one wet piece weighs more than 2 dry pieces. What should i do? Laminate 1 wet with 1 dry?

One more question:
i suppose it doesn’t matter very much of one of my legs is 3/8” thinner than the rest, right?

-- 'Humility is a duty in great ones, as well as in idiots'--Jeremy Taylor

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3277 days

#13 posted 05-17-2010 10:36 PM

Naomi, don’t worry. I’ve been using the same pine bench ( particle board and harboard skin on top) for twelve years now. As many before have said as long as its sturdy it’ll be fine. Knocks and chips add character anyway.


-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3826 days

#14 posted 05-17-2010 10:52 PM

Naomi Plenty of people have made gret wood WORKING benches that’s what they are WORKING not for looking at so carry on my deal lady you will do great.Naomi also I am a big fan of Eli Avisero woodturner from Israel and have some of his dvd’s do you knopw of him in Israel he’s very good but needs to improve his English a bit LOL anyway have fun Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View PurpLev's profile


8548 posts in 3889 days

#15 posted 05-18-2010 04:01 AM

I wouldn’t worry about it too much Naomi. even the soft pine will hold up for many many years. on a positive note – it’s easier to work with, so you’ll have less of a hassle putting the thing together (mortises, and tenons) and overall, it’s a workbench, and the top can always be replaced if you end up deciding at one point that it’s too beat up – which I doubt would be anytime in the foreseen future.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

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