I’m starting with Lumberjocks in the middle of a project, but here goes.The project is (I know, yet another) Roubo-style workbench, but I feel less that I’m following the crowd than following my past self: I built my my first workbench in this style while in grad school in Kentucky in 1991, after watching an episode of Roy Underhill.
Truth be told, I went with this style then for simple reasons:
- It was inexpensive if you used pine. We were poor in grad school!
- I could make it with limited tools—I owned only a panel saw, a back saw, a jack plane, 3 chisels, and my grandfather’s brace, plus various old wrenches and screwdrivers.
- I could make sense of the wagon vise. (I never could figure out from the pictures in magazines how one of those L-shaped end vices fit together.)
I used 15 2×4s, four 4×4s for legs, 2×6s for stretchers, and a block of walnut I reclaimed from a tree that blew down in the back yard the year before for the “wagon” of the wagon vise. A hardware store was going out of business, and I procured a 3’ piece of 1 1/4” threaded rod and 2 nuts and washers, which I had welded together to form a flanged nut ($25 – a fortune!).
The whole process took weeks, planing each board between classes and studying. The walnut wagon for the vise was especially tricky to do by hand to close tolerances. I cut the dog hole with the brace and bit, squaring it up with a 3/4” chisel, then cut dadoes on either side to mesh with walnut runners screwed in the wagon slot in the bench. The vise corner received my first ever dovetails – ugly, but serviceable.
By the time I finished, I’d learned a lot about wood and its ways. But I never got to build much but the bench itself, as the demands of school and career grew. I eventually sold it to a neighbor before we left Kentucky, but regretted it ever since.
Call me sentimental, but now I’m remaking that bench. I’m a bit too busy (old?) to plug away with hand tools, and there’s more money available now, so I’ve built my shop up to include all the standard goodies: TS, bandsaw, jointer, planer, and lots of hand tools. But I’m still going with fir, because it’s inexpensive and I won’t wince (much) when I drop a chisel on it, the way I would with a nice hardwood. I figure I can always upgrade to a maple top if the mood strikes me. (The abstemious habits of grad school are character-forming!)
I also like to test my ingenuity, so I’m building the vises (leg and wagon) with hardware mostly obtainable from a big box hardware store. The exception is the screws, which are $32 Shop Fox jobs.
In my next post I’ll review my design process, which used Sketchup pretty extensively. Love that program!