Roubo Workbench #3: Cold Feet

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Blog entry by Eric posted 06-21-2009 10:28 AM 2955 reads 0 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: More Roubo Musings (and Questions) Part 3 of Roubo Workbench series Part 4: Which Vise Do I Nurse in My Bosom? »

So I had my order all lined up: 123 board feet of kapur wood. But I couldn’t pull the trigger. Why? The price. The total cost of the lumber needed for my workbench would have been $212. Maybe that’s not a lot; I don’t know what lumber costs are like where you are. But it’s about $50 more than I expected to have to pay, and in our world, $50 is a lot of money.

While I was there, I did find out that they have four different kinds of wood: nyatoh, selangan batu, kapur and “oti”. This oti was the cheapest by far. In fact, if I selected this wood for my workbench, the total cost would have been $120.

When I inquired about this oti, I learned that it is in fact “O.T.” which stands for “other timber.” I tried to learn what this meant – is it different species of wood all lumped together? All I could learn is that some of the boards are light in color while others are dark or red; some boards are harder while others are softer.

So here’s my question for you experienced woodworkers and armchair wood jockeys. Do you think I’d be okay using this “O.T.” wood for my workbench? I’m thinking that since we’re in Malaysia, most if not all of the wood here is hardwood. And I would be able to choose the individual boards. And they still would plane it down for me so it’s all of a uniform thickness.

I don’t really care if the wood isn’t all the same color. This is a workbench, not a work of art (I just heard some of you workbench lovers gasp). And frankly, I don’t care if it isn’t all the same species. Of course, I might be forgetting to consider something, which is why I pose these questions.

So I’ll either go back to the lumber yard this week to select the O.T. boards for the bench, or I’ll save up my money a bit longer and then go back for the kapur.

-- Eric at

14 comments so far

View kiwi1969's profile


608 posts in 3440 days

#1 posted 06-21-2009 10:42 AM

Sounds like OT is like our Philippine mahogany. It,s actually related species of luan. I have some here thats quite dense and would probably work ok on a bench top.

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1567 posts in 3563 days

#2 posted 06-21-2009 01:20 PM

Another option may be to make the top out of kapur wood (since this is your preferred wood) and the base out of oti.

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

View patron's profile


13603 posts in 3339 days

#3 posted 06-21-2009 01:32 PM

timbos idea sounds good !

use the good stuff where it matters .

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

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3766 days

#4 posted 06-21-2009 03:41 PM

200 isnt really that much here. i feel your pain though my workbench cost me 170 and my next project is going to cost around 220. plus tools. money really adds up fast. but i see no problem in using the oti. like Timbo said a good idea would be oti for the base and kapur for the top. thats probably what i would do in your situation.

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3575 days

#5 posted 06-21-2009 04:15 PM

Hey Eric
I say use what you can afford . Like you said “this a work bench” So if its softer wood so what as long as it’s not balsa. Make it so it works nothing more and nothing less.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Karson's profile


35120 posts in 4398 days

#6 posted 06-21-2009 04:20 PM

I would go with the “Other” you can hand select your boards and glue up a pattern of boards.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2790 posts in 3436 days

#7 posted 06-21-2009 04:38 PM

Have you ever bought something that was okay.. it worked alright and seemed to fill the bill but passed up the thing that you were really looking at that was maybe 30% more in cost? Later on, you end up thinking…..Gee a a few bucks more and I’d have the real thing I wanted and by this time I’d have absorbed the cost and the extra cost would just be an old memory.

Unless that extra for the wood you wanted is a major issue on your pocket book rather than a “I just can’t see paying that for that wood” type of thing. I’d go with the real thing. You said the extra $50 is a big thing in your world. If that’s really the case then maybe the extra expense would work on your mind more than the wood you wanted. In that case go with less expensive.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3671 days

#8 posted 06-21-2009 08:10 PM

Cant wait to see some pictures!

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3332 days

#9 posted 06-21-2009 09:09 PM

Eric ,there is an alternative workbench that is very inexpensive to make, simple, effective, extremely flexible and doesn’t take hardly and room when not in use.

What I’m talking about is two individual beams built like torsion boxes and supported by small benches built to a height that is appropriate for you when supporting the beams. The beams can be sized for whatever fits your needs, but a suggestion would be 8ft long, 8” wide and 5” high. To keep them light the frames can be made of plywood and topped with a melamine platter on one side and whatever you desire on the other side as a bench top.

The advantage to this system is that you can spread the beams to fit the size of your project and clamp from the center between the beams or a thousand other ways. I have these in my workshop. Mine slide on runners mounted mounted to the wall because I have limited space. You can see it in the sketchup drawings in my workshop if you go to my home page. They do exist and I have been using them for awhile now and they are really great. I haven’t got around to photos yet, but they are coming soon. I also have a very good Swedish cabinetmakers bench. So I have enough experience to make a comparison of both types.

There is a real good article in Fine Woodworking magazine on this project titled “Forget what you know about workbenches” in the Dec. Tools and Shops issue.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3960 days

#10 posted 06-21-2009 10:26 PM

My last bench had two layers of particle board and one of Chinese poplar ply. The rest was pine. It’s inmy projects and now in then shop of the guy who bought my shop. I’ve worked on a door on sawhorses. Like you said,”It’s work bench.”

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Brad_Nailor's profile


2539 posts in 3955 days

#11 posted 06-21-2009 11:50 PM

Isn’t Oti that guy on here that puts up all the funny internet pictures?


View hokieman's profile


185 posts in 3752 days

#12 posted 06-22-2009 03:18 AM

I did something like Timbo suggests. My bench is maple the base is ash. Almost as heavy and it was a lot cheaper. Just make sure the oti is as heavy as you want the bench to be quite stable and heavy.

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3646 days

#13 posted 06-22-2009 03:55 AM

Eric, to start off – this IS just a workbench – BUT. as such, it should provide you with that you need it to do. you work with chisels, and other handtools – so you want the bench to be stout and not move around as you pound and push. you also don’t want the top to get chipped off, and dented as you pound those chisels on it (accidents do happen – so you’d want the top to be as hard as possible to minimize the damage it’ll sustain).

I’m pretty sure you’re familiar with Chris Schwartzs philosophies and ideas about workbenches, and they all are valid – the different woods and their properties as it relates to a workbench. do your homework, and find out what this O.T. lumber properties are – if it fits the bill – you’ve got yourself a winner – and if not, ~$200 for a workbench that will serve you right as not too bad (sure, it’d be nice if it was $20… but consider that commercial benches that are not as versatile as the roubo can cost as much as $2K).

you can always use the cheaper lumber for the base -thats what I’m doing (and many others) as it only needs to support the top, and doesnt take any direct beatings.

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

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 3782 days

#14 posted 06-22-2009 05:05 AM

I really appreciate everyone’s comments. Thank you.

After taking it all in, I think I’ll take a good look at this O.T. wood. If it seems good, I’ll use it for the whole bench. If it seems just so-so, I’ll use it for the base and use kapur for the top.

I’m guessing that the guys who are actually out there in the yard would know more about the wood than the lady running the figures for me in the office. Not because she’s a lady…but just because she’s office staff.

More to follow!

-- Eric at

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