Reply by Kenny

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Posted on Hardwood choice for Roubo style workbench

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260 posts in 2443 days

#1 posted 02-27-2012 07:40 PM

If you look at what many guys use for the massive Roubo style benches, it’s not hardwood, as it’s simply not needed.

Southern Yellow Pine, fir and many others make for a great bench when using components as massive as the Roubo does. I’d suggest looking for Red Pine (Norway Pine) IF it can be found in your area. I’m in Maine, and when I can find it here, it’s priced right along with the other “pines” at $0.65 per/bf. If not, fir or SYP will work and be plenty durable, and save you a TON of money.

I understand the draw of hardwood, but the others I have mentioned can usually be found in much larger dimensions, making it much easier to build a massive bench.

If you do go with maple, just use soft maple for the whole shebang. Soft maple isn’t “soft” by any means, it’s still plenty hard for a bench.

One thing to remember with a roubo as compared to other designs that need hardwoods to be durable enough to last, is the Roubo uses components that are 2 to 3 times thicker. A 2×4 or 2×3 tenon on a 4X4 stretcher going into a 4×4 or 6×6 leg doesn’t need to be hardwood to be strong. Even with pine, it will still exceed the strength of a trestle style bench by a lot!
And where the traditional benches are 1.5” to 2” thick with wide stretchers for strength, the roubo is a solid 4”. Even with a softer wood, this is still stronger and more durable than a more traditional bench. And that 4” thickness means you have plenty of meat there to flatten it over time.

Also, the pitch in pine will harden in the wood over time, making it much harder. And red pine is more dense than soft maple to start! Look at a Janka scale the includes red-pine or norway pine, you’ll be surprised where it ranks!

If you can afford maple and you do use it, awesome! You’ll really have a great bench. Just know it’s not necessary in building an heirloom quality bench.

As for giving it to your son, it’s a great idea! But an even better one is to work with him to build him his own bench like Dad’s. I know, I was a kd not too long ago myself. And working with my Dad was the best gift ever.

Good luck and have fun.

-- Kenny

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