Planning, Opening Thoughts

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Blog entry by rrlenhart posted 08-12-2013 04:22 PM 2133 reads 1 time favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

So after seriously getting in to woodworking this past year, I’ve discovered that I really enjoy using hand tools. I like the element of the significant physical activity that is associated with hand saws, planes, card scrapers, etc. I think it’s great that one can “get a workout” while woodworking and doing something that they truly enjoy. Perhaps there is something about knowing that your hard work went in to an item that you have built that makes it that much more personal.

I’ve learned rather quickly that it is very difficult to use hand tools without a proper (yeah I said proper, cue that dude from the Bosch workbench video) workbench. I need the right vises and something that doesn’t move at all while hand planing. I don’t want it to be totally massive (garage), but it has to be heavy. Oh, and solid. And with some style-a personal touch somewhere. That’s just how I am, baby.

I’ve been reading workbench articles, watching workbench videos, considering workbench plans—I even bought a Schwarz workbench book (the art & philosophy one). But I think it’s time to actually make a move here. I can’t drag my feet forever.

Every fabric of my being says “Roubo”, and Roubo it will be. I like the style, the size, the leg vise, the name, the sliding deadman, etc. Really, who doesn’t have a thing for sliding deadmen? If it’s a deadman, it better slide. Or if it slides, it better be a deadman. That’s what I always say.

So, yeah, the particulars:

Width: 21”
Height: 33” (I’m 5’ 6”)
Length: 63”

Misc: fat legs, leg vise, slidin’ deadman, tail vise, no split top

If it’s a significant dimension, it’s gotta be an odd number. And that, as they say, is that.


I’m terrified of the rising dovetail/tenons through the top. I can envision screwing that up quite badly. But I believe in facing one’s fears head on (not snakes), and I figure if I take my time and plan them out properly, I can do it. I want to do it. I want to be able to say I did it. It must be done.

I plan to use borg douglas fir 2×4s for the top (think Paul Sellers), borg s4s “select” pine for the legs. I’m sure I’ll use douglas fir for the leg vise; I’m cheap like that. I haven’t really decided what to do on the tail vise just yet, but I will make a decision there shortly.

I’m open to thoughts, suggestions, etc.

9 comments so far

View rfusca's profile


155 posts in 1869 days

#1 posted 08-12-2013 04:45 PM

You know, I hear this more and more ” I’ve discovered that I really enjoy using hand tools”. I’ve got a lightweight bench and while I find it ‘ok’ – I definitely understand your need for something that won’t move. Good luck!

-- Chris S., North Atlanta, GA - woodworker,DBA, cook, photographer

View Tugboater78's profile


2746 posts in 2217 days

#2 posted 08-12-2013 05:46 PM

gluck with your endeavor, i am slowly working on one myself. Mine will be of some reclaimed oak from a house dismantle i tackled last year.

if you haven’t been over to see the workbench smackdown thread, it may be worth your while, lots of useful information and ideas to be had, as well as plenty of encouragement. you can check it out here

-- "....put that handsaw to work and make it earn its keep. - summerfi" <==< JuStiN >==>=->

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3674 days

#3 posted 08-12-2013 05:53 PM

look at the BORG 2×12 D.F. and rip it to 3 2×4- you should be getting flatter boards with less knots that way.

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

View tsangell's profile


216 posts in 2718 days

#4 posted 08-12-2013 06:00 PM

33” Bench height may be a bit tall for someone of your stature. I’m an even 6’ and as a heavy hand tool user I don’t think I would go above 32” for myself.

Fir is nice because of cost and availability, but I don’t enjoy working with it much. There are woods that are more friendly to plane – SYP for instance. Based on whatever your economic considerations are, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to think about what type of wood before you buy.

View Andre's profile


1888 posts in 1831 days

#5 posted 08-13-2013 01:37 AM

In the same boat, so far have picked up some real old dry birch for mine, have ben told to stand straight and measure distance from bottom of your palms when they are held flat to the ground? Sliding tail vise on my list and undecided about round or square dogs. Oh ya, at least 200 to 300 lbs!

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View rrlenhart's profile


7 posts in 1824 days

#6 posted 08-13-2013 01:38 PM

Great feedback. I may have to consider going 31” for the height.

View JayT's profile (online now)


5675 posts in 2236 days

#7 posted 08-13-2013 03:27 PM

Good luck on the build. Having a dedicated bench designed for woodworking will be very valuable.

A couple thoughts.

Height: Start higher, with legs designed so you can cut them down easily in the future. It is much easier to build a 33” bench and cut down later than build a 31” and have to add material if you find out it is too low.

Leg vise: I’d use something harder for the chop. Doug fir is very stiff, but relatively soft and the leg vise will likely be getting a lot of use. (Plus it just hangs out there begging to get bumped into) It won’t cost too much for just that amount of hardwood and would hold up to usage a lot better, IMHO.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

View Buckethead's profile


3194 posts in 1894 days

#8 posted 08-13-2013 04:50 PM

I am building my own, and I too am 5’6”. As a framer, I always make my saw horses with 30” legs, which gives me a working height of about 29”. This is mostly for use with a circular saw, so the added height of the saw is a consideration. Also, I make them a bit low so I can stack a good amount of lumber.

My bench is starting out at 33”. I’m working on top of a folding plastic-top table which is at 29”. I find that height quite comfortable for planing, (when utilizing the patented heavy metal power stance)

but low for other purposes.

I’ll probably need to cut it down, but I will have the option. I’m considering a moxon vise for handworking joinery.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15369 posts in 2644 days

#9 posted 08-13-2013 04:57 PM

rr, no objection from me on what you’ve laid out. Depth is fine, length must be what fits in your space or you’d be shooting for 71” vs. 63”, as long is good.

Ditto JayT on building higher, knowing you might cut it shorter after the fact. No board stretchers out there.

Wonder how much a doug fir bench will weigh? RGTools has a pine-ish bench, hasn’t said it scoots around, so you’ll likely be fine.

Also ditto on the suggestion to watch the smackdown thread. Lots of help there.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

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