General Roubo style workbench questions before pulling trigger on build

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Forum topic by Holbs posted 06-29-2016 01:26 AM 2390 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Holbs's profile


2008 posts in 2231 days

06-29-2016 01:26 AM

Will be purchasing 2”x12” Douglas Fir Kiln Dried at my local lumber supplier. Costs a little more than the green wood at HD & Lowes, but I think work it for the kiln dried as I want to get this started instead of more delays. Purchased a moisture meter to check moisture content. Douglas Fir for 100% of the build from table top to legs to stretchers as I am west coast where Douglas Fir is prevalent while Southern Yellow Pine gets blank stares . This is my first major wood working project with the first time using hand planes for majority of work and I know errors will be made. Would rather do so on inexpensive wood than hard maple or such. Have purchased both Chris Schwarz books (will have to put up in review section shortly) along with some other reading material.
Unsure of length of yet but leaning towards 8’ x 26-28” with stop along center. Have read, soft wood is not ideal for dog holes, especially with my 2 Gramercy hold fasts.
1.) I have not found much on pro’s/con’s of mixing species for workbench top. Was thinking of hard maple for dog hole section and rest douglas fir. It may look tacky so may add a 2nd hard maple on other side to make it look uniform. But then I got to wonder if that would mess things up taking into consideration different moisture content thru the year from 2 species and wood movement.
2.) I will be also leaning towards Benchcraft criss-cross leg vise and possibly Veritas inset vise. This might sound stupid… but should I build and dry-assemble the bench first and then engineer how to install both vises? Or do I layout vise holes & cut lines even before buying the lumber?
3.) I have a Stanley #6, #7, and a #8. Is there where I can use the #8 with a smile?

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter "xylokopos/ξυλοκὀπος"

11 replies so far

View Pezking7p's profile


3217 posts in 1853 days

#1 posted 06-29-2016 01:31 AM

1) Mix away. No worries here.

2) Plan and do everything before assembly or during the right phase of construction. It’s much harder to do most anything to your bench after it’s assembled, and taking apart all your joints is time consuming. I will say it’s satisfying to get a bench shaped object together as fast as you can, but you will then spend forever getting your vises installed.

3) Yes, plane away!

-- -Dan

View rwe2156's profile


3171 posts in 1682 days

#2 posted 06-29-2016 01:56 PM

8 feet is pretty long.

If you’re like me, its just more room to scatter tools and clamps all over. ;-) so I don’t think there is an advantage to a bench over 7’.

I agree inserting a of hardwood like maple or oak for your dogholes. Personally I wouldn’t worry about how they will look. Good chance this won’t be your first bench so save it for your “ultimate workbench build”. Drill them before gluing. You might consider a wagon vise on one end of your doghole strip.

Not sure what you’re meaning about vise holes. I used lag bolts to attach my vises. My front vise is morticed into the apron which obviously gets attached after gluing up the top.

Don’t forget to line up the grain direction to avoid frustration when planing the top. Its something easy to forget in the fog of doing a big glue up. If you have a #7 I don’t see much advantage in a #8. Either one will work, obviously the 8 a little better.

My first bench was made of SYP bowling alley lane/base made of leftover pine beams from a sawmill that makes log houses. Its now a general using bench in the main area of the shop:

My “using” bench is a Klausz/Scandinavian and was quite an undertaking to build. Obviously not a Roubo, posting just to show design element: That dark strip is the result of milling one of the doghole strips too narrow :)

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Holbs's profile


2008 posts in 2231 days

#3 posted 06-29-2016 02:05 PM

It fell into my head to make the top 8’ long only because it’s easily possible and I have the room for it.
And because of the length, the Veritas inset vise saves on length at the end. If I go 7’ top, I’ll consider wagon vise.
What I mean about installing vises is that I see all these videos and books about building a bench. THEN, they tackle vises. Was unsure if they take vise installation into account before building the bench.

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter "xylokopos/ξυλοκὀπος"

View KelleyCrafts's profile


3308 posts in 941 days

#4 posted 06-29-2016 02:26 PM

Plan for your vices or you could potentially give yourself a few days worth of work chopping out parts of your bench.

I have been doing work on my outfeed table without a vice, I need a bench now. So I will be building mine out of the same material you are using but I am going for the Paul Sellers bench. Quick and dirty and will work well for me I’m sure. I should be getting my boards milled and rough cut to length on Tuesday and hopefully doing my laminations all week after work next week so I can start doing my joinery the following weekend. I bought the Lowe’s kiln dried, it’s not really as clean as I thought I would get unfortunately but it will do. It’s been in my garage for a couple of weeks now acclimating. It was 120 degrees a couple weekends ago here so I think this stuff has had a chance to dry.

Whatever you build, don’t stress about it. Make sure you enjoy the build. If you are like me, I only have certain times I can get in the garage so I try and enjoy it even if it’s over 100 degrees. This won’t be your last bench so don’t let it stress you out.

-- Dave - - pen blanks - knife scales - turning tools

View BulldogLouisiana's profile


326 posts in 1342 days

#5 posted 06-29-2016 02:54 PM

I’m very close to finishing up my Roubo build. I think using hard maple for the front laminate and dog hole strip would be a good decision. I used the Benchcrafted plans, so my bench is 87” x 24”, and I got the criss cross solo, but I have heard that retro is easier to install. I’m glad that I had the plans and vise hardware in hand before beginning the build. I don’t know why you’d build then try to figure out how to attach the vises.

-- There are 10 types of people in the world. Those who understand binary and those who don't.

View HokieKen's profile


7127 posts in 1340 days

#6 posted 06-29-2016 03:14 PM

Just a couple comments from someone who built their bench before really starting woodworking and then had to make it work and will start a second bench build in a couple months…

First, 8’ is kinda long like RWE said. Nothing wrong with that if you have the space and want it that long. Only issue I see is that flattening something that large for a first time hand-planer is going to be a ton of work and an exercise in frustration. Not saying don’t do it, just giving a heads up!

Regarding planing the top flat, you’ll save yourself some pain and get a better finish faster if you orient all of your boards in the top so the grain runs the same direction. Try to plan your glue-up such that you won’t have to plane against the grain during the final flattening.

I don’t see any problems with adding some harder wood for your dog hole strip but on the other hand, I think the DF will work fine if the finished thickness is enough. If you’re ripping them down to 3&1/2 or 4”, the hardwood probably is unnecessary but won’t hurt as long as everything is dry prior to glue up.

And finally, I can tell you from experience that planning your vice install after the bench is built is a huge PITA! Incorporate in your design and you may save yourself literally DAYS of work.

And yes, this is definitely the time to feed the #8 beast! :P

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View bigJohninvegas's profile


516 posts in 1663 days

#7 posted 06-29-2016 05:40 PM

I don’t think you would have any problems with using doug fir for the whole bench, including dog holes.
I don’t see any problems with the glue up and adding hard maple if that’s what you really want. May be a trick to plain it flat with the mixed wood densities. I don’t do much hand plain work, but I have seen hard/soft wood plain and sand uneven. Maybe your hand plains will make this less of an issue.
I too am on the west coast, and can’t find kiln dried fir ove 2X4.
Where you getting kiln dried 2X12?

-- John

View theoldfart's profile


10170 posts in 2653 days

#8 posted 06-29-2016 05:55 PM

#1. My bench top has two kinds of oak and cherry. No problems.

#2. ABSOLUTELY get the criss cross and vise screw installed before the final assembly. I can’t imagine doing it after the fact.

#3. In the words of a famous LJ, this is the time and place for heft and hubrus, i.e. 8, so have at it with a big smile.

#4. Good luck and don’t forget the Bondo pose over on the smackdown thread.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View Holbs's profile


2008 posts in 2231 days

#9 posted 06-30-2016 12:46 AM

OK… so mixture of species is not a concern. CHECK!
Being my first ever work bench, I’ll probably go the Benchcraft roubo plan route, giving me experience and comfort to edit/add/remove portions in my next bench when it comes time.
John… I scouted Lowes & Home Depot last week and both had green 2×12. So I scooted over to my hardwood supplier (Mastercraft Hardwood Lumber). They only have #2 construction grade douglas fir but kiln-dried for…um… $1.50 or $1.70 per linear foot (not board foot, but linear). Which I assume means a 2”x12”x12’ piece would be in the $20-$22 range… while the same non-kiln dried green piece would be $16 at HD.

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter "xylokopos/ξυλοκὀπος"

View CL810's profile


3868 posts in 3190 days

#10 posted 06-30-2016 01:22 AM

8’ is not too long, wish mine was that long.

-- "The only limits to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." - FDR

View Mark Kornell's profile

Mark Kornell

1169 posts in 2732 days

#11 posted 06-30-2016 05:28 AM

Holbs, buy a truckload of that $1.50/lf 2×12 Doug Fir. That’s a steal.

You can’t make your bench too long (assuming it fits in the space intended!). My bench is 8’ long and there are times where I think it could be longer. Most furniture will fit on a smaller bench but if you tackle things like passage doors and table tops, 8’ is merely adequate.

Also, I’m going to suggest that you skip the inset jaw and go with something beefier. That inset jaw looks like a good piece of kit for a good price, but that is a tiny screw (slightly less than 3/8” minor diameter) for holding larger work – even something like a table leg. Because you’re starting with a blank sheet, you have the ability to build in something more appropriate to the type of work the rest of the bench can handle.

The Benchcrafted wagon vise is good, but you can easily roll your own using generic acme thread for a lot less money. Or even adapt this screw from Lee Valley. Not too mention all the end vise options.

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

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