Roubo Workbench

The bench at home -- © S.C. Rogers The Moxon vise is "on hold."

As I've migrated more away from power tools and a little more towards hand work, I decided it was time to build a bench.  So, I bought the lumber.  I went to the mill and picked it up; actually got there as they were cutting it.  8/4 slabs that were slinging water off the saw blade.  I took it home, painted the ends, and stickered it, proceeded to wait the two and a half years to let it air dry.  It gave me the time I needed to do some research on the type of bench I wanted to build.

I finally decided on the split top Roubo as designed by Benchcrafted.  Everything I had read said the bench and the design were top shelf, and their hardware had rave reviews.  I ordered the hardware and waited for the wood to dry. 

Having been on it for several weeks (as of this writing), I can tell you that for me, this is the single best addition I've made to my shop.  Yeah, the power tools make the bulk of the work go quicker, but this is where I have fun.  It was a butt load of work, but it was a great project, and now, it's a great shop tool.  And, if you're considering building one and ordering the bench hardware, look hard at the Benchcrafted stuff.  It really is great stuff.

Click on any of the pics to enlarge and get a better view...

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Materials And Cut List...

I pretty much used the plans as they were sent from Benchcrafted.  I wouldn't feel very good about reproducting their copyrighted materials here, but the cut list is of my own making and it is here.

I did make a few very slight mods based on my height and personal preferences.  As for the height, I used a variant of one of the many "knuckle rules" that are out there.  Click here to search for it on Google.

Milling The lumber

Even after 2 1/2 years of air drying, some of the timbers a little over 8" wide.  So, the place to start was by jointing one edge of each, and then ripping them roughly in half.

It was so much easier with a long auxiliary fence, so I made one out of MDF.  The pictures show how it was done. 

Anyway, after I got them split, it was on to the jointer, planer, and table saw to finish the mill work.  That was a load of work!

Building The Slabs

The next step was to start putting them all together.  Glue and clamp, glue and clamp.  I set my plate jointer as deep as it would go (about 2", or so) and used buscuits to keep it aligned during the glue up.  The back slab was just a slab, nothing fancy; lop off the ends to square it up and drill a few holes for the holdfasts... Done.  The front slab required a little more work. 

The front slab needed a little more work.  Once the glue was scraped and it had one last trip through the planer, it was time to start working on the cavity for the wagon vise and the end cap.

Wagon Vise Cavity And End Cap

Next, I had to cut the cavity for the wagon vise, and fit the end cap for it.  I had one board that had some "punky" spots, so I jointed one face and one edge and clamped it to the slab as a support for the router.  Then, it was just wasting away the wood to form the cavity and square up the ends with a chisel.  The real hero for this effort was the Whiteside #RU5200.  It's a solid carbide 1/2" upcut spiral bit with a 2" cut length. 

I also cut the tenon into the end of the slab that would go into the end cap.  Did all that with a hand saw and used a large shoulder plane to clean it up.

Finally, I used the Whiteside bit to cut the cavity in the end cap that would fit over the tenon.  The end cap was considerably over size to support the router.  Once the cavity was cut, I squared up the ends with a chisel.  Marked off the waste wood, cut it, and it was finished with that part of the end cap.

Making The Dog Strip

Next step was to lay out the dogs and start cutting them.  The best way was to cut them with a router and a pattern bit.  Of course, to use a pattern bit, one needs a pattern.  Once those are done, just get into that "Zen place" and start routing.  This takes a while.

As for the pattern and the plans, this one pattern made it worth it to me to join the Woodwhisperer Guild.  There were certainly others that helped, but this and the "Dog Breeder" pattern were solid gold.  Thanks, Marc.

Eventually, I got to the point that I could attach the backing strip; a 3/8" stip that just encapsulates all of those dog holes.  Because of the glup up, I knew I had enough clamps, but I wasn't sure I'd be able to get them all on there.  Eventually, I came up with the idea of using the back slab as a really big clamping caul.  It worked really well.

Front Apron

Normally, I'm a pins first kind of guy, but in this case, it was a lot easier to cut the tails first.  It was just a matter of cutting the tails first and then laying out the pins against the end cap.  So, that's what I did.  Once the pins were marked, I made some relief cuts and chopped out the waste.  One test fit, and virtually no fettling...  By far, these were the largest dovetails I've ever cut. 

Finally, a little bit of glue, a lot of clamps, and a few hours, and it was done.  Only thing lef to do the front slab is install the wagon vise, and make the dogs.

Installing The Wagon Vise

I had checked, rechecked, and checked again, every step of the way, the measurments for this vise.  By the time it came to actually install it, the only thing I had to do was make a couple of passes on the underside of the vise cavity with a router to mount it at the right height. 

Once installed, I doused the threads with Easy Lube. It has made the threads spin like ice on glass.

Making And Fitting The Dogs

The first step was cut all the blanks for the dogs and springs.  With that done, and all of them waiting patiently, the next step was to make one dog, just to figure out the process... 

Again, I don't own a band saw (it's really high on my wish list).  So, coping saw, hand saws, chisels, rasps, block planes; I used them all.  And, I finally got that first one done.  I used that as a pattern to make the "dog breeder" from Spagnuolo's guild build.  This jig saved me tons of work!

Within short order, all the dogs were cut, the springs were attached, and the only job left was a few swipes with a block plane to clean them up and fit them. 

Although not picuted here, I had a bunch of old leather coasters from some trade show, so I cut them up and used some contact cement to adhere pads to the faces of the dogs.  This added a little "grippiness" to the dogs.

Making The Base

Making the base was fairly straight forward.  Lots of layout before I could get started, but it was pretty simple. 

Although I had joined the guild build for this project, I had ordered all of the Benchcrafted hardware a couple of years before Marc had done his build.  I wasn't sure if the hardware had changed over time, so I went with the original plans instead of the plans put out by the Woodwhisperer.  Either way, just stick to the plans.

Regardless, when the base finally came together, this is when it started looking somewhat like a bench and there was light at the end of the tunnel.

Making The Chop For The Face Vise

Again, the face vise chop and parallel guide are pretty straight foreward.  Just follow the plans.  I'm not real tall, so the only caution for me was to double check everything as I went because I had made some height adjustments to the legs.  Ultimately, I did have to make a couple of small changes to compensate.

Roller Brackets For The Face Vise Chop

It seemed as if there was as much layout on these little brackets as there was for the entirety of the rest of the project.  I know that's a slight over statement, but it seemed it at the time.

As for cutting them out and shaping them, it was easier to lay out everything as mirror images and cut out as much as I could on one monolithic piece instead of cutting them down to size first.  It offered much more in the way of tooling support and stability. 

Also, when it came time to cut the trough for the wheels, I did it by hand.  It was fairly simple to cut the shoulders, cut a few relief cuts, and chisel out the waste and then clean it up with a paring chisel.  It only took a few minutes and it sure seemed to be safer than trying to do it with any power tools.

Putting It Together

It was finally time to put it all together.  As soon as it was assembled upside down and the tool racks were put on the back, it was time to take it all apart and stand it upright. .

It still needs a few embellishments, but it's finally a bench.

It's Finally Home

It still needs a few embelleshments and appliances, but it's a funcitonal bench, and it's home. 

Oddly, the little tool racks that were added to the back of the bench haven't been used for tools.  Instead, I've used them for mounting blocks that hold the Moffatt lights.  As I get older, I seem to need more light, and these are great little units.

Also, having dropped a cheap chisel and pretty much killing it on the concrete floor, one of the first additions I made to this bench was a full sheet of 3/4" ply for it to sit on.  As it extends two feet in front of the bench for me to stand on, it doesn't change the functional height of the bench, but it sure gives me some piece of mind should I ever drop another tool.


A Few Acknowledgements

Lonnie Bird is a teacher extraordinaire.  He taugt me a tremendous amount, but of import here was simply cutting to a line.  Thanks, Lonnie. 
Christopher Schwarz writes outstanding books about benches.  If you're planning to build one, read his books.
Marc Spagnuolo was a great guide for this project for me.  Enough said!
Jameel Abraham makes the best bench hardware out there.  Thanks, Jameel.

Resources

Benchcrafted -- For my money, the best bench hardware on the market.  Period!

Moffatt Lighting -- Discovered these jewels while taking a class with Lonnie Bird. 

Whiteside #RU5200 -- The router bit for this project.  It was a real workhorse. 

Woodwhisperer -- Marc Spagnuolo, a.k.a. the Woodwhisperer and the Woodwhisperer Guild had some great videos that helped along the way!  Good stuff, indeed.

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Last Updated:  Oct. 16, 2018
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