My Roubo Workbench – from lumber to raw bench

Last year I started building my workshop in the basement of our house with a view into our beautiful garden. What was desperately missing was the centrepiece of any workshop – a big, sturdy workbench.
Even before starting the workshop, in August 2014, I had purchased a copy of Christopher Schwarz wonderful book about work benches.

He introduced to me the Roubo workbench, named after André Jacob Roubo (1739–1791), who was a carpenter, cabinetmaker and author.
The bench was described in his seminal publication “L’Art Du Menuisier” — the art of the the carpenter.
After reading this bookI found a wide variety of material about Roubo workbenches on the Internet and I can just encourage you to Google and enjoy. The beauty of this type of workbenches that it is extremely heavy, massive and essentially a three-dimensional clamping surface.
Christopher Schwarz runs a blog and publishing company called Lost Art Press and you can read a bit more about “L’Art du Menuisier” over there.

This post is essentially documenting my build without going too much into the details. Chances are, like in my case, that your build needs to be customised to your needs, availability of space, etc. Apart from blogs, Youtube is your friend and you’ll find lot of Roubo Bench material over there. I love the video about the top joinery by David Barron, which also gives you a beautiful example of a perfectly build bench by a master maker (unlike mine) 🙂

This is not meant to be an Instructables post that would guide you step by step in a fool-proof manner. However, if you want any advice, please let me know.

Ok, enough about the context. The rest of this post is really picture of the build with a few comments here and there.

The result of a week of very interesting work and a proud owner.

 

It all started with a set of 4×10 cm pieces of lumber, which already went through a thickness planer and where all perfectly in shape. I had acquired a wood star thickness planer for this purpose but was kind of relieved that my wood dealer offered to run them through their massive industrial planer for me. It turned out that this saved project of getting to the raw build within a week.

I had 15 pieces of lumber of 175 cm length to form the top which I wanted to be 160x60x10 cm. Plus 20 pieces of 100 cm length for the legs and the stretchers.

 

As I wrote, I followed David Barron’s advice on the tenons connecting the top and also glued up the top in three steps on a very flat surface which I stole from the re-used kitchen cabinets that you see in the background. This allowed me to come up with a perfectly flat surface.

The legs are glued up from three pieces, for which I sawed the tenons first, then fitted them with the bench top, before glueing anything together

Two thirds of the top, all glued up and clamped

 

 

The long and short stretchers are glued together from three pieces. The long, 8cm wide piece forms the centre tenon, with a 10 cm piece with triangular top in front. The 8 cm piece is made by sawing away 2 cm from a 10 cm piece and then glueing the remaining 1.x cm piece on the 8cm piece. This will form the basis for the lower tool shelf of the bench. I now own a Japanese Kataba Saw for cutting off the tenons and pegs. 🙂

In many cases, I used pegs made from beech wood to keep pieces aligned. I would clamp them in perfect alignement and drill the wholes for the pegs, take them apart, apply the wood glue, clamp and hammer in the pegs. This prevents the pieces from moving out of place during clamping, which they would easily do due to the slippery wood glue applied.

 

One of the legs, glued up and clamped, with the dovetail clearly visible

 

 

After six days of cutting, glueing, clamping and planing I had the top, legs and stretchers ready.

Assembling the base was relatively smooth.

Lifting the top onto the base was a little more tricky because despite plenty of slippery wood glue the top mortises would not easily slide down the tenons. Lifting the whole bench on one side and stomping it forcefully on the flow did the job. And here it is. The leg wise is still missing, as well as the final planing and applying the oil finish.

 

Some weeks later, with attached front vise

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