Chris Schwarz's Blog

Designing a Roubo Bench

There are a few construction challenges we’ve had to overcome, but I think we’ve done it without compromising any functionality or the spirit of the Roubo bench. The first obstacle was the material itself.

The top of 18th century benches tended to be massive , one of the benches in the Dominy clock shop in East Hampton, N.Y., was 5-1/2″ thick and 12′ long. (Modern benches seem paper thin with tops 2″ thick or so.) So buying material thick enough for an 18th century bench is difficult and would be expensive.

But we have a plan. We’re going to use dimensional 2 x 10 stock for the top, rip it down the middle and laminate the top by face-gluing all these boards. This will give us a top that finishes out thicker than 4″. The thick top is necessary because this bench won’t have an apron below it , this will allow you to put a clamp almost anywhere on the top, which is an excellent functional feature.

The other challenge is the joinery. We’re going to use mortise-and-tenon joinery, of course, but we needed to find a way to do it simply and on a big scale. (Imagine cutting a 2″-long tenon on the end of a 5′-long stretcher on your table saw.) We’ve worked out a way to cut and clamp this joint that won’t require any complicated tool setups (just a miter saw and a 2″-wide block of wood) and without a single long clamp. More on this later. For a hint, check out this page at John Alexander’s website:

– Christopher Schwarz