Chris Schwarz's Blog

Le livre de Roubo est arrive – un peu

On Saturday our postman left a note: There was a package for me, but they couldn’t leave it at my house. I had to go to the Post Office and sign for it personally. I’m annoyed (and a little concerned , it sounded a lot like the way I was served with a lawsuit when I was once sued). But I went down, signed the yellow paper without getting handcuffed and was rewarded with a box from Canada.

A.J. Roubo (the name on the cover) had hit town.

Surprisingly, the box was a bit small, and soon I knew why. It had only one of the three volumes I’d ordered (the other two are on back order , the saga continues). This volume, “Le Menuisier Ebeniste, Section De La III” is plenty meaty enough , 273 pages of text plus an additional 60 plates at the back. This volume doesn’t contain the chapter on the early workbench I built, though it does have plate 279 and the text that discusses the “improved” German workbench with a tail vise and a sliding leg vise. Yes, a sliding leg vise. I’ll be posting more on that little detail in a future log entry.

I think the section on the German bench is the first section we’ll take a stab at translating. It might be a rough translation. It might not be exact. But it could be interesting. Our managing editor, Megan Fitzpatrick, has a couple friends, one who specializes in old French languages and another native French speaker with literature training. (Note to self: Hiring a managing editor who’s a doctoral student in English literature does have its advantages.)

I’ve spent a few hours looking over the plates and have already found some very interesting things that were going on in France in 1775. A wooden-stock plane that appears to have variable pitch (55Ã?° up to 90Ã?° and with a toothed blade). Plus a couple other iron-soled planes , one that looks like a precursor to all the English miter planes and a nice looking scraper plane that could be an infill (these are all on plate 281 for those playing our home game).

Also interesting are many of the drawings that show the Roubo bench that I built in being used for a variety of marquetry functions. How the holdfasts and planning stop were used together to secure large panels is interesting, plus how the holdfasts held jigs to the bench. What’s also interesting is what’s not in these plates. One reader commented that he’s never seen battens in use with holdfasts in early drawings. (Battens are something I advocated in my article on building the bench , and still do). None of the plates show battens in use. Though I’ll also hasten to add that none of these plates demonstrate planing face grain or edge grain. They’re all about marquetry.

I think that’s enough speculation for now. I’ll post more when we have something you can use.

Christopher Schwarz

10 thoughts on “Le livre de Roubo est arrive – un peu

  1. Mark Harrison

    I’m also interested in the sliding leg vise. To me it seems the perfect solution to the limitations that some folks seem to think there are with a single leg vise. Namely, that they consider it difficult to clamp a wider piece reliably (say for dovetailing).

    I will be building a new bench later this year so this is the design I have been considering since seeing this in the Landis book. As Jeff Ranck noted, there is scant mention about the bench apart from the illustration in the book.

  2. Jim Lancaster

    It took me a while to find a complete set of the Roubo classics. Here’s a couple of links to them:
    http://www.hmdiffusion.com/aoCCatalogue.jrun?Destination=pageFamille&numsousfamille=487
    http://boutique.geneanet.org/catalog/advanced_search_result.php?keywords=roubo&x=0&y=0

    For my 2 cents, I think you ought to translate the whole series of books and publish them, much like the National Historical Society’s series "The Modern Carpenter Joiner & Cabinetmaker."

    Jim

  3. Jeff Ranck

    OK, I feel stupid. It isn’t Lon Schleining’s book that has the German Cabinetmakers bench plate from Roubo Vol. III, it is Scott Landis’ book.

  4. Jeff Ranck

    I’m looking forward to any comments you publish about the sliding leg vise since I first saw it in Lon Schleining’s book. An interesting concept that I have not seen anyone pick up.

    Jeff.

  5. Christopher Schwarz

    Dave,

    Good point.

    But I think Roubo translations are certainly suitable for a weblog — no matter how boring they are!

    Publishing on the web is much cheaper than publishing on paper. Weblogs such as this allow the die-hards to dig deeper without scaring off those who aren’t yet die-hards.

    Chris

  6. Dave Owsley

    Chris,
    If reprints of interest to modern folks are too esoteric for PWW, are they suitable for this publication?
    I look forward to your spring issue.
    Dave O

  7. Christopher Schwarz

    I’m guessing that the other editors will roll their eyes when I suggest publishing excerpts from Roubo in Popular Woodworking. And they might be right — it might be a bit on the esoteric side for some.

    I think it really depends on what we find. If it’s pretty narrow stuff, I’ll post it here. If it’s of broader interest or surprising, I’ll post it here and also try to use it in PWW. Either way, it will probably be here on the weblog first.

    Chris

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