Chris Schwarz's Blog

Roubo Workbench? Nope. Call it the Rob-O

Robert Giovannetti of Crystal Lake, Ill., built a Roubo-style workbench like the one featured in the Autumn 2005 issue. He wasn’t completely satisfied with its workholding properties and sold the bench to an eager buyer.

Then this week he sent me photos of his latest workbench, which incorporates details from many workbenches. He likes to call it the Rob-O, which Rob says is a “Japanese cabinetmaker’s bench modified for western work methods.” The bench, which is designed for a workshop that blends hand and power tools, has some interesting features that are worth discussing. Let’s take a look.

First, the raw stats: The top is 4″ x 31-1/2″ x 94-1/2″ total, which includes the two slabs and a 10-1/2″ w. sliding tray between. The base is a trestle design with all members being 3-1/2″ x 4″. The bench tips the scales at about 400 pounds.

Workholding details: The Veritas Twin-Screw face vise is 31-1/2″ wide (wow) with the vise screws on 24″ centers. Rob says this vise is ideal for both dovetailing and edge jointing. He says he can secure a 7′-long piece of stuff for edging. So the fact that the face vise’s rear jaw is proud of the top is no big deal, Rob says. If he needs to edge a big door, he can clamp a spacer block to the front edge of the top for additional support. In my book, this is the only weakness of this design , I’ve worked on benches like this and I much prefer having the legs and top and vise all in the same plane. But that’s just me.

Rob’s planing stops are cool. They slide into dados in the top. Rob says he has multiple sizes of stops for planing different thicknesses. I think this setup is more versatile than my single planing stop. I’ve been learning to skew my planes to keep the stock under control against the single planing stop. This system is more like my old planing stop system on a previous workbench, which is easier to use, if not demonstrably better.

For planing doors, panels, frames and drawers (which can involving planing across the width), Rob has devised an ingenious wedging system that I hope he’ll send us photos of so I can post them. Essentially, you place the front part of the work against the planing stops. The tail end of the work is wedged between a wedge-shaped bench hook (which drops into a bench dog hole) and another wedge-shaped piece of stock. I think I’m describing it correctly, but Rob will let us know if I’m not.

Another great feature is the removable sliding tool tray in the center of the bench. The centered tool tray is a lot like the Veritas-style workbench. The fact that the tray slides away for clamping on the top is a lot like David Charlesworth’s bench, which has been featured in Lon Schleining’s “The Workbench Book.” The features is also found on the Lie-Nielsen workbenches, which I worked on last week at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. To true the top of his bench, Rob can remove the two slabs and run them through a drum sander or planer.

All in all, a very interesting bench.

Christopher Schwarz

2 thoughts on “Roubo Workbench? Nope. Call it the Rob-O

  1. Mike Wenzloff

    Awesome bench, Rob!

    Thanks for bringing it to the blog, Chris.

    Ah one of these days I’ll be able to have enough space for the bench that has been in my mind.

    And now I have a few more details to chew on. Thanks again, Mike

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