I’ve always wanted to build a Roubo workbench “by the book.” Use a massive single plank for the top, tree trunks for legs and all the traditional joinery, such as the through-dovetail-and-tenon joint that marries the legs to the top.
Since the day I finished my Roubo in 2005 from Southern yellow pine I’ve been on the hunt for suitable stock to build an old-school version. Finding the wood has been a challenge. I’ve talked to custom sawyers, tried to source some salvaged Douglas fir beams and haunted the woodlot used by tree services near my house.
As of today I’m closer than I’ve ever gotten before. Housewright Ron Herman in Columbus, Ohio, has some heavy cherry planks that could allow me to build a benchtop with only one glue line down the middle. This is a compromise I’m willing to make.
What I’m not willing to compromise is the joinery.
Several astute readers have complained about my Roubo design during the last five years. While it’s economical because it uses construction lumber, it is difficult to build for hand-tool purists because of all the laminations. Though I’m no hand-tool purist (despite what you might read) I do see the irony.
So this Roubo is going to be built entirely by hand from the moment it comes into the shop. Herman is going to saw the planks and leg stock to close size (just like an 18th-century lumber vendor would have), but I’ll take it from there with my saws and planes.
If you’d like to read a translation of Roubo’s section on workbenches, click here.
Assuming the wood doesn’t explode on the sawmill, I should be getting the planks in the coming week. I’ll be documenting the success or failure of the project using video, still photos and probably a few words.
The plan is to have it ready for our Woodworking in America conference Oct. 1-3 in Cincinnati.
– Christopher Schwarz
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