The Split-Top Roubo Update + SketchUp File

It’s been almost four years since I’ve completed my workbench and I thought it was about time to take a look back and see how things have held up. Since then one of the questions I’ve been asked a few has to do with the SketchUp model I created/modified from the FineWoodworking download. I used their file as a starting point for angles in the joinery but otherwise I created the file from the ground up and I don’t feel like I’m violating any particular copyright issues so here is a link for my file. Please let me know if there are any issues with the link.

Split Top Roubo

This post isn’t really going to be heavy in detail but I wanted to cover a few things and answer a few questions from comments I’ve failed to answer (probably because it’s been two years since my last post). First things first, I abuse my bench. It was never meant to stay pretty which is why it was built from construction grade lumber.

Split Top Roubo Update 01

Before I move on I should mention that I am now in Yuma, AZ and the bench was built in Jacksonville, NC which has caused a good amount wood movement due to the drastic change in climate. Overall the bench has been solid over the past 3+ years. I was specifically asked about how the wedged tenons have held up so here they are.

Split Top Roubo Update 02

I think I may have flushed them up once while still in NC but don’t quote me on that. One of the good things about the dovetailed tenon stretcher or whatever they called it was the wedge that provided the ability to not only easily break down the bench but tighten things up due to moisture loss/gain.

Split Top Roubo Update 03

Yeah, they’re seated pretty deep right now but holding firmly. I’ve had a couple of changes to the bench over the years. First, the sliding deadman broke so I removed all traces of it to include the bottom guide (no direct photo). I also stopped using pins (an allen key) in the leg vise. Currently I just use a boards close the same thickness of whatever is in the vise and clamp down.

Split Top Roubo Update 04

I also removed the tail vise.

Split Top Roubo Update 06

You can see on the left side I drilled the lag bolts way to close to the edge and basically it was starting to fail. Right now I’m just using the planing stop when milling my boards. If/when I build my next bench I’m not 100% sure I would add it again.

As I mentioned above this bench has had a good amount of movement and it is definitely noticeable on the the benchtop.

Split Top Roubo Update 05

This use to be nice and flush but oh well. I’ve flatted the side with the planing stop just once over the years but it can use another go. Honestly I want to just build another bench and re-purpose this one somewhere else in the shop.

My biggest gripe with this bench is the weight. It doesn’t weigh nearly enough and will occasionally move while planing tough woods. The fact that this bad boy has lasted almost four years and honestly is still going strong makes me happy. Still doesn’t change the fact that it may be time for a new one.

If there is anything in particular that you may want to know just leave a comment below.

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Leg Vise and the Ugliest Slinding Deadman

Have you ever got to a point in a project where you’re so close to being done that you just can’t get yourself to finish? I seem to be at that point with my bench. I have however been able to knock out the rest of the leg vise and the sliding dead man. The installation of the leg vise hardware was pretty similar to the wagon vise with few exceptions. The threaded rod for the leg vise was 1/8″ thicker than the one for the wagon vise for a total of 1-1/8″. My largest auger bit is a number 16 so it isn’t large enough with the bit alone. Once I got the hole drilled all the way through I took the rod and threaded it through and since the pine is so soft it was able imprint the sides of the hole.

IMG_5489I used a 1/4″ chisel to pare away the walls until all the threaded marks were gone. Once the rod was able to slide through without force I assembled the hardware so I could mark out the fitting.

IMG_5490I know I took more pictures of the assembly but I cannot for the life of me find them. Anyhow, it was pretty much the same as when I did the wagon vise install and in my last post you saw that the hardware was already complete. So what I’ve actually been able to accomplish from that point was the actual leg portion of the vise. In my original design, I was gonna go for something like the design for the “18th Century Workbench” that Chris Schwarz made. I decided against that for a couple reason and the main one being available tools. I didn’t want to buy any rasps or coping saw for the curve work. Instead I went for a simple taper. IMG_5510

Just like the stretchers, I used a 2×6 and some big box store 1×6 to get roughly 2″. I didn’t measure the thickness but left things as thick as possible. I know you can’t tell but there is a nice birdseye figure to face of the vise. Once everything was flat, square and parallel, I did a dry fit.IMG_5511

As you can see, things weren’t quite flush. I took everything apart and examined the bench surfaces. IMG_5512

Part of the leg wasn’t quite flush with the bench top as you see above but it was actually more towards the stretcher where there was some unevenness. After a bit of planing I had a better fit but still needed some work.  IMG_5513

Next was working on the parallel guide. Since I had already cut the through mortise when I assembled the legs it was just a matter of transferring location on to the vise. I couldn’t take the measurements and mark it out on the leg vise because I had already cut the tapers, so I clamped the leg vise to the leg of the bench and did my best to trace out the mortise for the parallel guide. After I couldn’t get a good trace with a pencil I took a chisel and lined it up with the walls of the mortise as best as possible and marked it out. IMG_5514

After the mortise was cut I made the parallel guide to fit snug in the leg vise but a hair smaller than the mortise of the bench leg so things would slide smoothly. Once I was happy with the fit I bored out the 3/8″ holes which were offset by 1/2″.

IMG_5515

If you think that the parallel guide is ugly, just wait… Now that I  had all the componets complete it was time for a dry run without the screws on the vise. Everything seemed to move smoothly so I figured I was ready to tighten things down. For some reason I decided to do this with the vise half way pulled out. When I went to check the fit I actually got it stuck. I could close it all the way but getting it to back out I had to reach under and lift the parallel guide for it to come loose. At first this worried me and I couldn’t think of what I was doing wrong. I’m gonna blame it on the fact that it was probably around 10pm and maybe after a beer or two. After some tweaking around a bit I figured it out. I closed the vise, clamped it down and then tightened the hardware. This gave me a smooth operation all the way in and all the way out. IMG_5541

I don’t have any fancy draw bores or wooden pegs so I just use what I have and in this case it’s a allen wrench. IMG_5542

Now I didn’t really document the sliding dead man but I did want to show how ugly it was. Auger bits and pine do not seem to like each other. No matter what I did, drilling fast or slow, little pressure or a lot of pressure, things were just UGLY. I honestly think it’s the “craft” wood from the big box stores because I didn’t get these results with I drilled out the mortises on the 2 by material. IMG_5543

Blow out on the back was horrible, even with a sacrificial board and predrilling the back. It is only the back so I’m not worried but I hate how compressed all the fibers are in each hole. These are 1″ holes offset by an inch so I just used the same oak dowel that I made the handles with. Overall it slides real smooth considering the track and groove are a less than perfect fit. I’m real happy with the functionality of both devices but if I could just finish up the top soon I’d be really happy. My goal is by the year’s end.

The Split Top Hybrid Roubo SketchUp

That’s right, ANOTHER modification (and I’m sure by the name some of you are thinking ABOMINATION!) But it is what it is and this is the design I’m going for. I know it seems I’m doing more time RE-designing my bench than actually building but you can thank my Kindle and Chris Schwarz (sorta).

I actually spent a good amount of time in the shop working on the top yesterday. Before my decision to mod the bench again, I was building the top in four sections. Two sections of four laminated pieces at roughly 5-1/2″ and two sections of five laminated pieces at 6-7/8″. I will actually have a post dedicated to building of the top so I’m not gonna go into detail but it’s just some background info for you. Anyhow, I had the first section of four pieces already laminated and was working on surfacing another five for glue up. I got through 4-1/2 boards before the heat finally got to me and I had to call it quits for the day. Little did I know this was probably for the best.

After I cooled off and took a shower I plopped down on the couch with my Kindle and began browsing some books. I did a search of workbenches just to see what they had and low and behold, Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use was free to borrow for Prime members (one of the greatest things about the Kindle Fire). So I figured, why not? Now this isn’t a book review but there is a lot of good information in there and I have enjoyed reading it thus far. I got about a 1/3 through the book when I decided that I wanted to re-mod my bench. There were new things I wanted to add and some I wanted to take away.

My main rational for this mod was I felt the design didn’t meet the minimal requirements (yes, his opinion but still). While I could manage to work a board’s face, edge and end, it wasn’t effective (my opinion). There is a section of the book dedicated to (again his opinion) the best work holding ways and devises for a vast array of scenarios. I took what I liked, both function and aesthetics, as well as some ideas from other benches I’ve seen, and incorporated them into the original design. And here is what I’m now calling the, wait for it….

Split Top Hybrid Roubo

This may look like any other bench but I personally haven’t seen another one that’s got as much function (and looks as BAD ASS) as this one. It’s got everything I’d want in a bench. Let’s start fro the top and work our way down.

While not the beefiest of tops, it’s 3″ thick with an overall surface of 24″ deep and just over 60″ in length. This was my main “sacrifice”. The original plans call for a 4″ thick top at 26″ x 91-1/2″. Although it would be nice to have something that big and I do have the space for such but as I don’t plan on building anything (with hand tools) that would require that size, it would just be a waste.

I much prefer the look of square bench dogs so I wanted to keep that. I think a wagon vise is more purposeful for my needs vs an end vise. Even something as fancy as a twin screw end vise I just couldn’t justify getting. I outlined the top in a tic tack toe pattern and added 3/4″ holes for holdfasts. You can see a planing stop all the way at the end of the bench that is adjustable from underneath. Lastly is the split top. The fact you can use it as a batten for cross grain planing, an extra planing stop for short stock, or as a temporary tool holder but then flip it over for a flush surface is nothing short of awesome to me. So simple! The top should handle all face work I will encounter.

The leg vise was something that I thought the original plans was missing. It had the sliding deadman but for me it needed the vise especially because I wasn’t going to use the twin screw face vise. Since the top was already flush with the legs it wasn’t hard to incorporate. The part at the end is something I picked up from the book. It’s a crochet. You wedge your board in it and clamp it down in the leg vise for edge planing. I don’t think it’s necessary but it doesn’t hurt to have. This set up should satisfy my edge and end working.

I thought it would be a good idea to include drawers on my first mod. Then I thought about it. I have a small trestle framed cabinet with 7 drawers that I can’t stand. I love the trestle frame, I hate the drawers. It just stockpiles crap and gives me a reason to hang on the the most absurd items. So away with the drawers and hello to a shelf. I’m always looking for a place to put things temporarily and a shelf works. I didn’t want it flush with the tops of the stretchers  since there’s always a possibility to more easily knocking off a tool. I also didn’t want to fully enclose it so I can easily sweep off shavings and other misc things as they accumulate.

This bench just says bad ass to me. My favorite thing about this bench? The joinery. In case you haven’t been to FineWoodworking.com and checked out the video series for the actual Hybrid Roubo Bench (which is free for non-members right now), I’ll do a quick rundown of the joinery. The base has three types of tenons. It has pegged tenons on the upper side stretchers, wedged double tenons on the lower, and a dovetailed through-tenon, with an angled haunch and wedge on the front and back. I really wish I could afford to build it out of better materials but I’ll make due with what I’ve got!

Now that I’ve got what I’m considering my final SketchUp model finished, I can continue with building the top. I’ll complete the front portion first so I can knock out all those dog holes, planing stop, and set up the wagon vise. Stay tuned for that!