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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Assembling the Base

Out of all the joinery for the bench, I think this wedged through dovetail mortise and tenon was the most nerve racking. Considering I haven’t been doing the hand tool thing for too long, successfully assembling this joint would a big accomplishment for me. Although it may not seem like it, the layout was a bit tricky to read off the plans and to make it more complicated I had to modify them to fit my dimensions. Looking at it now it doesn’t see like it should have been but I guess it was the intimidation factor for me.

Here’s the inside..

And the outside layout.

The “x” marked areas serve as straight through mortise. Now I’m not sure how most do their through mortises by hand but I found it easier to drill my holes out about 1/2ish the way through

And then (mostly) clean it all up

Before flipping it over and drilling out the rest.

Once the through mortise is all complete…

It’s time to work on the angled portion of the mortise. To do this I first established a kerf that is angled down to the marked line up to the edge on the opposite side.

And slowly work back until the kerf line is gone.

Next was tackling the inset portion. To make things a little easier I made a series of kerfs with my little pull saw. It’s a lot easier to pull away from the wall while sawing then push against it. From there is was a matter of carefully chipping out the waste until I was about 1/8″ away from my line.

After I get the last bit out of the corner I take it all down to my scribe line and clean things up as best as possible.

Yes, I know she’s not a looker but she gets the job done. Also considering I’m using such a soft construction grade pine, I do have to say that it did turn out well, IMO.

Next of course comes the tenon portion. For this I must admit I somewhat cheated. The total thickness for the stretchers are 2″. As you know, 2 x 6 dimensioned lumber is 1-1/2 x 5-1/2 and when I mill things up I usually get about 1-1/4″ to 1-3/8″ depending on the board. I didn’t want to put two of these pieces together and end up with 2-1/2″ to 2-3/4″ to have to thickness down to 2″. So I just bought some S4S boards from the big box store when I went back to get a couple more 2 x 6’s.

Layout for the mortise was much simpler. I’d love to show you but I was on a roll in the shop. Once I dry fit the first one and saw how great it fit I didn’t stop for pictures. Cutting out the tenons was  a much simpler task. It was just three cuts. The first cut was for the 1″ shoulder, then I went down the board and cut the cheek. Lastly was the angled haunched portion. Here is the end result.

After I cleaned things up and fit each joint individually, I assembled the whole base.

As you can see I  also fit the top at this point. I must say, I do love it. Although I knew the dimensions when I began building, it is a little smaller than I thought. By no means is that an issue, I still think it’s the perfect size for me and my projects. I just have to remember that the zoom function in SketchUp doesn’t mean larger in real life.

I’ve also already added the leg vise hardware and will write a post about that when that portion is all complete. I even made a couple of bench dogs and although she’s not complete, she is 100% useable. All that’s left with the base is adding the shelf, making the wedges and do a final clean up of all the joints and edges before setting her in place.

Well That Didn’t Work How I Intended…

When I first thought about building my bench, I didn’t intend on buying any vise hardware. My original plan was to just use a bar clamp on the leg vise and a spreader for the wagon vise. Well if I’m putting so much time and effort to build this bench by hand then why not spend the extra money for presentable hardware?

A couple of weeks ago I went ahead and ordered both the large single screw vise and scandinavian vise screw from Lie-Nielsen. Now if I were building the bench larger and of higher quality materials then of course consider I would consider something like Benchcrafted but since it’s just some construction grade pine, the Lie-Nielsen will do just fine. There was only one major issue…

Since the vise hardware was an after thought, things didn’t quite fit with my current wagon vise set up. The installation would have been impossible without another modification. The other piece of mounting hardware was also an issue but more of being able to drill out the holes for the screws.

There was no room to get anything in there so I was left with one option…

After I cut out the spacer I brought the wagon vise forward and clamped it so I could drill out the holes for the screw holes.

Actually mounting this piece concerned me also due to the fact that since it was going into the block with the dog hole already cut. No matter how I angled it, the left side looked like it was going to pass through. I opted for the top left since it would give me a little more room because the top is angled more forward. The screw just barley broke through but not enough to matter.

Next was getting everything square and ready for the tenons.

I know how I wanted the mortise and tenons to fit but not exactly how to reinforce (I’ll get to that in a minute) so I began the layout. First I knocked out the single tenon with a combination of my sash saw and a flush cut saw. I needed a smaller saw that could get in between the top. After that was done, I started on the shoulders of the larger tenon. When I started to cut the cheeks I had to stop because I kept going at an angle. I didn’t want to stand the bench on end and cut so I tried sideways and that didn’t work. So I began chopping it all away.

I went all the way down to about 1/16″-1/8″

and then crept up on my line with a block rabbet plane.

I flipped it over and when all was said and done, here she is.

Now here are my issues with reinforcement. First, I don’t want to use any metal fasteners. I’ve seen many benches with lag bolts on the end cap and I just don’t want to do that. Unless absolutely necessary, lag bolts are a last resort.

Next, my tenons are 1″ long. Does that offer enough space to insert 3/8″ dowels? If they were centered on the tenon, there would be 5/16″ on each side of the dowel. That just doesn’t seem like enough of the tenon for proper reinforcement. I’m not planning to clamp boards with enough force to bow them so maybe it would be enough?

Lastly is the design aspect. I went with a shorter shoulder on the side more near the wagon vise because I wanted to get a dowel in as close to the wagon vise as possible for better strength. Probably doesn’t matter but I went with it anyway. Here’s what I’m thinking…

As for dealing with expansion, I plan to glue the mortise and dowels on the left side of the vise for a solid foundation. Now I’m think that gluing just the dowel on the right would be okay and then opening up the dowel holes laterally for the last two would allow for any movement.

The total width of the end cap is about 11″ and I know there are formulas to figure expansion and contraction but I think it’ll be fine. Anyone disagree?

On a personal note. On Wed I’ll be leaving to AZ for 9 weeks for some training. My goal is to at least have the end cap and wagon vise installed as well as the left side of the bench fully assembled. Wish me luck!

Slowly but Surely

Although I haven’t made much progress in one specific area on the bench, the base is coming together little by little. Here’s what I’ve got since my last post. All the legs and side stretches have been milled and cut to their final length.

After laying out out the joinery, I cut the tenons on the top stretchers first.

After I cut the tenons on both ends, I drilled out the mortises with a brace and then dry fit the pieces together.

At this point you can also see I cut the tenons on the top of the legs. Next was tackling the wedged tenons. My 16″ Bad Axe Tool Works tenon saw did the job just fine!

There was a lot of necessary clean up on both the tenons and mortise but believe it or not, everything fit snug on the first fitting.

I did finish up both ends and did another dry fit with both stretches but did not take a picture before I pulled everything apart. I was extremely happy with the results. Tonight I moved on cutting the mortise for the haunched dovetailed tenon. Now by no means is this pretty, but the inside will be hidden when it’s all said and done so oh well.

The left side of the bench is almost done. I have one more dovetail tenon and the leg vise installation to wrap things up. I plan on actually posting the steps/techniques as I build the right side so stay tuned for that!

Test Joinery

Over the past two weeks the majority of my woodworking has been at work. Days have been long lately so bedtime has been happening earlier and getting out in the shop just hasn’t been too appealing. I’ve been using my lunch time and was able to finish milling all four legs and the four side stretchers. Yesterday I finally got into the shop and went ahead and made a test piece of the joinery on some extra pieces.

It’s my first time with through mortise and tenon joinery and also at such a large scale. I’m really happy how it turned out. Right now I’m cutting all the legs and stretchers to their final dimensions and squaring up the ends. Hopefully by next weekend I’ll be doing some assembly!

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!

First 100% hand tool project

Shortly after I got into woodworking, one of the things I got into building were things like shadow boxes and other military related items for when people leave or retire. For people who leave whether at retirement or receiving orders, a little gift is typical as a job well done sort of gesture. Since then, I’ve made plenty of shadow boxes for work. It was a great way to build my skills. I would make small 11×14 shadow boxes for everyone and design each one differently myself.  We had a set budget for everyone but soon some of the higher ups wanted to cut down on that budget and anything extra would have to be pitched in by everyone else. Since we pay monthly dues, rather than having everyone pitch in more, I just decided to come up with an alternative parting gift and here’s what I came up with. Continue reading “First 100% hand tool project”