Image provided courtesy of Lost Art Press
When I began working with hand tools in my shop I quickly learned that what I had previously thought of as a workbench was really just an assembly table. It was sturdy and spacious but it really lacked the ability to hold my materials so that I could effectively work the edges, ends and faces of my material. After a good deal of research I decided that some version of the Roubo would work best for me and my shop. Even though my shop was still primarily a power tool shop at the time I quickly came to appreciate the versatility and efficiency that this bench can provide.
Though I still have two of the first solid top workbenches I made for my shop I primarily build Split-Top Roubos for my customers these days. The modular design of the bench makes it easy to build to completion then break down and pack flat for shipping, cutting the cost of crating and freight nearly in half. The same modular design makes it easy to unpack and move from your driveway into your shop, even if its in a basement at the bottom of a winding staircase.
The size can be customized, but my standard bench measures 7 feet long by 22 9/16 inches deep. The top is 4in thick and each half is comprised of four plies of Silver Maple glued face to face. The height of each bench is specified by the user, but 34 inches is most popular.
LEG VISE - I recommend a Leg Vise for anyone considering a Roubo Workbench. This vise completely changed the way I work. It's speed and versatility makes it an indispensable feature of this bench. The species of the Leg Vise Chop comes standard in Maple, but can be changed to nearly any other species as an accent. I prefer to work with native American species like Cherry or Walnut but I am willing to work with others on request.
PLANING STOP - My leg vise is paired with a toothed Planing Stop. If you're willing experiment with some alternative methods of work holding then 90% of woodworkers can get by with these first two pieces of hardware. Planing stops are typically adjusted up and down with hammer blows to the bottom or top of the stop block. This stop block is made of oak and is left slightly oversized to allow for wood movement. It should be left to acclimate in your shop for several days and planed to a very tight fit. If the relative humidity in your shop tends to change quite a bit with the seasons it may become necessary to make a second block for the season the original block becomes too tight or too loose.
TAIL VISE- The Tail Vise is a more personal choice. I have used them and I like them, but I don't think they're essential. In practice they perform many of the same work holding functions of the planing stop, but they can both be useful in their own way. Don't rule out the planing stop if you decide to include a Tail Vise. As with the Leg Vise Chop the End Cap and Dog Block of the Tail Vise can be customized by changing the species to an accent wood as well as adding Dovetails like those shown above.
The Gap-Stop has several uses beside the obvious filling of the space between the two halves of the bench. In its lower position it is most often used as a tool rack. It can be raised and slid to the side to its upper position and used as a planing stop. It can also be completely removed to allow access for a clamp to pass completely through the slabs when you need a long clamp in the middle of the bench.
The Sliding Deadman is made to be moved to any position between the two front legs of the bench. When used together with the leg vise you can securely clamp and work the edges of boards several feet longer than the bench. The array of holes allows for plenty of adjustment and even though the Deadman can be removed by simply lifting it and swinging the bottom away from the bench, it is sturdy enough to be used with holdfasts.
Constructed of 3/4 inch thick stock with shiplapped edges. The boards are sized to allow for seasonal movement. The top rests only 1/8 inch below the tops of the rails to make it easy to sweep off sawdust and other debris. Standard Shelf boards are made from Hard Maple, but the species can be changed to match other accents on the bench.
For some woodworkers, their workbench is an expression of skill and a major milestone on their journey in the craft. For others it's just another tool in the shop, albeit an important one. I offer solutions for both.
Nearly all of my workbenches are made to order and no two are ever the same. If you'd like to discuss your Dream Workbench click here, fill out a short form about what you're looking for and I'll get started on a quote.
If you'd rather build your own bench but don't have all the tools, aren't sure where to get the materials or you're a little worried about messing it up (I was too at first), consider coming to my shop for a 5 or 7 Day Workbench Class. Click the link above and you'll be taken to my Class Page to learn more.