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Thread: My split-top finished

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Mebane NC

    My split-top finished

    It’s finished. Well, except for gluing the leather on the vises and a coat of oil (blo:varnish:ms) on the shelf. That will have to wait for warmer weather when I can have windows open. Apparently not everyone appreciates essence of blo. I will add holes for the Grammercy holdfast as needed.

    For inspiration I used a combination of Schwarz’s Workbenches (1st book), Bob Lang’s article about his split-top bench in Pop. WW magazine, Benchcrafted web-site info, and what I learned watching the many other bench builds here on the creek.

    Some numbers.
    94” long,
    26.5” wide with 2” center pull-outs/stops, 4, each about 2 ft. long
    34” high
    2&7/8” thick

    364 lb. I weighed each sub-assembly as it went together and was surprised the weight was so high, since most of the top is Douglas Fir.

    The legs are a bit over 5x5”. The legs and upper and lower end stretchers are glued and pegged (3/8”WO). The legs have a tendon 1.5” into the top.

    The shelf boards are 1 & 3/8” SYP shiplapped with a 778.

    The bench is not against a wall so I went with a little extra width.

    Top: DF from 4x4 post, with white oak for the dog strip
    Legs & stretchers & shelf: SYP
    Leg vise: screw from Lee Valley & WO chop
    End vise: Record 52ED (9”) w/ red oak chops
    Deadman: DF
    Benchcrafted barrel nuts & bolts for the long stretchers.

    Overall I’m very very happy with it. It’s so much nicer chopping mortises on a decent bench. No bounce! I was even using the tops when they were upside down on my old workbench.

    The center pull-outs (don’t know what else to call them) are notched so they are flush with the 2 top halves. When flipped over they are about 3/8” proud for planning stops and can be left out for clamping. I made 4 of them, each about 2 ft. long. I wanted more options than having just one the length of the bench. They are supported by oak 1” (full) X1” that are screwed only to one half of the top so moisture generated movement won’t be a problem.

    I didn’t want to rout a groove to house the top of the deadman. Instead I attached angle iron (1.5” x 1/8”) to the underside of the top. This meant the that deadman wouldn’t be usable the full length of the stretcher. You lose whatever the width of the deadman is. 8” here. On the back of the deadman I attached oak with a groove that straddles the angle iron. I cut out a small notch, about ½”, out of the back of the oak to act as a stop so the deadman registers against the iron. Hope that makes sense.
    For those who may want to add a deadman to an existing bench I think this would be an easier approach than taking the top off and routing the groove. Not even an option if your bench top is glued on.

    If there is a next time:
    Be much more careful when selecting stock. But I was impatient to get started. And I swear some of those DF 4x4s looked a lot better in the store than they did after I got home with them.
    I did a poor job of milling the lumber. I’m sure more experience will help. I was hoping for a thicker top.
    I did a lousy job boring the holes for the knock-down stretchers. I tried Bob’s ring trick on the bit, too. But in the end it went together.
    It just seemed like I spent too much time on what should have been a straightforward process.
    Instead of running around after skateboard wheels and bearings and hardware, I’d order the “Benchcrafted Roller Bracket Hardware”. I didn’t save enough to make much of a difference and they are a great USA company.

    Thanks for looking.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Mebane NC

  3. #3
    Very cool workbench. I love the thought you put into it. I just finished a bench as well, and while I could have done a couple things differently/better, I see it for what it is -- a surface to do work on. I've already gouged it with a saw for the first time (oops). That top will certainly wear many more scars over the years.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    South Dakota
    Good looking bench. Looks like the craftsmanship is excellent!
    The Plane Anarchist

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    North Plains (Portland), OR
    Very nice. You can be very proud of that, and I'm sure it will be a real pleasure to use.

  6. #6
    Sweet Roubo! I recently completed one and can appreciate how much work you put into it. I really love the design you put on the parallel guide. Enjoy!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Very, very NICE! I pretty desperately need a new bench so I've been doing my research. I'm coming to the conclusion that I need a split top. I see that you rejected the tool tray in the center idea. It's something that I am considering. Interesting approach to the deadman. I hope you will report back after you've worked a project or so on it. Thanks for sharing.

  8. #8
    Great idea on making smaller center pull outs. I am starting my split top Roubo this month and although I like the versatility of that center pull out I did envision having to pull out any tools I was storing just to flip it over to use as a stop. Your idea alleviates that significantly.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Essex, MD
    Great job on the bench, well thought-out and nicely made. I can certainly sympathize with you on the frustrations - you have to be glad you can relax and just work wood now.

    I was similarly dismayed at how quickly the DF 4x4 thickness disappeared through the squaring and flattening stages - so I left the underside of the bench top timbers untouched except for two flattened channels for the leg trestles to contact. That saved about 3/8 of an inch on most of the 4x4s, but I'm sill at 3 1/4" average thickness. I don't think you could have saved much more using the HD-quality 4x4s with top and underside flat, so pat yourslf on the back.

    If you want that extra bit of deadman travel on the right side of your bench, maybe you can screw on a short removeable piece of track to cover the gap? It's not like you'll be taking the deadman off on a regular basis, but you just may be jointing some longer boards.

  10. #10
    Paul, that bench looks great. There's a lot of detailed work in there.

    Regarding the bench thickness, I'm sure it's fine, and I bet it feels plenty sturdy. I have a feeling that for home workshops, the 4-5" Roubo's we see out there are on the excessive side. Sure, they're nice to have if you can get it, but probably a bit overkill (especially over 4"). I think the dimensions that Roubo specified are probably lost a bit on our benches. When Roubo specified the bench to be between six and twelve feet long (I think that's what he said) with a 5-6" plank top, his benches would have been on the longer side, probably at least 10 feet. I can't image a large joiners shop in the business of planing moldings, etc, not having very long benches. With the length of these benches and the constant heavy use, a very thick top would no doubt be necessary.

    There's also an article by Chris Schwarz about an old Roubo bench that he and Robin Lee found in an antique shop somewhere in Canada. It was, I think, 8 1/2' long, with canted back legs, but it had, if I remember correctly, a 2 3/8" thick pine top, and it looked well used. And Schwarz said in the article that it felt quite sturdy.

    The planks I plan on using for my bench are around 3-1/2 to 3-3/4" thick. After drying, I hope to get around 3" too, maybe a bit more if I'm lucky.

    Anyway, the bench looks great, thanks for sharing it.

    Last edited by Joe Fabbri; 03-08-2012 at 1:29 PM.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Houston TX
    Will you be sharing pics and info on the Moxon vise on the shelf?

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Mebane NC
    Thank all of you for the positive comments. Yes, it was a big job and I'm glad to be finished, but it was fun.

    Tom, I posted about the bench- on-bench (bob) here!-and-leather!!

    Karl, that is a possibility but I was thinking if I needed to, I would drill a hole in the far leg for a holdfast. That is only a 8" gap. Less actually because I can probably use the deadman with it partially on the angle iron. I'll cross that stream when I get to it, if ever.


  13. #13
    great bench

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Edwardsville, IL.
    two words. I'm jealous.

  15. #15
    The bench looks great! All that vertical grain in the top is just gorgeous. I used to live in CA and miss being able to use that stuff.
    I'm glad to hear you built your leg vise from scratch--I'm doing the same right now. Nothing wrong with saving a few bucks--you can spend it on another tool!


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