View Full Version : My Roubo Build

Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 4:44 PM
My Roubo is finally done! This was a huge project and quite a challenge to a noob such as myself, but after more than a year of work it turned out to my satisfaction. I used the plans in Schwarz's book, modified slightly to accomodate the Benchcrafted wagon and leg vises (http://www.benchcrafted.com/). I briefly considered doing a full-on split top per the Benchcrafted plans, but in the end I decided I wanted a single slab. It is a bench for hand tools, but I used every power tool I own except the palm sander.

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In February 2010 I took delivery of one of Horizon's ash Roubo bundles (http://www.horizonevolutions.com/online-inventory/miscellaneous-sets/misc-bundledashforwrorkbenches.htm) (two days after I ordered it, no less):


I had no jointer, planer, or drill press. I had exactly one bench plane, an old #3. No good clamps. In fact, pretty much all I had was lumber and exhuberence. As the chairman exclaims on Iron Chef, "let the battle begin!"

The first thing I wanted to do was get the work off the floor, so I built a pair of sawhorses:


If you want to build a bench but are hesitant because you don't have a bench upon which to build, this is how you do it. Lay your lumber across a couple sturdy sawhorses and clamp the boards together. It's perfectly adequate as a temporary work surface, as you will see later in this thread. These are about 40" wide, which provides plenty of space to shift the boards around while you work. The canted legs give them plenty of stability. They also break down for storage later.


The next thing I decided to do was try to 4-square some of the smaller boards using my #3. I quickly discovered that this was not ideal, and traded Lie-Nielsen some cash for a #7. I would put some mileage on this plane.

Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 4:45 PM
Now that I had a proper jointer plane, but still no clue, I decided to do the leg laminations. Since I had never before done either stock preparation or lamination, this seemed like the best place to begin. The lumber in the Horizon bundle is thick, so if I chose my stock correctly it meant I only needed one lamination per leg. The relatively short length of the legs also meant smaller mating surfaces compared to those needed for the top construction.

I wanted 5"x5" legs, and only one lamination per leg. This meant I needed boards a little over 5" wide and 2 1/2" thick. I also wanted to minimize waste, so I was aiming to get 3 32" leg sections out of one pair of boards, and the final leg from one additional board. With these constraints in mind, the boards for the legs selected themselves.

The point of no return:


And the deed is done:


Now I will mention that although I do not have a powered jointer or planer, I do have a pretty well-tuned bandsaw. I eventually arrived at this process for 4-squaring:

Flatten one side with my #7
Flatten an adjacent side with the #7 and make it square to the first side
Use the bandsaw on the two remaining sides, as this will leave them nominally parallel to the two prepared sides
Remove the bandsaw marks with the #7


Before I knew it I was ready for my first glue-up!


And here it is, wood in clamps. Exciting:


I previously mentioned that I had no good clamps, but I knew I would need some. I read all the clamp threads here on SMC and eventually decided on the Jet parallel clamps. I got a bunch of 32"s, which would be needed for the top lamination, and a bunch of 12"s which is just a handy size. They have been a great investment.

After the glue dried I just cleaned up the joint with handplanes and made sure everything was nice and square:


You'll notice that I am cheating here and using my old "bench". This was before I discovered that I could use the lumber-and-sawhorses arrangement. This area became a dedicated sharpening station.

Okay, three more just like that and then I set them all aside for a long time while I made the top.

Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 4:47 PM
Per the Schwarz plans, I was going for around 96" x 24" x 4". In reality, I wanted to get it as long and as thick as the lumber would allow, and ended up at just under 98" long, just under 24" wide, and around 4 1/4" thick.

I'm not going to lie. Preparing the boards for the top was tedious, and it took me a very long time. In fact this was the most time-consuming part of the whole project. Some of the boards were a little crooked; this was the worst:


So, lots of this:

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As I finished a piece, I clamped it in with the others. Here you can see very rudimentary benchtop taking shape, complete with tool tray:


After a few months I had enough done for the top, minus the dog strip and front board. I was careful to indicate the best direction for planing on each board, since I would be flattening this by hand:


Next, I'll need a dog strip.

Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 4:49 PM
After much debate, I decided to go with rectangular dogs. Mostly because it was harder, but also because they look cool. You know, practical reasons.

So I slapped together a couple prototype dogs, and fabricated a jig for my router. The dog holes are tilted forward by 3:

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I wanted to remove as much material as possible before using the router. Have I mentioned that I hate routers? No other tool I own has the ability to ruin a project as quickly (hint: this is known as "foreshadowing"). Anyway, I wasted the material with the SCMS set at a matching 3 and a bench chisel:

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Finally, it was time to finish them off with the router:


And then, disaster struck.

Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 4:51 PM
I own a DeWalt 621 plunge router. In fact, I bought it to use for this project, since I didn't have one. In fact, this was my first time using it. I have come to learn that it has one serious design flaw. The fine depth adjustment mechanism is a long screw. You turn it one way to raise it and the other to lower it. There is nothing to lock it down, and while in use it can creep.

And creep it did. By the third hole the bit was running nearly 1/8" deeper than the first one. I noticed that part of the jig was being nibbled away on each pass, and thought "hmm, it shouldn't be doing that". These are supposed to be 7/8" deep:


At the time, I did not know about this problem, however, and assumed the bit had crept out of the collet. I never had this problem on my old fixed base router, so I planned to switch over to that to finish the rest of them. But first I had to fix this mess. All these slots need to have a uniform depth so that the dog holes would be the same width and aligned with each other. You just had to have rectangular dogs, didn't you, smart guy?

I had two options. 1) I could go with the 1" depth; 2) I could plane down the surface until the deepest one was at the desired 7/8" depth and then continue. Either way I would have to re-do the first two to bring them down to the same depth as the third one. The board was thick enough, and I did not want thicker dogs, so I opted for 2). It was more work, of course, which is probably the real reason I chose it.

Unfortunately, removing all those slots of material must have relieved some internal stresses in the board, and it would not sit flat for planing. I had to get creative:


Finally I got it planed down to the right depth, and I was able to start moving forward again. I moved the pattern bit to the old Porter-Cable and I banged out the rest of the slots with no further drama:


In the end they fit pretty well:


I wanted to keep the insides of the dogs as glue-free as possible during glue-up, so I clamped the two boards together and drilled a hole near each end for some short guide pins:


These prevented the boards from slipping during clamping, and it worked as well as I'd hoped. I just had some minor squeeze out to clean out of each hole after it set up a little; much easier than trying to clean smeared glue out of such a small space.


The nearly-completed dog strip:


This needs to be a specifc width for the Benchcrafted wagon vise plans, so I still need to do that. Also note the lone hole off on the left side; this is for the wagon vise dog block. I simply disassembled the router jig and re-assembled it backwards so that this hole would have the 3 tilt oriented the right way. I will cut this section off later, after the final sizing to width. This will ensure that the dog block is the same thickness as the strip and that the hole is aligned with the others.

Anyway, if you have the DeWalt 621 router, do yourself a favor and get an M8 nut to use as a jamb nut on the fine depth adjuster.

Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 4:53 PM
By this time I had started gluing up the lamination for the benchtop. The sections were getting quite heavy, and I hurt my back somehow wrestling with them. So this seemed like a good opportunity to take a break from the heavy stuff and make the dogs.

Now, I love Lie-Neilsen. I will be a customer for life. However, I just couldn't find it within myself to spend $50 for a pair of wooden dogs (http://www.lie-nielsen.com/catalog.php?sku=wooddogs). They look simple to make. Also, I wanted one for each hole because a small investment in effort now allows for lots of laziness later. If I had really been thinking I would have made a couple spares. Oh well.

I picked up a small piece of 3/4" ash at the local lumber store for a couple bucks, and had a thin scrap lying around that I could use for the 1/8" thick springs:


Ripped the board down on the table saw and planed them uniform:


I decided I wanted to make these a little longer than my prototypes, with the other dimensions staying the same. The prototypes are about 5 1/2" long, whereas these are 7". The length was pretty much dictated by size of the board I bought.


Next I cut out the relief for the dog face over on the bandsaw:

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Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 4:54 PM
The crosscut sled came in really handy for making the dogs. Make one setup, run all the pieces through. Two or twenty, the effort is about the same. After sanding (bah) out the bandsaw marks, I cut the angle for the spring. Note that this cut needs to be on the opposite side for the dog riding in the wagon vise shuttle. I just eyeballed this angle:

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Because the dogs are tilted forward a few degrees, the back edge would be the highest point when raised and would most likely be hit by a plane eventually. Since they are wood, it wouldn't damage the plane, but I would still like to try to prevent it:


Gluing the springs on. I tried to use the most flat-sawn pieces I could find for the springs, because I thought they would be more springy that way. I have no idea if this is true:


After adding a little leather to the faces, trimming the springs flush with the sides, and easing the edges a little these are done:

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There, $375 worth of dogs.

Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 4:56 PM
The Benchcrafted instructions call for excavating a cavity out of the underside of the benchtop for the screw and shuttle. I decided to save myself a little work, and picked a board that happened to be pretty close in width to the width of the cavity. Then I just cut a rectangle out of the end of it; the cavity will be formed now automatically during glue-up:

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This scrap will eventually become my planing stop:


Gluing the dog strip to the top. The cavity is on the right, under the wax paper-wrapped block of wood. That block is there to align the end of the dog strip flush with the inside face of the cavity. Later after reading the instructions I learned that the cavity can actually be shorter since it's only clearance for the screw:


I also built the hole for the planing stop into the lamination. This will ensure that it's straight and square:


By now I had two large sections for the top lamination. I glued the individual boards first in pairs, then planed them flush and flat. Then I glued each of two pairs to each other, and again planed them flat. That left me with two 100+ lb pieces (I weighed them), so the top is already over 200 lbs and that's without front board and wagon vise. In retrospect, I might have done some unnecessary planing there, but I didn't know any better.

Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 4:58 PM
Time to join the two main sections. When I started the laminations, I could compensate for MINOR fit discrepancies with clamping. But as the sections grew wider, they became more rigid and demanded better fits before gluing. These two sections had to mate perfectly. It took me a little while, but I finally got them fitting nice and tight all along the length.


After the glue dried overnight I gave both sides a good flattening with my #7. Since I had been flattening each subsection after each glue-up, and made every effort to align these two sections as flush as possible during the final glue-up, this flattening was actually less work than I had feared it might be.

The next step towards finishing the top is trimming the end flush and making the tenon for the endcap. I decided to build a quick jig to help me keep the tenon shoulders co-planer. It's just a box-like structure that wraps all the way around the benchtop, so I can register the tracksaw guide rail up against it on both the top and bottom. I thought this would be more accurate than trying to saw to pencil lines.

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To make the tenon, I just moved the jig back a little at a time and cut a few kerfs, with the final cut being at around 1" (the tenon length). This final cut would become the shoulder. At this point I flipped the top over with the jig in place and made the cut for the other shoulder, then worked my way back towards the end with a few more kerfs. Then I cleaned them out with a hammer, chisel, and rabbet plane:

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Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 5:00 PM
It's time to make the endcap. Up until now, most of this build has been pretty straightforward gruntwork. The endcap installation, however, was intimidating me. I needed to do some really accurate work now to ensure the endcap mortise fit snugly on the tenon. The holes for the wagon vise needed to be precisely located. And there was yet more precision required for the holes for the bench bolts that would be used to join the endcap to the benchtop. Not to mention the giant dovetail that would join the front board to the endcap.

I had a couple cutoffs at this point that I could use for the endcap. Being the optimist, I picked the best one.

I mentioned earlier that I lacked a drill press. Well, I really lucked out here because I got one for the price of removing it from my uncle's parents' basement. Now, it's only got a 4" quill stroke, and it's not electronic variable speed, there's no table lift mechanism and the table doesn't tilt. However, the table is square to the quill, and did I mention the price? This tool became invaluable for the remainder of the build. I'm so thankful to my uncle and his folks.

So I marked the outline of the 1 3/4" tenon onto the inside of the endcap. I remember this being pretty difficult for some reason. I think I needed a third hand or something. Then, over to the drill press with a 1 3/4" Forstner bit:


I went out of the lines a little bit on a couple. I learned two things when doing this: 1) use better clamps on the drill press; 2) don't drill adjacent holes consecutively - instead, drill two holes and leave a space between them. Then drill out between them. The resistance will be symmetrical that way. I extended the mortise about half an inch beyond the end of the tenon to allow for wood movement. I also switched to a smaller bit for the thinner portion of the tenon that is above the wagon vise cavity:


After cleanup with a chisel, it doesn't look too shabby:


And eventually it even fit:


Phew. One task down, three to go.

Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 5:01 PM
Next I decided to make the dovetail. I have a little box full of practice dovetail joints I did about a year ago, so I felt this would be the same, only bigger. One major difference is that obviously I will not be able to stand the 8-foot long board on end to saw the tails. Also, I would not be able to use my dovetail saw because it's not deep enough. So, from a suggestion in the Benchcrafted instructions, I made a jig for the bandsaw. I think it's a 1:8 slope, and reversible so I can cut both sides of each tail:


Next I cut the shoulders off, leaving plenty of room to pare down to the line. Stop laughing.


Then I chopped out the center portion of waste:


And pared right up to the knife lines with a chisel. I don't possess sawing skills, but I do have time, patience, and a chisel.


Next I carefully marked the pin locations from the tails using a marking knife. These I could saw out with my dovetail saw:


And once again I compensate for terrible sawing with careful paring:

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On to the drilling.

Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 5:03 PM
This boring turned out not to be as hard as I had feared. Just tape the template onto the endcap, then carefully mark and drill.





Now for the hard part. I really stressed over this operation. I decided to use three Benchcrafted bench bolts to attach the endcap to the benchtop. Overkill, probably; these are some long, beefy bolts. Their installation is going to require 6" deep holes straight into endgrain, followed by 2" inch deep cross holes from the bottom that intersect perfectly with the endgrain holes. If the cross holes do not hit dead center, I will not be able to thread the bolts into the captured nuts.

So I marked the hole locations onto the tenon from the endcap, and built a quick guide for my hand drill to try to keep the hole perpendicular. Here's the guide with the extra long bit I had to buy for this task:


This drilling took forever. Forever. The bit got hot very quickly and I had to constantly let it cool off. But finally I did reach the required depth on all three holes:


My final task is drilling the cross holes for the captured nuts. I will not know whether the previous step gave me straight, true holes until this is done. Because these required such precision, I opted not to do them with the hand drill:


Hey, if you can't bring your work to the machine, bring your machine to the work. I was thrilled to discover that the drill head could be lowered like that. Later I learned I didn't even need to remove the cover. Here it is after drilling the cross-holes:


Initial inspection seemed to reveal that the long holes intersected the cross holes in the middle, and sure enough, they fit:


All that preparation paid off, this time. The endcap was done, and I breathed a big sigh of relief. All I needed to do now was permanently attach it. I glued the dovetail and an inch or two of the tenon on the other side of the wagon vise. The rest of the endcap floats and is held on with the bench bolts. I think I made the holes big enough to allow for some wood movement. Time will tell.


You'll notice I have the dog block stuck in there to keep the spacing right. Later I will take a couple shavings off the side of the block so it will slide nice and easy in the slot.

But dang, glue all over the nice flat top.

Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 5:04 PM
The last step for the wagon vise installation is the tracks. They are recessed into the bottom about a quarter inch or so.


Time to bring out my old friend the router. I think by this time I had discovered the jamb nut thing so depth control was not an issue, fortunately. Unfortunately I found that the stock edge guide would not allow me to reach the far mortise, so I had to make a substitute:


I also realized I was going to need more support over that large cavity to feel comfortable doing this. I found a piece of scrap, taped it in, and planed it down flush with the surface:


The routing went smoothly, surprisingly. I squared off the ends with a chisel:


Up until this point I had no idea whether or not the hardware was going to fit. I had measured, and it all looked good, but you never know. Therefore I was relieved to find that everything was good to go! Just needed to cut a section out of the dog block to fit the shuttle and screw it in.

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Unfortunately, I must have not marked the screw locations for the dog block carefully enough. The pilot holes I drilled were apparently off center by just enough so that when I fully tighten the screws the block is torqued against the side of its channel, and the rubbing adds more friction than I like. I will need to fix this someday, but I do not want to make a new dog block. Any ideas?

Anyway, the top is done for now.

Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 5:06 PM
Next I need to start putting the base together. I have not done but a couple small practice mortise and tenon joints up to this point, plus the one in the endcap, so I am somewhat apprehensive about the joinery from here on out. Well, only one way to learn, right?

I dug the legs out from wherever I had stashed them almost a year ago. I spent a little time and brought them all to the same dimensions and squared them all up again before doing anything else with them. Then I needed to trim the bottoms flush. They wouldn't fit in the SCMS. I didn't want to do it on the table saw, because it would require multiple passes and I didn't think I could get all the cuts even. So I cobbled together this thing, which I don't mind telling you did not work at all:


It came out totally unsquare. Dumb idea, and now I had shortened the leg by a quarter inch. Oh well, the tenons will have to be shorter than called for in the plan. Finally I broke down and did them on the table saw like I should have done in the first place. You can see how out-of-square the bandsaw contraption made it:


Then out came my awesome crosscut saw and I finished it off. For the next three I made four passes each on the table saw so there was only a small half-inch plug in the center to saw by hand:


Even though I was careful, there was still much planing of endgrain with my old low-angle block plane to true these all up. Next step was to cut the tenon shoulders in the top of the leg. I did these on the crosscut sled with a stop to register against the bottom of the leg. I referenced the bottom of the leg so the height of each leg to the underside of the top would be equal. They came out pretty uniform:


I then cut the cheeks on the bandsaw:


And did a little cleanup with the rabbet block plane:


Finally, I finished with a 1/4" chamfer around the bottom:

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Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 5:07 PM
I started work on the stretchers with some quick 4-squaring, using the same method I used previously. These went pretty quickly because they are a lot smaller than the boards for the top.


I debated long and hard about the sliding deadman. For one thing, I did not want to do the milling of the triangular cross-section guide on the front stretcher. For another, I did not want to have to route out the channel on the underside of the top. I read many threads. I did some soul-searching. In the end, it seemed most people who had them were glad they did, and so I opted once again not to take the easy way out. Sliding deadman it is. So now I have to mill that funky front stretcher profile. Fortunately, I had a scrap left over from cutting the stretcher to length, and decided to use it to setup all the cuts. Turns out that was a good move, because I messed one of them up.


Here it is, after much protesting and burning from the table saw, and subsequent cleanup with hand planes:


Next, I trimmed the other stretchers down to the nominal height of the front one:


Finally, since I had committed to go with the sliding deadman, I had to route the channel in the underside of the benchtop. A 5/8" straight bit did the trick. Note the replacement edge guide fence; the stock one is a joke. The bearing surface comprises two separate plastic pieces, and on mine they were not coplaner so it rocked back and forth. My replacement is nice and long, which made this task very easy. I put a clamp at each end for stops, and then squared up the corners with a chisel:

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Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 5:08 PM
I wanted to do all the leg mortises at the same time, including the through mortise for the leg vise's parallel guide. In order to do that one, however, I needed to have the parallel guide done. So, that's the next step.

The Horizon bundle came with a nice quarter-sawn piece of ash for the parallel guide. I flattened and four-squared it, opting to keep it on the thick side (3/4") compared to the dimension specified in the Schwarz plans (1/2"). I then cut the tenon shoulders on the tablesaw with the crosscut sled:


Next to the bandsaw for the cheeks:


Some cleanup with the rabbet plane and undercutting the shoulders a little with a chisel and this tenon is done:


The tenon turned out a little wider than my drill bit:


But with the help of a guide block I was able to pare to the line:

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Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 5:09 PM
Instead of marking the location of each hole in the parallel guide individually, I scribed three parallel lines down the guide, then measured and marked the first three holes. Then I matched the angle of those hole locations with the bevel gauge and marked the intersections down the guide. I think it saved me a little time and a lot of measuring.


After lots of drilling:


Now it's time for the vise chop. I really agonized over the thickness of the chop. The Benchcrafted instructions indicate that 1 3/4" is the minimum thickness you would want to go with, which is about what I would be left with after flattening the piece from the Horizon bundle. I even went to my local lumber store to see what they had, but all their ash over 8" wide was more than I wanted to spend. Okay, 1 3/4 it is; I can always make another one someday.

I wanted to imitate the profile of the Benchcrafted chop; to my eye it is more pleasing than the coffin-shaped version in the Schwarz book. Unfortunately my 1/2" bandsaw blade could not cut a radius that tight, so I had to resort to other methods:

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It occurred to me more than once that a nice oscillating drum sander would have been perfect for this. As it was, I did it by hand:


Eventually these will be drawbored together:


Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 5:11 PM
Okay, I'll admit it. I'm procrastinating. I am apprehensive about the large joinery that lies ahead. What can I make instead? How about the leg vise roller guides?

I decided to make them exactly like the plans call for; they are a pleasing shape. At this point, I have lots of scraps of ash floating around here, so finding a nice one was pretty easy:


Alright, let me try to explain what's going on in the picture below. The plans call for a slot in each roller guide to allow for some adjustment up and down when tuning the vise. Obviously, this will be easier on the larger piece of wood before separating it into two pieces. The workpiece is in the center, with the two slots marked out. It is flanked by the two short stretcher pieces; these are to support the router. Underneath the workpiece is a shim I planed to the exact thickness required to bring the workpiece surface up flush with the top of the stretchers. At either end of the workpiece are little blocks clamped in to prevent the piece from sliding forwards and back. Finally, since I am using the stretchers as the surface for the router, I cannot just clamp them down - the clamps would interfere with the router. So the plywood battens are there to keep the stretchers stationary:


Here I have added the router and two clamps to act as stops:


I made several light passes until I hit the max depth of this bit. Then I reset the stops and did the other slot on this side. Then I flipped the workpiece over and completed the slots. It may look a little sketchy but it really worked beautifully:


Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 5:12 PM
Then it was a simple matter of laying out the profile and the clearance dado for the wheel:


The instructions say to bore the axle hole before doing the dado to avoid blowout inside the dado. Made sense to me:


I cut the dado walls on the bandsaw and used a chisel to chop out the waste:

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Next I cut out the profile on the bandsaw. Again, the wide blade prevented me from making the tight curves, but I got as close as I could and then went grudgingly to the sandpaper:


The final step is drilling and tapping a small hole for a set screw to hold the axle in place. The axle was a nice snug fit in the hole, but it's good to have that extra level of security. I eased the edges, installed the hardware and the roller guides were done:


I guess I have to make gigantic mortises and tenons now.

Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 5:13 PM
I started with the tenons; this way I could mark the mortises directly from the tenons. Once again, I used the table saw and crosscut sled to cut all the shoulders, the bandsaw to cut the cheeks, a chisel to slightly undercut the shoulders, and finally a rabbet plane to clean them all up:

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As I mentioned, I used the tenons themselves to locate the mortises. I placed the stretchers about an inch lower on the leg than called for in the Schwarz book, and here is why: A good bit of vertical space is consumed by the leg vise's front roller guide, resulting in the parallel guide being located above the stretcher. This means the lower I put the stretchers, the longer the vise chop can be (as long as there's still enough room for the front roller guide). I figured I could sacrifice an inch of under-stretcher space. I clamped everything down nice and solid so it wouldn't move around on me while I made some score lines with a marking knife:


This whole time I was ultra-paranoid that I was going to put a mortise on the wrong side of a leg, or at the wrong end, or something like that. I double and triple checked everything while I was marking the mortises, and before I cut a single one I checked it all over again. I also labeled each mortise and corresponding tenon. Finally satisfied, I began a long session at the drill press hogging out mortises:


This is what 8 big mortises look like inside-out:


My brother happened to be over that day, and asked me if I could fit all that wood back into the holes if someone offered me a million dollars. Ha. Ha.

Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 5:14 PM
I relied on a guide block for all the side paring, like so:


The guide block is just a piece of scrap on which I squared (and marked) two adjacent sides. I fold a piece of 320 or 400 grit sandpaper and place it under the block for friction. Then carefully align the block so it bisects the knife line I made earlier, and clamp it down. With a couple decent clamps and the sandpaper, it's really solid - this is necessary because you don't want the chiseling to shift it at all. Before I start chiseling I usually do a final sanity check and make sure the face of the guide block is square to the face of the workpiece, in case a chip or something got under it somewhere.

Generally I would do the cross-grain paring first, then go through and clean up the sides. It seemed less risky that way. The first few took a little fidgeting to get to fit. The last couple fit snugly on the first try. Everything in between was figuring it out.


It all goes together as designed - no mistakes!

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All these joints will be glued and drawbored soon. First I need to cut the mortise for the parallel guide, drill for the leg vise screw clearance hole, drill and tap for the roller guide mounts, and excavate two shallow mortises for the leg vise nut and bushing. But first I will complete the vise chop assembly.

Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 5:16 PM
I cut the through-mortise for the parallel guide in the same manner as the others, except I went in about halfway from each side. I was happy to see that I had achieved the amount of clearance on all sides of the parallel guide that the instructions called for:


Now I could permanently join the chop and parallel guide. This would be glued (contrary to the instructions; I never plan to disassemble it) and drawbored. First I need to make some pegs:

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I used ash for the pegs, as I have a lot of it lying around for some reason. I tried to use darker pieces to get maximum contrast. Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I didn't. I made sure to make a few extra pegs so I could pick the best ones, and in case one broke during assembly (I had that happen once on another project).

I used about 1/16" of offset for this joint:


I drove them in with a regular hammer. You can both hear and feel when it gets all the way to the end of the hole:


Finally, I sawed them flush, then cleaned up with a chisel and low-angle block plane:


Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 5:17 PM
Before I permanently assemble the base, I wanted to finish all the work for the leg vise installation. Per the instructions, it will be much easier working on a free leg.

I excavated the shallow mortise for the nut with the drill press and a chisel:

189669 189668 189667

The holes for the machine screws are then drilled and tapped. There are a lot of tapped holes for the leg vise installation. I had never tapped a hole before but it really is quite easy:


Then the nut is mounted:


It was a similar procedure to install the bushing on the front, except the mortise is about 1/2" deep and deliberately oversized for later adjustment. I wish I taken the time to build a router template for the bushing mortise; it turns out the screw holes were pretty close to the divots left by the forstner bit, in some cases actually IN the divots, and I had a few stressful minutes of very careful drilling to make sure the bit didn't wander off course. Also, the bottom of this mortise needs to be perfectly flat so the bushing doesn't deflect when you tighten its screws; this could cause it to rub on the screw, creating friction and binding. Mine wasn't completely flat at first, and I was having some trouble locating the high spots. Eventually I scribbled all over the back of the bushing with pencil and rubbed it around in the mortise; this identified the high spots and I was able to clean it up suitably after that. Here it is all put together:


Now I can assemble the base for good. Right after I uninstall the leg vise hardware.

Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 5:18 PM
As before, I made a bunch of pegs in advance. Then I drilled the holes through the mortises, inserted the tenons, and marked the location with the drill bit:


Then the tenons are drilled, offset towards the shoulder about 1/16", maybe a hair more. I assembled each short end of the base together first:


A nice coat of glue, a little hammering, and these joints are never, ever, going to come apart:


After trimming the peg with a flush cut saw, I used a chisel held flush with the surface and cut with a slicing motion:


Next, a couple very light passes with a low-angle block plane will remove any pencil marks and just finish it off nice:


Finally, I was able to connect the two side assemblies with the long stretchers. The last two of these joints need to be done at the same time, and I had a few stressful moments when the tenons jammed about halfway in. I got lucky though, and was able to separate them and try again. The second try they went right together. Phew!


Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 5:19 PM
Somehow I managed to flip the base over so I could mark the tenons. Before I assembled it, the legs weighed about 25 lbs apiece. I don't know how much the stretchers added, but the base must weigh over 100 lbs.

I clamped the base down so it wouldn't move around while I marked the mortises:


Once again, I dragged the drill press around to hog out the mortises:


I discovered I could drill around the perimeter, break off the thin section left in the middle, then just finish off the broken area with the drill to bring it to depth:


Finally, after two days of work the mortises were all drilled and cleaned up:


I would not have the luxury of the drill press for any of the remaining drawbore holes. Since their alignment is kind of important, I made a quick guide block to use with the hand drill. I will later revisit these holes with a longer bit to reach the full 6" depth:


I marked and drilled the corresponding holes in the tenons, offsetting them somewhere between 1/16" and 3/32".

Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 5:20 PM
I left the corner of this one mortise and corresponding leg round; I didn't want to risk blowing through the corner into the sliding deadman channel, so I left the material in place:


The dry fit succeeded on the second try; I needed to tweak that silly curved corner a little more:


Again, I made a pile of pegs. Some things I learned about peg-making and drawboring:

The less material being removed by the dowel plate, the cleaner the pegs will come out. Once I started whittling the peg down in between the 1/2" and 3/8" (final) passes, they started coming out a lot nicer.
Use a pencil sharpener to make the points; it's faster.
Lightly chamfer the end of the peg you will be pounding. Do this before you first drive it through the dowel plate. It should have a slightly domed shape. This will ensure the hammer blows land in the center of the peg, and will reduce the risk of flaking or splitting off a piece of peg with an errant blow. Maybe this is unnecessary, but it seemed to help me.
Coat the peg with a little wax before driving it into the joint, it will go in easier.
When cutting off the protruding peg with a flush cut saw, first take a piece of heavy paper or cardboard, cut a hole in it, and slip it over the peg. This will help protect the surface of your work from the saw.

Anyway, this was my nicest batch of pegs so far:


With my Dad's help, we dropped the base into the top one last time. I opted to complete these joints without glue - not because I think I can take it apart someday, but because I didn't want the stress. I drove all the pegs in and then with much effort we flipped it onto its feet. I debated putting the base down and dropping the top onto it, but I worried that maybe something would flex out of alignment in that orientation and it would no longer fit. In retrospect, it is very heavy and was really hard to flip over fully assembled, so next time I will do it the other way.

All of a sudden it's starting to look like a bench!


I trimmed the pegs flush and then put my dowel plate away.


With that, I finally feel like it's all downhill from here. There are just a few odds and ends left, like the planing stop and sliding deadman.

Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 5:21 PM
I don't have any pictures of the planing stop construction. Mine is not 2" square, as in the Schwarz plans, but rather 2" x 1 3/4". This is because the dog strip is 1 3/4" wide, and since I built this hole into that lamination that's what I am stuck with. I don't think it will matter.

I found a scrap and roughly marked the width and depth on it so it would be a little oversize for the hole. I also oriented it so when installed the grain will run more or less parallel with the length of the bench. Then I planed a shallow chamfer on all four sides of the bottom end, about an inch or so long. This would let me drop it part way into the hole and fine-tune the fit. The stop has to be accurate to within a couple thousandths or else it will just slip through onto the floor. Guess how I know that? I took just a little too much off, and now it only fits in one orientation. Put it in the other way and it slides right through. Time will tell how useful it turns out to be, but I think next time I might forgo the planing stop and just continue the dogs out to the end. I finished with a little chamfering on the business end:


The Horizon bundle actually came with one long, wide 8/4 board to use for the chop and sliding deadman:


When I was building the chop, I had briefly considered cutting this board and half and laminating the two parts together to make a nice massive chop. Then I would have had to find another piece to use for the deadman. A quick trip to the lumber store quashed that idea, so this board comprises both the leg vise chop and the sliding deadman.

The Schwarz plans call for a sliding deadman 1 1/4" thick; both the lower guide and the dado in the underside of the top are designed for this thickness. I was starting with an 8/4 board however, and it was too wide to resaw on my bandsaw. So I decided to turn my old #3 into a scrub plane. I marked a 6" radius (I think) on the blade and ground it down on a bench grinder, being careful to go only a little at a time and keep it cool with a nearby cup of water. At last I had the profile pretty close, so I switched over to my Veritas honing jig. At some point I had picked up a camber roller from a fellow Creeker, fortunately, because it was perfect for finishing off the bevel:


Anyway, I clamped the board down between a couple dogs using the wagon vise and alternated going across and diagonal to the grain. When I had removed about 1/4" from one side, I made one one final pass along the direction of the grain, then switched to the #7 to flatten it. Then I repeated the process on the other side, and set it aside for a couple days. Throughout all the vigorous cross-grain scrubbing the wagon vise grip never faltered; I think I am really going to like this vise.

After a day or two, I brought it down to final thickness. I had a jig floating around that I used to run the board through the table saw on end:


I had left the board a little long in case I messed this operation up. It turned out okay, and I cleaned up the small amount of waste in the middle with a narrow chisel:


Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 5:23 PM
Satisfied with what I had considered the riskiest task of the deadman construction, I cut it down to final length and roughly kerfed out the waste for the tenon on the upper end:


The total length and tenon length were basically estimates, but they don't have to be exact. It just has to be able to slide up into the dado to clear the lower track, then drop down onto the track and still be contained within the dado. I tweaked the thickness of the tenon until I could just slip the corners into the dado when held diagonally. I made a shallow chamfer along the back face of the tenon to allow the deadman to tilt enough to clear the lower track. Finally I had a pretty good fit:


Next I bored the holes, marked the curves, and cut them out on the bandsaw. To mark the curves uniformly, I bent a thin scrap into an arc and tied it off with a bit of thread. Then I marked the start, stop, and center locations of the curve on the deadman, aligned the template to these three points, and traced the curve with a pencil. I had to fiddle with the radius of the template a little to get the three points to line up. This time, my bandsaw had no trouble with these gentle curves:


Finally, I cleaned up the bandsaw marks with a spokeshave followed by sandpaper, eased all the edges, and waxed the track. The sliding deadman is done:


Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 5:24 PM
One thing I had left to do was plane the sides of the top down flush with the legs. This was pretty much impossible for me to do while the bench was upright, because I got tired quickly from holding the #7 up against gravity the whole time. I also could not get my weight into it. As much as I dreaded having to do it, we tipped the bench over on its side:


For some reason seeing the bench like this reminds me of a dead elephant. It certainly felt as heavy as one. Anyway, while still not an ideal height this orientation was much easier to work with and soon everything was nice and flush. I did the other side as well. My brother and dad were over and helped with the tipping. We clamped 2x4s onto the legs and used them for leverage.

I dragged the drill press over one last time to bore the five holes in the top for the holdfasts. I used a Forstner bit with an extension, however the quill stroke was just a little shy of the 4 1/4" thickness of the top, so I had to lower the bit in the chuck to finish off the last quarter inch or so of each one. I also clamped a backer board to the underside of the top to prevent blowout.

I had read some reports that people were having trouble getting the Gramercy holdfasts to grip in thicker benchtops, so I was prepared to counterbore the underside if I had to. I gave the holdfasts a good scouring (round and round) with some 80 grit paper and was pleased to find that they gripped really well with a single mallet blow accompanied by a nice satisfying "thwack".


They do leave marks, so a scrap of wood is a good idea. I might also pad them with leather.

I also wanted to line the jaws of the wagon vise with leather that was provided in the Benchcrafted kit:


I learned when doing the dogs that only a very thin layer of yellow glue is needed, otherwise it can squeeze through the perforations. I also used some wax paper between the faces just to be on the safe side:

189698 189702

I will probably also add leather to the leg vise jaws eventually, and will also lightly chamfer all the exposed holes somehow. I should also make a handle for the parallel guide pin. And that's pretty much it!

Michael Peet
04-01-2011, 5:26 PM
I weighed the top at around 210 lbs, and the legs at 25 lbs each. Add the weight of the vise hardware, stretchers, leg vise, etc and I estimate it to be around 350 lbs. I can barely scoot it around the floor deliberately and it has been totally solid in the brief amount I have used it so far. This bench will easily outlast me, unless my house burns down.

I don't think I will apply any finish. I like the feel and look of bare wood, but also I already waxed the sliding deadman track so that would look funny.

Some things I would do differently next time:

Get a planer. Flattening a surface by hand is pretty easy. Making the opposite face parallel is not. A planer would have saved me a lot of drudgery.
Skip the planing stop (unless it proves to be really useful in the meantime) and run dog holes all the way down.
Figure out how to not have gaps in the dog strip over the legs, either by locating holes over the legs with access holes bored into the side of the legs or by moving the dog strip in past the legs.
I might make the dogs a little thicker too; these are an inch, but a quarter inch more would add a good deal of strength. I guess I shouldn't need to clamp that tight though.
Although the ash was nice to work with, I might try maple or beech next time; the open pores of the ash will soon collect gunk I fear.

This has been a great experience and I am really glad that I was able to do it. I learned what Flat and Sharp mean. I learned what a thousandth of an inch feels and looks like.

If you don't have a bench, you know you are thinking about one. Go for it!

Thanks for reading -







Harvey Melvin Richards
04-01-2011, 5:41 PM
Any chance you can post some photos of this project? Seriously, very nice write up and documentation.

Joe Angrisani
04-01-2011, 6:01 PM
All I can think of to say is "Your Bench Is Beautiful" and "Thank You". Your documentation of your building process will be quite helpful when I make my bench.

Paul McGaha
04-01-2011, 7:11 PM

Congratulations on the completion of a fine bench. Very nicely done.

Thanks for sharing it with us.


David Wong
04-01-2011, 8:23 PM
Really, a fantastic post and a beautiful bench. Your writeup is among the most informative I have read, along with great photos. Thank you for taking the time to share.

Mike Heidrick
04-01-2011, 8:54 PM
Thankyou for taking the time to make this thread. Great job!

gary Zimmel
04-01-2011, 9:27 PM
Beautiful job on the bench Michael. And great job on the thread. thanks for taking the time for posting it...

Alan Schaffter
04-01-2011, 10:14 PM
Nice job, beautiful bench, super documentation. I admire your dedication to precision! You have a bit of $$$ in the Benchcrafted hardware!!! I agree with all your assessments.

When it came to dogs, I took the easy route and just drilled 3/4" holes for Veritas dogs and pups and Gramercy holdfasts, but I spent a lot of time on the layout so no holes would interfere with the legs or vise hardware.


If you build another bench, I have a suggestion how to attach the endcaps so the bolts don't show. Drill holes up from the bottom of the endcap for cross dowels, drill oversized holes (for seasonal movement) through the tenon and the bench like you did, then drill and chisel out enlarge access holes in the underside of the bench so you can insert a length of all thead, a washer, a nut, and use a low profile wrench to tighten the nuts. It holds just as well, can be re-tightened if necessary, and leaves you with a smooth endcap with no visible counter bores or bolt heads.


Ray Newman
04-02-2011, 12:24 AM
I am speechless! Great craftsmanship....

Charlie MacGregor
04-02-2011, 1:33 AM
Outstanding thread. Thanks for taking the time to document.

Steven Wahlert
04-02-2011, 12:02 PM
Wow! Nice job!!!
Your writeup and pics will be invaluable for my own Roubo project that will start soon.


Matthew Dunne
04-02-2011, 1:47 PM
Thanks so much for the great posts. I had to be up in the middle of the night with a crying baby, and this made it just about bearable! The bench looks amazing, and I know you'll enjoy using it tremendously.

Don Morris
04-02-2011, 2:40 PM
I used to call myself a hobbyist too. Now I don't know what to call myself after seeing that unbelievable piece of artwork. Maybe I'm a tinkerer in wood. Certainly not your level. Thanks for sharing and the writeup.

Dave Lehnert
04-02-2011, 3:55 PM
Thanks for the great review on the build.
I am lucky enough to live just a few miles from the Popular Woodworking shop here in Cincinnati. Been in the shop and meet Chris Schwarz. Fun to see the benches featured in the books and magazine. Got him to personal autograph my workbench book.

Joshua Culp
04-03-2011, 4:36 PM
Wow - nicely done!

I feel like I just paid some serious cash for a one-on-one woodworking class. Thank you for the pictures and write-up. Submit that to a magazine.

PS: This writeup was so good, and I enjoyed it so much that I felt guilty for being a freeloader on this website so I just sent in a few bucks to become a contributor. Thanks Michael and to everyone else who shares their knowledge and learning experiences here.

Sean Nagle
04-03-2011, 6:27 PM
Best ever build thread. That was better than I've seen in books and magazines.

You seem to have ended up with a few more tools than you started with :) I do like how you made use of whatever tools you had on hand for a particular step and then finished it up with hand tools. That's a good lesson for everyone.

Fantastic bench! It will serve you a lifetime and then a few more. That's something to be proud of.

Douglas Clark
04-04-2011, 3:49 AM
I would compliment you but I am too busy cursing your talent and envying you bench right now. Does it make me feel better. Does cursing you and engaging in bench envy make me feel any better? No! But it's all I'm capable of after reviewing that brilliant presentation. Darn you! Darn you to heck, for making me aspire to something!

Paul Cahill
04-05-2011, 11:47 AM
[QUOTE=Michael Peet;1674583]

So I slapped together a couple prototype dogs, and fabricated a jig for my router. The dog holes are tilted forward by 3:

Why the forward tilt? Is it something you came up with, or it a common approach? Also, I must say I love the workmanship and the informative post.

Ruhi Arslan
04-05-2011, 12:43 PM
Cannot decide if the bench itself or the built summary presentation is outstanding... I guess I have to say both. Thanks for documenting the process and sharing it.

Michael Peet
04-05-2011, 2:15 PM
Thanks for the kind comments, folks. If it helps or inspires one person, it was worthwhile.

Why the forward tilt? Is it something you came up with, or it a common approach?

Paul, it seems to be common for rectangular dogs; not my idea. The theory is that the slight forward tilt on opposing dogs will impart some downward force when you clamp something, thereby holding it firmly to the work surface.


Angela micinski
04-05-2011, 5:00 PM
Great bench and even better write up.

Salem Ganzhorn
04-05-2011, 8:05 PM
I love the thread! But I have to disagree on the 621. I have owned quite a few routers and this is my favorite. My fine adjustment screw is quite tight and I cannot imagine it moving on it's own. Also since you were making your dogs, one for each hole you could have made one or two a different width. But I understand why you went ahead and made them consistent.

Thanks again for the thread!

Izzy Camire
04-05-2011, 8:23 PM
Great looking bench. I like the blow by blow description

Joe Leigh
06-10-2011, 12:55 PM
Glad I stumbled across this thread as I am also contemplating a Roubo build. First, congrats to Michael on a great build and an equally great step by step pictorial.
I think Michael perfectly hit upon the very reason for attempting a project like this, that is because it is hard. There were quite a few techniques that he was attempting for the first time and he didn't back down or take the easy way out when those options presented themselves, and that to me makes the result far greater than the bench itself. The chances taken and the techniques learned improve our woodworking skills far more than the most expensive store bought bench ever can. My reason for building a bench is to get more in touch with the hand tool side of woodworking, in particular hand planes. They have always been a bit intimidating to me, but during those brief times when I'm honest with myself I admit that no true skilled woodworker can function without being adept with these tools, and I'm committed to learning to use them properly.
Michael posted numerous times about using his LN #7, and cleaning up tenons with his shoulder plane or smoothing some end grain with his low angle block plane. That to me is real wood working. Skill worth aspiring to. Ending up with a beautiful bench for the effort is just icing on the cake.
Thanks again Michael.

mreza Salav
06-10-2011, 1:22 PM
Thanks for the write-up and detailed photos! I hope someday I can build something half as good (someday!).

Thomas L. Miller
06-10-2011, 4:48 PM
THANKS! I took delivery Wednesday on the 8/4 Ash for my bench. I got the Benchcrafted vises for Christmas from my "keeper", read LOML. I'm itching to start. Thanks for the great write up. I'll be checking it often in the coming weeks or months if it comes to that.
Thanks again,

Dean Van Dolsen
09-23-2015, 5:36 PM
Very nice sir. Is there a plan somewhere one could obtain? I could surely use three of four of theses benches in my hobby shop.

Clint Baxter
09-23-2015, 7:08 PM
Very nice sir. Is there a plan somewhere one could obtain? I could surely use three of four of theses benches in my hobby shop.

Benchcrafted has plans as well as hardware available. Check out their website for details. http://benchcrafted.com

i just recently completed one of their benches. You can view it here, http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?235562-Workbench-is-finally-completed!


Dean Van Dolsen
09-23-2015, 7:15 PM
Thanks a bunch for the link Clint. :)

Peter Aeschliman
09-23-2015, 7:57 PM
fyi, this thread is over 4 years old. Not a problem, but just letting you know to temper your expectations about whether you get a response.

ian maybury
09-24-2015, 4:58 AM
A really nice write up just the same (belated congrats Michael), and a triumph of maintaining standards through an unimaginable amount of hand work...

eric burns
09-24-2015, 7:25 AM
Beautiful bench and awesome detail on your journey. I see you're in Rochester as well, where about?

Michael Peet
10-08-2015, 9:52 PM
Very nice sir. Is there a plan somewhere one could obtain? I could surely use three of four of theses benches in my hobby shop.

Hiya Dean, yes, I'm still around the Creek, but less so in summertime. I was surprised to see this thread revived after so long!

I used the plans in the Christopher Schwarz book:

https://www.google.com/search?q=workbenches+from+design+%26+theory+to+con struction+%26+use&oq=workbenches+from+design+to+theory&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l3.17563j0j4&client=ms-android-htc-rev&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8

There were some minor dimensional modifications needed to fit the benchcrafted hardware: The wagon vise end has a longer overhang and the stretchers are either higher or lower to make room for the leg vise (I can't remember which).

Thanks for the kind comments.

Michael Peet
10-08-2015, 9:55 PM
Beautiful bench and awesome detail on your journey. I see you're in Rochester as well, where about?

Thanks Eric! I'm in the Bushnell's Basin area. You around here somewhere too?


Michael Peet
10-08-2015, 9:57 PM
A really nice write up just the same (belated congrats Michael), and a triumph of maintaining standards through an unimaginable amount of hand work...

Thanks Ian, yes it took a long time for sure. Speed is not really my thing I guess. :) I appreciate the kind words.


eric burns
10-09-2015, 12:13 PM
Thanks Eric! I'm in the Bushnell's Basin area. You around here somewhere too?


I'm up in Gates by the Garden Factory.