The Roubo Workbench Build

The Roubo Workbench Build

Roubo Workbench Sketchup
Roubo Workbench Sketchup

I’ve been very unhappy with my workbench for quite some time. The MDF top sags due to the weight of the vise. The top is too thin for holdfasts. And the work holding is generally subpar.

I’ve struggled over designs to the point of exhaustion. I eventually settled on the French Roubo with dovetailed through tenons as seen in infamous Plate 11. After much thought, I decided that building furniture was more important to me than a stunning workbench. I dropped the dovetails in favor of stub tenons. This will allow me to build the bench in significantly less time.

There is no desire for rock hard or exotic lumber here. I settled for cost-effective, Southern Yellow Pine. I had to sort through an entire stack of 2×12’s at the local Borg, but I was able to find enough suitable boards to supply an 8 ft long, 4″ thick top. This left me enough greenbacks in my budget for a Classic Bench Crafted leg vise.

Stay tuned!

Roubo Workbench Lumber
Lumber Haul

You can find links to my other posts regarding the Roubo build below:

Part 1: The Tension Builds

Part 2: Jointing and Ripping

Part 3: Lamination without Lamentation

Part 4: Sketchup to the Rescue

Part 5: Benchtop Lamination Followup

Part 6: Milling the Beams for the Top

Part 7: Sketchup Design Completion

Part 8: Jointing Wide Edges

Part 9: A Quick Roubo Build Update

Part 10: One Stout Bench Top

Part 11: She’s Got Legs

Part 12: Squaring End-Grain

Part 13: Cutting Tenons

Part 14: Chopping the Mortises

Part 15: The Stretchers

Part 16: Completing the Roubo Workbench Base

Part 17: Installing the Bench Crafted Leg vise

Part 18: Draw Boring Everything Together

Part 19: Dead-men Tell no Tales

Part 20: Making the Roubo Workbench Shelf

Part 21: Holdfast Holes

Part 22: Roubo Workbench Completion

Bonus: Crap Wood for Good Workbenches

Bonus: Jointing Wide Edges by Hand – Companion Video

Roubo Sketchup File


9 thoughts on “The Roubo Workbench Build

  1. Patrick,

    I just got finished going thru your Roubo workbench blog & it is really awesome! Well written with good pics. I made a lot of the same mistakes you made. I thought it was just me. I now have a new respect or yellow pine & I mean that. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t google search Split top Roubo Workbench at least once. I look at different people’s workbenches & their builds. When I would get to Roubo’s that were made of yellow pine, I would pass them over. As if they weren’t good enough or that they had nothing to teach. I guess I was judging a book by it’s cover.

    I’ve built several 2×12 yellow pine workbenches over the years & they worked ok but I got deflection just like you got with your thin hardboard bench.

    About 10 years ago I was building a few projects in my garage & everything I built was crap. Nothing square. So I decided to build a workbench. I began searching the Internet for different designs & features that I wanted to incorporate into my workbench. Probably similar to you, I kept seeing the Roubo come up. Then I saw Chris Schwars’ take on plate 11 & like crack, I was hooked. For the next 8 years I have been planning my Roubo workbench build & reading your blog gave me a lot of confidence. Just to tell you where I am at with it, I am making it out of hard Maple. The two slabs are complete & all wood is cut to length. The chop, deadman & end cap are Black Walnut. I am kind of stuck on the mortises in the legs for the stretchers. I already cut the dovetails to join the top to the legs. Im just not sure how much am going to cut the top slabs. Since this wood is very expensive, I can’t just run down the road & get a new board every time I mess up. The wood alone was about $1200 & tack on another $899.00 for Benchcrafted’s M-Glide bench makers package (yes I am making the “God bench”. Had I used yellow pine I would be done by now because I wouldn’t be so scared to mess something up). I am also a member of the Wood Whisperer’s Guild & have watched Marc’s videos several times. I am a mechanical engineer & I worked a lot so I didn’t have much time to build or plan it. Also I was very ignorant when it came to woodworking & had to learn the different processes & different equipment I needed.

    Your bench came out so good & by the way, boiled Lindsey oil was definitely the way to go. You can go a step further if you want. If you take a wisk broom & squeeze the bristles so they are tight & a round bundle. Then wrap electrical tape around the bristles super tight & stop about 1/2 inch from the end. Where the bristles are visible 1/2″ from the end. Then take paste wax & put some on your table. Then take the whisk broom & press the bristles firmly onto the table & using small vigorous circular motion go over your entire table. If you have never heard of this, you probably think I am a nut. That is exactly what I thought the first time I saw it. But after I did it to my current workbench, a popular mechanics 2″ thick trestle style workbench), I am now a believer. What this does is it heats up the wax (or, if you are scared to put wax over Lindseed oil, just use more Lindseed oil) and forces it into the pores of the wood. It creates a harder surface more resistant to indentation & more waterproof.

    • Thanks for your kind words. Even with SYP, I had a lot of money invested in the bench and was hesitant. Like you, I was afraid of screwing up. The thing I learned was that you just have to go for it.

      Thanks for the finish suggestions. The bench is currently in storage while I build out my new shop. I might just give that a try once I get it back.

  2. Hi Patrick,
    I am finally girding my loins to build a Roubo of the 6 x 24 x 96″ variety. I’ve built a smaller version under the guise of being a garden bench for my wife, and certainly learned a lot. I’m planning on getting a solid slab of oak from a sawyer in Boonville, NC on the recommendation of Chris Schwarz. I’m a bit intimidated by the weight of the thing: the top may be 500 pounds and I’m trying to figure out how in the world I’ll be able to flip the thing over after I’ve finished the bottom and the leg/stretcher setup. Any thoughts?

    Gordon Hafner

    • The oak will definitely be heavy. My entire bench weighs about 300 lbs. I was able flip the entire bench by myself with the help of two saw benches. Flipping the top isn’t nearly as difficult even though it’s over half the entire weight. I just got it on edge, first. You have some leverage here, and you’ll only be holding about half the weight. You and a friend should be able to flip it with little issue.

  3. Patrick,

    Thank you for the great blog on your Roubo build. How is your bench holding up with the SYP? I am going to be doing a Roubo like yourself but using the split top design from the Wood Whisperer Guild. I am using the Classic Vise with the retro Crisscross and also using the wagon vise from BenchCrafted. I am building the base out of Ash and using SYP on the top and Ash in the heavier wear areas as well as end cap and vise chop.

    • Thanks Mike. The bench is holding up great so far. It survived a move and quite a few projects. No issues at all so far. If anything, it might be too big. The ash will make a nice sturdy base! Let me know if you have any more questions.

  4. Hello, this blog is great. I am about to undertake making a roubo split top. I’m thinking beech with purple heart accents. I have both in excess, it’s just a matter of sitting down and getting the measurements and a clear picture of what I want.

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