Roubo Workbench

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Project by apollon posted 01-17-2019 02:29 PM 1346 views 6 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I am going to provide a few insights for anyone that has limited or no (that was me) woodworking experience and wants to build a Roubo bench. Although there are various plans out there, I highly recommend this one for the clarity and completeness of instructions as well as great support, and this is the one I followed for my build. As you see, I have omitted some things and added others, so this is really my version of a Roubo bench.

Tools. Ideally you would have both a jointer and planer – not one or the other – if you do not want to suffer like me and want to achieve precise, straight or 90 degree cuts. I went through the router jig route to dimension lumber and I must have spent 10x more time than if I were to use those two tools, which I ended up buying anyway towards the end for the bench legs. Tip: search for used ones, particularly on the jointer as you can get one for under 100$ – I didn’t see particularly good deals for the Dewalt planer.

Ideally you would also have a floor standing drill press, one that is able to drill through a 4 inch thick piece of wood. Paramount for the multiple mortises on the bench legs. The bench drill presses only drill up to about 2 1/2 inches, which means lost of precision (and time) when resetting the table to drill deeper. You also need a good set of forstner bits of course.

If you do everything perfectly (unlikely for a newbie like me) you can get away without a 12 inch miter saw. Otherwise budget for one as it will come very handy if you have to cut down the thick legs or either of the two bench tops

You can get by without a router or table saw – a skill saw with fence will do just fine.

You need a dust collector if you are to purchase the Dewalt DW735 planner. And good to have in general in addition to a shop vac for your stationary power tools which require higher air flow than what a shopvac can supply – the shopvac is required for the hand power tools which have a small port and require the suction. Though, apart from some planers or band saws, you can probably do ok with either. But do pay attention to dust, there will be plenty. I bought the bullet and eventually (after I was done!) purchased a (used) Dylos DC 1700 to measure small (under 0.5 micron) particle air quality, so that I know when or if I can remove the mask.

Leg vise: Yost leg vise – painted. Benchcrafted crisscross. Jergens 8 in handwheel. Everything will run you about 180$.

End vise: Lee valley vise with Jergens 4 in handwheel. About 60$.

Shelves. Instead of adding wood in the bottom, as seen in may instructions, I ended up adding shelves with heavy duty drawers slides to store or support power tools – putting the heavy workbench in use instead of using wall space that I don’t have. The bottom drawer supports up to 220lbs whereas the top up to 500lbs. I may add another shelf to extend the length of the bench. I read someone saying to leave the space underneath empty for clamps etc. However, the top shelf can be drilled or cut (like in the middle) to accommodate clamps and still be able to support or store stuff.

Deadman. I don’t know how necessary that will be and I just decided to skip the extra work involved. I mean, the leg vise should be able to hold a 24inch long piece no problem and for a 42inch long piece I can use the leg on the back. So, how many times will I have to clamp a 24-42 inch piece on the side ? If need be I can glue notched pieces on the shelf and under the bench top in the future. Or drawer slides – 18th century folks didn’t have those but nowadays they are heavy duty and dirt cheap.

Bench top mortise and tenon. I seriously think these are not necessary if you are to make the tops removable – i.e. no glue. I suggest you drill the tops from underneath through the strechers and drive either 1/2 inch screws or steel dowels that you can easily remove. Having 4 of those on each bench top is more than enough to stop it from moving.

Bench tops. Here is the thing no-one will tell you. As you glue the top wood together, each piece slightly bends to form a perfect bond with the one next to it. Guess what happens when the last piece is glued ? It is slightly bent (of course). Unless you have dimensioned each piece of wood perfectly (and even then, the pressure applied by the clamps may end up in slightly bends). So when the time comes to place the top on the legs, it is going to be slightly off, maybe by 1/8 inch. For some (like me) this may be annoying. Solution ? Borrow (or buy and sell or just buy) an extra large skill saw, a Mafell jig saw, sand just the bench side that attaches to the leg (noone will really notice the rest) or sand the top of the leg to make it flush. Or, even better, start the glueing process with the most outer piece of wood, attaching it perhaps to a long piece of steel, such that during the glueing process that piece remains intact. My legs still ended up having 1/8 offset but that was because they weren’t perfectly at 90 degree angles with each other (working in a cramped garage and without proper tools at the start that is).

Bench dogs. Do not use a drill bit from a hardware store like I did in my first hole, they are not as accurate in relation to bench dogs you can get. And please, don’t spend $40 for one either. I used this one and did a very good job. Oh, and if you have a drill press, you can drill into 2’’ thick wood to use as a guide. This worked really well for me.

Dimensions. Make everything 10% bigger that you can then plan thinner or cut. This is safer than say one of your legs being 10% smaller or thinner and now you having to go back to cut all the other legs. Or if your bench top is not totally flat and now instead of 4 inches you have to make it too thin.

Paint: I used Rustoleum spray can which seems to be robust and scratch resistant. Will see how it holds up.

Hope that helps provide some insight. Good luck!

4 comments so far

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15975 posts in 2886 days

#1 posted 01-17-2019 03:56 PM

Nice bench.

I’d only suggest not everyone ‘needs’ a planer, jointer, dust collector, 12” miter saw, standing drill press and skil saw with fence to build a Roubo. At least, don’t tell my bench it shouldn’t exist (I used none of those things in my build).

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View apollon's profile


3 posts in 32 days

#2 posted 01-17-2019 04:00 PM

Thank you for your comment. I agree, “need” was too strong of a statement which I have now edited :)

View bvdon's profile


502 posts in 3283 days

#3 posted 01-18-2019 11:58 AM

Beautiful work. It looks like you’ve used pine for the build, and guessing the budget is much more friendly, but after doing all that nice, accurate workmanship, do you wish you used more expensive hardwood for the build?

View apollon's profile


3 posts in 32 days

#4 posted 01-18-2019 01:45 PM

Thank you for the kind words. This is (indeed cheap) douglas fir from my local home depot. I really like the way the legs and vise turned out so I wouldn’t change those parts. I would certainly prefer hardwood for the tops and actually now that I have a jointer and planer, it would probably take me 10 days to do, with maybe a full first two days and 30mins each day forward for the glue ups. Given those tops are removable (and the end vise can be easily disassembled), this is something I can do anytime. It’s not so much the hardwood I would prefer, as much as thicker boards (like 2-3 inches thick). But would I go ahead and do this or would I have done it from the start ? Certainly not now, maybe after a year or so. And not at the start either, as budget was very tight.

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