Benchcrafted Split Top Roubo Workbench #4: Milling Top Boards

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Blog entry by EarlS posted 06-12-2021 01:00 PM 889 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Milled Stock - Part 2 - Cherry Legs and Walnut Rails Part 4 of Benchcrafted Split Top Roubo Workbench series Part 5: Mortises and Tenons, and more »

It’s a quiet Saturday morning with a cup of good coffee, I’m listening to John Prine, making it a perfect time for the next installment of the milling process for the Roubo bench.

The Roubo bench plans call for a 4” thick split top, 24” wide, 87” long, with a front section, a gap stop, and a 12” back section, using laminated 8/4 boards on edge. The front section will have a cap on the end for the tail vise. The front laminate piece will be dovetailed into the end cap.

If you recall, I was able to get a nice stack of 8/4 white oak that has been sitting in a barn for several years.

After a bit of planing, I had some really nice old growth oak boards, 1-5/8” thick, 8-9” wide, and ~8 ft long to work with. After jointing an edge, they were ripped to rough width (4-1/4”). The boards were also cut to rough length since it will be challenging to cut the 4” thick top pieces to length later

There were several narrow strips left over that were glued together to make usable boards to be used in the interior portion of the laminate.

There were still some twists and bows in the pieces that showed up when the boards were ripped to width so there was a bit of sorting to be done to minimize twists in the laminated board sections. Glue-ups started with 3 boards and plenty of clamps to persuade the boards to straighten up.

A card scraper and a bit of sanding cleaned off the excess glue.

From there, the front and back top sections were glued up.

After cleaning up the excess glue, the sections were run through the planer to get them to 4-1/8” thickness. Since the top sections were too heavy for me to pick up and carry around the planer, they were passed through the planer, then the cutters were raised up and the wood was pushed back through the planer and flipped over. Then, the cutters were lowered back down. The Wixey depth gauge was a big help since I could keep track of the thickness and reset it for each pass.

At this point, the top sections are sitting on some saw horses waiting for the bench legs and frame to be completed. Unfortunately, there is still a slight twist to the back section that will need to be resolved later. There are also a couple more laminate pieces to be added to the front, as well as the end cap.

I’m also pondering what option I really want for the center area, a stop gap, tool tray, or some other feature. The final width will also be affected by the which option I choose. The plans call for front and back sections that are separate (which is why it is called a split top). Another option would be to make it one piece which will help when it comes time to flatten the top and make it all co-planar. Fortunately, I have some time to consider the options and their advantages/disadvantages.

Next up – lots of mortise and tenons in the legs and base.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

8 comments so far

View KelleyCrafts's profile


4599 posts in 1893 days

#1 posted 06-12-2021 01:11 PM

I had a tool well on my past bench in the middle of it, it was nothing but a pain in the ass. I opted for a solid top on mine this time around. I figure if I want a tool well later it can go along the back part and I can easily add it gracefully.

I say no to a tool well but there will be people who swear by them. You’re kind of a clean freak and really organized so your tool well will probably be manageable. Just depends if you want to manage it in the middle of your workspace.

-- Dave - - pen blanks - knife scales - turning tools

View WhattheChuck's profile


463 posts in 4714 days

#2 posted 06-12-2021 04:24 PM

That’s some serious work!

-- Chuck, Pullman, WA

View EarlS's profile


4611 posts in 3502 days

#3 posted 06-12-2021 04:58 PM

Dave – I’m leaning towards just having the gap stop but no well since it would probably drive me crazy to have it full of stuff. I think I would always be accidently pushing small pieces into it. The gap stop would be nice to have so I can use it when working on inlay panels. Fortunately, I have some time before I have to decide.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View KelleyCrafts's profile


4599 posts in 1893 days

#4 posted 06-13-2021 12:02 AM

For the work you do I could see the gap stop being handy other than having to put it up and down all the time. You can always add a dovetailed tool well to the rear so you know my vote on that. Personally there are plenty of ways to hold work so the gap isn’t necessary in my opinion. If you’re flattening with a router then it doesn’t matter one won’t be easier than the other. I of course decided on a full top as you know.

-- Dave - - pen blanks - knife scales - turning tools

View Lazyman's profile


7385 posts in 2541 days

#5 posted 06-14-2021 02:22 AM

I don’t remember where I saw it but I saw a reversible tool tray that you can invert to either have a solid top or a tray depending upon what you are doing. If I recall it also had a gap stop feature but I cannot remember exactly how they implemented that.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View duckmilk's profile


4627 posts in 2478 days

#6 posted 06-14-2021 09:34 PM

I believe that article was from Popular Woodworking several years ago Nathan.

Good work Earl.

-- "Duck and Bob would be out doin some farming with funny hats on." chrisstef

View HokieKen's profile


18380 posts in 2292 days

#7 posted 06-15-2021 03:46 PM

Just remember, you may push small pieces into a tool tray on accident. But you’re probably just as likely to push the same pieces into a gap if there’s no tool tray there. It’s easier to retrieve them from a tool tray ;-) I definitely love my tool tray but, I probably wouldn’t want it in the center of the top. Mine’s more like 2/3 of the way to the back. Any further forward would limit my working space too much I think.

Do yourself a favor and address that twist before you get too much further. It’s tempting to just take it out at final flattening after everything is assembled. But, that may end up putting some internal stresses into the top when you assemble that could lead to instability over time. I would try to get everything damn near flat and parallel up front.

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

View EarlS's profile


4611 posts in 3502 days

#8 posted 06-15-2021 04:51 PM

There was a post on the first blog entry of a center tool tray that was reversible.

I can always make the gap stop solid, rather than slotted.

I finished up the M&T for the legs on Sunday, but realized the side rails were cut to rough length (24”) so my legs are 28” apart, but there is only enough boards for about 26” or so for the top. Looks like I will be trimming the side rails a bit, then re-working the tenons. I guess that is better than the other way. There are a couple of other changes I want to make to the rails as well.

I intend to deal with the twist when I get back to the top. At this point, I really haven’t come up with much of a plan to do so. Probably need to figure out how bad the twist is first. At 4-1/8” thick, I’m not going to clamp the twist out of the top. I figure that I can get the base frame finished and set the top sections on it to see how things look. Dave has me leaning towards a solid top rather than a 2 piece version. The overhangs could be solid with a slot for the gap stop.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

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