Roubo Workbench (Hand tools Only)

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Project by seandietrich posted 03-12-2010 04:33 AM 19538 views 26 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

In my attempt to move over to a hand tool lifestyle, I decided to upgrade my workbench to a Roubo, since they are all the rage. This is Roy Underhill’s version. I don’t have his book, so I had to redesign it to fit what I remember it as, keeping his basic vision as a base to work off of. I biult the bench using all handtools, no power. The bench needs no glue (other than the lamination of the top) or fasteners. The tool well is however secured using bolts because I wanted the option to remove it in the future if needed. But I still maintained my commitment to refraining from power tools.

This has a standard leg vice, wagon vice, hard wood dogs (not shown), a valet or holdfast (not shown), a tool well, and a bottom shelf. I’ve enjoyed this bench a lot so far.

The top is local pine 2×4s from a big box store, and the bottom is 4×4 treated lumber for added weight. I cut evey board to length by hand, and then laminated the top. Once dry, I planed it down with my jointer and got to work on the mortises.

The front legs are secured with a rising dovetail (Roy’s Design), and the back legs are splayed outwards for added stability. Because as you can see, Roy’s design is for a narrow bench top.

After practicing the rising dovetail on scrap for a day, I cut the joints on the actual bench itself. Beautiful looking once finished. After all the joints were cut using back saw, mortising chisel, auger, paring chisels I got to work on the stretchers for the legs.

I stained the bottom, and then put the whole thing together. I made a back tool well using tongue and groove, and then bolted the sides on.

The leg vise was ordered from Lee Valley, and I cut the vice front using my bow saw for the fancy design. Then I added a wagon vise with another bench screw that I got online. After that was finished, I added the bench dogs, which are not pictured here. Then to finish things up, I added leather to the gripping surface of the vises to improve the hold.

The bench has been the best bench I have ever had. I am so glad I upgraded from my old bench. This is probably one of the most timeless bench designs out there, I was so satisfied to have built it using only hand tools. There is an unexplained bond I feel with my saws and chisels that I have never experienced before. This bench took me a week to complete, but is solid as a rock, and very very stable due to the splayed legs.

-- "Unless workmanship comes to be understood and appreciated for the art it is, our environment will lose much of the quality it still retains." -- David Pye

15 comments so far

View panther's profile


59 posts in 3805 days

#1 posted 03-12-2010 04:36 AM

cool bench, great shop, wow

-- you must live for something or die for nothing (rambo)

View jim1953's profile


2738 posts in 4404 days

#2 posted 03-12-2010 04:40 AM

Great Lookin Bench

-- Jim, Kentucky

View donjoe's profile


1360 posts in 3593 days

#3 posted 03-12-2010 04:40 AM

I think you copied him well. I saw the shows about this bench and yours looks authentic.

-- Donnie-- listen to the wood.

View Riehlez's profile


24 posts in 3606 days

#4 posted 03-12-2010 04:02 PM

nice bench, i am in the middle of building my own bench, dow you have details on your bread board ends?

View Jon Spelbring's profile

Jon Spelbring

199 posts in 4816 days

#5 posted 03-12-2010 04:41 PM

Excellent work! I’ll be starting mine Real Soon Now. I haven’t decided between Roy’s design, The Schwarz, or the split top by Benchcrafted.

I like the idea of the treated lumber base for extra weight – did you have to do any special sealing to keep the chemicals from messing with your vise screws?

Again, good work; you should be proud.

-- To do is to be

View bigike's profile


4057 posts in 3851 days

#6 posted 03-12-2010 04:55 PM

very nice looken bench, looks sturdy

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop, http://[email protected]

View PineInTheAsh's profile


404 posts in 3830 days

#7 posted 03-12-2010 06:04 PM

Fabulous, a wonderful job.
That last, overall picture of your shop is warm and inviting. Anyone would truly enjoy working in that space.

(Having friends in high places can be a distinct advantage, but…
It’s likely the axe on the top shelf is set on edge for picture purposes, although securing it there or bringing it down to floor level might make for a more comfortable arrangement.)

Love that extended vise handle; seems like just pinky pressure would stronghold any workpiece. If you get a chance, picture(s) of your valet/holdfasts would be greatly appreciated.

A warm welcome to LJ. Your shining submissions have already added greatly to the community. Looking forward to your future posts.


View FrankCarson's profile


10 posts in 3565 days

#8 posted 03-12-2010 07:09 PM

seandietrich, what a beautiful job! I also like that design. Thanks for sharing it.

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 4235 days

#9 posted 03-13-2010 04:26 AM

Nice looking bench!

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3678 days

#10 posted 03-22-2010 12:58 AM

niiice bench
and welcome to L J


View grumpycarp's profile


257 posts in 4308 days

#11 posted 03-22-2010 02:19 AM

Great looking bench. I’ve never cut a rising dovetail in my life. And you’ve done it with aplomb.

I do take small exception to paragraph 4, line 1 and if you would correct this I’d feel much better. Roy Underhill only showed this on T.V. he didn’t actually “design” the Roubo bench, nor the rising dovetail.

I know that it is really anal on my part but these things take on a life of their own if not corrected. And while Mr. Underhill is a very talented and engaging actor and host of a popular television show, he hasn’t really “designed” bupkis , save for his own image and fame.

And Scars. Fame is fleeting, scars are forever, chicks dig scars . . .

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 3217 days

#12 posted 12-09-2011 09:34 PM

Everything a good bench should be.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View Mauricio's profile


7163 posts in 3714 days

#13 posted 12-12-2011 07:08 PM

Very Nice

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View Mauricio's profile


7163 posts in 3714 days

#14 posted 01-05-2012 09:00 PM

Did you use the same dimensions at Roy did? How long is your bench?

After using it for a while how do you feel about the small size? How about the wagon vise? Do you think the short bench and the built in wagon vise give you enough clamping capacity on the wagon vise?

I’m thinking of making this bench and I was thinking that since the bench is only 60” long it might make sense to use a face vise with a dog on the end to give it more capacity. However I really want to make a wagon vise like you have.

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View Mauricio's profile


7163 posts in 3714 days

#15 posted 07-12-2012 02:32 PM

Sean, doesnt seem like you have been on LJ for a while, in case you are, I wanted to ask you how you were likeing your bench?

I’m making one like it now out of Oak.

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

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