Split Top Roubo

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Project by BrentParkin posted 09-15-2017 03:30 PM 7837 views 14 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Split Top Roubo
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My woodworking life is a little crazy. I retired from the I.T. world a few years ago and started working as a landscape photographer. I love my job and it grew to the point that my wife and I decided to build a gallery to display my work. That decision forced my hand into moving my shop to the property where the gallery is located which is now 250km away from home. The gallery is seasonal so I really only have full time access to my shop during the summer (the gallery is seasonal). So my power tools are no longer at home with me which is ok since I like using hand tools. But, it meant I had no bench at home. So for two years I have worked on a 2×4 table with an MDF top when at home. That needed to change and so this summer while running the gallery, I used my spare time to build a low budget (Doug Fir) split top Roubo that would move back home with me when the summer was over.

I built the bench base out of some 4×6 fir I had on hand. The top pieces were some 4×12’s that I ordered from Menards. Some of the heavy wear components are oak that I got from an auction when an old woodworker had to move into a care home. He cut the trees on his property and milled the wood himself. Happily I got the oak for nearly pocket change. Then a piece of maple appeared for the runner used under the deadman and I turned a cherry handle for the leg vise screw. So lots of inexpensive wood mostly on hand. I think I may have spent about $200 Canadian on this project. About $50 for the vise screw, $53 U.S. for each 4×12 and then various bits to complete things.

I’m not a hand tool only woodworker so there were power tools used throughout the project, but plenty of hand tool work happened. Here I am sawing a tenon on the top of one of the legs. I did the shoulders on the table saw and then cut the cheeks out by hand. They worked out nicely and a little chamfering with a file finished the tenons.

Some mortices were made on my hollow chisel morticer and others had to be hand chopped. So I drilled the waste, chopped some waste and pared some edges to get a nice fit for the tenons.

This was to be a low budget bench so a traditional leg vise with a wooden parallel guide was the design. I did however, make some rollers to help guide things nicely. One roller would be inset into the leg and the vise chop would have a recess in its back so that it could sit flush. I wanted a full length chop so this was the solution I came up with. The shape of the chop was inspired by Kari Hultman’s gorgeous cherry Roubo that she built.

I had to order the 4×12’s at Menards and they took a few weeks to arrive. Once they did, a quick drive down to Minot, ND and two nice pith free pieces of Fir came home to get fit to the bench. I cut them from 8’ long down to 7’ with a lovely old Disston D8 crosscut that I bought for $1 at a garage sale. :). I chopped the mortices out and when I rolled them over onto the tenons I had a perfect fit with no fussing about. That was pure luck.

After morticing the second 4×12, I built the removable centre strip and fit it to the bench. I think I will like this feature. No rolling tools and being able to use it as a bench stop should be handy.

Next I turned my attention to the sliding deadman. This one is inspired by the one Megan Fitzpatrick built on her LVL workbench. I liked the shape, what can I say. I had to laminate a couple of pieces of 8/4 oak for it which became more visible when the finish went on as you will see later. But, it is functional and I didn’t have to buy any stock. So I used a tailed apprentice to route a nice groove into the bottom of the front 4×12 and fit the deadman so that it was nice and flush with the front edge of the bench. The guide it slides on is a skinny piece of scrap maple I had around… turned out to be birdseye too. LOL. The top of the guide is cut to have a peak so that shavings fall off and the bottom of the deadman is cut to sit nicely on the guide. It slides so nicely.

Next up was to mortice an old Record 7” vise I have had on a shelf for about 15 years into the end of the bench and make a nice beefy oak chop for it. It should work just fine as a tail vise.

So with that, the major parts of the build are complete. Now its time to break out the hand planes and flatten the top. Lots and lots of shavings later, the No.7 and No.4 finished the job in about 30 minutes. Future movement should be easy to keep up with now. But I will admit those big knots in the top, were like hitting a stone when the rough flattening was started. Once things were getting level and I could take fine cuts with the smoother, they were no big deal. I sort of like the look of them.

With the top flat, it was now time to drill the hold fast and dog holes in the top. I used a nice little guide bushing from Lee Valley to accomplish it. I’m not a brace and auger kind of guy so a 1/2” drill and this guide worked well. I put the bushing into a piece of 2×3 that had a 3/4” dowel in the bottom that let me space the holes by using the each new hole as an index to drill the next. My 3/4” brad point bit is not the cleanest cutting bit so I started each hole with a nice 3/4” forstner for about a 1/4” into the top then switched to the brad bit. I clamped a piece of scrap under the bench to keep the bottom from blowing out and away I went at the task.

So I now have a nice row of dog holes along the front and hold fast holes that allow me to reach just about anywhere to hold things down. Or of course I can pull the centre strip out and drop a normal clamp through the middle of the bench. I think I will love this design.

Next up was applying some finish. I used a home brew of Varnish, Boiled Linseed Oil and Mineral Spirits with equal parts of each in the mix. Slather it on with a rag and then keep adding it until things look good. Then burnish it off with another rag and add another coat later. I did three coats in all. I’m pleased with the colour that it added to the bench…. but it is just a work bench after all.

Then I added one last detail to the bench. I glued a Canadian dollar coin into the front of the vise chop to identify the year the bench was built. I have no carving skills so this is my goto way of showing the year of construction. This year is Canada’s sesquicentennial (150 years of confederation) and the coin has an interesting face to celebrate the event. Lee Valley sells a forstner bit sized for coins making this an easy task.

At this point, all that is left is to move the bench 250km home and bring it into the house. It will live in the area of the basement I use for printing my photography and at times will serve as a bench for stretching canvas prints and such. At other times, it will be where I build and repair hand saws or build projects during the off season when I am not at my full blown work shop. I think it looks pretty good now that it is at home.

Thanks for reading if you made it this far. I know Roubo benches have been done to death, but it’s always good to see another take on them. Maybe some new woodworker will be inspired by it.


-- Regards,

22 comments so far

View JADobson's profile


1449 posts in 3266 days

#1 posted 09-15-2017 04:15 PM

Looks fantastic Brent. I looked up some of your photography on the craft council website. Looks pretty incredible.

-- No craft is very far from the line beyond which is magic. -- Lord Dunsany — Instagram @grailwoodworks

View gargey's profile


1013 posts in 1930 days

#2 posted 09-15-2017 04:41 PM

Very nice build!

Good luck moving it… It’s got to weigh tens if not scores of pounds. Maybe more.

View BrentParkin's profile


152 posts in 2090 days

#3 posted 09-15-2017 04:49 PM

Very nice build!

Good luck moving it… It s got to weigh tens if not scores of pounds. Maybe more.

- gargey

Well my wife and I moved it!! She would have preferred I call my son in law, but in the end, she managed. She’s the best!! LOL Not too bad really when you consider the top pieces are about 70 pounds each. I moved them around when they were a full 8 feet by myself. It’s doable…

-- Regards,

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4021 days

#4 posted 09-15-2017 05:12 PM

This workbench is a beautiful piece of work and will make a wonderful addition to your shop.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View htl's profile


5513 posts in 2314 days

#5 posted 09-15-2017 07:00 PM

Beautiful project for sure and Heavy Duty???

-- An Index Of My Model making Blogs

View BrentParkin's profile


152 posts in 2090 days

#6 posted 09-15-2017 09:34 PM

Looks fantastic Brent. I looked up some of your photography on the craft council website. Looks pretty incredible.

- JADobson

Thanks, the Craft Council has really old stuff. You can see more recent stuff at Drop by for a visit at Sundog this year. We will be up on the mezzanine!

-- Regards,

View pottz's profile (online now)


18645 posts in 2139 days

#7 posted 09-16-2017 02:56 AM

let me just say,gorgeous bench my friend,very nice build.5 stars.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View LeftyBayside's profile


24 posts in 2149 days

#8 posted 09-16-2017 03:13 AM

Brent, this is a great bench and an inspiration for me to finally build a roubo. Thanks for the detailed post.

-- Lefty

View woodworm's profile


14477 posts in 4745 days

#9 posted 09-16-2017 06:48 AM

Great project very nicely done!

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View AJ1104's profile


1332 posts in 2814 days

#10 posted 09-16-2017 12:33 PM

Super job! I love the Coin detail. I wish you many good years using it!

-- AJ

View shipwright's profile


8734 posts in 3952 days

#11 posted 09-16-2017 02:45 PM

Nice bench Brent. I used to live in Regina …. many years ago, Martin Collegiate, class of ‘67.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View BurlyBob's profile


9144 posts in 3420 days

#12 posted 09-17-2017 05:13 AM

Damn! That leg vise and Dead woman are gorgeous! I can’t wait to begin my bench. You make me so jealous!
Good for you!

View BrentParkin's profile


152 posts in 2090 days

#13 posted 09-17-2017 04:33 PM

Damn! That leg vise and Dead woman are gorgeous! I can t wait to begin my bench. You make me so jealous!
Good for you!

- BurlyBob

Well the leg vise shape really came directly from the design that Kari Hultman came up with for her bench The Deadman/Deadwomen was the design from Megan Fitzpatrick’s LVL bench. I liked both designs so much that I made my own versions for this bench. I do love the shapes though. Wish they were original ideas to me LOL.

And happily yesterday I started putting the bench to use. :)

-- Regards,

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 4523 days

#14 posted 09-17-2017 05:19 PM

A whole lot of great work, very nice bench!

View Tim Royal 's profile

Tim Royal

325 posts in 2641 days

#15 posted 09-17-2017 11:25 PM

Great bench… Nice Moxon too !

-- -Tim Royal -"Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real." -Thomas Merton

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