Split-top Roubo workbench

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Project by denovich posted 04-14-2011 06:00 AM 33752 views 46 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Finally (almost) done! A split-top roubo style bench, heavily influenced by Christopher Schwartz and his excellent workbench book. I made it with the surplus materials I had, which was a hell of a lot of 4/4 white oak and curly maple (<$1/bf from Craigslist last year) plus a bit of leftover 8/4 white oak I inherited. This made for way more work and very hairy glue ups. All 8/4 is highly recommended.

Dimensions: 84” long, 24” wide, and 35” tall. Top is 3 3/4” thick, legs are 5” square, long stretchers are about 4” square.

Leg vise screw is Lee Valley. 9” Quick release vise is Harbor Freight. Holddowns are Gramercy. I used floating tenons on the side stretchers (cut with the horizontal mortiser on my Minimax combo), regular M/T elsewhere. The long stretchers are not glued, but instead held with 8” 3/8” shank SPAX lag screws. Top is held by the tenons and some 6” long lag screws. The top is glued up using DAP’s Weldwood Plastic Resin Glue. It gave the longest setup times, but I was still cutting it very close on the glueups (did each half of the split top… about 10 boards each in one heart-pounding go.)

I agonized over round vs. square dogs. Went with round, glad I did. Adding the holes at the end was way easier… I used a 3/4 auger bit that cut through that top like butter, and was easy to guide straight and true.

Currently it just has a single coat of BLO on it while I figure out how I really want to finish it.

Left to do: crochet, deadman, tray for middle of split top. A million other projects.

Total time: Somewhere around 150hrs… considerably more if you add in machine/tool/shop setup time + all the planning and head-scratching as I let the materials largely dictate dimensions as opposed to following a recipe. This is the first big project I’ve done in my basement shop. Along the way I was learning, adapting, tweaking as I went. The $600 Minimax combo was awesome… I can’t say enough positive things about the sliding table saw and that 12” jointer/planer. The first top half was done using a 6” Powermatic 54A jointer, a brand new Grizzly 1023RL table saw, and a Dewalt 735 planer. The MM made the second half so much easier, with higher quality results. I haven’t turned on my regular table saw since I got it.

Update: I forgot to give some credit to my mom for helping me on the bench. She visited last weekend. In addition to delivering my car from storage, bringing me pizza, helping to clean my house and shop, planting our garden, and playing with her granddaughter… she helped me muscle the ~150lb halves of workbench across the jointer and through the planer.

BTW: The biggest point in favor of the split top: at less than 12” wide you can run it through the planer (and if you have a big enough jointer, across it too.) I don’t have the skills/patience for accurate glue ups… especially when it involves a dozen squirrelly 1” thick 8’ long boards. What came out of the clamps was pretty ugly. But with a helping hand it was easy to get them flat and true. The extra length meant I could pretty much ignore planer snipe (hard to avoid with such unwieldy stock.) Plus, I don’t think my even my mom could have helped me if the top was one piece and 300lbs.

23 comments so far

View kenn's profile


813 posts in 4928 days

#1 posted 04-14-2011 06:31 AM

Sweeeet bench! I had not seen a Roubo with a spit top before this one. Hope it works great for you. There is nothing like having a great bench that you put thought into how you want to use it and the type of work you like. Congrats.

-- Every cloud has a silver lining

View syeret's profile


99 posts in 4524 days

#2 posted 04-14-2011 08:13 AM

Seems gorgeous bench and nice work. I have also never seen a split top Roubo bench, how does it work for you? From where did you got the plans?

View mafe's profile


13294 posts in 4297 days

#3 posted 04-14-2011 08:53 AM

That is the most wonderful Roubo I have seen to date.
Congratulations on that new friend.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 4323 days

#4 posted 04-14-2011 08:56 AM

congrat´with the build
that bench will serve you well :-)


View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 4881 days

#5 posted 04-14-2011 09:22 AM

Nice bench!

View Hayabusa's profile


173 posts in 4088 days

#6 posted 04-14-2011 09:37 AM

Well done, this is a master piece well crafted, thanks for sharing

View robgorrell's profile


1 post in 4031 days

#7 posted 04-14-2011 02:06 PM

Great job. I have Swartz’s book but am sure I do not have the skills to make a bench like that.

View Matt Stauffer's profile

Matt Stauffer

110 posts in 3973 days

#8 posted 04-14-2011 02:15 PM

Nicely done!

-- Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. ~ John 5:24

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5426 days

#9 posted 04-14-2011 02:30 PM

Top notch! Not only functional, but a thing of beauty as well.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View denovich's profile


30 posts in 4031 days

#10 posted 04-14-2011 02:44 PM

Sorry, I don’t have any plans to share… I just made it up as I went along, using Schwartz’s Roubo plans as a guide. There really aren’t any dimensions that need to be specific. I knew 84” long was about as long as a bench as I could fit in my shop where I intended to put it. I knew that 24” wide was wide enough for the top. I wanted the gap in the middle at least wide enough to slip the head of my JET parallel clamps through. The two halves of the top aren’t even the same width, but it doesn’t matter. The only difficulty/skill required in making the bench was making square cuts, and a few parts of equal length. If you can do that, the bench will come out nice and square. As a novice the sliding table saw made that much easier, but with patience you can do it with any tools.

View Maveric777's profile


2694 posts in 4285 days

#11 posted 04-14-2011 02:44 PM

Ohhh I am sooo turning green with envy over here. Outstanding workbench… Well done!

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 3862 days

#12 posted 04-14-2011 02:59 PM

I have never figured it out. What’s the purpose of the split top?

That is a handsome bench, You will enjoy it for a long time. Score on the wood by the way.

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

View denovich's profile


30 posts in 4031 days

#13 posted 04-14-2011 03:21 PM

@RGtools: I edited the original post to give the biggest selling point in favor of the split top… namely that at less than 12” you can run each half through your planer after glueup, and keep the weight/size to an amount that is manageable by one person (and his mom.)

The other selling points: I can stick clamp heads though the split in the top, allowing me to clamp the middle of projects down to the work top. I’m making a removable tool slot/tray, that will also slip into that gap. Additionally, I can saw projects clamped to the bench without cutting the bench (like with a track saw, jig saw, etc.)

The folks at Benchcrafted do a good job of evangelizing the benefits of the split-top in their video. Their bench was the first split top I saw, and I instantly knew that’s what I wanted too.

Yeah, I’ve done well on wood via Craigslist. You should see the sheet goods I got. I got 25 sheets of ply for $6 a sheet. Not construction stuff, but leftovers from a high end commercial cabinet shop that went bankrupt. It was all veneered on both sides, including some ridiculous figured makore 3/4 MDF (Belgian made, fireproof MDF.) I nearly killed my old pickup bringing it home. Well over 2000lbs of wood. Going to look at some baltic birch I saw advertised this morning… $5 for a 5×5’ sheet. If it’s the good stuff, I’ll be glad I now have a bigger truck.

View JasonD's profile


180 posts in 4070 days

#14 posted 04-14-2011 06:01 PM

Outstanding bench! Absolutely gorgeous and looks stout as a beast!

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 3862 days

#15 posted 04-15-2011 04:06 AM

I like the idea of additional clamping space, I have often wished I could get one clamp somewhere in the middle of the bench. The size of the work is somewhat inconsequential to me since I prep most stock by hand (this is of course with the exception of the extra work involved), but I am rather intrigued.


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

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