Split Top Roubo Workbench (Benchcrafted)

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Project by Steve Erwin posted 10-13-2012 03:38 PM 18703 views 24 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

2 years into woodworking with power tools, and the router scared me into hand tools :)

Routering dovetails, specifically, was the trigger. It took me 5 hours of set up and test cuts the first time I used a super fancy Leigh router jig before feeling confident enough to cut my actual project wood. Seeing Frank Klausz cut them in 2 minutes by hand made me think there’s a better way.

So I studied up on pretty much everything Christopher Schwarz has ever written, Jim Tolpin, Frank Klausz, Rob Cosman, David Charlesworth, and others. Read every back issue of Popular Woodworking and Fine Woodworking Magazines, watched Tommy MacDonald’s videos before he had a TV Show, and decided this is a path I want to go down.

I bought the Benchcrafted plans and vises and used Hem-Fir lumber from Lowes Depot (we live right next to both Lowes and Home Depot and we can never remember which store we were in when we saw something, so we always end up going to both, so… Lowes Depot). I think it was less than $150 worth of lumber, which was a conscious decision. If it turns out I don’t care for hand tool woodworking, I can resell the vises and I didn’t waste a lot of money on expensive hardwood.

But I’m hooked, so eventually, if I make another bench, I’ll invest a little more money into harder stuff and maybe gift this bench to the brother who got me started in woodworking in the first place.

-- I've been creating problems to solve since I was born. -

17 comments so far

View ShaneA's profile


7085 posts in 3713 days

#1 posted 10-13-2012 03:50 PM

Very handsome bench. It looks great, and hopefully it serves you well for mamy years.

View HorizontalMike's profile


7927 posts in 4029 days

#2 posted 10-13-2012 04:21 PM

There is a lot to be said for using construction grade lumber in a workbench. I have a (now secondary) assembly bench made of #2 Pine that I was given 20yr ago after the original owner had had it for ~20yr also. It still works reasonably well for its intended purpose.

If you ever get the hankering, you could always shift your vises over to that “new” razzle dazzle hardwood workbench you might build in the future! You have done well here, good job.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View BerBer5985's profile


445 posts in 3535 days

#3 posted 10-13-2012 05:23 PM

It looks great! Great job on the contruction. I used Douglas Fir 4×4’s for my top and just white pine for the legs and honestly, I don’t know how much it’s worth spending hundreds more on maple or beech lumber, unless you found an incredible steal of a deal on lumber or something. My “softwood” top has been taking abuse just fine. I would say go less on the lumber (pine) and go more on the vises and hardware because I think those make the bench more than anything. i want to build another just like yours!

-- Greg, Owner, Quality Carpet One,

View RussInMichigan's profile


600 posts in 3895 days

#4 posted 10-13-2012 05:43 PM

Great bench.

The famous UK woodworker Paul Sellers says that he has has been using a pine topped workbench for nearly fifty years.

View exelectrician's profile


2339 posts in 3542 days

#5 posted 10-13-2012 07:44 PM

Nice beater bench with all the easy on the eye joints. Lowes-Depot, I like that!

-- Love thy neighbour as thyself

View Steve Erwin's profile

Steve Erwin

132 posts in 3167 days

#6 posted 10-13-2012 08:18 PM

@BerBer5985: I agree 100%. The Hem-Fir is a perfectly fine solution for a workbench. It’s not fine furniture. It’s meant to be used. I think it was something Schwarz wrote that convinced me to go this route. His cherry slab roubo is pretty, but spending less on lumber allowed me to spend more on getting some quality hand tools.

@RussInMichigan: I’ve been following Paul Sellers for a few months now, and I really like his down to earth, practical approach that contrasts a lot of the more “high falutin’” preconceived notions we hear a lot about nowadays. He definitely has a gift for presenting his approach with a backdrop of 40+ years of experience doing it that way.

It’s going to be a long time before I wear out this bench. And resurfacing it is going to be a cinch because the tops are removable and they fit in my 13” benchtop planer. I had to build 4 foot long infeed and outfeed tables, but it worked like a charm. :)

-- I've been creating problems to solve since I was born. -

View Chris McDowell's profile

Chris McDowell

645 posts in 3267 days

#7 posted 10-13-2012 09:27 PM

Looks awesome.

-- Chris, , FACEBOOK: , Proverbs 16:9

View Jacob's profile


85 posts in 3393 days

#8 posted 10-13-2012 11:41 PM

View lumberjoe's profile


2902 posts in 3363 days

#9 posted 10-14-2012 12:23 AM

With benchcrafted hardware, that’s hardly a beater bench :) When New England thaws I’m going to be making the wood whispers benchcrafted bench. I already have the maple, but after looking at this, I may use it for something else. Nice work!


View a1Jim's profile


118162 posts in 4692 days

#10 posted 10-14-2012 12:53 AM

A wonderful job,using hand tools scare me I’m afraid I’ll fall over from exhaustion :))


View jap's profile


1251 posts in 3169 days

#11 posted 10-14-2012 01:27 AM

you can give it to me instead of your brother ;)

-- Joel

View LeslieC's profile


152 posts in 3213 days

#12 posted 10-14-2012 02:16 AM

Awesome job! I think you might be my new hero. I’ve chosen to use hand tools only as well, with the occasional drill and router, and you are quite an inspiration for me. I’ve not yet tackled my first project, but seeing your incredible work gives me great hope.

Thanks for sharing your work. I’ve also bookmarked your blog, so I can keep up with your activities.


-- There is nothing like a Grateful Dead concert.

View Bsmith's profile


330 posts in 3785 days

#13 posted 10-14-2012 03:39 AM

Looks like this bench will last you many good years to come.

-- Bryan

View Steve Erwin's profile

Steve Erwin

132 posts in 3167 days

#14 posted 10-14-2012 03:47 AM

@lumberjoe: I think the Wood Whisperer is just following the Benchcrafted plans for a Split-Top Roubo. Do I have that correct? I just ordered the Benchmaker’s Package off the Benchcrafted website. The plans were excellent and fully detailed with photos and to-scale blue prints. It even had a 3D model, but it wasn’t a sketchup model so I found it annoying.

In addition, Jameel Abraham has some videos and posts on the Benchcrafted blog that complement the bench build procedures: the jig for routing the square dog holes, routing the cavity for the end vise, etc. And his nephew had a series of posts entitled The Benchmaker’s Apprentice that shed some light on the process, too. I’d definitely suggest searching through their blog for this material as it really helped me avoid some mistakes.

@LeslieC: You’re too kind. But I’m not aiming to be hand-tool-only. I have a 13” Planer, a 6” Jointer, a benchtop mortiser, a 14” bandsaw, a scrollsaw, and a collection of power drills. Everything but the bandsaw, scrollsaw and power drills is in my brother’s garage alongside his contractor table saw, radial arm saw, router table, shaper, bandsaw, compound miter saw and drill press.

My primary objective with getting into hand tools is because my brother’s house is a 15 minute drive away and I can’t fit those big tools in my basement :) Whenever I go there I feel like I need to spend the entire day and maximize my productivity. It feels like I’m on an assembly line instead of enjoying a hobby.

I wanted to do more woodworking more often without the commute and for briefer amounts of time so I can fit it in between whatever else is going on at home. Hand tools don’t take up much space, they don’t require special circuits, they don’t make dust, and I can work for as little as 10 minutes without making any noise that would wake up my sleeping newborn son or disturb my wife in the other room.

For the most part I mill the rough lumber at my brother’s house, get it to thickness and joint both edges. I cut the parts to rough length and width. Then I bring the parts home to smooth them by hand (I’m not very good at that part yet), joint them, and do all of the joinery except the mortises. I bring the parts that need mortising out to my brother’s garage, drill a few, drink a few, and shoot the sh!t for a few. My time at my brother’s house is more relaxed and more social. I get to play with my nephews instead of being annoyed that they want me to stop my 15 hour marathon woodworking session to check out their new video game.

Hand tools are just a solution to a problem. The beneficial side effects just happen to make me enjoy the hobby that much more. I feel closer to the medium and more connected to the physical act. Also, other than that one time I put my hand in front of the dull chisel right before it slipped, I feel a lot safer around hand tools. I consider myself lucky that the scar is very visible, right on my index finger, so it’s a constant visual reminder to keep my hands behind the blade. :)

All that said, I have almost no interest in hand-thicknessing rough lumber. But oddly enough, I hate powered routers so much I might get into moulding planes. Matt Bickford's new book is on my Christmas List :)

-- I've been creating problems to solve since I was born. -

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 5442 days

#15 posted 10-14-2012 04:08 AM

great bench. Funny, I too seem to be feeling the pull of the hand tools. The more I use the new table saw – which I LOVE having, the more I”m also using my japanese pull saws, which I keep finding more and more uses for. and right about the time I broke down and bought a nice new trim router, my grandfather passed along a box full of old planes, all sorts!

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

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