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Forum topic by Larry Wilson posted 11-16-2017 06:08 PM 1245 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Larry Wilson

25 posts in 2384 days

11-16-2017 06:08 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I want to build a split top Roubo bench. I plan on using Douglas Fir. My question is, would I be better to laminate the top in the usual fashion or would it be better to have a solid chunk of wood that is 4” thick x 12” wide? It would certainly be less work that way. Are there disadvantages to a solid piece like that?

-- Shoot pool, not people

12 replies so far

View Lazyman's profile


4515 posts in 1995 days

#1 posted 11-16-2017 06:25 PM

I think a solid slab would be more likely to warp and twist with changes in temp and moisture. A laminated top will be more stable because the individual boards have grain going in many different directions and the grain doesn’t continue from one lamination to the next. It’s sort of the same reason that plywood is more stable than a solid board. It will also be more difficult to get a slab that is completely dry on the inside so it will continue to dry out after you build it and accounting for that movement may be more difficult.

My 2 cents.

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

View John's profile


246 posts in 2189 days

#2 posted 11-16-2017 10:18 PM

Doug fir is very difficult to plane well in my experience. Maybe its just me, but it gives me fits.

I used a hem-fir lamination on my bench, just so it would be easier to flatten. Its pretty soft, but that bench will outlive me.

Doug fir timbers are generally pretty wet, it would take a very long time to dry out enough that i wouldnt be concerned about it warping.

-- I measured once, cut twice, and its still too short...

View nkawtg's profile


294 posts in 1859 days

#3 posted 11-16-2017 10:29 PM

Doug Fir? for many it’s the only choice due to budget or availability of other species such as maple.

View Larry Wilson's profile

Larry Wilson

25 posts in 2384 days

#4 posted 11-16-2017 10:49 PM

Doug Fir because I live on the west coast of Canada and it’s cheap and everywhere I look.

-- Shoot pool, not people

View jmos's profile


917 posts in 2977 days

#5 posted 11-17-2017 12:51 PM

If I recall correctly Chris Schwartz’s requirement list for benchtop wood was big, cheap, and dry. If you can get doug fir that’s dry, I think you’ll be ok with either boards or a timber, but dry is the trick.

-- John

View bbasiaga's profile


1243 posts in 2602 days

#6 posted 11-17-2017 02:52 PM

Buy 2×12s and cut them down. They are usually way more dry than 2×6s. I did this for my stumpy nubs version of a roubo. I did let them sit in my garage for a few weeks to acclimate. Laminating them also helps with stability a lot, vs using one solid piece. One year in and my bench is still solid and flat. 100% doug fir.


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View Tim's profile


3859 posts in 2569 days

#7 posted 11-17-2017 04:23 PM

A 4×12 timber thats wet can take many years to dry fully, as in up to a decade. I’m considering going that way too and just plan on flattening it periodically. If I do, I’m going to make it with the Roubo mortise and tenons to lock them in place.

View bigJohninvegas's profile


724 posts in 2069 days

#8 posted 11-19-2017 06:29 AM

I had read a couple books, including a couple from Chris Schwartz. One of his even had good plans in it.
Look at wider boards and cut them down to size. You will tend to find less knots in the wide boards.
I too am on the west coast. And the doug fir is what I have too. Its all very wet from the big box store. I have dried it fairly quick by setting it up with stickers, covered with a tarp to make a tent, and had a box fan blowing through it 24/7 for a few weeks.

-- John

View BrentParkin's profile


140 posts in 1543 days

#9 posted 12-17-2017 08:28 AM

Boy I’m late to this thread. I built a split top Roubo last summer out of Doug Fir. I used 4×12’s for the two top pieces. I did laminate a 3/4” strip of oak to the leading edge to keep it from dinging up too much, but have been happy about the lumber. I knew the top would shrink so I planned for this to happen in the slot area. I built my filler strip with spacers in it that I could swap out with thicker ones as the top shrank. My idea has worked since the mortices keep the tops flush with the front and back and my slot in the middle has grown as the wood adjusts to being indoors. The top has stayed flat though. However if it doesn’t, planing it was a breeze and any future re-flattening will likely be about 15 minutes effort and a couple of quick coats of finish.

You can read about my build in the projects section at.

-- Regards,

View Larry Wilson's profile

Larry Wilson

25 posts in 2384 days

#10 posted 12-17-2017 05:42 PM

Thanks everybody, and in particular Brent for the inspiration. That was just what I needed.

-- Shoot pool, not people

View Woodknack's profile


13017 posts in 2987 days

#11 posted 12-18-2017 08:00 AM

If I recall correctly Chris Schwartz s requirement list for benchtop wood was big, cheap, and dry.
- jmos

He has amended that to cheap. Dry is no longer a requirement according to Schwartz.

-- Rick M,

View RandAlThor's profile


1 post in 767 days

#12 posted 12-18-2017 06:30 PM

I’m building my first bench now out of fir, my advice is to be more selective with your board choices than I was. I had a truck for a few hours and bought 6 2X10’s and was not as picky as I wish I would have been. Ask the employees to get a fresh pile down if the boards look picked over (I grabbed the 6 best boards out of 12 boards total and have had a heck of a time working around or with the knots). Besides the knotted areas it’s planing nicely (currently using a scrub plane on it before installing legs then switching to a jointer plane).

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