2011 Roubo Workbench for the Outdoors #1: The concept.

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Blog entry by Will Mego posted 03-10-2011 08:50 PM 5634 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of 2011 Roubo Workbench for the Outdoors series no next part
So having promised my Mom a workbench for doing some stone carving, I’ve decided I’ll make myself a decent-sized (read: massive and hundreds of lbs) Roubo style workbench, connecting the thick solid top with massive unglued mortise and tenons in order to be able to knockdown the bench for winter storage…because…it’s gonna be an OUTDOOR Roubo. That’s right, all weather workbench! Either marine spar or even bar top finish to provide “weatherproofing” which I put in quotes because nothing is actually weatherproof. You have to accept that and move on, I believe.

So what’s a Roubo, and why that?

I have both the C. Schwartz and Scott Landis’ books on workbenches – the Landis book is almost a sacred document to me – and I think the Roubo is clearly the best choice for my strange idea of an outdoor fine bench. Why outdoor? Well I don’t have a workshop to speak of, so it’s outdoor or nothing. I live in Northern Illinois, so severe weather (ranging from -20f in winter to 100+f in summer) is a fact of life, so either make a weird choice, or sit inside and wish you were working on something. I could stick up a piece of plywood between two horses, and I’ve done that when needed, but let’s be honest, that makes me a little ill inside. If the soul of a samurai is his sword, then (imo) the soul of the craftsman is his bench. So let’s do it right, or at least as right as possible given the unusual circumstances.

So here’s a simple Roubu, albeit still more complex than what I intend this time around:

So not all those sweet vices are going in there, but for the most part, there you go. Now I think I’ll use CS’s method of laminated legs, thus creating tenons without any real cuts, but the basics are just a sturdy table. I’m thinking about several different wood possibilities, but S. Yellow Pine is hard to argue against. Douglas Fir is also tempting, soft as it can be. It’s a fine furniture wood in many countries, but a wood you make cheap roof/rafter materials out of in the USA.

So how big? Big. Like 7-12′ long, and 3-4′ wide. Big enough I intend to move/assemble it twice a year, and with help (or a crane). It will live much of it’s life under some huge house eves, so it won’t be in direct sun/weather all the time, and with the top not fixed by much else than the enormous weight of it’s own construction, I can take the top off and wrap it for winter…with help.

In the next part, our hero provides detailed plans and begins to assemble the materials…

-- "That which has in itself the greatest use, possesses the greatest beauty." -

7 comments so far

View Dan's profile


3653 posts in 3897 days

#1 posted 03-10-2011 09:14 PM

As ugly as it may be have you considered making it out of treated pine lumber? Treated pine is heavier in weight then the regular pine and should hold up a LOT better outdoors.

Even better you could try and get your hands on some Redwood. Redwood is considered the best lumber for outdoor use and is also considered the most weatherproof. Its softer wood but if built right I am sure it would work good enough for a bench.

Just a couple ideas..

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View Will Mego's profile

Will Mego

307 posts in 4729 days

#2 posted 03-10-2011 09:21 PM

No, all good ideas, I don’t know about elsewhere, but here 99% of treated pine is southern yellow pine, so I was thinking just that, I’d get the newer A3 stuff, treated without arsenic, and I’d actually lose some of that treatment in planing and such, but still hit it with marine spar varnish and gain some protection back.

Redwood I generally avoid due to it’s sustainability issues, and is amongst the woods I wish were reserved for true wood artists and not available to the general public, including aspiring craftsmen like myself, who has yet to earn such privilege.

-- "That which has in itself the greatest use, possesses the greatest beauty." -

View Dan's profile


3653 posts in 3897 days

#3 posted 03-10-2011 09:47 PM

I actually have several hundred linear ft of 2x Redwood lumber. Someone I knew was tearing a deck off their house and they were going to haul it off to the dump. I found out it was Redwood and said I would gladly come pick it up from them. Now I have my lumber racks overflowing with it. I have only used a small amount of it. I have been waiting for the right project or to sell it…

I don’t only search for old tools but old lumber too! :)

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View David 's profile


81 posts in 3651 days

#4 posted 03-11-2011 06:13 AM

We build decks out of treated pine in East Texas and spray them with Thompson water seal. Since you are going to move it, it should last a long. Heck I don’t have a shop, my wife’s baby boy { 44 yrs. old} borrowed some of my hand tools one time and now he has my turning lay, drill press,bits,hanners, cutting tourch and welding rig. but i still come out on top i just use his shop and gets to leave my mess.

-- David, Center,Texas

View devann's profile


2257 posts in 3709 days

#5 posted 03-11-2011 05:28 PM

If you’re looking for a species of wood suitable for outdoor use might I suggest some “post” oak. I believe some will call it white oak. I know from personal experience that it is the “timex” (takes a licking keeps on ticking) of woods and it’s heavy. When I was 19 I installed some 2×12 post oak boards on a flatbed trailer for my grandpa. Twenty plus years later you could still drive the big tractor on them. Grandpa probably treated the wood with linseed oil, I’m guessing because he showed me how it preserves wood and makes it harder. Post oak might be hard to find, I wanted to refloor my trailer with some but my lumber salesman couldn’t guarantee that he could get it. Check around for some pallets they use it a lot, I got some 2×4s that way.
Linseed oil is important for wood to be left outside. It’s the main ingredient in Thompson that causes it to shed water. Remember wood is cellular like a sponge, as the wood looses its moisture content replace the water with oil. Oil and water don’t mix very well so you’ll have to keep reapplying the linseed oil over time to achieve saturation.
I don’t think I would use a softwood for you’re application because they’re soft ( you mentioned unglued M/T joints ) and a workbench needs a certain amount of girth.

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

View Will Mego's profile

Will Mego

307 posts in 4729 days

#6 posted 03-11-2011 09:28 PM

yes, I have some pallets that just dropped in my lap but not enough to make such a large top out of. I think the SLP will still be the best bet, and after finishing, it should be pretty hard. I still lean towards marine spar varnish though.

-- "That which has in itself the greatest use, possesses the greatest beauty." -

View John's profile


341 posts in 4815 days

#7 posted 04-11-2012 01:19 PM

Did you ever make this?

-- John - Central PA -

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