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Roubo Bench


After contemplating about having a true woodworking bench in my shop, I have finally jumped in and started the build.  I purchased a butcher block top from Grizzly Industrial about three months ago.  It is 36 x 72 and will be ripped in half then the two parts glued one on top the other to yield a 3-1/2" thick top.

I started to set up my sawhorses to cut this then I realized how heavy it was and decided to cut it on the floor instead.  I used a one-inch sheet of extruded foam to lift it off the concrete and give my blade some clearance.

The top looked very nice and it was well packaged.

ripped top

As usual the Festool track saw left a super smooth finish and the top was now light enough to carry into the shop.

bottom view

The underside of the butcher block wasn't quite as nice as the top side.  There were a few small voids that had been filled with some type of clear plastic.  It had some finish applied to it which would have to come off so I could glue the two parts together.

Using a straight edge, I could see that the underside was not dead flat.  This would have to be fixed to get a strong glue bond.  Luckily all of my planes were sharp and ready for action.


The part was high along the center of its length so I started knocking down the center with my jack plane then eventually switched to my #7 jointer shown here.

This is the first time I have needed to flatten such a large surface and it took the entire afternoon to get it done.

glue ready

This shows the two parts flat and free of finish.  You may be able to see the grid of holes I pre-drilled in the right part.  These are for 2-1/2" screws to hold it together for gluing.

glue up

You can see the screws better in this shot.  I poured glue from a gallon jug onto both parts and used a j-roller to spread it around.  I started out using a 3-inch paint roller but it didn't work very well.

The edges of the butcher block are rounded and will need to be trimmed back after the glued dries.

top trimmed

Although I drilled pilot holes through the bottom half, I forgot to do the same for the other half.  I remembered after I had started the glue up.  Consequently, about half of the screws broke when I tried to remove them.  They shouldn't be in the way of my dog holes but I will have to be a little careful where I drill in this top.

I was able to trim the edges and ends with my track saw and then touch them up with planes.  I used 80-grit on the random orbit sander to rough them up for glue.

adding apron

To hide the glue joints on the edges, I added a 4/4 piece of hard maple to the front and back of the bench top.  This will also make the top about 19-1/2 inches deep.  The tail vise end will be covered with 8/4 hard maple.  The other end will get a piece of 4/4 that will be held on with wing nuts so it can be raised and lowered to use as a planing stop.

routed edge

I left the boards proud on all sides.  Here I have used a router with a bearing guided flush trim bit to clean up the top and bottom.  Note the shavings on the floor.  I will saw the ends flush and touch up with a block plane.

frame parts in the rough

These are the parts for the legs and stretchers.  This is all 8/4 hard maple.  Since the legs will need to be thicker than that, I will be face gluing two of these together for each leg.  I will begin with hand planing one face flat on each board then running them through the planer to get the other side parallel.  I will leave the edges rough until after the glue up.  I hope to end up with legs that are about 3-3/4 x 5 inches.

Gluing up the first leg

This is the glue up of the first leg.  I will have to do these one at a time since I don't have enough clamps to do more.  I drove a couple of pinch-dogs in each end for good measure.

I left them in the clamps for about two hours before stacking them and gluing up the next one.

sticker stacked legs

After glue up, I left the legs stacked up with stickers between them overnight.

planing stops

Since I have to use the bench top for my planing operations, I clamped some boards down to act as planing stops.

sawing jig

I needed to saw a relatively straight edge onto each leg.  I determined which side would be my reference surface and used double faced tape to stick it to a piece of plywood.  I left the leg hanging slightly over the edge of the plywood, just enough to let the blade engage it.

tenon 01

These are the legs after I started working on the tenons.  I used a handsaw to cut the dovetail bevels, then cleaned them up with chisels and my small shoulder plane.

I cut on either side of the waste with a band saw then made three more kerfs in between to make waste removal easier.

tenen 02

Here you can see what's left of the saw kerfs in the bottom between the two tenons.

drill press

screw hole

I used my tablesaw as a stand to hold the bench top while I used a Forstner bit in the drill press to remove waste for the through tenon.

I had used Spax screws to hold the top while I glued it together.  I drilled pilot holes for the screw shanks but forgot to drill a small pilot for the threads.  Between the hard maple and the glue that probably got sucked into the threads or the fact that I put them in with an impact driver, several of the screws broke off when I tried to remove them.

One of them fell right in the middle of a leg mortise.  I will use a 1/4-inch chisel to work around it.

screw 02

Here's the little dandy.

screw 03

It took a little while but I was able to get it out.  The other mortise on this side of the bench had a screw hole in it but that screw had come out without breaking.


My Forstner bit wasn't long enough to drill through the bench top and I didn't have an extension for it.  I drilled as far as it would reach then used a cordless drill with a 1/16-inch bit to drill through and mark the hole locations so I could finish drilling from the other side.


The mortise is 1-1/4-inch wide so I used a 1-1/8-inch Forstner on the underside of the bench then switched to a 1-inch when I drilled from the top.  This was just in case there was any misalignment when I drilled the first set of holes.

first mortise

Here is a completed mortise.  I found that my plane makers float was very handy for cleaning up the mortise when it was close to finished size.

mortise and tenon

A leg with a mortise.  You might be thinking, how is this going to work?  Well, I still need to cut the dovetail mortise at the edge of the bench (where #2 is written in the photo).  This is actually leg #3 but they all look the same.

It took a full weekend just to cut the four mortises.  I hope the dovetails go faster.  I was hoping to have this thing finished by next weekend.


I finished the first dovetail tonight.

leg fits

After several hours of sawing, chopping, and paring, I ended up with a pretty respectable fit.

It takes a good deal of trial and error fitting to get a nice close fit.

leg fits too

I started with one of the legs that will face the wall when the bench is in use.  I hope the legs that show will fit this well.


legs in place

All the legs test fit into their mortises.

This is essentially a hand built bench but I cut the mortises for the stretchers with my CNC.  After all this is Mike's CNC Shop.


The cutter I had on the router could only reach a depth of 1-7/8 inch.  I wanted longer tenons than that so I drilled another inch deeper with a Forstner bit. 


I chiseled out the remaining waste.


short stretchers

I cut the tenons on the tablesaw then rounded the corners to fit the routed mortises.

Here are the short stretchers in place while preparing to mark the long stretchers.


bench with legs

Here is the bench dry fitted together.  It was too heavy to stand up by myself so I called in a friend to help.

bench standing

On its own four feet.  This is just dry fit together but is already very rigid and strong.

I have to take a break from working on the bench so I can work on a Spring break project with my niece.
The bench is far enough along that we will use it as is for now.


I have spent several evenings machining parts for my vises.  These are based on the Benchcrafted design and will hopefully perform as well.


When I first looked at the Benchcrafted vises on their website, I thought the price was a bit steep.  After observing their machining videos, pricing tooling and components, and figuring machine costs, I believe the pricing is as it should be.

I would love to have had vises from Benchcrafted but it just wasn't in the budget.  I especially like their new prototype design linked below.


vise chop

I have built the chop for the leg vise and added the parallel guide.

parallel guide

The parallel guide is quarter sawn red oak.  I drilled 39 holes plus two more for the draw-bored mortise.  The pins are also red oak.  The mortise and pins are not glued.

vise leg

This is the leg that will receive the vise.  The mortise at the top of the image is for the parallel guide.  The recess in the foreground is for a guide bushing.

tail mortise

Removing material on the underside of the top to accept the tail vise.

tail vise 01

The tail vise mounted under the bench top.


The end cap on the bench with the rest of the vise hardware installed.  I used seven Spax lag screws to hold it on.  It is taller than the thickness of the top.  I spaced the vise down so I could use a six-inch hand wheel.  I couldn't find a five-inch wheel that I liked and a four-inch just seemed a bit small.

dog block

Here is the dog-hole block added to the vise.

The end cap is still oversize and will be planed to match the bench.  I will do this when I flatten the top, after the bench is assembled

Memorial day weekend is here and I hope to get the bench glued together and finished up.  I have already drilled the legs for the draw-bore.  I marked the tenons but still need to drill those.  I spent the last couple of evenings turning the 16 dowels plus a few spares.

I think the big challenge will be flattening the top.  The butcher block top is difficult to plane without getting substantial tear out.  I will have to keep my plane irons super sharp for this job.


pinned stretcher

I started the glue-up on Saturday.  This photo shows the first stretcher glued and draw-bored.  I glued the mortise and the tenon then used paraffin to wax the pegs before driving them in.  I assembled the entire base this way, then began testing the fit of the top onto the leg tenons.  I had to make some minor adjustments to get the fit just right.  I probably had the top on and off no less than six times, which was a bit of a trick working by myself.


I cut a number of maple wedges at 3-degrees.  i used these to wedge the through tenons on the top.

wedged tenons

I propped the top up on top of the leg tenons then worked quickly to spread glue into all the mortises.  Then I wiggled the top onto the tenons and and let it drop into place.  Actually, with the glue, it only dropped about half way down onto the tenons.  I had to climb up on the bench to get it to drop the rest of the way down. I used a block of wood and dead blow mallet to make sure each tenon was fully seated.

I drove a wedge anywhere I could detect a gap on the through tenons.

tenons cut

I used a Japanese saw to cut the leg tenons flush with the top.  You can see some saw scratches on the top.

I managed to get the cuts a little deep on the outside edge of the bench.  When I flattened the top, only one of the dovetail tenons cleaned up completely.

planing stop

I added a planing stop on the end opposite the tail vise.  This consists of two steel threaded inserts set into the end of the bench.  These hold 5/16 studs which go through 3/8-inch slots in the maple end cap.  I can loosen the wing nuts and raise the stop up to 3/4-inch above the surface of the bench top.

first pass

This photo was taken after the first pass with the jointer plane to flatten the top.

If you enlarge the picture, you can see there is a slight low spot down the center running the length of the bench.  Notice the darker original finish of the butcher block under the plane and the lighter color to the left and right.

I have a little more work to do on the leg vise chop.  I need to round it over.  After that I think it is ready for finish.  I hope to have that done this week.


finish applied

The dowels show up much better after the first coat of finish.  I used equal parts of satin alkyd varnish, boiled linseed oil, and odorless thinner.  This is what Chris Schwarz recommends in his workbench book.  I think it looks great.

Here she is with the final coat of finish applied.  The vise chop is off while it dries.

leg tenon

Here is one on the leg through tenons.  A nice contrast after finishing.

front stretcher

I v-carved my logo into the front stretcher and added the year. 


Here is a shot of the bench complete with vises and dog holes ready for use.

The orange handle sticking out of the parallel guide on the leg vise is actually a burnishing tool I use to sharpen my card scrapers.  It's perfect for this application and I will always know where to find it.

I eventually plan to make a shelf across the stretchers to hold my bench planes and perhaps a bench hook and shooting board.