Instructables
Picture of Roubo-Style Workbench
Bench Girl 4.jpg
  This is going to be less of a step-by-step tutorial and more a series of tips and a review of what I learned making my workbench.   
  After examining many, many workbench designs and almost settling on a German-style bench, I came across the 17th century French workbench of Andre Roubo.  This design seemed to have surpassing versatility and an aesthetic superiority to every other design.  In the construction process I learned of the trade-off between functionality, design, and ease of construction.  I have made awkward-looking workbenches in one day which function perfectly.  I've also made beautiful tables quickly and easily which are only useful as buffet tables.  To make this workbench functional and attractive required that every surface be planed properly, and every corner be a perfect 90 degrees.  
 
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Step 1: Some Large Pieces of Wood

Picture of Some Large Pieces of Wood
  This style of bench begins with a few very large slabs of wood.  The top and legs are each 5" thick to provide a simple shape with no joists or apron and the heavy stretchers provide ballast.  The top is 72" long and only 20" deep.  The narrow top discourages me from putting too many things on the bench at one time (treating it like a table, which it isn't) and the overall small dimensions are compensated for by the workholding features and dead weight.  Holding down a heavy beam or large plywood sheet is no problem and the bench doesn't rock or scoot.  
  The legs and stretchers are reclaimed old growth Douglas fir.  Though mine were salvaged (and thirty winters have hardened these beams nicely), here on the West coast, 6"x6" Douglas fir is a standard dimension.  But finding a mass of wood for the top that's both deciduous and contiguous is a taller order.  The top of a workbench should be hard.  Exactly how hard depends on a few factors; if you're going to be working primarily with hard woods, then your bench should be hard enough to take some use but not so hard that it might mar the wood you're working.  It's better to dent your bench than your workpiece.  For my bench I opted for poplar wood, as it's harder than pine but still affordable (kind of).  By happy coincidence I found a supplier selling it in 3 1/2" thicknesses*, which fits the leg joinery perfectly (the final beams were 3 1/2" x 5" x 72").  To keep costs down I used a reclaimed beam of glued-up Douglas fir for the middle 13" of the top.  Since most of the work on a bench takes place around the edges I saved the hard wood for that area.
  
*My original intent for this project was to use only reclaimed wood I could get for free.  Though I ended-up purchasing the poplar beams, I think sitting in my garage as long as they did before I completed this project qualifies them as reclaimed wood.
broken board11 months ago
i love how you use your hand drill. that is some lost skill today.
i laughed when i saw your fantastic jet power tools,
essentials are essentials i guess.
JUST ENVIOUSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS
broken board11 months ago
wow i thought is was nice b4 i saw the beautiful woman sitting on it,
Fantastic work bench! I wish I had the skills (and time to develop the skills) to make one of my own.
Is that Queen Titania, in earthly disguise, posing on your bench?



Very nicely done. I'd like to see more of the work on the main leg/bench mortise and tenon. It looks like the leg is actually thicker than the poplar beam; did you have to mortise out some of the Doug fir, as well?

Thanks!
Scotttland (author)  EoRaptor0131 year ago
Yes, that's my faerie queen.
The legs are thicker than the poplar rails but the tenons are cut to the same width; this is not evident in the pictures since I took them before cutting the other sides of the tenons. The extra shelf this makes on the leg adds a little bit more stability to the joint, but it's not used on every example I've seen of the Roubo bench.
You seem to have left out any instructions for the beautifully mounted materials assistance device located on the top of the bench in the lower image. I would very much like to have one for my workshop as well. Can you provide information or sourcing? I already have electric blue dye.
wtpetersen1 year ago
Beautiful! I'll be making myself a similar one someday, these tips are really helpful
robbadooz1 year ago
Beautimus!!! What a pleasure just to follow your work. Thanks!
wow what a fantastic job
i will make this one.
thank you.
Right, but in terms of milling the beech, I'd assume that quartersawn pieces would be favorable over flatsawn ones due to warping potential. Right now, my beech lumber is in cylindrical form lying in the woods, so I could potentially even rift saw it, but if it's not going to make a difference once it's laminated together, warping-wise, I won't waste too much time and lumber with fancy milling.
Scotttland (author)  HibbityDibbity1 year ago
In that case, rip it into two or three pieces, flatsawn or whatever you can get from it at 5" thick. It sounds like its going to look great.
I'm in the beginning stages of planning my own bench (beginning stages = drooling over pictures of other people's benches). I've got some beech that I've been wanting to mill up and use, and I think I may incorporate it into my future bench. Do you know if it's better to use flatsawn or quartersawn wood for the bench top? Or, since you're laminating it all together, does it really even matter?
Scotttland (author)  HibbityDibbity1 year ago
Bigger solid pieces look nicer, but a laminated slab will be more stable over time. That being said, if you haven't ripped it yet, use pieces as thick as possible. Beech is a really good wood for a benchtop since it's pretty hard and also light in color.
unkldave1 year ago
A real functional beauty. I'm looking at various benchs to build and this is one of the best. The dovetails are kind of intimidating though.
clazman1 year ago
Nice work!

My choice for a finish is flooding with Watco Danish Oil and wet sanding with 220 grit wet/dry paper (a procedure I learned many years ago from a Norwegian friend of the family) then wiping down to remove excess sanding’s. Multiple coats will be required ending only when the wood no longer accepts the oil especially end grain. When I learned this I was a very young and "green" woodworker and was astonished of sanding with a fairly coarse 220 grit, but it works!

The result is a very pleasing and yet durable finish. An occasional application of Watco's wax completes the finish.
Buso1 year ago
My first email included this project.

What a great itroduction. It's perfect.

Thanks.
cybearia1 year ago
Thanks for this. I'm planning on making a bench soon and I was thinking the New Fangled Workbench from Fine Woodworking mainly because of cost and ease. Other build journals for Roubo style benches looked so intimidating to me- would you recommend it?
Scotttland (author)  cybearia1 year ago
The biggest challenge for this bench was the dovetail tennons. You can either forgo these in favor of one square tennon or use them as a valuable opportunity to develope joinery skills. Otherwise I highly recommend the Roubo style. It's nice to have the open flat surfaces where you can clamp things without having to fuss with aprons or crossbeams. And as Chris Schwarz says: your workbench can never be too heavy or too long, but it can be too wide and too tall.
Very nice job. The process was almost the same as I did with my workbench. I got the plans from "The Workbench Book" from Taunton press. The one I built was a design that is many years old and discribed by Frank Klaus. It was a great project and has given me almost thirty years of enjoyment. I know yours will be enjoyable to you for as many years if you make it that long.
Workbench.jpg
Very nice job. The process was almost the same as I did with my workbench. I got the plans from "The Workbench Book" from Taunton press. The one I built was a design that is many years old and discribed by Frank Klaus. It was a great project and has given me almost thirty years of enjoyment. I know yours will be enjoyable to you for as many years if you make it that long.
Workbench.jpg
WOW!! Good job on the instructions. Great job on the work bench.
Now that's a big beefy bench. Looks great
pfred21 year ago
Round dog holes do make more sense than square ones. Instead of brass I just use hardwood dowel for my bench dogs. Someday I need to make a new workbench, but for now my totally reclaimed bench I use is good enough. I have a grand total of $2 into making it. That is what my side vise cost me at a flea market to buy. The rest of it I found here and there.

I've found Formby's "Tung Oil Finish" to contain less Tung Oil and more of other ingredients. As in it isn't really Tung Oil, it is more varnish, or shellac or something with some Tung Oil in it. I have some real Tung Oil, trust me you don't want to use that stuff! If it dries I haven't seen it happen yet. My workbench is mostly finished with motor oil. I don't always get to woodwork on it.

You can see my workbench in this picture:

http://i.imgur.com/VannV.jpg

I didn't use an auger when I drilled out my dog holes:

http://i.imgur.com/cqQdf.jpg

Check out this design of bench dogs:

http://i.imgur.com/gvyH1.jpg

Another shot of them:

http://i.imgur.com/YZITK.jpg

I like those a lot.

This is my whole peg collection:

http://i.imgur.com/evQ6s.jpg

A picture of my tail vise taken apart:

http://i.imgur.com/s4rvt.jpg

I made all of that vise myself except for the metal bits. I found those in my grandfather's cellar. The wood they were attached to pretty much wasn't there anymore. But it gave me an idea how to make something.







Hey PFRED2 you are a man after my heart. I mean that in a manly way :).
If it works do not fight it.
Keep up the good Salvaging!
Thanks. At this point I think I am done salvaging. I'm just trying to use up all the junk I've collected now.
That is a good design.... strong, thick and heavy.
Magnificent workmanship.
Machine1 year ago
Stunning bench! Beautiful.
WOW...just WOW!
That is a fine bench.
mje1 year ago
Excellent work and excellent article. I understand that Roubu was a joiner, not a cabinet maker, so he did not require a very large work top for the assembly of carcasses on his bench.
amazed !… Made my (rainy and cold) sunday !!!… thank you !…
Looks amazing :-)
This is a really good...beautiful work! As ringai says below...so nice it'd be a shame to actually use it!
ringai1 year ago
Your bench looks great! If I built it, I wouldn't want to do any woodworking on it!
Edgar1 year ago
Gone to the Blog, watch the Crazylfie and the Antartic Base, too:
http://faz-voce-mesmo.blogspot.pt/2013/02/crazilfie-e-uma-bancada-francesa.html
seamster1 year ago
Beautiful bench. Impressive work!
rimar20001 year ago
Chapó, master.