Cheap and Rad Roubo Style Workbench




Introduction: Cheap and Rad Roubo Style Workbench

About: My name is David and I make things... geeky things. I enjoy punk music, woodworking, graphic design, and screen printing. @gearboxdesigns (Instagram & Facebook)

Here is the link to the video of this build -----> Video Link

I finally built a respectable workbench for my shop and you can too for around $65 bucks! This is a Roubo style bench and is very sturdy and looks pretty cool. There are a ton of different and more technical ways to build a bench like this, but who has the time? Not me!

So here is the easy and affordable way I built mine.

Step 1: Building the Bench Top.

I want to start by saying that pine is not the best choice when it comes to building a nice workbench. It is soft and will get beat up over time. However, it is a very affordable choice for those of us who can't afford to shell out big bucks for oak or maple! A few coats of lacquer should help protect it for some of the normal abuse it will see in its life.

I started by cutting my 2x4's to a rough length of around 6'. Running the boards through a jointer is a great way to remove the beveled edges that are included with the purchase of your new 2x4s as well as eliminating the crowns that these boards most likely have. With that said, I do not own a jointer..... I know, what self respecting woodworker does not own a jointer? ....ME! So, i chose to run them through my planer. Seems to work just fine.

After the boards are somewhat prepped, out comes the glue. I glued up three sections so I can run them back through the planer after the glue dries. The finished width for my top is around 30".

Step 2: Ooooh.... Legs

While the glue is drying on your 2x4 table chunks, now is a good time to make some legs.

I used 4x4 Douglas Fir posts that I found at the big box hardware store. Make sure they are nice and straight!

Using a cross cut sled on my table saw, I set the depth of the blade for my tenons. Mine were 1-1/4" tenons. The purpose of using the table saw to make the first cut all the way around the board is to give you a nice, straight line and to make it a lot easier to use the router to finish them off. There are many ways to cut tenons. This was a great method for the tools I have in my shop.

The tenoning "jig" I used is pretty primitive. I screwed three off-cuts of the same 4x4 post to the table to surround and loosely clamp the post to the table. Next, I used a 3/4" straight bit on my plunge router to hog out the material all the way around the post. It was fun!

Step 3: Assembling the Base.

The braces that go in to the posts are also made using tenons. I made these the same way as the post tenons except, after I routed the two wide sides of the 2x4, I used a hand saw to finish off what was left instead of making another jig.

Once all of the tenons are cut, its time to make some holes for these things to fit in to. Trace your tenon out on your post. Drilling several holes with a forstner bit is a great way to get the mortises started. Be sure to mark the depth of your mortise on your drill bit with some tape.

Once you drill the holes, connect them using a SHARP chisel. It is no fun at all if your chisel is dull (trust me). I have some cheap chisels that I am constantly sharpening with a whetstone and guide.

Its important that these mortises are a tight fit, so be patient and keep dry fitting them, you'll be glad you did!

In my build, I didn't plan for a brace at the top of the base so I had to add one after everything was glued up. I just screwed some 2x4 chunks to the face of the posts, but a mortise and tenon joint here would have been much cooler.... whooops.

Once all of the mortises are in, now its time to assemble the base. Stuff a bunch of glue down in the holes and SMOOOSH! Make sure the legs are square with the 2x4 braces. I didn't have clamps long enough to hold everything together, so I used some ratchet straps around the whole thing and it worked fine. Just be sure to cross square the base!

Step 4: Combining the Top and Base.

Putting the table together is pretty straight forward. I laid the three table top pieces upside down on another table and clamped them together. Next, I placed the base upside down onto the clamped top, centered it up, and traced the leg tenons onto the top. A Forstner bit and a chisel took care of the mortises and now its ready to assemble!

With the base on the floor, I covered the tenons and the joints of the top with wood glue and smashed everything together. The weight of the top held everything together nicely!

Step 5: Cherry 'er Up!

The final step in the process is to make everything nice and smooth. I used a Stanley no.5 plane to flatten the top. This is a workout!

Next, I added bowties. These are totally optional. The main reason I put them in is because there was an area in the top that didn't glue together as nice as I would have liked. These little bowties are very strong and look pretty rad too!

Step 6: Call Your Friends to Have Them Help You Move It!



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    36 Discussions

    P.S. tie-downs make great clamps don't they?

    Nice, no matter what description is used. If an #5 plane isn't available, rig up a router. Use something straight, aluminum angle will work, with supports to the ground for stiffness and parallel to the length. Make a sled to ride on the supports. A web search engine of your choice is your friend for many examples, what bit to use, and how to figure out the depth you need.

    As an alternative to a jpoiner or planer, I ran my 2x4s through the table saw, giving a net of 3" and leaving a square edge easy to glue up. You could do this to just one side, netting 3 1/4 ", but it's nice to have two alternative sides to choose from.


    2 years ago

    That's a great looking bench, perfectly suited to what I need. Thanks for posting!

    I think I'll call mine a "Gao Bizi" style bench or maybe a "Imakestuffoutofwoodanddon'tgethunguponwhatyoucallit" style bench.

    1 reply

    Thanks for checking it out! I dig your title for it too! haha! *fist bump*

    This resembles my work bench that I built about 3 years ago using an old pine bed. It had chunky slats so was ideal for the job.
    Mine cost me a grand total of 0.00 and I still use it regularly.


    2 years ago

    I built a very similar workbench years ago, which I still have. Mine is not glued, just friction fit mortise and tenon 4 x 4 frame, except for three braces that are lag screwed or bolted. I can disassemble it into sections to move. One thing I did that has been great was to put a 1/2" plywood sacrificial surface on top of the 2 x 4's, screwed in from beneath so that the plywood is not fully penetrated. When it gets too battered, I can back out the screws a bit, toss it, and replace it. Helps offset the disadvantage of using pine. Also avoided the need to mill the 2 x 4's square. I mounted a vise on the front and drilled some holes for stops. (I use 1" dowels with flats on them for stops). Drilled holes to mount cheap drafting lamps and mounted an outlet strip on one edge. Nice, cheap, and easy bench. I have used it for 25 years now.

    The curves edges on the 2x4s S4S comes from the milling process. The S4S means surfaces 4 sides, and that is what reduces the size from 2x4 to 1.5x3.5 (inches; metric standard sizes are different but also have the big difference between nominal and real).

    This surfacing operation generally raises the cost of the materials, though volume at the big box stores may overcome this disadvantage. So, head over to the real lumber yard/wood store and look for unsurfaced materials. You might get lucky.

    No promise they will be flat/square, but they are often acceptable for rough construction.

    Hi! Nice project, however I am not sure as to why you are calling it a Roubo-style bench? The top is not flush with the legs, there is no leg vise and the bench doesn't have anywhere near the same kind of physical weight. If anything, "heavy table" is closer to the mark....

    2 replies

    I agree with Carl ... GearBoxDesigns' bench looks sturdy and well designed, but isn't really a Roubo style. Here is a Roubo type bench I built for my daughter's pottery (albeit missing the leg-style clamp) ... The front legs are flush to the top for clamping purposes, the bench is strong and wont move while she throws the clay on it. This bench, as GearBoxDesigns', is built of construction fir. We bought 8x12 and then ripped it to just under 4", then hand planed to final thickness. There's about $50 worth of materials in it.


    Hi Peter,

    Yes, that's exactly part of what makes a "Roubo" what it is. A massively-heavy bench designed for working the face, sides and ends of large workpieces. Generally at a height which is amenable to hand planing and large sawing operations, and thick enough to retain holdfasts, etc. I see none of that here.

    Whilst I applaud your sharing of a project GearBoxDesigns, a "Roubo" style bench has very specific and known properties, none of which are represented here.

    nice bench. I unfortunately don't have a planer and i got rid of my finger shredder of a joiner. I think using an aggressive grit belt sander then top off with masonite could help get a flat smooth surface for those of us with smaller inventory of tools.


    2 years ago

    Terrific bench. The next time I build one for myself or a friend, this will be it. I will make one small change I found I liked for my benches, a replaceable work surface. Instead of planing the top, I leave the 2x4's as they are and cut a 3/4 particle board, then just screw it to the top. This give me a disposable work surface that's easy to replace when it gets too chewed up.

    nice build and nice shirts

    Something you *might* want to consider adding for long-term durability: cross-pinning your tenons. It's an easy "upgrade" to add since all you would have to do is drill from the face of the leg through the tenons and then drive in a section of dowel. This would give the tenon/leg interface mechanical as well as glue strength. Those cross-brace joints can take a beating with racking forces when you are doing things like planing or doing any pushing across the bench top.

    Cross-pins or not, it's a nice bench :) I'm sure you'll get many years use out of it.

    Great bench. I totally agree that 2 by 4 pine with a few coats of varnish is sufficient to take a lot of abuse.

    I made something similar. However, I do not have your skill and patience for the mortise and tenons, and certainly not your skill to make the bowties.

    I glued together 2 by 4s to make the legs. To make the mortises, I used a router to cut dados in the 2 by 4s and then glue them together with the dados facing each other to form the mortise. To fasten the side braces to the legs, I drilled a vertical hole in the side brace near each end, and squared one side of the hole with a chisel. I then used a bolt that ran horizontally from the leg into this hole and used a nut inside the hole in the side brace to fasten them together.


    2 years ago

    Great bench. I can't imagine shelling out 100's of dollars and hours of work on a cherry or oak bench and then being able to actually use it. "oh no don't his my 700 dollar work bench with any work lol." Pine is totally the way to go. It doesn't matter what or where or how you make the work bench as long as you make work with it.

    On a second note as a fellow photographer it amused me in a super awesome way to see your umbrella flash units in the back ground of your photos. Also awesome is your choice of punk rock t shirts. Either you picked great stuff to be seen in or you just like great stuff.

    Same point but between the bike, kayak and great shop tools great stuff seems to be your style. Good job man.

    3 replies

    No kidding! 2x4s will do a fine job and there's little guilt if it gets beat up!

    Im glad you found my laziness amusing! haha I got tired of moving them around everywhere and just decided to leave them around. No need for mystery!

    Thanks for watching and being supportive! It means a ton!

    Also note that you could toss down a sheet of MDF on top. Maybe with some countersink screws or dowels or something to hold it in place. MDF can take a beating (literally, try smacking it with a hammer. It won't dent up nearly as much as the pine, if at all), and could be really easy to replace.

    I have to agree about the shirts. Misfits, Ramones, and my favorite, Hot Water Music. Good Stuff.