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I’m happy to announce the completion of my workbench! I call it the “Reject Roubo” as it was constructed almost entirely out of reject lumber that was given to me by a church friend whose husband runs a timber export business. I bought the big wooden screw for the leg vise ($10), and the glue, and that’s pretty much it.

This workbench was a LOOOOOONG time in coming. Seriously. Looking back on my blog, here are some real quick highlights:

December 2007: I purchase my first bunch of boards for what the top of what I believe was to be a Roubo-style workbench. I never finished prepping these 16 boards.

May 2009: Now in a different home, I start pondering afresh how I’d build my Roubo workbench.

June 2010: I receive free lumber and have no excuse!

May 2011: I declare the bench completed (as in entirely assembled), and stated that within the week I expected to complete the flattening of the benchtop.

September 2011: I request a kick in the pants.

October 2011: I finally get going, and indeed, finish the bench in virtually no time.

So that is about 4 years from start to finish. About a year and a half on this current iteration. But it’s done. Pics!

Still waiting on my oil to entirely dry.

Meanwhile, I thought I would fix something that I knew would bug me all the time. My big honkin’ wooden vise jaw is too massive for the few inches of threading in the big wooden nut in the leg vise, and as a result the big wooden screw tilts downwards towards the jaw. See look: here in the very back of the leg you can see the nut:

The nut is actually not glued into the leg at all; it’s merely held in place by those blocks that are screwed into the leg. So anyway, you can see that there are only a few inches of thread, and I suppose that’s why the screw does not remain perfectly horizontal. So I had in mind to glue a handmade wooden washer in the front of the leg’s vise hole to give some support to the screw. My brilliant wife said, “Why do a whole washer? Why not just glue little bits on the bottom since that’s where the support is needed?” She gets it, folks!

So that’s what I did. First step, cut out some little wedges that fit in my screw’s thread and that are rounded to fit in the vise hole:

I decided to go with two wedges. I asked my wife to name this type of piece, since it was her idea, and she named it a sham. Works for me. I figured out the correct distance between the wedges, and with some creative weighting, I glued the two shams in place:

And voila! my big wooden screw definitely is receiving much more support and is much more horizontal when in use.

It’s amazing how close I was to being done the past several months. If you go back and look at my archives (don’t worry about it, I’m about to sum up), I didn’t make ANY progress from May to October because I dreaded the flattening and leveling that I needed to do. Once I got over that hump, I made ginormous strides in no time.

Since my last blog post when I called the bench level (enough), I have flattened it (enough) and planed/sawed the horns off the leg tenons. That was no joke! Last night I got the planing stop done and I bored the hole in the leg vise for the screw. Also no joke:

And you know what I did today? I put my first coat of BLO on it. My bench is literally finished. I still have all the parts (leg vise, planing stop, etc.) separated so it’s not assembled. But tomorrow I will have a fully-functioning workbench.

Final pics to come, but here are a couple of pics from this afternoon:

Phase 1 is complete. The bench is mostly flat, and is mostly level. I could talk about the various parts of the top (and the bench in general) that aren’t great, but then I think,

“If I was reading the blog of some struggling woodworker who rarely gets shop time and builds a Roubo/Moxon workbench and then complains about the various imperfections of what is essentially just a ginormous wooden tool, I’d yell at him to shut up and be content and start making stuff!”

So I’m content. Enough. Next I’ll take my #7 plane over the whole thing and then comes the smoother.

Did the final glueup today. The bench is now completely assembled! My birthday is Monday, so by then I want to have the top flattened. A few other things I still need to do:

  • make the crochet
  • make the leg vise
  • finish it (BLO)
  • install a shelf and maybe a drawer
  • make the Moxon double-screw vise

But once I have the top flattened, I’ll consider the bench to be done, really. Picture to come at that time!

Today I lopped off the extra 1″ or so from the tops of the leg tenons (are those called horns?), which was harder than I expected. Then I chopped the dovetails on the outer leg tenons, which was easier than I expected. In case you’re wondering, I started the cut with my dozuki and then when the back of the saw started hitting the top of the tenon, I switched to the rip side of my ryoba. Piece of cake, quite honestly.

I’m going to glue up the last four boards (two on each side) while the benchtop is mounted, so I needed to apply a little wax a little here and there to be sure my next glue-up doesn’t fasten the top to the legs. And that’s that!

The tenons aren’t a perfect fit through the benchtop. You can see gaps here and there. But it’s also really snug here and there, and between the four legs the top is quite secure and immovable. So I’m okay with cosmetic imperfections.

In the academic world, the term ABD is almost a dreaded one. It stands for “All But Dissertation” and refers to that point in your Ph.D. studies where you’ve done all the coursework and all of the research, have defended your research proposal, and “merely” have to do your dissertation to finish your degree.

As for me, I am now officially ABD in regards to my workbench: All But Dovetails. I have glued up 24 out of the 28 boards for my benchtop. I now need to cut the dovetails on the outer leg tenons and then glue up the last two boards on each side (to fit the dovetails). For a long time, I have dreaded this step in the process. What if my measurements are slightly off and the benchtop won’t fit on the legs? Dovetails are not the most complex job to perform but they are more difficult than perfectly-straight or even 45-degree joints.

But now that I’ve gotten to this point, it’s really not that intimidating. The benchtop is snug enough with the inner leg tenons that joint-al perfection is not necessary with the dovetails. I will try to have the front and top be as tight with the legs as possible, but quite honestly, I might just over-pare the unseen part of the joint just to ensure that I don’t have issues with over-snugness. As it is, with four of the eight tenons, it is a bear to get the benchtop off the legs.

So hopefully today I will start cutting the four dovetails on the outer leg tenons, and then the corresponding benchtop pieces that will fit around them. I also need to chop an inch or so off the top of all the tenons. Then it’s just a simple glueup, and I’ll be done! What? DONE? I’ll believe it when I see it. 🙂

Here’s a quote from my last post:

I am making progress on the bench, but as before, I get hung up mentally when I come to big steps in the process.

Guess when I wrote my last post? About 2 months ago. Yep, got to another big step in the process and got hung up mentally. Well that, and also just lost my motivation entirely for a few weeks there. I’m back!

So gluing four boards onto a 28-board benchtop shouldn’t really be a “big step” in the process, right? Well for me it doesn’t take much. This time it was doing my first glueups around my inner leg tenons. My main concern was that once I put the benchtop on the legs, my measurements will have been so far off that it wouldn’t fit on. You know the fear. Well, no worries, I got it mostly right. Had to pare one “mortise” (they’re all still open on one side) but the other three fit no problem.

So here’s where I’m at (click for larger size):

You can see that I’ve closed up the mortise for the planing stop. And yes, I plan on trimming the tops of my leg tenons! The only “mistake” I made was that I had planned on trimming the length of the inner tenons so that they would have shoulders (only 1/2″ or so) for the benchtop to rest on. I just plain ol’ forgot. Oh well. So the inner tenons are a full 6″ long. When I cut the dovetails on the outer tenons they’ll just be a bit longer as well, no biggie. Here’s another shot:

My next step is to touch up the outer boards a tiny bit where they are a bit proud of the tenon cheek. Then I simply need to glue my next two boards in on each side (will need to plane them down a bit to get them to fit just right in between the tenons). Piece of cake. Then the last two boards on each side will be the ones that fit around the dovetails. That will be another “big step in the process.” Wish me luck!

…the cow takes the cake. Not sure what that means, but it’s a saying in our household. It’s a strange household.

I am making progress on the bench, but as before, I get hung up mentally when I come to big steps in the process. But first, a glimpse into how I do my glueups. After applying glue to both faces to be glued up, I place the new piece on the very top of the stack and clamp it with my 48″-ers, long side down. What appears to be a misalignment of that top board is actually a wicked bow in the last couple feet. More on that later. You’ll also notice that I had to elevate my work surface so that the clamps don’t hit the ground.

After the clamps are on, I have to roll the whole thing over so that the top (new) board is on the bottom of the stack, so gravity can act as the “5th clamp.” I rest the whole setup on my sawing trestles and that’s it!

Then I had to shim the area where the bowed board popped up. I glued a couple scraps in there (this is where the benchtop rests on the legs) and planed them level with the adjoining boards. Not too bad.

And this is pretty much where I’m at right now:

The problem I have now is that the height of the bench is just slightly different at each corner. This is one of the pitfalls of working with wood that hasn’t been prepped to exact dimensions. On the one hand I saved myself a lot of time; on the other hand, I have to use some of that time to fix things later. So I need to figure out where to pare and where to shim.

After that: cutting the leg tenons!

A lot’s happened lately! I pegged the long stretchers. Funny story. In my mind, the pegs in Schwarz’s Roubo were 5/8″. I didn’t have a 5/8″ bit, but I had a very nice 3/4″ one, so I used that and made 3/4″ pegs. I figure, maybe they’re a touch bigger than the ones Chris used, but hey, no biggie. Just the other day I realized: Chris used 3/8″ pegs!!! Haha, oh well, the Schwarz has said that you can’t overbuild a workbench, right?

The only thing that went wrong is that I drilled the hole in the wrong spot for one of the pegs. In a show piece, that would have ruined my month. But hey, it’s just a workbench. I plugged the hole with a scrap of peg and did it again (you can see it in the front left leg).

Then I glued up my interior 12 boards, which determined the length of my short stretchers. So I glued up my cut-to-length short stretchers and pared the tenons until they fit in the leg mortises.

But here’s where I had problems. Somehow, the front and back leg mortises on the right were just misaligned enough that the stretcher was not wanting to go in all the way. I did everything. I laid the base on its back and jumped up and down on the joint. Literally, it was just like you’d picture a cartoon character jumping up and down on something, like a suitcase getting it to close. I squeezed all four of my 48″ clamps on it hoping to get it in. Finally I whittled a severe one-sided taper on a peg and hoped for the best. It worked! So while that joint might not be the best, it’s pegged and not going anywhere. If I’d used 3/8″ pegs, it would have never worked.

And so now I have a base! Next step is to glue the next two boards on each side of the 12 you see in the picture. Then the benchtop, as it were, will be able to sit up on the legs. You can already see on the benchtop (far left of the pic) the start of the void mortise for the planing stop.

It gets a little tricky here, as I need to figure out how to glue up the rest of the boards around the tenons. I only have 4 big clamps, and they’re not very good, so I don’t really want to just glue them up while the benchtop is in place on the base. So far I’ve been gluing up the benchtop on its side, with the newly-glued piece at the bottom, so the weight of all the other boards serves as a “5th clamp.” But this gets harder and harder as the top gets heavier and heavier, and it also involves constantly removing and replacing the benchtop on the base to check for fit.

Light at the end of the tunnel, but it still may be a while until I’m out of it! (Absolutely must be done by year’s end.)

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