Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Roubo Progress

If you're building a Roubo (or any other substantially sized) workbench, before you start laminating boards to make the beefy legs, the first thing you need to do is buy stock in your favorite glue. 'Cause you're going to use a lot.

For covering large areas with glue, I use a J-roller from the big box store.

It spreads the glue quickly and evenly. Just remember to rinse off the glue before it hardens.

As the glued-up legs dried, I started working on the two 12/4 cherry boards that will form the benchtop.  The boards were rough-cut, and I had already flattened and thicknessed both faces, so that meant truing one edge.

I used the longest straight-edge I own and an engineer's square to check my progress as I handplaned the board.

When one edge was as true as I could manage, I made a quickie marking gauge to mark the opposite edge for width.

It's made from two scraps and joined at a 90ยบ angle with screws. I drove a nail into the arm at the required distance, then filed the nail flat on the portion that faces the fence.

I rounded the opposing side of the nail to create a knife edge which produced a fine mark.

I scribed both faces of the board and planed to the marks.

My sawbench and task bench are the same height, so they worked well together to support the boards as I planed the edges. However, after an hour, my back was killing me due to the low height of the surface I was planing.

Curious, I measured the distance from floor to work surface. It was 28.5" and directly in line with the first knuckle on my little finger when I stood alongside the board. That's the distance that many books say is the ideal height for handplaning—in line with your pinkie.

My workbench will be 33.875"—the same height as my existing bench, and a height that I find comfortable.

If you're planning to build a workbench, this is a good way to determine the optimum height for you.

Lay a board across two benches and prop it up as necessary. Work at it awhile. Your back, legs, and arms will tell you if it's a good fit.


Steve Southwood said...

Great work as always. This thing is coming together great.

Ben said...

Keep in mind that work would sit on top of the bench, so the working surface ends up being a bit higher than 28.5". Probably still not high enough though.

Love the panel gauge.

Joe Sainz said...

Was that 28.5" measured to the top of the board you were planing? I only ask because the height that you will be planing at is your bench height plus the average thickness of your stock.

Kari Hultman said...

Thanks, Steve. :o)

Ben and Joe, you guys are right. Thank you for pointing that out. I believe I'd still have the same problem, though, since I work with boards that are usually 3/4" thick or thinner. But, definitely something to keep in mind as people are determining bench height.

Tom Stephenson said...

Excellent post and point Kari. My new bench will be 37" high. If I went by any of the "tried and true" methods for ideal bench height, my bench would be 30 or 31" high. You should do what works for you. The bench is looking good!

Anonymous said...

Kari, What type and manufacturer of saws do you have, including back saws, etc. Also, do you sharpen them or send them out?

Michael D. said...

Looking good! I think I should have as a New Year's resolution to finish my Roubo workbench before you do! I have the base and sliding deadman sitting (all assembled) in a corner of my workshop. I meant to finish it earlier, but got involved in rebuilding multiple windows for my 1890 Victorian house.

I should at least post an update to my progress on my bench too (http://dinsmoreworkshop.blogspot.com/2009/11/roubo-workbench-part-ii.html). I realize the whole project got interrupted by various major house projects too.

Armand Pedroza said...

Very nice Kari..I never knew all this numbers for the bench height and their importance before. I should check mine and make necessary adjustments. Kep it up.

Kari Hultman said...

Tom, the only bench that I've found to be way too tall for me is Adam Cherubini's bench at Penns Woods. I think the top is in line with my shoulders!

Anon, I have several Lie-Nielsen saws, but the one I used to crosscut these boards is an antique I bought from Tom Law who had sharpened it. None of my saws are dull enough to sharpen yet, but I intend to sharpen them myself. I have Ron Herman's saw sharpening video which is excellent.

Michael, sounds like you're pretty close to finishing your bench if you already have the base and sliding deadman done. Maybe you can give me a bit more of a head start if we're competing to see who can finish faster. ; ) I do think there needs to be an online gallery somewhere of everyone's Roubo bench.

Kari Hultman said...

Armand, if you like the height of your bench then stick with it. There's no need to make adjustments if it feels right to you. :o)

dyfhid said...


Nice work! I plan on a bench, but haven't got plans done ye, so yours will be done long before mine!

After seeing that glue-up photo, and, of course realizing you have three more legs to do, I have to ask - do you still think you have enough clamps? :)


Kari Hultman said...

David, I had *just* enough clamps to glue up all four legs. My clamp racks are completely bare.

Anonymous said...

Very nice work Kari, great to see this coming together so quickly.

What size plane did you use to true the edges? It looks like a smoothing plane. Maybe it's the scale of the wood though.

Slim Shavings said...

Easy way to chek thickness of boards when hand or power planing is an open end wrench. I have them to 2-1/4 inches. Crowfoots (smaller) are the ideal

Kari Hultman said...

McGlynn, I did use a smoothing plane—the largest metal plane I own. I didn't want to use my wooden planes because I figured the rough stock would chew up the soles. It worked fine in conjunction with the straightedge and square. I'm not even sure I'd be able to work with a metal jointer plane—too heavy.

TNWoodwright, that's one I've never heard before. Thanks for posting.

Papa Joe said...

Hey girl > You rock!!!

mokusakusensei--woods teacher said...

Kari, in answer to your question to me, I have not had them completed long enough to know how they will hold up. I am very happy with how sturdy it SEEMS to be. My younger son is rather tough on things, so I will see in the future how it does. I transported the first bench to Idaho and set it up in about ten min. It seems to be very tight and the wedges in the lower horiz. strechers are easy to give a whack to tighten them if necessary.
I saw your DMCA above. I am not smart enough to add it to my blog. Do you mind telling me how you added it? I have registered, but I do not know how to add it to my site. Thanks

Kari Hultman said...

Thanks, Papa Joe!

McKay, thanks for getting back to me about your wedges. It seems like they should hold up well. I might stick with the traditional wedge, though. Just personal preference.

For the DMCA badge, go to the badges page on the site and copy the embed code for whichever one you like. Then go to the design page on your blog account and "add a gadget." That's where you'll paste the embed code. The badge will then show up on your blog. Shoot me an email if that doesn't make sense and I'll help you: goodwoodworkshop@comcast.net

Rob Horton said...

Count me in with a recently completed bench at least 6" higher than the conventional wisdom would dictate.

Anonymous said...

Remember too that the pinky-height rule comes from back in the day when your planes were wooden and 2-3" thick themselves, raising where your hands rest while working.