Roubo Workbench Plan

Planning and Materials – Low Cost Roubo 1

Once I decided on the type of bench I wanted to build, it was time to make some rough sketches to figure out how much material I would need. In order to keep it low-cost, I decided to build the bench out of dimensional lumber that you can find at any home hardware store. This helped guide my planning process.

Roubo workbench plan

Initial rough concept sketch

A 2×4 typically has dimensions of 1.5″x 3.5″. It made sense to laminate the legs out of three pieces, for a final size of 3.5″x4.5″ (of course the actual legs will be a bit smaller in all aspects after being planed down). The top and bottom stretchers would be two pieces laminated together, so around 3″x3.5″. The important thing about a Roubo bench is to make sure the front legs are flush with the front edge of the table top. This lets you clamp larger workpieces to the legs and the top as you work them, and also allows the use of a leg vise. One unusual aspect you might have noticed from the sketch is the addition of top stretchers; typically Roubos do not possess top stretchers, as the heft of the base and the through mortised joints are enough to keep the bench from racking. In this case the top stretchers weren’t really necessary but I wanted to add them in for good measure. I figured it would also allow the split top to rest more stable-y on the base.

The length of the top is rather short, but for the space that I had for it, it made sense. If you are using this build as a resource for ideas, you can extend the top by a couple feet without changing any other dimensions – the base is sized adequately. I wanted a split top, as the gap holds a planing stop that comes in very handy (and also doubles as a tool holder). The width of the top would be around 20″, which is pretty standard. As for the dog holes, I would figure the layout out once the bench was built.

At this point I needed to decide on my vise and the hardware. I strongly suggest that you acquire your hardware before you have made any progress on your build; it is far easier to account for it early on than to add it once you’ve put the bench together. I knew I wanted a leg vise – the clamping pressure they produce is fantastic, as is their depth and capacity. I also love the antiquated nature of leg vises, and the customization options that the chop presents. I decided to go with a DIY option that works very well – a tail vise screw sold by Lee Valley, and a self-made chop/parallel guide assembly. Of course, there are other options out there such as wooden vise screws or Benchcrafted assemblies, but they are a lot costlier. The end vise was more of a dilemma – I was torn between a proper tail vise, a quick release metal vise or a longer face vise. The proper tail vise was ruled out mostly due to the short length of the bench top (they are a lot more complex to install too), and the long face vise was ruled out due to the split top design. That left me with the QR metal bench vise.

Letting the lumber acclimatize

2×4’s cut to rough length

Next up was choosing and buying the wood. The basic idea is to choose boards that are mostly straight, with few knots. Tight knots are absolutely fine – they are a bit harder to work, but tend to be stronger and harder. It’s best to go for kiln-dried stock, as pine tends to move quite a bit with changes in surroundings. The kiln dried boards will still move on you, but it’s best to minimise what we can. Once back indoors, I crosscut the boards to rough length and stack them up as shown above for a couple of days or a week, just to get any crazy warpage out of the way.

My next post will be on preparing the wood for glue up and actually getting to work!


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