Quantcast
  • We invite you to join UKWorkshop.
    Members can turn off viewing Ads!

Workbench Build - Split Top Roubo (Sort Of)!

UKworkshop.co.uk

Help Support UKworkshop.co.uk:

xraymtb

Established Member
Joined
5 Nov 2007
Messages
499
Reaction score
21
I figured it might be time to document (as well as I can) my workbench build if there is any interest? Don't expect fine furniture, truckloads of Beech or perfect joints here! But hopefully it gives people a view of another way to do it and lets me learn from retelling my mistakes!!

Around 5-6 years ago, I found a pair of 16ft long construction beams (basically 2x4s laminated in a factory with edges chamfered to leave a roughly 12" x 4" beam (300mm x 100mm in new money)). I drew up a rough plan back then, cut them down to fit in the car and they have lived in the garage ever since!

DSC_0021.JPG

In the intervening years, I've gone through various plans for benchs - the Roubo, the Paul Sellers, the 'just bang them together and call it done' design etc. Last year I decided to go fully hand tools and sold my bandsaw so before I went I quickly ripped some of them down for legs and stretchers. And then they were restacked and continue to live in the garage.

Finally, with COVID meaning more free time I started the build. I'll dig out more photos and continue next time with the plan, and where I have go to since.
 

bp122

Expert at Jibber-Jabber
Joined
20 Aug 2019
Messages
432
Reaction score
127
Location
Haddenham
Ooh, love a workbench thread.

I'm interested to see how it turns out.

If they were already laminated, does that mean you had to flatten them or were already they flat?
 

xraymtb

Established Member
Joined
5 Nov 2007
Messages
499
Reaction score
21
Ooh, love a workbench thread.

I'm interested to see how it turns out.

If they were already laminated, does that mean you had to flatten them or were already they flat?
They were more or less flat but having kicked around a site for a while then sat for years they did end up with some surface dings and damage and weren’t perfectly flat. I took the approach of ensuring it was flat where it mattered (joints and the top) and either left them alone otherwise or got them smooth but not necessarily square (outside of the frame for example).
 

Cabinetman

Established Member
Joined
5 Jan 2017
Messages
1,017
Reaction score
468
Location
Caistor lincolnshire
That’s some nice chunky material, it should make a wonderful benchtop, I can recommend Mike Siemson's video where he is using different holding methods on a bench like you are proposing, he is demonstrating it without fitting a vice, not that he is actually recommending that way of working. But an interesting demonstration all the same.
It’s not a short video but this guy (Yes sorry he’s a yank) but he really knows what he’s doing and I recommend it. Ian
 
Last edited:

xraymtb

Established Member
Joined
5 Nov 2007
Messages
499
Reaction score
21
Now then. On to the design. And you'll have to excuse my mixture of imperial and metric units - I tend to think in imperial until we get down to weird fractions when I switch to metric!

932A1282-8E9E-4EC5-9F84-CE5E8BA85C5E.jpeg

I had always assumed on having a 6-7ft bench. My 'workshop' is the back half of a single garage so even 7ft is pushing things but it coincided nicely with the need to fit the beams into the car so that dimension was fixed as 'whatever length I can get out of the two best looking sections'! It turns out around 6.5ft (1.98m) was the answer. The size of the beams lent themselves to a chunky design but I also wanted to keep things simple - no through sliding dovetails (a la Roubo) - so settled on a simple M&T joined frame using the results of resawing each beam down the middle to make a 150mm x 90mm finished section.

For the top I considered trying to join the two sections into one massive benchtop but in the intervening years I saw various 'split-top' designs and appreciate the concept. It also meant the top was two parts and given the space I have to work in that came out the top option. It also meant I needed stretchers at the top and bottom of my frame to support the bench top - luckily my rough plan had left me with enough to do that. That in mind, the top was fixed at roughly 630mm deep - 300mm per beam plus a 30-40mm gap. I aimed to keep the front edge flush with the legs but not the rear edge letting me clean up the edges and fit them where required, adjusting the gap as necessary. More on that later!

On the subject of vices I already had a big Record 53 lying around. I also had a Record 52 fitted to my current 'bench' but decided given the size of the bench I could accomodate the wider 10 1/2" jaws of the 53. Some rough planning showed that the overhang I needed plus a little space at each side of the vice would leave the same size overhang on the right hand side - all was good and the plan was done.
 
Last edited:

Cabinetman

Established Member
Joined
5 Jan 2017
Messages
1,017
Reaction score
468
Location
Caistor lincolnshire
Well it’s certainly going to be heavy and solid, that’s a lot of timber!
Can of worms being opened here, The height. It’s a very personal thing and if 810 is what you’re used to and happy with that’s great, personally it seems a little low, mine is around 900, the only reason I mention it is if you are following somebody else’s designs you may not find it’s quite high enough,
If you aren’t really sure what height you want make it a bit higher, you can always cut the legs down later but it’s difficult to make it higher. Ian
 

xraymtb

Established Member
Joined
5 Nov 2007
Messages
499
Reaction score
21
Well it’s certainly going to be heavy and solid, that’s a lot of timber!
Can of worms being opened here, The height. It’s a very personal thing and if 810 is what you’re used to and happy with that’s great, personally it seems a little low, mine is around 900, the only reason I mention it is if you are following somebody else’s designs you may not find it’s quite high enough,
If you aren’t really sure what height you want make it a bit higher, you can always cut the legs down later but it’s difficult to make it higher. Ian
Thanks - it could be my terrible 'plans' at fault here but the overall height is 900mm. The legs to the bottom edge of the benchtop are 810mm (840mm overall to allow for the tenon) with a 90mm thick top.
 

billw

The Tattooed One
UKW Supporter
Joined
26 Apr 2009
Messages
1,625
Reaction score
810
Location
Sutton Coldfield, UK
Well it’s certainly going to be heavy and solid, that’s a lot of timber!
Can of worms being opened here, The height. It’s a very personal thing and if 810 is what you’re used to and happy with that’s great, personally it seems a little low, mine is around 900, the only reason I mention it is if you are following somebody else’s designs you may not find it’s quite high enough,
If you aren’t really sure what height you want make it a bit higher, you can always cut the legs down later but it’s difficult to make it higher. Ian
810 seems REALLY low to me. Mine is 865mm and I'm 5'7 1/2 (that half counts) and it is still probably on the lower side of the range for me.
 

Jameshow

Established Member
Joined
4 Oct 2020
Messages
430
Reaction score
222
Location
Bradford
How are you going to stop it rocking when planing?

Those mortices look a bit weedy to me?

Needs either an apron, some stays or massive dovetails like the robo bench in my amateur opinion!

Cheers James
 

thetyreman

Established Member
Joined
4 Mar 2016
Messages
2,949
Reaction score
190
Location
North West
I think through tenons would be a big improvement especially on the legs, there will be a lot of force placed on them.
 

xraymtb

Established Member
Joined
5 Nov 2007
Messages
499
Reaction score
21
Part 3 - Starting The Build

As I mentioned earlier, I had a rough plan and decided to go full hand tools a couple of years ago so before the last machine (bandsaw) went out the door I used it to rip the timbers for the legs, rails and stretchers in half, and then crosscut (by hand) them all to length. And back in a stack they all went again!!

Finally at the start of this year I was made redundant and luckily found a new role with a month off to get started. The workshop got tidied, messed up again, then kind of tidied and I was good to go. I had promised my old vice (the Record 52) to a friend who was getting started and after 6 months of no progress had removed it and handed it over back in September 2019. So the first task was to get the new vice fitted temporarily so I had somewhere to work.

I've read so much over the years but without starting the Sellers vs Schwarz 'how to woodwork by hand' argument I had decided to sink the rear jaw of my vice into the bench and use the front of the bench top as my rear jaw. With the lengths of the new bench top sitting on my old bench I marked it out leaving 2" between the end of the bench and the end of the mortise and set to. Proper mortise chisels are something I lack but I did have a nasty Stanley 12mm chisel that had snapped last year (I may have used it to chisel out some breeze block under the door frames when laying new flooring :oops: ). A quick-ish trip to the grinder saw it taking a form somewhat approximating a mortise chisel and we were off.

vice mortise 1.jpg vice mortise 2.jpg

The required mortise wasn't a shallow one and it took some time to chop down a full 70mm or so but I did discover this material was prone to splintering and generally being a bit rubbish. Still it was cheap, solid and it's 'only' a workbench - I dread to think how much effort this would have been in a hard wood bench!! I had decided not to drill out the waste due to the narrow width, deep mortise and proximity to the edge - better safe than sorry when you cant easily replace the materials. A little fine tuning was required but with the addition of some packing I now had a working vice again.

vice under.jpg vice fitted.jpg

Turns out in the intervening years or garage corner dwelling, the Record 53 had got a bit neglected. With a mental promise to clean it up when I remove it later I set to squaring up the timbers for the frame. The outer faces were already flat and square (an advantage of buying this material over 2x4s) but annoyingly with a small chamfer of a few mm on the corners. I worked out for the frame I could leave those alone as the rails and stretchers would be set back by 5mm or more and saved myself a lot of hand planing. The planes did come out to clean up the newly sawn faces however and before long I had an almost full set of four square pieces ready for joinery.

all squared up.jpg

'Almost a full set'? In their years of life on the floor of the garage, one of the cut beams had ended up being used in a low bench that I justified to myself at the time by 'replanning' the main bench. Turns out my new plan didn't last and I was two long rails short when I came to this build. So back in April it was off to the only timber yard that would serve Joe Public during lockdown for some 3x3 to laminate up and replace them! That would have to come later however - by this point I was too excited to get on and cut some joints!
 

Cabinetman

Established Member
Joined
5 Jan 2017
Messages
1,017
Reaction score
468
Location
Caistor lincolnshire
That’s exactly how I planted my vice into the top, so many people (particularly Americans for some reason) have the metal back jaw mounted on the front, looks terrible to my eyes.
Before you go to far into this build I think you may find an apron is something you may wish you had fitted in the future, I don’t think you need it particularly for strength in your case but it does stop racking well.
I’m thinking more for holding long bits of timber whilst working on them in the vice. A couple of dog holes level with the bars of your vice are pretty useful.
 

PaulArthur

Established Member
Joined
27 Apr 2019
Messages
43
Reaction score
111
Location
Birmingham
My bench is very similar -
Including the lack of through tenons, and no apron. My split in the top is a bit wider, but otherwise it’s very familiar.

Can’t say I’ve had any problems at all with racking, nor wobbling. I made mine capable of being disassembled for removal in case we move house and so although the left and right sets of legs are glued in themselves, the stretchers across the front and back are held in place with workbench bolts. The tenons on the top aren’t glued either, they’re just bolted through the bearers in the legs.

31777088-72EF-4510-AB07-E9BA8AC956BD.jpeg
 

xraymtb

Established Member
Joined
5 Nov 2007
Messages
499
Reaction score
21
Wow - what a good looking bench!! With the exception of the leg vice its very very similar.

How do you find the split top? I wondered if my gap should be bigger - I dont plan to keep the rear edge flush so I have some flexibility in making it wider. My Bessey clamps are around 36mm so won't fit through it at the moment although every other clamp I own would.
 

mAtKINItice

Established Member
Joined
11 Jun 2019
Messages
36
Reaction score
26
Lovely bench.

I was going down the split top route until 2 nights ago. The new Schwarz book on benches changed my mind though. He claims the split top is harder to build, requires hardware and as both can independently move can cause issues anyway.

Regarding the apron concept, you don't want or need one. One of the big points of this style of bench is you can clamp anywhere and have a flush face at the front of the bench. An apron just gets in the way. The sheer mass of the bench will be enough, split top or not.

I was torn on having a split before anyway, but my first "bench" was a modified workmate and I hated tools falling down the gap. Any clamping benefit I'll make do with dogs, holdfasts or doe's feet which I do now anyway. So I've ditched it.

Here's the thread to the book: Free Chris Schwarz book on benches

Anyway look forward to more of the build.
 

PaulArthur

Established Member
Joined
27 Apr 2019
Messages
43
Reaction score
111
Location
Birmingham
Wow - what a good looking bench!! With the exception of the leg vice its very very similar.

How do you find the split top? I wondered if my gap should be bigger - I dont plan to keep the rear edge flush so I have some flexibility in making it wider. My Bessey clamps are around 36mm so won't fit through it at the moment although every other clamp I own would.
I absolutely love it. I have a big tool tote that I made that sits across the two bearers. That holds lots of tools and niknaks and collects shavings. I don’t clamp through the split that often, but when I need to, I really really need to!

It wasn’t the easiest job to get the two parts co-planar, but I’m really happy with the result.
 

xraymtb

Established Member
Joined
5 Nov 2007
Messages
499
Reaction score
21
Part 4 - Building the End Frames

With the parts for the end frames all ready, it was time for joinery. I never planned a write up so missed taking photos of some elements but a little head scratching and eventually telling myself to just get on with it, I decided on tenons that were 1/3rd of the width of the stretchers and marked out accordingly. Tenons were marked on the top of the leg - these ended up different lengths as somehow I had cut each leg shorter or longer but the shoulders were marked to a set height. Mortises were marked to leave the stretchers 5mm in from the outer face of the legs, with a 150mm gap below the lower one and the top one flush with the finished length of the leg (to support the split top).

The mortises were cut first - removing most of the waste with a 25mm forstner bit and finishing the job with a 25mm chisel. Ideally perhaps I should sized the mortises to suit the tools but we live and learn. It didn't take too long though before the 12 mortises were cut across the 4 legs. The wood again showed it's splintery character and these weren't the cleanest cuts but it got the job done.

mortise1.jpg mortise2.jpg mortise3.jpg mortise_legs.jpg

The tenons were cut next, having decided where each piece would go and having marked the corresponding parts. These were sawn by hand and cleaned up with a chisel but it wasnt leaving the neatest of cuts again. They fit though and the softer wood allowed for slight oversizing of the tenons and a tight joint. What's more they all ended up square!

tenon1.jpg mandt1.jpg m&t2.jpg

After cutting a few and struggling a bit to get them nicely cleaned up and in some cases straight, I remembered I had a router plane tucked away - this made getting the tenons straight and a uniform size much easier and I soon had 4 stretchers done. A quick bit of sawing had the leg top tenons cut and it was time to glue up.

routertenon.jpg legtenon1.jpg

More to follow - the forum only lets me add 10 photos at a time!
 

xraymtb

Established Member
Joined
5 Nov 2007
Messages
499
Reaction score
21
Part 5 - Glue Up

Continuing on...

With the end frames ready it was my chance to try some drawboring. Having never done it before, nor having a way to easily make pegs, nor having drawbore pins, I opted for some 12mm oak dowels and hoping for the best. The legs were drilled with a spacer in the mortise before the frame was test fit and the tenons marked by tapping the drill bit through the original hole. After taking it all apart again, I offset the marks in the tenon by 3mm towards the shoulder and drilled carefully.

I decided to use Liquid Hide Glue for the bench as a belt and braces approach to the drawbores - this isn't intended to come apart or ever leave the sanctity of the workshop so I didn't have to worry about taking things apart in future. With the tenons coated in glue and the frames refit, I applied some clamps just to be sure and quickly tapered the ends of the pegs before driving them in. It turns out my drilling in some cases was spot on and in others perhaps not as some pegs took an effort to drive and visibly tightened up the joint - others slid in relatively easily but all was firm and together it went (you might spot I had 'help' at this stage!!)

inclamps.jpg

I left it overnight before removing the clamps and flushing up the pegs. Remarkably it came out all square with diagonals 1mm out - I'll take that as a win!! For the next frame I reckoned I could go without the clamps - drawboring supposedly negating them anyway and this time did it lying flat. Another win - all square and perfect diagonals this time!! One minor issue - my drawbore holes had gone a touch too far and one of the pegs broke through to the mortise for the long rails. No harm - I let the glue set then chopped the end back to leave a square mortise with a little round oak decoration in the bottom!!

drivingpegs.jpg endframe.jpg

With end frames done, I turned my attention to the long rails. These were meant to be made from the last section of construction beam but as I had used it elsewhere I needed to glue up some more. I had some 3"x3" (90x90mm) lengths that I cut to length and quickly trued up. A night in the clamps and I had my rails. This time I did take a photo of the setting out as I marked out the tenons to the same size and position as the stretchers before cutting and fitting. Finally I had a frame and could turn my attentions to the top.

railclamps.jpg settingout.jpg
 
Top