Sunday, October 7, 2012

Roubo Bench - Mostly Done!

I made some good progress on my bench this week.

To recap my progress up to this point, I built this bench in a class with Christopher Schwarz at Dictum in June.  Once it was home, I put it in my little cave of a workshop in the basement, after cleaning out a bunch of the old junk.

New bench freshly installed in the Bat-Cave.
The first thing I did was scrub the top with my home-made scrub plane.  The top was already glued up when we got to the course, so I didn't have much say in grain direction, etc.  It is made up of four massive European oak beams about 5 1/2" square.  There was one in particular that was bowed, and created a hump right down the middle.  I chose to put this on top thinking scrubbing it off would be easier than scrubbing the others down to it's level on the other side.  I was right.  This took only about 10 minutes.

Scrubbing off the hump.

After scrubbing.

My Krenov-style scrub plane in action.

It leaves a fairly pronounced scalloped surface.

It even worked well on the end grain.
So, this is the state my bench has been in for the past few months.  I did a couple things like installed a planing stop, wooden dogs, a tail vice, and had been working on the Benchcrafted face vice.

I actually have been using this bench in this state.  I completed a Krenov-style laminated jointer that I needed for the flattening process.

Now that I have the face vice done, I feel like it is time to flatten the bench.

First, I emptied the shop and cleaned the corners.  All my stuff went in the hallway for a couple days.  Sorry, neighbors!
After making the shop suitable for doing this job by making space, I started by planing across the grain with my BU jack plane with a toothed blade set for an aggressive cut.  I was reluctant to do this with my scrub plane, as I thought the surface left would be difficult to clean up.

This worked great.  I started by knocking down the high spots.  Just make sure to put a small chamfer on the far side to prevent most of the blow-out.

Toothed blade with an aggressive cut. 
I then used the toothed blade to go at a diagonal on the top.  First one way, then the other until everything started to get at basically the same level.

Next up, joint the top going with the grain.  My new Krenov jointer has been tested and I find it does what it is supposed to superbly.  The only problem with it is that the mouth tends to clog up if you don't remove the shavings after each pass.  When using it on an uneven surface (such as this one that has toothing plane tracks on it) the mouth fills up and clogs with all of the dust.  Nothing seems to eject.

I don't think this is necessarily a problem with my construction, just a limitation of this style, with the cross-pin designed as it is.  This is a finesse tool, and cleaning up toothing plane tracks is not a finesse job.

Out came the regular blade for the jack plane, and a few minutes along the grain and the tracks were mostly gone.  NOW it's time for the jointer.

This is probably my favorite plane of the moment.
Taking slightly overlapping passes, I only had to go over each spot four or five times before I was getting nice, full length shavings that indicated the bench was probably as flat as I would get it.

I have to say I am impressed with how this bench works.  It made me realize that I have never before had the opportunity to work on a truly flat work surface.  What a treat!

Complete! (mostly)
I drilled a hole for a holdfast, and two more holes in the leg to store my holdfasts.  I only drilled one hole for now until I see where I could most use another one.  That, and it was a pain, as I had to do it from the underside.  These Gramercy holdfasts won't hold in such a thick top, so I had to drill half-way through with a larger bit before finishing off the rest with the proper size.

Now all that is left is the sliding deadman, and finish.  I am thinking about painting the legs with milk-paint to match my sawbench and toolchest.  The top will either be left unfinished, or perhaps some boiled linseed oil.  I haven't decided yet.

In the meantime, this bench is perfectly functional and I intend to use the snot out of it.

Next up:  Complete the tills in the toolchest.  I have been hung up on this because I am reluctant to resaw the wood I have to make the tills.  Luckily, Steve Branam has posted a how-to today that makes me excited to try it.

Wish me luck!

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  1. It looks like a phone booth would be a bigger space than your shop.

    1. Haha! You could be right.

      It is the only space that I have, though. Usually I have to share this space with some storage which I got out of the way for this project.

      Needless to say I am jealous of your space, as seen on your blog

  2. Great job on the top. How did the vice build/installation go? I just picked up the benchcrafted glide vise and need to start thinking about hot to retrofit it into my existing roubo bench (although it's not as nice as yours!)

    Thanks for the great post.


    1. Hi Michael, thanks for the nice words.

      The vice build takes forever if you do what I did and work on it ten minutes a day. :o)

      You'll love this vice. I think a retrofit shouldn't be that much harder than installing it from the get-go. I would recommend using a bit and brace and drill everything a little oversize just in case it isn't perfectly straight.

      I did demonstrate in an earlier post how to use an expansion bit to drill the 1 3/4" hole in the chop. Check it out:

  3. That bench looks so good. And I really like the look of the wooden jointer. Its just like an old racing car from the 1930'ies.

    1. And they both work so awesomely.

      I take it you are back aboard. This means six more weeks of you reading my blog!

    2. Yep.
      I apologize for not being so active for the past 4 weeks, but as you have guessed, I am now back on the vessel.
      I hate to turn on a computer when I am at home, it just feels wrong, but out here, the working computer is switched on anyway, so it is easy to take five minutes once in a while.

      I have milled some larch for a Roubo, so I'll try to start up that project once I get back home. But it all depends on what other projects needs some attention.

    3. Larch will be a fine wood for a Roubo. I had expected this bench to be completely made of pine, and was surprised to see they had these Oak tops for us when I took the class.

      A Roubo bench is complete overkill anyway, and now with a 5 1/2" oak top it is just a matter of making me smile when I look at it.

      Larch will be more than plenty strong enough, easier to shape the way you want it, and easy to maintain. I imagine flattening the top will be a breeze. Plus, the softwood will give a bit giving you a nice grippy surface on which to work. Did you mill it yourself?

      Good luck!

  4. Hi Brian
    nice bench! have you decided on the top finish? did you used boiled linseed oil or the magic Schwarz mixture = BLO + varnish + mineral spirit? I found some linseed oil at dictum, but wondering if it's boiled... it says that the oil is pre-oxidized = same as boiled ? I saw that you made a plane block, does it need any particular attention? I have this old roubo bench that I am fixing, it does have a rectangular hole for a plane block that is missing, I am building a new one out of a log of cherry wood. It just needs to be tight-fitted, correct?
    Many thanks for your help

    1. Hi Aymeric,

      Nice to hear from you again.

      I haven't put any finish at all on my bench. I likely never will. I like the feel the bare wood gives to the bench. If anything, I may put some milk paint on the pine parts some day to give it a shaker look. It still needs a sliding deadman and a bottom shelf. Someday, when I get a round tuit.

      I think the stuff at Dictum is pure linseed oil, not sure. The German word for BLO is Leinoelfirnis. You can get it at the home center.

      The planing stop I wasn't so sure would be that handy, but thought I would put it in anyway. This thing is awesome. I use it more than my vise. I prefer it to my vise, in fact. I love just slapping a board down on the bench top and being able to plane away. And yes, it is just a friction fit. I whack it with a mallet to move it up and down. Perhaps a shaving should come off of it somewhere, as depending on the season it moves a little tighter.

    2. thanks for your quick reply Brian, appreciate it! I found some BLO in France, will order it. Good to hear about the plane stop, was always wary of those so called dog stops, not sure they work as effectively as a plane stop...
      take care