Completed French Oak Roubo Project Bench

French Oak Roubo Project Leg ViseIt’s been only 8 months since a group of us got together in Barnesville, Georgia to build reasonably close replicas of the workbench described and illustrated in A.J. Roubo’s L’Art du Menusier. And I can finally report that my bench is now complete. It would have been finished much sooner, but… well, there were lots of reasons. I did decide that I wanted a tail vise (a wagon vise, actually), and I needed to design it as a suitable complement to the massive leg vise with a vise screw from Lake Erie Toolworks and ironwork from Peter Ross. French Oak Roubo Project Bench; tail viseI went back to both of these craftsmen and had Nick at Lake Erie make a somewhat smaller (2” diameter, 3 ½ tpi, reverse threaded) vise screw and traveling dog block, and commissioned Peter to forge a smaller ring and handle. After a little bit of fitting my sliding dog block to the bench, I’ve gotten the wagon-style vise to work perfectly.

The reverse threading on the vise screw means that with clockwise rotation of the handle, the dog block travels away from the end of the bench and tightens against whatever you’re clamping on the bench-top,

Underside of Wagon Vise

Underside of Wagon Vise

Thanks to Jameel at Benchcrafted for pointing this out before I ordered the screw! I devised a hidden garter to secure the vise screw in place; it bolts on from the inside of the end-cap and is completely hidden under the end of the vise hub.

Other details: I’ve set too much of a precedent to not use hounds-tooth dovetails on the end cap of the bench. This now makes four benches with that detail (I think I can stop now). I also shortened up the vise handle for the leg vise. I felt that it was a little long in use, and then I noticed that on Roubo’s Plate 11 it seemed much shorter than what I had, so I went ahead and cut it down.

The bench functions beautifully, and looks great. It’s exciting to add this to my collection of great benches. Will it stay perfectly flat? Probably not. But I’ll just flatten it again when it needs it.  I’ll have more information after another couple changes of season.

 

Workbench BaseNow that I’ve got yet another killer bench, I’ve actually got some spare bench stuff available for sale. I made rock-solid a trestle-style workbench base out of ash a couple of years back. The base is 28” by 59” and 33” high. It bolts together, and is easy to transport. No top. $250

 

Garrett Wade Bench

 

I also have a bench that I purchased from Garrett Wade many years ago. The vise is a little wonky, but the bench 16¼” by 53” by 34¾” high) is in decent shape. Base also unbolts for easier transport. $150

I’ve also got what is essentially a butcher block top with two Jorgenson vises on it, with a row of ¾”dog holes drilled in it. 30” by 60” by 1¾” thick). (not pictured) $425

The Hidden Agenda

I have a few classes coming up that offer interesting opportunities to learn some of the less commonly taught skills.

The Slat-Back Chairs from J. Miller Handcrafted FurniturApril 21st through 26th in my shop, I’ll be teaching how to make  my slat-back chair. This is both a chair basics class and a class in some really sophisticated techniques. And it’s all very do-able. You’ll learn about cutting and smoothing curves, and also about lamination as a way to make exceptionally strong, thin curved components. The joinery on this chair covers what you’d need for almost any other joined chair; and I’m excited to be able to show off all kinds of methods for making even the most complex mortise and tenon joints simple. Chairs have been my focus for the last 30 years, and this is a chance to tap into the insights, techniques and tricks that I’ve learned.

Stool/Table for the Wortheffort Woodworking School ClassOn May 9th – 11th, I’ll be at the Wortheffort School of Woodworking in San Marcos, Texas. The project here is a small stool or table (it works and looks good either way). This is an opportunity to master hand-cut mortise and tenon joinery, and there are a few dovetails thrown in just for fun. Mortise and tenon joinery is the backbone of all woodworking; it’s the best joint for joining parts in most furniture projects. But it somehow gets short shrift compared to the dovetail (its showy, and much more famous sibling). I’ve been cutting mortise and tenon joints using countless different methods since my very first days as a woodworker. And I’ve been teaching what I’ve learned (and continue to learn) for almost 20 years.

And then on May 19th through 23rd, I’ll be at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking, in Port Townsend, Washington (a spectacularly beautiful town on the Puget Sound) I’ll be teaching a class on building case pieces. The project is a small nightstand, but the fundamental construction techniques apply to all kinds of traditionally joined casework. We’ll cover frame and panel construction, mortise and tenon joinery, and half-blind dovetails; along with gluing up and smoothing panels, ship-lapped backs, and more. This is an ambitious project, but it all comes together beautifully, with lots of methods that make the seemingly difficult much easier.

So what’s the hidden agenda? Throughout each of these classes, I’m secretly trying to make you a significantly better woodworker. I’ve been pretty focused over the past few years on what really makes a difference in a person’s woodworking abilities (leading to the publication of my book, The Foundations of Better Woodworking); stuff that doesn’t get a whole lot of play in your typical book or article. And I’ve found that this foundational stuff makes a huge difference for my students. I’m constantly looking out for little things that I can help you to understand what you’re doing better, and ways you can use your body more efficiently and accurately to get the work done.

And don’t miss the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event taking place in my shop this coming weekend (April 11th 10 am – 6 pm, and April 12th, 10 am – 5 pm).