I have a fever and the only prescription is more Roubo!
I've fired up the process of putting together my own Roubo-inspired workbench. A Roubo bench will offer me several advantages as I increasingly switch to using hand tools such as planes, scrapers, brace drills, etc. It will be short, heavy and functional - just like me - and will, hopefully, be easier on my poor, old back. This Instructable provides a pretty good example of what I'm building.
One advantage I have is personal and long distance mentoring from Chris Schwarz, Roger Green and Owen Daly, all of whom are master woodworkers who have built, modified and otherwise own one or more Roubo-style benches. Schwarz's recommended height for the bench top is level with where the pinky meets the palm of your hand when you hold your arm comfortably at your side. For me, this is about 31 inches. In order to make the most robust, yet affordable, bench I could, I found a cool Craigslist guy who was breaking down a large, laminated fir beam. He agreed to cut it to 4" thickness for me and have it planed and sanded by the time I picked it up.
Cool Craigslist Guy quoted me a price for a 4" x 24" x 78" piece. What I ended up with was a 4" x 31" x 99" piece. And it's heavy. Like, 300 pounds heavy, which is a good thing. Ultimately, I had planned on a 4" x 20" x 72" bench, but Owen is recommending I go with as much length as I can fit in the shop. Frankly, it's going to be a tight fit regardless, so I'm going with a 4" x 20" x 84" model - unless Roger tells me different tomorrow night; he's coming by the shop then for a visit and to talk about how to proceed. One thing I will ask him about is what to do with a sheered off nail I discovered in the beam.
I bet the guy planing was plenty happy to hear it grinding away at his planer knives.
This bench will hold two vises. The first is a leg vise that I will be putting together using parts I've already ordered. The best part of this vise is the crisscross from Benchcrafted recommended by Owen. According to Owen, it will support the vise better than any other solution and allow it to glide with the flip of the handwheel. You may remember the quick-release vise I picked up at Astoria Vintage Hardware a few months ago. Well, it will become the end vise for the thing. And you can see in the first photo above that I decided to go with 6x6 fir legs. I want this thing to be as beefy as possible - I'm tired of chasing boards around the shop.
I attended a Guild of Oregon Woodworkers meetup at the NW Woodworking Studio run by Gary Rogowski last week and left with two handy new tools for the shop. The first is a set of holdfasts for the new bench; notice the nifty leaf motifs on the ends. The second was a high-quality bronze scribing tool I'll be using for keyboards and other marking work. You can see them in the photo below in addition to a micro-edge blade honing tool (accommodates plane blades and chisels quite easily) and a nice, little router plane I'll be using to clean up the spine and cheek dados and rabbets.
On a related tool note, based on adding the Roubo bench to the shop, I'm forced to completely redesign how everything is laid out. I need a better solution for wood storage because I'd rather have tools like the chop saw, blade sharpener, planer, oscillating spindle sander and even the little CNC machine handy so I can just pull one of them up onto the assembly table, clamp it down and get to work. These would be tools I use infrequently and going with this strategy would free up some much-needed floor space. Then again, I'm not 100% on this - something to chat with Roger about, as well.
As I redesign, consolidate and compact the working space yet again, I've decided to get rid of the big, clunky Delta dust collector. Sure, I'd love to keep it or have a nice, overhead system. But, the fact is that I just don't have enough space in the two-car to accomplish what I want - and that's to build harpsichords without tripping over tools and mobile stands. So, it's a hearty goodbye to a friend that's served me well (and which will be replaced by a smaller unit that fits under the right side of the table saw quite nicely).
I posted it on Craigslist for $120 and had a taker within an hour.
Now...what to do with all the boxes of small pieces of wood. I think I have a plan...I'll have to ruminate on it a bit first.
Until next time...