The Roubo Build Begins!

Do you remember almost three years ago when I bought ~500 board feet of southern yellow pine? I have finally gotten around to putting it to use. After moving this pile

six different places, it’s is time to finally make a bench out of it. One key (besides finally getting a large block of time) to getting this project going was the most recent acquisition for the garage, the Harbor Freight dust collector:

My shop vac has done a yoeman’s job in the shop, but it is in no way capable of handling the amount of chips I needed to create with my jointer & planer. I’ll have a post later on the DC and my plans for it.

Speaking of those chips, I made a metric crap ton of them. Actually, it was about 30 cubic feet of pine sawdust. After sorting the rough pile to pick out the pieces with the least twist, I jointed one face and one edge of all the “mostly straight” boards. I even found some cool mineral staining on some of the boards.

After a face and an adjacent edge were jointed, I planed each board to thickness. I didn’t bring every board to the same thickness, but rather planed just enough off to get a flat surface.

With those S3S boards, it was time to start my glue-ups. The plan was to do smaller glue-ups of four boards each, then combine those and see where my width would be. I chose the thickest boards I had left in order to reduce the total number of boards I would need for the top.

After letting the glue dry on three slabs of four board each, I had to surface the fourth side. I waited until after the first round of glue-ups  in order to reduce the number of times I was walking back and forth around the planer! I first ran each slab through until it was flat on that fourth face. Then I ran all three slabs through the planer to bring them to the same thickness, which was about 4.5 inches.

I had ~22 3/4″ of width when those three slabs were clamped together. Since my goal for the top is 24 inches, I needed a little over two more inches. That was more than any single board I had in the pile, so I planed to down my two skinniest boards to about 9/8″ each.

With all my pieces now ready, It was time for the massive glue-up. In order to best distribute the clamping pressure on the last two individual boards, I sandwiched each between two of the larger slabs. This left the whole top glue-up as slab – single board – slab – single board – slab, as seen above.

Next time I’ll talk about squaring off the ends and flattening that massive slab!

Southern Hospitality

A couple of weeks ago I had a three-day training class down in Charlotte, NC. My wife decided to make a vacation out of it and picked me up when the class was done, from which we drove to the Asheville area to visit some friends in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This gave me two different woodworking tales to take from the long weekend:

1)In Pisgah Forest, NC I got this chance to meet local cabinetmaker John Dillon of Wood Crafters, Inc. John’s shop is in a barn that actually dwarfs the small house in front of it. In the center of the shop are two old Powermatic table saws, one with a single blade and the other dedicated to the stacked dado blade. The saws sit at opposite corners of a large work surface so that the out-feed support of one table is actually the right wing extension of the other saw.  The other large tool I noticed in the shop was a really old, 18″ General band saw. 

The feature of John’s shop that most caught my eye was the wood. Racks of wood. Shelves of wood. Wood in piles. Wood in the barn lofts. Wood under tarps outside. John had thousands of board feet of all kinds of wood: maple (spalted, figured, and otherwise), cherry, chestnut, pine – and that was just what I noticed.  As it turns out, living in the Blue Ridge Mountains has a few advantages if you’re a woodworker. Mainly, he gets almost all of his wood for practically free.  He doesn’t have a large plot of land that he’s clearing; people bring wood to him!  Most folks who know him (it is a small town) will bring him whole tree trunks that they have cut down – for free!  All he has to do is pay a guy who has a portable saw mill (similar to a Wood Mizer) who makes those trunks into boards for about $0.30 a board foot.

The thing that kept me from leaving fully green with envy was John’s graciousness and generosity. There I was, some kid (relatively) wandering around his shop while he’s trying to complete a beautiful cherry cabinet for a kitchen commission he was building – yet he took time to talk to me, to answer and ask questions. He was also extremely giving person, as he asked if I had room in my car to take a couple of pieces of wood home with me.

A cross-section of a spalted log:

and a plank:

of amazingly figured maple:


While we were talking, he had asked if I owned a draw knife (I do) and mentioned that he was curious about getting one. With a couple of quick searches on eBay and a few weeks for shipping gave me the opportunity to return the kindness he showed me:

2) If any of you are on Twitter (follow me!), you may have noticed Kari Hultman of The Village Carpenter tweet a link to a new blog about workbenches: Bench Vice. The author of Bench Vice (and Wood Therapy) is Tim Williams, a woodworker in the Asheville, NC area. Some readers may notice that Tim is the designer of the Joinery Bench that Chris Schwarz blogged about a few months ago. When he’s not building his own pieces or teaching at the Asheville Woodworking School, Tim gives free demos at Asheville Hardware – a local Rockler reseller.

The weekend I was in the area, Tim was giving a demo about hand planes. By the time I got to the store, Tim was well into tuning a block plane that one customer had brought to the demo. After some time lapping, sharpening, and the other fiddling Tim had explained how to make a $40 block plane perform like one that cost five times as much – which is what that gentleman now possessed. Tim ran the whole gamut of bench plane topics: what the numbers mean, how they are different, what order to use the planes, etc. After a while, Tim and I started talking about benches: his Joinery Bench and how it came about, my plans for a bench, and his love for twin screw vises.

Those serendipitous trips made for a quite a wonderful weekend – and that was all before the actual vacation part!

Wood Gloat – Southern Yellow Pine

Tonight marked another step towards building that seminal rite of passage in the woodworking:  building one’s own workbench.

Today we have a plethora of resources on the ins and outs of workbench design, not the least of which is Chris Schwarz’s book Workbenches:


Not only do we have this book, but several other instructional sources for building our own benches. There have also been several bloggers who have shared their experiences while building their benches (just to link a few).  I’ve been following and reading all I can in preparation for constructing my own bench.

Part of that preparation has been looking for a bunch of wood to use for the bench top.  I’ve made a regular habit of combing Craigslist every couple of days to see if I could find that hidden gem of an ad offering the impossible.  I think I found it.  Tonight I bought (literally) a truck load of southern yellow pine – a Schwarz bench top favorite:



That’s forty-two 10 foot 2x6s and six 12 foot 2x6s.  I got the whole lot (almost 500 board feet) for a ridiculously low price of $125!  There’s probably enough wood in there to build two nice workbenches.  As I was unloading the boards out of the truck, I couldn’t help but wonder if I should build a 10 foot long bench with a 6 inch thick top!

The biggest negative with a score this size is I don’t really have a whole lot of room to store the wood until I can get to actually using.  While there are projects in progress in the garage (especially big ones like the crib), I have resorted to the Wood Zealot’s storage system – my dining room floor*!

*Note – this storage location is wife approved.