Roubo Progress – The Undercarriage

A couple of weekends ago our family visited some friends in Mechanicsburg, PA and helped Chris in his metal shop, working on a kit plane. You can check out our Saturday & Sunday progress. This past weekend, Chris’s family came to visit ours and he was able to return the favor in my woodshop.

On the docket: getting the stretchers milled, glued, and (hopefully) joined. I still had enough boards that were S4S from the mass-milling I did when planning for the bench top, so the heavy milling was already done. A quick swipe of an edge and a face at the jointer and we could start measuring. I decided to make all of the stretchers out of two boards laminated together. One board would be the distance between the legs, the second board longer than the first, with an equal amount of the extra length on each end forming the tenon. Saturday was composed of cutting the boards to length & gluing the pairs together to roughly form each stretcher.

Sunday we returned to clean those glue-ups. A couple of passes at the jointer flattened the side we tried to keep flush during glue-up (along with removing a little squeeze-out). From there we ran all four stretchers through the planer to make them all the same height. That doesn’t really matter for functionality of the bench, but it will making installing the shelf  easier, along with making the bench look better.

Once things were sized properly, we went to work on the tenons. The stretchers ended up around 4.5″ wide, so I decided to lop an inch off of each side of the tenon. I used my tenon saw to cut the shoulders, using each end of the shorter board as a guide. With all those shoulders cut, Chris took the stretchers over to the band saw to cut the tenons to width. I could have made those cuts by hand, but decided on the bandsaw for two reasons:

  1. It allowed us to both work at the same time, and
  2. I don’t have a good means to hold boards to work on their ends (I am still building a bench, you know)


With the tenons cut, it was time for some layout, starting with the short stretchers. I oriented the two legs with their end faces facing down and put the stretcher between them with its “short” half down. I positioned the bottom of the stretcher 3″ from the bottom of the legs then traced the tenon onto each leg.

From this point it was a lot of grunt work. We drilled out a lot of the mortise material with forstner bits and a hammer drill. From there it was a lot of chopping, prying, and paring with a few chisels. After getting four satisfying wooden thunks, we were able to put the short stretchers in place:


Up next is to layout and cut out the mortises for the long stretchers. The legs aren’t quite square, so I should be able to make the tenon lengths in such a way that the tenons don’t bump into one another inside each leg.


Thanks again, Chris!

2013 – The Lost Year

It is pretty easy to say that 2013 was a bit of a lost year. I only blogged twice last year and that was somewhat indicative of the amount of progress I made in the shop. The one “big” project I completed (Greene & Greene Inspired Towel Rack) I did blog about.

Despite the lack of posts there were a few other woodworking projects, fine and otherwise, that made varying levels of progress this year:

  • Flower Bed – In our back yard we had a pretty boring wall space beneath our breakfast nook. I happen to have some 4×6 beams that we dug out of the ground in the backyard (they had been used to line a swing-set area) that I could repurpose here. There wasn’t a ton of woodworking here – mostly cross-cutting to length and a handful of pocket screws to hold everything together.


  • Raised Bed Gardens – The flower bed above isn’t the only dirt-filled box I built in the spring. My family did a ton of vegetable gardening this year and I put together the raised beds to make that happen. We built four beds that measured 4′ by 12′. Those beds were put together from construction 2x12s, held together with corner stakes and deck screws. In addition, there are two 4′ by 4′ beds (on the right) that took a little more effort. I used the same reclaimed 4x6s mentioned above to build these. Those boards were resawn on the band saw, then edge glued to give me the desired height.


  • Happy Knife, Happy Wife – The other “fine” woodworking project I actually completed this year was an anniversary gift for Michelle. She really threw herself into the gardens this summer and wanted a knife to use for pruning and harvesting the vegetables. I bought a Damascus steel blade and added wooden scales to the handle. I used a cocobolo turning blank for the scales and an O1 steel rod for the pins.


  • Roubo Bench – I made some more progress on my bench build since I posted about my first leg tenon last March. I’ve since cut the top tenons on all four legs and hogged out all four mortises for them. There is still some fitting to be done (remember, these are the first four M&T joints I’ve ever cut for a project) before moving on to the stretchers. As can be partially seen in the photo, the bottom of the bench works fairly well as a bench itself as I’m working on bench parts or other projects.


  • WFC Easel – The walnut you see in the picture above was purchased to participate in the Woodworkers Fighting Cancer charity build. I didn’t complete the project in time to benefit the charity, but at this point I’m almost finished. There should be a blog post (I promise to post more in 2014 than I did in 2013) in the near future covering this build.

That was pretty much it for shop-related work this year. I hope to finish the last two bullets “soon” with the easel completion being imminent and the bench being a labor of love that will be finished when it is finished.

Confidence from Minimal Experience

I’ll get a bigger blog post out about the progress I’ve made on the Roubo, but first I wanted to share about my shop session last night.  I consider myself a hybrid woodworker, but my hand sawing experience is fairly limited. Beyond a few sets of practice dovetails, I haven’t done much sawing by hand, let alone joinery by hand.

Given that back story, what on earth would give me the impression that I should cut the tenons for my bench legs by hand? The answer – Two short sessions cutting a tenon at the Hand Tool Olympics at Woodworking in America. Not just the fact that I cut two tenons, but I got feedback and instruction after cutting them. This is the often overlooked portion of the Hand Tool Olympics, the ability to get people like Adam Cherubini and Bob Rozaieski to give you tips to improve your skills.

Special shout-out to Mike Siemsen, who makes the Olympics, as well as this picture below, possible:


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!