TWK Split Top Roubo Workbench: Intro & Design

I’ve been building up to it for awhile, but I’ve finally started worked on my split top roubo workbench!

Episode List

I’ll update this post with links to the other parts as they’re completed and published.

  1. Intro & Design (this post)
  2. Top
  3. Base
  4. Sliding Deadman

Plans?

There will be plans, though they’re not finished yet. The plans won’t just be dimensional drawings (though it’ll contain them), it will include build guides, tips, etc. As such, it’s hard to give advice on how to build something before I finish building it!

There will be an update post (and this post will be updated) when plans are available.

Timber choice

For the wood in the workbench, I’m primarily using “construction grade” hardwood. In eastern states of Australia, this is Tasmanian Oak. Well, its the same species as Tasmanian Oak, which is just a ‘marketing’ name for the wood. Victorian Ash, Tasmanian Oak, Mountain Ash and Messmate are actually all the same species of trees. In this case, its just “F17 KD HWD”. F17 is the grade which refers to knots (<1/4 the width), wane (<1/5 the cross section) and gum (<1/6 length) and the  strength of the species. KD is kiln dried, HWD is ‘undisclosed hardwood’ – it varies from location to location. I’ll just refer to it as F17 or Vic Ash from here to differentiate it from the Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) that I’m using for accents to indicate ‘work holding’.

The F17 has several advantages

  • Its fairly inexpensive, the whole bench set me back just a little over $300AUD. Pine would have been about $200 anyway,
  • Its not pine, meaning its straighter, has less resin which results in less cleaning of blades and bits, and its drier,
  • Its heavier and stronger than pine,
  • Readily available – Bunnings, Mitre10, Bowens and other general hardware stores that have timberyards are likely to stock it,
  • While its still ‘construction’ grade, it is a fairly attractive, straight grained timber. All of mums furniture last year was Vic Ash, just “clearer” grade
  • Because its ‘construction’ timber, it comes in all the ‘x45’ dimensions – I’m using 90x45mm (2×4), but there is also 140x45mm (2×6), 190x45mm (2×8) and 240x45mm (2×10) meaning if you want to follow along, construction grade pine will result in a near identical bench.
  • Did I mention its not pine?

In all seriousness, pine is fine for a workbench. The overall size means there is still enough weight. The pine in my area is always dripping wet and full of internal tension – I’d have to season it for a year before it was ‘usable’.

For all “work holding” parts (vise chop, divider, sliding deadman, maybe even bench dogs), I’ll be using some left over Blackwood that I have. It is fairly gnarly – some dry rot, knots, etc – so I wouldn’t use it for furniture, but for shop fixtures its fantastic. My moxon vise used blackwood for the chops, and tas oak for the screws, so its an appropriate ‘theme’.

Design

fusion360_2016-10-14_08-17-33

The design is nothing revolutionary – it takes many cues from BenchCrafted’s Split Top Roubo (they have free dimensional drawings). The major differences are around the leg vise, the tail vise, and the dimensions are tailored to what suits me. I’m not sure if there are construction method differences.

The bench features two chunky, laminated slabs separated (or split if you will) on the top. The split allows for a removable ‘tool stop’ (or gap stop, or divider) that provides a place to temporarily store tools. Flip the stop around, and it can be used as a planning or saw stop. Remove it entirely and now you can get clamps in for clamping all over the workbench, not just near the front and rear edges.

There have been times when my existing workbench has needed to be moved out of the workshop entirely, and though its shorter and pine, it isn’t an easy solo task. This time around, I’m going for a knock down design. The top slabs will be secured via large tenons and lag screws, but no glue. The long stretchers will also have large tenons, and be secured with bench bolt hardware (which I made a few months back). The “end assemblies” (legs + short stretchers) will be glued together. This will allow all the individual pieces to be moved by myself, quickly.

Related posts

  • Steve Davis

    Hey Paul, I was just wondering if you’re planning on putting that thing on casters? I have a small shop so mobility is a must, but I haven’t had much luck finding sturdy retractable casters over here (also in Aus).

  • No. Permanent casters are a bad idea for a handtool workbench – I’ve not seen any with locks that don’t wobby at least a little, though I haven’t tried 150mm+ wheels. Even at full weight it’ll be easy enough to slide it out of the way should I need to. As for retractable, Hafco (http://www.machineryhouse.com.au/W935) have a set that are OK.

  • socceroos

    Hey Paul, long time watcher first time comment.
    Love the show and demo, appreciate a woodworking video with metric measurements! although watching produced by americans has improved my understanding of the impreial system.
    Question, how did you do the pinless vice? does the bottom tube need to be drilled at an angle? or does the steel tube is automatically offset?
    Thanks,
    Eddie

  • I haven’t constructed the vice yet.

  • socceroos

    hey thanks for the response, that explains the lack of video. I will be finding it out together as I just ordered the parts.

    There isn’t too much material on its assembly on the internet either. It almost reads like it goes in straight and it magically works.

    Have to test this out

  • Steve Davis

    Hey Paul, any updates regarding plans for this workbench?

  • I still haven’t made the vice 🙁

  • Steve Davis

    Hmmm… I guess that’s somewhat understandable given that you already have that badass Moxon vice :p

  • Steve Davis

    Hey Paul, me again with another workbench question (sorry :-/). Is there any particular reason you went with 20mm shaft for the parallel guide? The guy who came up with the idea (Matt Armstrong) used 30mm shaft, and he says “20mm would be too small” in a post on TWW forum (http://www.thewoodwhisperer.com/articles/roubo-workbench-leg-vise-alternative-linear-bearings/).

  • Look up the price difference. At the time, there were no sources that’d talk to me for 25mm or 30mm x 600mm. It was 1200mm+ or 20mm.

  • Steve Davis

    Do you reckon it would work to use two of them? Like one in the middle and one near the bottom?

  • Hrm, I can’t see why it wouldn’t work. It’d require a bit more precision I think, but once you’re passed the alignment issues it’d be pretty sturdy. A single thicker shaft will be better, if you can find it/afford it, but 2 smaller ones would increase rigidity.

  • Steve Davis

    Well you can buy the thicker stuff on eBay, but the quality would obviously be a bit of a lucky dip (but that said, I’ve previously bought smaller shafts and bearings on eBay to make some of Matthias’s homemade machines and didn’t have any issues).

    Where did you get your 20mm stuff from? I must admit I’m probably leaning towards just trying a single 20mm shaft, given that I can always put a second one in later if required.

  • CNCCupcakes on ebay, which are a melbourne based seller of CNC parts. And also cupcake parts, weirdly.