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Making and Using Tools - Shop Benches and Other Appliances

  Building the Roubo Bench by Fred McClure 1 of 9  

I have wanted a good bench for several years now, and I was going to wait until I had a permanent place to live before building it. When I bought my house, I thought I would be there forever, but alas, my job decided to move a year after I bought the house. I have two basic choices, move with the job, or find another job in the area, and fix it up.

I am using the WWTM (Wife ĖWants- To- Move) decision matrix. That being said, with the housing market the way it is, I may be here awhile anyway. Therefore, I am going to make my bench. I will make it portable though, so I can take it when I leave.

I joined the US Navy a couple years after graduating from high school and I went into the Data Processing field. I never forgot my dream of building things. I remember watching Roy Underhill on television, and the way he seemed to enjoy what ever he was working on, always impressed me. Thanks Roy for being such a happy instructor.

I remember feeling challenged in 6th grade woodshop, and I always wanted to improve my skills. This is the first real project I have had since then. It was a real pleasure going from digital to analog. I will take some structured classes later, but for now, this will be merely the beginning. I make no apologizes for the mistakes that will show, but I am just a beginner so cut me some slack.

Fortunately, I have the benefit of the wisdom of Roy Underhill and Chris Schwartz readily available. Their prolific work is a resource that I constantly referred back to. Thanks guys. This project would have resulted in a less satisfying end, if not for your guidance.

I figure that this will be my last or at least next to last bench. I am tired of using pallets that I picked up from stores (with permission) before they made their way to the dumpster.

I will use the general guidance from Chris and make the dimensions 2 ft wide and at least 8 ft long. The bench I am using now is 33 inches high. That seems to work pretty good for me, so that is the height I am going to make this one.

I settled on the Roubo bench, mainly because I remember loving to use the hand plane. This bench seemed ideal, especially with the hook on the end. I think it looks cool and gives the impression that I might actually know what I am doing. I know a few of the things I wanted to do, were overkill, but I was using this bench as a woodworking class. I made it as rugged as I could.

I collected tools for my entire Navy career, and since I was constantly moving, my tools were in continual storage. With the exception of a few items, the vast majority of my tools are hand tools. The best part is that I was able to buy some higher quality tools over the years, since I was in no hurry to get anything built. I have also been scrounging some antique stores and websites to fill the gaps in my basic collection. I managed to get some tools from my dad, since he did not use them anymore. To my pleasant surprise, most of my dadís tools were made in the USA.

I bought some 2x6x8ís at my local home center, and placed them in my workshop to acclimate prior to actually starting the work. This was pretty easy; since I work 14 hr days and most weekends, leaving something until later was a snap. I left the wood acclimate for a little more than 3 weeks in my shop before starting work.

The articles on this site and other readings suggest ripping them to the proper width prior to laminating them, but I donít have the luxury of equipment or the time that would be required. I am going to take a longer but hopefully more fulfilling path of planning it by hand to remove the rounded edges later in the construction. I also expect this method to result in a thicker bench top.

I decided to leave the 2x6ís the entire length. It saves me time, results in a heavier bench and from readings on Chrisís blogs, the longer the better. It also has the added advantage of irritating my wife, which is priceless in itself. I used my joiner plane to flatten the surfaces a little bit before I laminated the boards together.

I calculated that I would need sixteen 2x8ís to get my two foot wide top. I laminated 3 at a time, because that seemed to be the best way for me to accomplish it. It took me 2 weeks to laminate the boards in groups of three. I could have accomplished it quicker, but I have so little free time itís ridiculous. I used almost an entire gallon of Titebond III on the laminating process. I am glad I covered my bench with wax paper before hand. I had a bit leak out, but that was OK since this bench will be destined for other things.

First Disaster

What would a project be without messing up? Before I started gluing up the boards, I made sure that they would stack together with no bowing. Everything seemed to work fine, but when I attempted to glue up boards nine, ten, and eleven, there was a slight bow. I clamped the boards together anyway, and hoped for the best. When I removed the clamps the next day, there was still a little bit of a gap at one of the ends. I figure that once I cut off the end for the end cap, I will not have too big of a gap.

Second Disaster

I noticed as I was gluing up the boards, that my collection of longs clamps would not be sufficient. I thought that if I had a clamp every 2 ft that would be sufficient. While gluing the different groups of three boards together, I used a clamp every foot or so. I would have liked to have had at least one more 36 ďlong clamp. I did not have the luxury of buying some additional clamps, so I had to continue on and hope for the best.

I had the idea that I would place the already glued up pieces on top of the remaining three. That way I could use gravity to assist me (this thing was getting heavy). I used two clamps to hold it in place, while I tried to flip it over. The top was a great deal heavier than I thought it would be and to make the story short I dropped it. I smashed my foot, fingers and I had glue all over the place.

Fortunately, nothing was broken. I settled for the idea of using some scraps I had to get the top off the floor and try again. I was pretty successful, but I did not make it as even as the other boards. I should have figured out some way to make it line up better, but I never thought about it. Chalk up another experience point again. I will have to plane off a little more than I thought to get a flat top. Experience is a good teacher. I will be a hand planning fool once this is finished.

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