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  1. #1
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    Default Roubo Bench Issues and Questions

    I am about to build a new bench. My existing bench is 18 years old, has been modified many times over the years to keep pace with my changing approach to woodwork, and is showing its years. It is small - about 4'10" long. It is too wide - about 26". The top has been planed down so many times that the dowels I used to orientate the boards all those years ago are now showing half their thickness. Although the legs are spindly, the bench is really rigid as it is bolted to the wall (the new bench will be placed about 2 ft from the wall). The Record 52 1/2 vises are now hopeless. The front vise racks and the tail vise does not open unless you hold down the release lever while you turn the handle. And it is too dark. The Karri top may look exotic in pictures, but it does not reflect light well.



    The bench has been a good friend but I still find it amazing that I managed to do so much work on it. I procrastinated and avoided building another as I generally dislike building shop furniture. Or using good wood that would better be used on furniture for the home. But now it is time for a new bench, a better bench.

    I like the simplicity of a Roubo. I thank Chris Schwarz for his research and the information he disseminated. It has been educational.

    Since building a Moxon vise (for dovetailing) a year ago I have come to recognise that my face vise needs (for planing edges) would now be best met by a leg vise. I plan to build one with a 2" Lake Erie wooden screw, while the tail vise is a Benchcrafted wagon vise (both USA).

    Generally I try and build as much as I can from recycled timber. I find a lot of old Jarrah roof trusses. These are dry and hard. They will be turned into the base.

    Today I dug out the rafters that I thought would work best. These are 3"- 3 1/2" x 4"- 4 1/2" and around 80" long. I should be able to get four legs at 3" x 5". I am aiming for a 34" high bench.



    Question 1: Your thoughts on dimensions for the legs? What are the dimensions of your benches legs?

    The top is to be 4" thick, 21-22" wide and 6 ft long (perhaps 6'6" if I can squeeze it), built from European Oak (which means it likely originated from Eastern Europe). One of the members of my local ww club bought a shipment imported by a failed business, and was selling it at the price for Tassie Oak, which lacks its stability and texture. This was jointed and thicknessed for me, and has been "acclimatizing" (aka lying around) for several months. There has been minimal movement.





    Two boxes at the top ... BenchCrafted tail vise and woodscrew ...



    Question 2: I plan to add rectangular dogholes. How far apart are yours (my thoughts run to about 3")? I plan to get them as close to the edge of the top as possible - it depends on the positioning of the BC tail vise. For those with the BC, how close did you place yours?

    Question 3: Also for those using the BC end vise, what is the length and width of the cut out for the vise?


    My intention is to build a wooden replica of the steel screw leg vise designed by BenchCrafted. The key feature here are the wheel guides. I plan to use roller skate wheels. Any other wheels to consider (with a smooth running internal bearing)?

    Question 4: I believe both Chris Schwarz and Jameel Abraham recommended that the leg vise screw is placed 9" below the top of the chop. Anyone do anything different, or would have feedback on their experience?

    Regards from Perth

    Derek
    Visit www.inthewoodshop.com for tutorials on constructing handtools, many handtool reviews, and my trials and tribulations with furniture builds.

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  3. #2
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    Default

    hi Derek
    Quote Originally Posted by derekcohen View Post
    Question 1: Your thoughts on dimensions for the legs? What are the dimensions of your benches legs?
    structurally, 3x3" will be plenty strong enough. the critical issue is the rigidity of the whole base.
    however, aesthetically 3x3 will look spindly. mock up a few legs using cardboard and pick one that looks "right"

    Question 2: I plan to add rectangular dogholes. How far apart are yours (my thoughts run to about 3")? I plan to get them as close to the edge of the top as possible - it depends on the positioning of the BC tail vise. For those with the BC, how close did you place yours?
    ideally your dog holes should be spaced at 1/3 to 1/2 the travel of your wagon vise. that way you minimise the number of turns required when changing the length of a workpiece. the Schwarz and Benchcraft both have blogs on this, as do the Taunton bench (drool) books

    Question 3: Also for those using the BC end vise, what is the length and width of the cut out for the vise?
    I'm sure I read a BC blog post on this earlier in the week

    My intention is to build a wooden replica of the steel screw leg vise designed by BenchCrafted. The key feature here are the wheel guides. I plan to use roller skate wheels. Any other wheels to consider (with a smooth running internal bearing)?
    Derek, I'm not sure what you mean by this. (Using a tablet means it's hard to look up other sites)
    regards from Sydney

    ian

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    Derek

    I'm half responding so that I can help answer your questions, and half to see how this thread progresses.

    In terms of the leg dimensions, I think 3" is too spindly as Ian said. Perhaps if the 5" dimension is across the width of the bench (i.e. visible from the front) it would be OK. I am planning 90x90 or even 100x100 on my bench (made from laminating two pieces of the same stock I will use for my bench top. From the look of the pics, you are joining 4 rafters together to make the legs? Is there a way to rearrange the timber to get 4"x4"?

    Have you thought about what you will use for the stretchers?

    I can't help much with the other questions. I think the distance of the bench dogs would be determined by the location of the tailvice. I don't think you want them too close to the front of the bench as it could limit the width of panels you are clamping.

    And as for the wheels, i can't think of anything better than roller skate wheels. The biggest question is what flashy colour you want them in?

    Finally, are you going with a split top, or solid?

    Trav
    Some days we are the flies; some days we are the windscreen

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    Default

    Hi Derek.

    What about the material and dimensions (esp thickness) of the leg vice?

    I have thought about this recently as I was using a largish, slightly curving jarrah bandsawing offcut + F-clamp on my 'panel' saw as a hold-down clamp for pieces I was cutting.

    The offcut was a longish (30" ?), chunky wedge shape that rested on the table at one end and the workpiece at the other. Tightening the F-clamp down (about 12" away from the end) produced a certain amount of flex and some very good clamping pressure - making a kind of horizontal leg vice ... which started me thinking about it.

    I hadn't thought about it previously, but I have seen leg vices that do not look like flexing is part of their job description. I looked in the Landis workbench book but can't see it discussed. If the front leg is thick, stiff and strong then the clamping comes down to angles/leverage and the screwing force.

    So I was wondering
    (a) whether some flexibility would be any advantage, and
    (b) what your plans were?

    Maybe some flexibility is inherently present in a *wooden* leg vice?

    Thanks,
    Paul McGee

  6. #5
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    I began preparing the stock for the legs yesterday afternoon, that is, finding boards in my wood pile for laminating into the desired 5" x 3" size. There were issues with the stock I have.

    As I showed earlier, I have a number of rough sawn rafters approximately 3" x 4". Once jointed it became evident that only 2 legs could be created from two boards, and that the other 2 legs would require laminating 3 boards.

    The two-board laminations would have to be joined edge-to-edge, and the three-board laminations not only joined edge-to-edge but include a face board to increase the thickness.



    A central mortice would occur at the join. Not happy.

    It is now Sunday. We spent the morning at the beach. This gave me a chance to switch off and think about the options. A little lateral thinking gave me the answer.

    Choices ...

    Firstly, I could go out and purchase Jarrah boards to make the legs. There a couple of reasons why I do not do so. It is not simply that these would be expensive. Expensive? Very! I estimate that each leg would end up costing about $125. That is about $500 for the legs, and we have not yet got to the stretchers.

    Why is Jarrah (Eucalyptus Marginata) so expensive? Because it has been over-logged in Western Australia for over 100 years, with the timber being exported around the world for bridges and roads. The trees only grow in Western Australia - no where else - and the forests have been decimated. The logging continues, in spite of the frequent protests from the Greens, because the public generally places money above the environment. I really do not wish to support this industry, and 90% of the Jarrah I use comes from salvage - old roof beams, old flooring, etc. Some from the renovations in our house (all the roof beams are rough sawn Jarrah), and some from skips (dumpsters) when houses are demolished (but now there are businesses buying up the old timber - that's OK with me. At least it gets a second life, and I will - and do - happily purchase that).

    Secondly, let us not forget the most important factor here - this is a workbench, not a piece of furniture for the home! Yes, I would like to build a bench that is as faithful to the principles of Roubo, and guided by the recommendations of my friends on the forum, but it is still just a bench. Anything I do will be totally overkill compared to the bench I have been using for the past 18 years. I must add that, prior to the current bench (skinny cretin that it is ), my previous "bench" was a door over trestles. This lasted 7 years while we lived in and restored our previous house. So I have had 25 years working with poor benches. I do believe that anything better than I had will last another 25 years, at least.

    So ... I thought about what I had to work with, what wood I had on the rack, and hatched the following plan which I shall describe, and then go off and cut the parts to show you later ..

    The solution is ... may be - I will hear from you I hope ... to create a sandwich with full width boards on the outside. Inside, the two sections I previously showed will be used, BUT one piece will be recut to sandwich a thick section which is centred in the fill. Now a mortice can be created in solid, un-edge-joined timber.

    Since the added laminated with be about 3/4" thick each, I anticipate that the legs end up about 5" long x 4" thick.

    Fast forward about 5 hours ...

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, I try and re-use reclaimed timber. Here is an example. Woolly and twisted ...



    One side gets jointed then, because the thickness of the other side is so uneven, I use the bandsaw to cut to the approximate thickness before planing out the saw marks ...



    The Jarrah "infill" was ripped to width on the tablesaw. There is now enough meat in the centre of each leg to accept a mortice ...



    The wooden screw for the leg vise has a 2" diameter. This will easily fit into the 3" central section in these legs ..



    The legs are yet to be glued up. Once done, final dimensioning will be done. The sides (end grain) could be stained to match the fronts. Or I am toying with the idea of mitering and wrapping boards around the infill.



    The legs are now 5" wide and 3 5/8" thick.

    Each leg weighs 10 kg (22 lbs).

    The bench top is expected to weigh 80 kg (172 lbs).

    Still to add in stretchers, chop, and end vise.

    Your thoughts?

    Regards from Perth

    Derek
    Visit www.inthewoodshop.com for tutorials on constructing handtools, many handtool reviews, and my trials and tribulations with furniture builds.

  7. #6
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    Derek, you worry too much
    good glue joins wont fail -- it's always the timber outside the glue line that fails.

    anyway your legs are now looking pretty good ( dare I say too good for a bench?)
    regards from Sydney

    ian

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    Quote Originally Posted by derekcohen View Post
    ...

    Secondly, let us not forget the most important factor here - this is a workbench, not a piece of furniture for the home! Yes, I would like to build a bench that is as faithful to the principles of Roubo, and guided by the recommendations of my friends on the forum, but it is still just a bench. Anything I do will be totally overkill compared to the bench I have been using for the past 18 years. ...

    ...

    The legs are yet to be glued up. Once done, final dimensioning will be done. The sides (end grain) could be stained to match the fronts. Or I am toying with the idea of mitering and wrapping boards around the infill.

    ...
    Do you really need to do either option in para 2 extract especially given your comment in para 1 extract ?

    But then if it is something that is going to annoy the hell out of you every time you look at it then it is your time and (especially) sanity

    Quote Originally Posted by ian View Post
    Derek, you worry too much
    good glue joins wont fail -- it's always the timber outside the glue line that fails.

    anyway your legs are now looking pretty good ( dare I say too good for a bench?)
    I tend to agree with the glue point
    and the legs looking good
    regards
    Nick
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    Default

    I have to admit that I was wondering as I was reading, why the concern with the legs?
    Only in the sense that if you had specific mechanical concerns, I didn't know what they were.

    Re the look/effort involved ... just 'cos it's functional doesn't mean it can't be beautiful too ... you're only building it once, right?

    But ... back to the leg vice ... this video has an old diagonal one at about the 1:04 mark

    Have fun,
    Paul McGee


    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBC5TGH3LuE]Parlett Farm Life Museum Auction, Craftsman Tools, May 27-30, 2011, Aumann Auctions - YouTube[/ame].

  10. #9
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    Derek - looks like you have answered some of your own questions, so I'll just give my 2c on the dog-hole issue.

    The dog holes on my bench were originally 100mm apart, both on the bench itself and the tail vise. That was a breathtakingly dumb idea, & I don't know what I was thinking when I made it that way (clearly, I wasn't!). It meant there were no combinations, so if a board would not quite fit between two dogs, the vise had to be screwed in or out nearly a full 100mm to acomodate it. After years of minor irritation I bit the bullet, pulled the vise apart, & remade it with close-spaced dogs as illustrated in a recent thread. Ideally, I should have made the spaces unequal, but my sense of symmetry just could not accept that. With the vise dogs less than 50mm apart, there is now minimal winding to accomodate any length board - it's a great leap forward.

    This is one reason why I'm mystified by the sudden popularity of the so-called "wagon vise" or travelling dog system that has become the rage. I built my tail vise considering it a step-up from the travelling dog I had been using for some years. With that system, you only have one moving dog, so if a board doesn't quite fit, you have to wind in or out by almost the distance between dogs on the bench top. So the message is, if you are going to have a single moving dog opposing the bench dogs, keep the distance between dogs small - 75mm would be an absolute maximum, & less would probably be preferable. However, you have to weigh up how many holes you can tolerate (or are repared to make!) in the top of your bench. The holes can be a pest, if not plugged, filling up with shavings & sawdust or dribbling it down on whatever is below. After a few years of this, I made a dog for each slot on the bench, which solves the shavings & sawdust issue, but I have to be careful that glue or varnish or anything like that dosn't sneak in there - I keep them well waxed, just in case.

    Making the dog holes isn't reallly an issue - a simple jig and a powerful router makes short work of the task. This is one job where I prefer powered tools. You could certainly cut the dog slots by hand, and it would not be all that onerous, I did that for my first 'dogged' bench build. But the slight variations from dog-hole to dog hole meant that my dogs were either overtight or over-loose unless made for a specific hole - polygamy is the go when mating dogs (). Cutting them with a router is noisy, dusty, irritating, and perhaps a prostitution of your principles, but it does offer an easy road to precision.

    I am very much an advocate of wooden dogs - they are just so much safer around sharp edges than steel. I've hit two with router bits in 30-odd years, which caused no drama whatever, apart from rendering one of the dogs useless. I'd hate to think what would have happened if I'd been using steel dogs - there are some very sensitive bits of anatomy down around bench top height! But if using wooden dogs, you need some way of making them stay where you want. The best way I've found to make dogs "sit" is by sticking a ball-catch in the stem - can't remember if I got the idea from someone else or thought it up for myself, but it works a treat. I was concerned at first that the balls would wear a track in the wood & stop working, but I've been using them for a lot of years now, & they are still doing the job well (the ones in the bench dogs, that is....).

    I couldn't resist - a treatise on dogs from an old vet.....
    Cheers,
    IW

  11. #10
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    Default On vises and dogs and bench heights.

    Hi Ian

    The choice of tail vise was made on a number of factors, one of which was the space available for the bench. You have used my bench a couple of times and will recall that it is placed against a rear wall in my garage/workshop. The length of the bench is limited by a cabinet, to the left, and a door, to the right. It comes down to the longer the bench, the shorter the tail vise ... or, the longer the tail vise, the shorter the bench.

    The Benchcraft tail vise is notable in that the handle remains in one position, that is, does not "screw out" or "screw in" in length. This translates into a short vise, which means I can build a longer bench. The bench size increases from a little under 5' to a little over 6'. This may not sound a lot, but it is a massive change for me.

    I was initially planning on building my own version of the Benchcraft wagon vise. However, when Chris Vesper visited with me last year, he mentioned that he had purchased the BC tail vise. When I asked why he had not simply built his own - since he is a top class machinist - he explained that the design of the vise places great stresses on the mechanism (it screws at the side of the captured dog so as to run close to the edge of the bench), and that to accommodate this, the steel work needed to be heavy duty ... and that the BC was built like the proverbial tank. He did not believe he could replicate it. That sold me on the BC for the tail vise.

    I hope to get to the bench dogs tomorrow. These will be rectangular, not round, so I have to prepare them before I glue up the bench top. Why rectangular? Simply because I believe that they will hold work more securely than round dogs. They have a broader face and will not twist. Plus, I wonder how many bench (dog) builders realise that the dogs need to incline slightly (I am using 2 degrees) towards the work piece? This is difficult to do if drilling for a round dog. Yes, it is possible to cut and angle a flat upper section of a round dog, but this thins and potentially weakens the dog, making it more susceptible to bending under stress. A rectangular dog is more work, both in planning and build, but it worth it. This does not preclude one from adding holes for bench accessories, such as hold downs.

    So today I plan to finish off the legs. Their dimensions are 5" wide and 3 5/8" deep. I have cut the tenons, and what is left is to prepare one for the leg vise and all for the mortices for the adjoining stretchers. While I will not complete the base until after the top is done (as the length of the stretchers is determined by the dimensions of the top since all facing edges will be co-planar), I need to have everything ready to receive the top once it is glued up just so that I can work on the top.

    To decide the length of the legs I first had to finalise the height of the bench. The present bench, which I built 18 years ago, was a remnant from a pre-handtool era. Much modified over the years to better deal with the demands of handtools, it still retained that one feature of the powertool user - height. It is 34" high. Too high for comfortable handplaning at my 178cm/5'10".

    Chris Schwarz recommends the "pinky test", that is, the height of the bench should be situated where your pinky joins your hand when your arm is held at your side. I did this and the result was a bench height of 30". To test this out I place a double layer of bricks in front of the bench, and planed a board while standing on the bricks ...



    Interestingly, this did feel so much better. It moved the focus of strength from my arms and shoulders to my hips and legs (which is what one is taught in karate). So the length of the legs was calculated for a bench top of approximately 4" thickness (it will end up a little under that), and the tenons were cut. Pictures of the legs tomorrow.

    One other point: One change begets other changes. With the lowering of the bench, I shall need to build a new Moxon dovetail vise. The whole idea of the Moxon is to raise the work up high. The existing vise was built for a 34" high bench. To work with the same ease, the new Moxon will need to work 4" higher. Hence a new, taller Moxon.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek
    Visit www.inthewoodshop.com for tutorials on constructing handtools, many handtool reviews, and my trials and tribulations with furniture builds.

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    Default wagon "vise"

    Looking at the Benchcrafted website ... I think it might be possible to modify their intended setup to allow two dog-holes in the moving section ... ie put one behind the metal block, or further in front of the single dog-hole, using a larger infill block.

    However they might argue that their spinny-handle works fast/easily enough to eliminate the issue(?)

    Paul.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Quote Originally Posted by derekcohen View Post
    ....I hope to get to the bench dogs tomorrow. These will be rectangular, not round, so I have to prepare them before I glue up the bench top. Why rectangular? Simply because I believe that they will hold work more securely than round dogs. They have a broader face and will not twist. Plus, I wonder how many bench (dog) builders realise that the dogs need to incline slightly (I am using 2 degrees) towards the work piece?
    Hi Derek,
    I inclined my dogs (25mm square shaft with a 5mm wider head), 2 deg., as ordained by the masters Frid & co. I also use some round (3/4") dogs because they were added long after the bench build, and these have perpendicular holes, for the very reason you stated - it's much easier drilling vertical holes. In use, I can't say the inclination makes any noticeable difference in compression duties. However, I occasionally make use of my tail vise for tension. This of course is pushing on dogs with a 'reverse' incline, and I sometimes have trouble with the dogs wanting to pull out. It doesn't always happen, depends on how much dog is exposed & how much force is applied. I don't use the vise in tension very often, so it hasn't been a major issue, & is probably not worth worrying about unless you are a dedicated restorer who frequently pulls things apart...

    Quote Originally Posted by derekcohen View Post
    ....Chris Schwarz recommends the "pinky test", that is, the height of the bench should be situated where your pinky joins your hand when your arm is held at your side. I did this and the result was a bench height of 30". To test this out I place a double layer of bricks in front of the bench, and planed a board while standing on the bricks ...
    Unfortunately, we are not all built in the same factory, so 'anatomical markers' such as the height of your pinkie (or any other bit) relative to other parts of your body varies - ask any tailor! It seems to have worked well for you, but you were very wise to test the height it indicated. I would recommend anyone building a bench that may be difficult to adjust when finished run some good tests on the activities they do most of to decide their ideal bench height. I think that's the only truly reliable way......

    I'm very much in the lower bench crowd, as indeed, it makes heavy planing sessions much easier if you can get more back & leg muscles working for you. However, it does mean the bench is too low for many other jobs, which can be a PITB (pain in the back) at times. Be nice to be blesed with so much space that I could have 3 or 4 benches of different heights. On second thoughts, that would probably be a bad idea - I'd just end up with 4 benches buried under junk, instead of 1. There are other ways of working around the problems, like sitting down, if it's practical, or raising the work.

    I'm finding it more & more of a nuisance as my eyesight gets worse & my muscles tire more quickly, & sometime in the not too distant future, I'll be building myself a removable auxillary bench, which will solve a few common problems. It will have the dovetailing vise built-in, along with a few other handy holding devices for objects I want up higher than bench height....

    But be warned Derek, going to a lower bench might cause you to discover why I whine about Veritas's too-upright plane totes...

    Cheers,
    IW

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    Quote Originally Posted by derekcohen View Post
    ...

    One other point: One change begets other changes. With the lowering of the bench, I shall need to build a new Moxon dovetail vise. The whole idea of the Moxon is to raise the work up high. The existing vise was built for a 34" high bench. To work with the same ease, the new Moxon will need to work 4" higher. Hence a new, taller Moxon.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

    Sit it on the bricks
    regards
    Nick
    veni, vidi,
    tornavi
    Without wood it's just ...

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    But be warned Derek, going to a lower bench might cause you to discover why I whine about Veritas's too-upright plane totes...
    Ahh Ian, but that is why I posted this a while ago ...





    Regards from Perth

    Derek
    Visit www.inthewoodshop.com for tutorials on constructing handtools, many handtool reviews, and my trials and tribulations with furniture builds.

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    Quote Originally Posted by derekcohen View Post
    I hope to get to the bench dogs tomorrow. These will be rectangular, not round, so I have to prepare them before I glue up the bench top. Why rectangular? Simply because I believe that they will hold work more securely than round dogs. They have a broader face and will not twist. Plus, I wonder how many bench (dog) builders realise that the dogs need to incline slightly (I am using 2 degrees) towards the work piece? This is difficult to do if drilling for a round dog. Yes, it is possible to cut and angle a flat upper section of a round dog, but this thins and potentially weakens the dog, making it more susceptible to bending under stress. A rectangular dog is more work, both in planning and build, but it worth it.
    (in the spirit of clarifying the discussion)
    I don't follow why the dogs need to be made before the top is assembled
    yes, I agree that SQUARE dog holes have to be cut before the dog hole strip is attached to the bench top,
    but
    the dog hole strip could be attached after the rest of the top is glued up ( but before it the top is flattened)
    and the dogs themselves can be made at any time. If you cut the dog holes using a router and template, they will all be the same size and shape, allowing you to then slice multiple dogs from a single board.
    regards from Sydney

    ian

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    By Richie in forum GLUE
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 18th Feb 2006, 12:00 AM

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