Roubo Part 6. Are we done yet?

Man, this bench is taking FOREVER!  Actually, it hasn’t been too bad. I’m just being lazy about posting, the bench has been done for like 3 weeks now.

Anyways, in the last post, we left off busting some fingers after gluing the top together.

Here’s a picture of the bench after getting the back section dimensioned, planed, and cut to length.


What isn’t pictured is 1) mortising the top to the base, and 2) routing the dog hole strip.  Mortising the top to the base was pretty easy.  Some people cut a scrap piece the exact height of their tenon, and then get the top aligned with the legs and just mark the mortise directly.  Other people flip the bench over and sit the base on both tops at the same time.  I was too lazy for both of those methods.  Remember, the only side of the mortise that really has to be accurate is the one that is facing the outside of the leg. Getting this side of the mortise dead-on means that your benchtop will be co-planer with your legs.  The other 3 sides of your mortise can be, dare I say it, a bit sloppier.  We’re not looking for a suction fit here.  I found that the biggest forstner bit I had, coupled with a 1.5” bench chisel made short work of the mortises.  I started off using a router, but after 10 minutes fooling with guides and jigs, I realized I was making things too difficult.

Routing the dog hole strips wasn’t quite as enjoyable. I copied Jameel’s jig from his blog post here.  Now, the problem was that I was still getting terrible blowout in the bottom right-hand corner.  After throwing a small temper tantrum after the 3rd consecutive failure, I realized all I had to do was screw on a piece of wood so that the back of the jig had a sacrificial fence just like the front. After that modification, no more blow-out. I did have to sit there for an hour with that howling beast of a machine though.  Remember, I decided to lengthen my bench by 15”, so I had the pleasure of routing 17 dog holes.

Some people take the pains of routing one dog hole upside down, so that they could cut that off, flip it around and make it their wagon vise block.  I guess this is important if you’re using a contrasting strip of wood in your dog hole laminate; I wasn’t, so I didn’t.

Let’s skip ahead now…  I’ve routed out the recess for the wagon vise (did I mention I hate using routers), and now I’ve got to fashion the end cap. The mortise/tenon/bolts were all standard fare (although I had a hard time getting my shoulders flush, but that has to do with my lack of skills, nothing more).  The dovetail was where I wanted to do something a little fancy.  I really, really wanted to layout my dovetails like Konrad over at Sauer & Steiner.  How sexy is his endcap?  Seriously.  

So, I spent like 45 minutes trying to fit 3 tails in instead of the standard 2 you see on Jameel’s benches.  It just wasn’t working though. Finally, I realized that since Konrad has his tails on the endcap, they’re about 1.75” long instead of the ~ 3” long ones that I was laying out on the front laminate. At that point, I gave up, and just went for the standard dovetailed endcap.  It still came out looking pretty nice, and I guess I can be proud of it. A lot of people (CSchwarz, *cough*) just bolt theirs on. I know, he did a retrofit. I don’t care.  Here’s mine.

After getting everything cut and ready to go, I glued it all up.  And I screwed it all up. It’s hard to see in this picture, but I didn’t get the dog hole strip and laminate exactly aligned with the rest of the slab. I was off by about 1/8”, which, honestly, might as well have been a goddamn mile. Boy was I peeved.

So, I had to rerun both slabs through the planer again, which is why I ended up with a top a hair under 4”. I was worried about spelching on the endcap, since that grain would be running parallel to the planer blades, instead of perpendicular like the rest of the top (similar to planing across the grain), but I crossed my fingers and everything came out ok.

I also had to bring the sliding dog block down to size again after planing the tops.

A minute or so with the jack andsmoothing plane took care of it.

Here’s a pic of both tops done, but before I cut the mortises for the front section.

After I cut those mortises, it was time to screw the top down and get to flattening. First, those spax screws Jameel provides are monsters.

You could buy a special bit to run these in, one of those star bits, but I discovered that any old driver turned around would fit in fine.

So just chuck that bit in your drill backwards, and you’re good to go.

That’s enough for today…

Next up: Flattening the top, and the yellowishness of BLO.

– Matt