Workbench Wednesday – #10 (2013) FORP Bench, The Wood!

The stage and setting for the 2013 French Oak Roubo Project workbench build has been covered like a blanket around the woodworking bogosphere so I do not need to address it again here.  Just do a search for “french oak roubo project” in your favorite surveillance vehicle/search engine and you will get a multitude of responses, probably somewhere north of 25,000 citations including blogs from about a half dozen of the participants including me.  Now I’ll spend a couple of posts discussing the making of the bench, then one on the using of it.

Our raw material was oak harvested from France following the catastrophic Christmas ice storm of 1999, which destroyed over 10,000 trees in the forests around Versailles alone.  The trees were harvested and the lumber placed in storage, eventually purchased and exported to the US by entrepreneur Bo Childs, our host for the event who in concert with Jameel Abraham made it available to us.  The most mature trees were likely alive even during the lifetime of Roubo himself, and some amatuer dendrochronology on at least one of the slabs put the seedling of the giant timber back to the Napoleanic era.  Safe to say that none of us had ever encountered lumber like this before.  These imported slabs measured up to sixteen feet long, two feet wide and six inches thick.

Soon enough on that sweltering July week we were coordinating into teams preparing the stock for the battle ahead.  The end point?  Slab topped benches made from almost 250-year old white oak, weighing in at about 500 pounds.  Impressive.  Fortunately thanks to his business Bo had the full range of machinery on hand, ranging from the forklifts needed to move these half-ton slabs around and the bandsaw mill to render them into rough slabs.

Beyond the material handling aspects, Wyatt Childs, Inc, possessed stock preparation capacity beyond anything I had ever seen outside of a full-scale furniture factory.

Before you knew it we all had slabs and legs roughed out, ready for us to get to work.  Mine is the one farthest from the camera.