Workbench Wednesday – #16 (2018) Full-Size Laminated Roubo

With great pleasure I spent the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018 preparing for my upcoming presentations at Colonial Williamsburg’s Working Wood in the 18th Century conference, and annual soiree of the highest caliber.  It was a tremendous honor to have been invited to take the stage to give two presentations, one about historic wood finishing and one about the workings and accoutrements of an 18th Century Parisian atelier.

Things were progressing swimmingly until just before Christmas 2017, when I corresponded with Anthony Hay Cabinet Shop master Kaare Loftheim about the logistics of moving Colonial Williamsburg’s Roubo bench to the stage of the auditorium.  His reply, which I should have expected, was that they did not possess a Roubo bench.  I smacked my head.  Of course they would not have an 18th Century French workbench since Williamsburg was essentially a 17th century English town!

It was time to rethink my strategy as I would need to arrive with my own c.1760 Parisian workbench.  I already had three that would serve the purpose nicely but they were so ensconced in their places that it was easier to build a new one for this demonstration.

I began with a selection of SYP 2×12 framing lumber stacked underneath the lathe.   I ripped in half as much material as I needed to make the bench and legs and loaded the ripped lumber into the truck to cart downstairs to the planer.

After running it through the 10″ Ryobi planer to get clean surfaces on both sides and then carting back up to the main floor I set them out spaced in my barely heated shop for a few days to equilibrate.

After spreading some plastic on the bench I glued up the core laminae using yellow glue to skirt any temperature issues.  Previously with 3-3/4″ stock I assembled the bench tops in two pieces so I could run them through the planer once assembled, but since this was 5-1/2″ stock I was going to have to plane everything entirely by hand.  No, I was not going to be slinging these slabs around to feed them through a planer.


I had not yet finished fabricating Roubo’s panel clamps, which could be scaled-up to work perfectly for this process, so I wound up using practically every clamp I had of this size to get things glued.

The next day I came back to glued up the outer laminae with the mortises, using 5″ decking screws as the clamps.  The resulting slab was right at the weight limit I could handle by myself.

Next week – Legs and vise