French Oak Roubo Project: Day 1

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This morning Don Williams, Raney “my little spoon” Nelson and I awoke to a gentle Georgia rain. After pulling on some clothes and convening in the kitchen, the talk turned immediately to money.

A reader had asked me via e-mail if we were going to sell offcuts of the ancient French-grown oak we were using to build these benches. I suggested perhaps bottling some sweat (I am making 750ml a day here in the Georgia heat). Then Don came up with the best idea: Unwashed game-day jerseys from the build.

However, after smelling the thing that I peeled off my body this evening, I doubt that the USPS would allow it into the mailstream. Raney and I got into the car at the end of the day and he said: “I smell man.”

(I hope it was me.)

The first day of the bench-building project was brutal. It’s my favorite day when building workbenches.

We split the participants into two teams. One team focused on getting the benchtop slabs through the Straitoplaner – an awesome machine. The other team, which I was on, was responsible for dimensioning the leg stock. We had to cut it down to rough length, then joint, plane and crosscut the oak to size.

This stuff is heavy. And each leg blank was 4” x 7” x 36” to start. And we’re making 16 workbenches.

About 3 p.m., both teams finished dimensioning the tops and the legs and we turned our attention to the tops. Of the 16 tops, 11 were one single slab and the builders focused on truing up their edges. The rest of us had to glue up our tops from two slabs (we had to rip out the pith from some of the slabs).

Jointing the edges were the hardest part of the day. It took six people to push each stick over the jointer – sometimes five or six passes for each edge. We glued the tops up with PVA – we needed the clamps for the next glue-up. By 6 p.m. we had four of the five tops glued up.

For dinner, the instructors went to the house of Ron Brese, the planemaker who has been helping with the bench-building project. We got a tour of his shop, we played with his planes (and dovetail saw collection) and then we set out to find Cheerios for Don.

Don needs his Cheerios.

I need sleep.

Tomorrow: Joints. And more sweat.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Chris Schwarz

Publisher of woodworking books and DVDs specializing in hand tool techniques.
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5 Responses to French Oak Roubo Project: Day 1

  1. jonathanszczepanski says:

    Please ask Don… What’s with the gloves?

  2. tombuhl says:

    Love following the grand adventure. Many thanks

  3. I so wish I could be there! Also, if there does happen to be any of the mentioned offcuts available, the right sizes could make some awesome wood planes.

  4. Jeff Burks says:

    I expected the participants to be wearing berets with their names embroidered on the rim…

  5. Eric R says:

    This is a class that is out of my reach, but I sure am enjoying following along.
    I bet those benches are going to be beautiful.

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