The morning that I first proposed building a Roubo-style workbench to my co-workers, I was running on about four hours of sleep and five cups of Italian roast coffee.
Earlier that week, I had proposed a cover project for the Autumn 2005 issue of Woodworking Magazine that was not working out. It was a set of contemporary interlocking shelves. I had mocked them up several times using foam-core insulation and presented them to the staff.
No one liked them. Me included.
So the night before our all-staff meeting about that issue of the magazine, I stayed up until 2 a.m. making the first CAD drafts of what would become the workbench I work on today. The staff approved my draft. Not because of its merit, but because of the semi-crazy mountain man look I had in my eye.
Today I embarked on a similar mission to build a super hardcore version of André Roubo’s workbench using the original joints, massive timbers and only hand tools.
Housewright Ron Herman of Antiquity Builders in Columbus, Ohio, delivered the cherry planks to our shop this morning, which I stickered in front of our wood rack. The wood is fairly dry – about 12 percent moisture content – and completely massive. The two boards for the top plank are about 5″ thick and more than 11″ wide each. The leg stock is 6″ square.
That’s the good news. The bad news that is the wood is punky in places, a result of its time on the forest floor or its time in Herman’s tree lot. After the wood showed up, Publisher Steve Shanesy took one look at my mound and just shook his head.
Senior Editor Glen Huey, always the diplomat, asked what I would do if the wood didn’t work out the way I wanted it to do.
Senior Editor Bob Lang – always the Silent Bob – said nothing.
I love it when people tell me I cannot do something. I was told I should leave journalism school. I was told I’d never become editor of Popular Woodworking. I was told I could never drink an entire growler of Bell’s Hopslam IPA (who’s slack-jawed and drooling now?).
And so as I stickered this cherry this afternoon I was already mentally cutting it up to remove the punky places. I was reviewing Roubo’s workbench instructions, which I have committed to memory. And, most importantly, I was reminding myself to pick up some more Italian roast coffee on the way home. It’s going to be a good winter.
— Christopher Schwarz