A New Record in Workbench Building

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When I plan a new woodworking class, I have to resist all optimism when it comes to how long a certain task will take.

It takes me a day and a half to glue up a top for a Roubo workbench by myself. For a class, I have to double that time (at least). It’s silly to expect the students to be as fast as I am, or be accustomed to being whipped like dogs, or even willing to work with fellow students.

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So when I teach a workbench class I cross my fingers that we will get all the tops glued up (with their mortises and planing stops complete) by late Wednesday evening. With that one special student finishing up Thursday before lunch.

This class at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking absolutely blew the doors off the previous record time for building workbench tops by 24 hours. At 2 p.m. on Tuesday, all the tops were glued up and done.

At the moment they cruised to victory I was trying to process 500 pounds of leg material. So I did the only sensible thing. I bought them all beers and let them hang out all afternoon fiddling with their vise hardware.

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Why were they so fast? It wasn’t special machines or a super-abundance of clamps – we ran out of clamps several times. The material was the same as always. As was the bench’s design.

The only answer: hard-working students.

My hat is off to you, dudes.

— Christopher Schwarz

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About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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12 Responses to A New Record in Workbench Building

  1. As a dude who has taken that class, built that bench and wasn’t rewarded with beer till Friday … I’m impressed! Well done!!

  2. Dave Reedy says:

    Would love to take that class in “CINCINNATI”.

  3. Man, I wanted to do that class. Unfortunately it was not to be.

    Where did you source the wood? Was there a lot of jointing and planing to be done? I liked the “ready to glue” promise of HardwoodToGo, but it may no longer be offered, and the 6×6 format makes it harder to do the glued-up mortises I see you are using here.

    Have fun, and keep the photos coming.

  4. Damn, it took me nearly a month to complete my first Roubo top. Of course, it was made almost entirely with hand tools and consisted of 16 lamination.

  5. mnrwoods says:

    Really, Chris. How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood. 🙂

  6. Niels Cosman says:

    Nice work! Those are some fine looking bench tops, real fine.
    Questions:
    1: How do you register the through mortices during glueup so that align properly (dominos?)
    2: Have you seen any splitting or separation of glue seams from the corners of the mortices over time as the wood moves?
    3: Do you ever find yourself attracted to wood products?

    • Niels,

      1. We work from centerlines. The mortises are held open by four little blocks of wood that we temporarily nail to the material during glue-up.

      2. Nope. As long as the lamination is well-glued, they hold together just fine over time. I’ve inspected many that I’ve help build since 2007.

      3. Socratic reply: Do you like movies about gladiators?

  7. karlfife says:

    Those are some nice-ash benches

  8. Adam Palmer says:

    I was under the impression that those aluminum bar clamps really didn’t have the power to clamp up something as heavy as that. I own a couple and they seem a little flimsy. I take it I’m wrong?

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