French Oak Roubo Project II

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I’m down in Barnsville, Ga., this week for the French Oak Roubo Project – my final trip of the year and likely my last trip for the next couple years.

I’ll be posting daily updates on the project on my blog at Popular Woodworking Magazine. So check in there. The first entry is here.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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18 Responses to French Oak Roubo Project II

  1. ctregan says:

    What does a bench like this cost $5,000…..$10,000? maybe it time to change your book title to The Affluent Tool Chest.

  2. John Hippe says:

    Awesome! I was jealous during the first go around and I am jealous again this time around. Wish I was there. Fantastic trip for your last trip… enjoy.

  3. bsrlee says:

    I hear they are having a sale on back braces and hernia trusses this week at the medical centre.

  4. Why your last trip? Are you okay?

    • I have to renovate the building we just purchased, which needs a lot of work.

      And I’ve been teaching for 10 years straight. Time to take a break.

      • tsstahl says:

        Pfft, you own the business! You only work half the day.

        What you do with the other 12 hours is gravy. 🙂

        ‘Rest’ well. Looking forward to reading the tale of the sabbatical here on the blog.

      • crowldawg says:

        I taught for 33 yrs now you know how I feel. I have worked as a carpenter for close to 50 let me know if you need a hand

  5. omninunc says:

    Hi Chris,

    I don’t know how to send an email directly to you so hope you don’t mind this little convoluted method.

    You had an article recently showing a saw bench with plan (very nice) but you also should a unique panel saw with a rounded top.

    Could you please give some details about this saw, Make, model, specs, price, etc…

    Regards, Bill Antonacchio

  6. waltamb says:

    Chris,
    Out of curiosity, what was the moisture content of the thick Oak for the legs and the Tops?
    How long ago was it sawn before air drying?

    • These slabs have been drying for 10 to 14 years. Most of them (including mine) were about 17 to 20 percent MC. A couple slabs were in the 30s. Still a little wettish, but fine for this work.

  7. waltamb says:

    That is amazing.
    Brings me back to a thought I had about the building of Benches historically.
    Did they have 10-14 year old timbers in Roubo’s time or did they just use green fresh fallen timber?
    I believe if the Joinery is done correctly to allow for shrinkage and wood movement, working right from Green would be fine back then.
    Without central heat, the Heavy White Oak would take its time to dry for a lifetime or two.

    • Walt,

      Seasoning wood has always been a concern historically. Sometimes the law even mandated how long planks had to be seasoned.

      So yes, wood that had been seasoned this long was certainly available in the 18th century. Was it used for workbenches? Can’t say.

      • waltamb says:

        Sure, I know there have been timber merchants for sure going back into antiquity for Ship building.
        I am just not settled on the concept of a woodworker paying for extremely well seasoned heavy timbers to make a bench.
        Without historical proof, just a gut feeling that most benches (many of which were nothing more than 1/2 a log) were hewn green, worked flat then worked on.
        Just my frugal mind thinking out loud since the sure fire way to make a small fortune in woodworking has always been to start with a large one.

  8. Walt, et al,

    Of all the “wood cultures” I have studied (and/or worked in) putting the “wood to rest” (or “sleep”) is part of just about every tradition going back millenia.

    With that said, there is also the “art” of working wood “green” (aka wet.) Many (most??) of the folk traditional (my passion and love) only work “green wood” from timber frame house frame to harvest tables with chairs and onto “청마루” (aka Cheongmaru = floors) to blanket chests. It is all in the “art and tradition of it” but quite achievable when understood and practiced…wet or rested…

  9. On some points made on this wonderful thread about “the bench” and its alleged cost concomitant with affluence…I, at this point, must voice a counter view of not only the “cost” but the “means, methods and materials” as well, that many suggest goes with these focal points of our shops…historically or now.

    As a working Timberwright (and green woodworker) I have no qualms or issues with charging handsomely for the service I provide when of a “specific or artistic nature.” That is the nature of “Art” and those of use that “try” to make a living from it. However, even though much of what I (et al) do could be called “art” and carry the “affluent” price tag in grangers (and deserves??)…We often (very often) do not charge such fees for our services…or even seek them out.

    I have charged as little as $10 per foot squared for simple timber frames (plus material cost in some cases) and average $30 ($25 being the mean average nationally…there abouts.) “The bench” is nothing more than a “little timber frame” in most regards, and for the DIYers I have aided over the years with this relatively straightforward endeavor…usually built with (and I dare say historically as well)…green (aka wet) wood…there is no need to worry over “affluent pricing.”

    So…can they be rendered of “fine grade” and decades old hardwoods? Of course they can, and wonderful looking they are when mad thus…Can they cost $10K or more? Absolutely they can…and should in some cases one could suggest….Is that the norm historically or now??? I doubt it very much, and can attest “not at all” in the circles I move for most that really want one, or the chance to try their hands at creating them…need not much more that a standing tree of a chosen species that they have access to…along with…the basic tools and requisite desire.

    Rive a log in half, and work with simple hand tools to joint and fit…simplistic in both description and nature…but true to their beauty, form and function…and we have “a bench…”

  10. waltamb says:

    Tonight I stumbled on a passage from St. Roy in “The Woodwright’s Workbook” with reference to bench tops:

    “The ancient bench top was a single massive timber. You can cut a big tree, hew it rectangular, and saw it in half, making two bench tops. The sawn, heart side of the timber goes up and the hewn surface goes down. The heart face can be harder than the bark face, and the slight crowning that will happen as it seasons can be less troublesome than the hollow warping of the other face.”

    As with anything related to our craft, there are more than 100 different ways to get the same task done even when discussing the task with as few as 10 woodworkers.

    • Precisely and absolutely true…

      Again…I would wager that of all the “benches” and other working platforms…from trestle to simple Japanese/Korean/Chinese planning timber/logs…most are built of “green would” just as Underhill (et al) has thus described, and many of us still build…not with the “age and dried wood” many today seem to be overly attracted to…

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