Make a Roubo Grease Box

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I have always wanted to make one of these grease boxes for the underside of a workbench. Knowing me, however, I’d probably keep paraffin in it instead of tallow. I learned to handplane using paraffin (which has no smell) as a lubricant. There is something odd about using mutton tallow – I work up a sweat and smell lamb chops.

A.J. Roubo does not say much about the grease box or how it should be constructed: “Below the table of the bench you attach with a screw a piece of wood in the form of a box, in which you put some grease, useful for rubbing the tools to make them smoother.”

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I decided to make the box 1-7/8” thick, 3” wide and 5-1/2” long and out of oak. But I started with a bigger chunk of oak to make it easier to bore out the cavity that holds grease and to hold the piece as I finished chiseling the cavity.

The walls of the grease box are about 5/16” thick – give or take. That makes the cavity roughly 2-1/4” wide, 3-1/2” long and 1-1/2” deep. I bored out most of the waste and cleaned up the interior with a chisel.

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Then I used a compass to draw a nice arc around the back of the box, as shown in Plate 11 of “l’Art du menuisier.” After rounding that off with rasps and sandpaper, I drew the curved relief under the box. This relief allows you to use a shorter lag screw, and it looks nice. I simply sketched it freehand and then roughed it out.

I also rounded the square corners of the box, a la Plate 11.

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The box will be attached to the bench with a 5/16” x 3” lag screw and washer. I created a flat area for the washer (thank you, Forstner bit) and then bored a clearance hole for the lag screw.

Then I oiled up the exterior of the box and am now soaking the hardware in citric acid to remove the buttocks-ugly zinc plating.

This is the last little bit on this bench. I have only to apply my signature plate and await the truck that will come to pick it up.

— Christopher Schwarz

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20 Responses to Make a Roubo Grease Box

  1. Paul Sidener says:

    I love the idea of this box. Where re you going to attach it to the underside of the bench?

  2. Paraffin is the way to go. animal fat just turns everything black and smelly. Long live the 19th Century (that’s when paraffin was invented).

  3. cliffgribben says:

    Where do you attach the box?

  4. greenebelly says:

    I have used a beeswax, and tallow 50/50 mix with no “rotting” as it were. Adding denatured alcohol (making it 1/1/.5) makes a great wax. I live on the coast though and it doesn’t get hot so there is that.

  5. Pig’s tallow (i.e., “lard”) is available at your local butcher, if any, at about 20% of the cost of mutton tallow, and I’m advised that’s it’s DNA does not differ significantly from that of the British version. Waste not….want not, as they say. My smell buds are shot, so I can’t vouch for the difference, if any, in aroma.

  6. meanmna says:

    Out of curiousity, how do you apply the wax, grease or what have you from this box? Keep some sort small rag in with it? A brush?

  7. greenebelly says:

    I just finished a batch. One part lard(filtered),one part beeswax,one half part boiled linseed oil, and one half part denatured alcohol. WONDERFUL! It is softer than wax you get in the tins for your car, but dried nice on a piece of quarter sawn oak. My chisel handles loved it!

  8. KampWood says:

    It must be fun building a FORP on a FORP.

  9. Jeff Faulk says:

    Most paraffin I’ve found is quite hard, how would you make it softer? Or would you just put chunks in there and retrieve as desired?

  10. Rachael Boyd says:

    I like the paraffin the best but I also use beeswax. both work great. I do love the box thingy I made one kinda like that but I use it to measure my coffee grounds in the morning. one scoop per pot.

  11. tpier says:

    If you don’t put tallow in the box it would make a handy ash tray.

  12. jdcook72 says:

    Sorrowfully, when I read the title, I can’t help being reminded of other euphemistic phrases for activities of a less wholesome nature.

  13. gblogswild says:

    That’s a great idea, actually. For the box, anyway. I’ve been using a glass jar with a lid.

    For my paste wax I put in too much oil. It doesn’t dry. I’ll be playing around with the mixtures a bit as time goes on and winter doesn’t keep me out of the shop.

  14. bbrazil69 says:

    I use wax (paraffin or beeswax) on my metal planes; I just keep a chunk in my apron pocket and rub it on. I use tallow on my saw plates and wooden moulding planes. When I got my Veritas dovetail saw, the booklet was adamant that wax should not be used and would gum up the saw, so I used tallow instead. And tallow seems like the traditional lubricant for wooden planes, so I went with that. Not sure if there’s any advantage to using tallow over wax on either.

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