The video we’ve recently released, “Roubo Workbench: By Hand & Power Video,” is intended to be a brain dump from me and Will Myers on building slab workbenches. Not only do we show the techniques we’ve developed to make it doable for the home woodworker, we also seek to dispel a lot of the myths and misdirection encountered by the bench builder.
We take the following topics head-on:
- You can use (very) wet wood for the benchtop.
- The finish can be simple (or non-existent).
- The species you use isn’t all that important.
- Moving big slabs doesn’t require a forklift or Roman garrison.
- You might not need a tail vise.
- The lower stretchers are not very important.
This last detail always makes my bench-building students crazy. They go to great lengths to make the mortise-and-tenon joints between the stretchers and legs massive and tight. While I’ll never bad-mouth a good joint, the stretcher joints are not as important as the joints that join the benchtop and the legs.
Early workbenches didn’t use these stretchers (check out the Stent panel for one good example). In fact, I think the biggest job of the lower stretchers is to make it easier to install a shelf below the benchtop for your bench planes and appliances.
As a result, I don’t think the joints for the stretchers have to be massive. To prove the point we used a Domino XL to make one of the stretcher joints on our bench. I probably wouldn’t use a pocket screw or a biscuit for this joint, but loose tenons are an excellent choice, whether you use a router, drill or Domino.
In fact, some Roman boats were built using loose-tenon joinery, and those seemed to do OK.
— Christopher Schwarz