Whenever I finish building a massive workbench in oak, I think: This thing is going to last a long, long time.
For proof, just ask Ryan Bowen, of Charlotte, North Carolina. Ryan had built a “lightweight Roubo” workbench about five years ago. It was built using almost no glue. All the joints are pegged and without adhesive.
The bench lived in his shop, a green outbuilding, along with his great grandfather’s tool chest. The bench was, according to Ryan, “easily my favorite tool.”
Last week a giant oak decided to fall on Ryan’s shop, destroying the entire structure. Then it rained on the interior contents for two hours. No one was hurt.
Check out the photos to see how the bench failed. “All in all I was not too upset,” Ryan wrote in an email, “and plan to rebuild with a new top.”
Ryan had some things to say about the damage:
- “Assembling base joinery without glue has advantages. You can see how things broke apart cleanly – I would expect a lot more shearing and splintering with glued joints. Or perhaps it all would have held together…we’ll hopefully never know.
- “I definitely should have done a through-mortise to the top and made a beefier top. But (I was) young and poor with limited access to oak….”
There’s one more important lesson to share, and that relates to Ryan’s tool chest. I’m waiting on a photo and then we can discuss that.
— Christopher Schwarz
21 thoughts on “Revenge of the Oaks”
Will he use the giant oak that crashed on his bench, for the new top?
That would be fitting revenge.
Strong turtle remains unaffected
Smack in the middle of the shop! Ouch! Glad to hear nobody’s hurt. Is that a real turtle?
Why is it that when you have perfected something that it gets destroyed?
I’ve had this happen a number of times in my life.
I finally do something right and it’s ruined by unforeseen forces.
When you get to the top of the mountain, there’s only one way left to go.
And, to the bar, to tell of your travels.
There are no before images, but I suspect that this fallen oak presented indications that it was weak and in need of removal. Homeowners are just reluctant to cut down large trees that threaten buildings.
Ryan here: it was a healthy oak that completely uprooted in high winds – root ball was 10-12’ in diameter. And it came from woods behind our house, not on our property 🙂
Thanks for adding that information, which makes the scolding sound so empty now.
Could be — but that’s a fair bit of conjecture (and casting aspersions). Those leaves look like a vibrant green: a sign of a healthy tree.
Sometimes trees just fall down in a storm — if the wind is strong enough.
I presume they sometimes get storms (even hurricanes) in North Carolina. 😉
Not necessarily true in Charlotte NC with oaks. I have had two neighbors have large oaks fall on calm days in early summer with no dead limbs or other warning signs. Destroyed attached garages with sixty to ninety thousand dollars in damage.
Hard lesson to learn. Cut down those trees threatening your shop.
Good thing he wasn’t at that bench when that tree decided to come down.
In a battle between oaks, there are only losers.
Heartbreaking! But, in the end you will triumph Ryan, because you’re a woodworker . . . And a Bowen ( as am I ). Best wishes for speedy recovery of your bench restoration and your shop rebuild!
That takes a bunch of force to snap an oak bench top like that. And after it was slowed by the shed.
I guess I’ll stop hiding under my Roubo bench top when the tornados comes through North Texas.
I recommend hiding under the shelf. That survived just fine.
When sheltering with family in the basement during tornado and straight-line wind warnings, I must admit my thoughts (and prayers) are often on my workshop.
How did the chest on the bench’s shelf in the first photo fare?
Looks like what happened to my shop during Hurricane Ivan in 2005. It gave me a chance to upgrade my workbench and build a new shop. My tool chests protected my tools,too. I am constantly on guard against rust(I live on the Gulf Coast)-I save all the silica packets that come in most every other product and have several in each till or drawer of every toolbox-not original with me but very effective in addition to all the usual precautions. Just dry them slowly in the oven regularly. It’s a tough break for Ryan but there IS a silver lining to every cloud. I hope he gets to rebuild bigger and to his complete happiness as I did.
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