Roubo: End Cap Options

Article - November 15, 2011

Before each and every Guild Build, my buddy Aaron Marshall and I spend several weeks kicking ideas back and forth as we refine our design. Of course this time around, we both have newborns so our meetings are limited to the small windows of time we have between changing poopy diapers. Now this build is being modeled specifically after the Benchcrafted Split-Top Roubo. But a Guild Build just wouldn’t be a Guild Build if we didn’t tinker with things and consider other options. I thought it would be fun to show you one particular detail we are hashing out right now: the end cap.

The front slab of the Split-Top Roubo has a nice thick end cap that facilitates the attachment of the tail vise hardware and also stabilizes the front apron.

Option #1

The original Benchcrafted version features a beautiful massive dovetail. The dovetail is glued to the end cap and the slab tenon is secured to the end cap using bolts. The back bolt is in an elongated hole so the top can expand and contract.

A well thought out design to be sure, but there was one thing that bugged us. One of my favorite things about this bench is that both top halves can be sent through a planer for flattening. Wouldn’t it be great if you could do this not only during the initial build, but again 5-10 years down the road? Of course, if you’re handy with a jointer plane and you have an afternoon to spare, you can flatten the bench the traditional way. But again, we like options. So this was the primary concern we addressed with Option #2.

Option #2

Somehow, we needed to allow the end cap to be removable. Sending that slab through the planer with the end cap attached would result in disaster! So that means the dovetails would no longer receive any glue. No problem there since dovetails don’t necessarily need glue to perform their intended function. But we had one other obstacle to overcome, and that was the main slab tenon. In Option #1, you can’t slide the end cap off because the tenon is completely surrounded by the mortise. So a simple solution was to make a little more room in front of the tenon. We also opened up the back of the mortise so it acts a little more like a breadboard end. Removing the end cap would be as simple as removing the bolts, tapping the cap toward the back to release the dovetail, and then pulling the cap off the slab. The front slab could then be sent through the planer for cleanup.

Option #3

Aaron suggested this version as a way to really simplify things for folks who might be a little intimidated by the big honkin’ dovetails. It is every bit as strong as options 1 and 2 but instead of a dovetail, the front apron is attached to the end cap with a mortise and tenon joint. Since we want the cap to be removable, a third bolt could be added to secure the front apron completely without the aid of glue.

I should clarify that we are in no way questioning the validity of the original Benchcrafted design. But like any plan, things can be modified to suit your own needs/wants. So this is just some food for thought. I’d be curious to hear what you think about the changes and whether or not you would include them in your own version of the Split-Top Roubo. And if you’re not already a member of the Wood Whisperer Guild, now is a great time to join! Learn More!


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