Roubo: Getting Ready

Article - October 24, 2011

The Roubo build is finally underway and it’s all starting with a discussion about the wood. After announcing that the next build was going to be a workbench, the most frequently asked question was “What wood should I use?”. So I figured that would be a good place to start. I laid out several species of wood on the bench and discussed the concept of wood density/hardness and the Janka scale. In case you’re not familiar, the Janka hardness test is a measure of wood hardness (yup, there’s an obvious joke there and I’m not taking the bait). Essentially, they measure the force required to embed a steel ball into the board’s surface. The end result is a chart that allows us to compare relative wood hardness from species to species. This is pretty handy when trying to decide what wood to use on a workbench!

Personally, I like soft maple for this project. I feel it’s a nice compromise: not too hard and not too soft. My old bench was made from hard maple which served me well. But the more I thought about it and the more folks I discussed the issue with, I realized soft maple would probably be the better choice since it’s easier to plane. 8/4 stock runs about $3.20/BF here so that’s a price I can deal with. Considering the bench requires around 150 BF (if not a little more), price is a very important factor. What you’re looking at there is about 125 board feet. Looks like I’ll be making a second trip to the lumber dealer.

Recently in our DVD Review Show, we took a look at two workbench DVDs. I made a point of discussing whether or not the host built the bench with or without the aid of another bench. So I thought it would make for a better presentation and an interesting challenge if I completely removed my workbench from the shop. Before milling any wood, I propped one end of the bench on a furniture dolly and scooted it out of the shop. Now where did I put those sawhorses?

All in all, I am really excited to get this build going. I also realize I am racing the clock since Nicole’s due date is right around Christmas. That said, I am promising myself that I won’t rush this. A workbench is absolutely NOT the project you want to build at a fast pace. Maneuvering these large pieces is dangerous and takes patience. I will have to keep telling myself that repeatedly as I start to hear echoes of little feet pitter pattering in my head.

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