Some Roubo Build Questions


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1 hour ago, Jean [Fr] said:

To me woodworking is not a sacred act or a journey to beatitude

Oh, but it is. :)

1 hour ago, Jean [Fr] said:

 but anyways it's still some piece of equipment

And the same could be said for any piece of furniture you build.  Why not just put a sheet of plywood on two sawhorses and call it a dining table?  It's just a piece of equipment to hold plates and forks.  Why not keep your bed on a cheap metal frame?  Why not store your books in milk crates?  If getting by with the absolute minimum is our goal in life, we might as well not woodwork at all.  I draw no distinction between building a bench and building anything else...they all should be built to the best of one's ability.  The craft itself is the reason we build, and the craft does not place more value upon one project than another.  They are all important, because you are building them.  It's about taking pride in your work...in all of your work.

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All true. On the other hand, building a bench is a rite of passage for a woodworker, and anything worth doing is worth doing right.  Just because it's a bench doesn't mean you shouldn't take prid

SYP is actually quite stable, once properly dried. Construction lumber is not dried the way furniture grade lumber should be.

I laughed right out loud.  I swear Eric and I are twin sons of different mothers

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I think this comes down to the opinion of the builder. For me, I went down the roubo route because no matter what bench you build, there's a lot of material and effort involved. I wanted to avoid feeling like I ever needed to replace it, and I want it to inspire me to make something cool. If I'm honest, I'm going to spend more time with it than most of my other pieces of furniture. Also, as Shannon said on wood talk, the shop is my clubhouse so I want it to be nice. [emoji16]

 

 

Others like building a new and improved work bench every few years, and there's nothing wrong with that, just not my preference. I think how long you plan to keep and use it affects how you'll feel about material. I went with hard maple and sapele because I wanted to be able to beat on it and still have it last. It didn't hurt that where I am in Canada, there weren't any much cheaper alternatives unless I went with construction lumber. Everything cheaper was within 20% or so from the hardwood dealer.

 

 

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4 hours ago, Eric. said:

If getting by with the absolute minimum is our goal in life, we might as well not woodwork at all. 

Despite all my efforts, it seems still possible to get me wrong. Putting different things together in the same basket is confusing. Wood specie, expertize, design, satisfaction, good looking, are ideas that can live alone. Building a workbench out of Ash or Douglas or whatever, does not lead to shoddy work. Why should it ? There's definitely no relationship. A wood specie which is inferior to your eyes can make a fully functional gorgeous piece and require la lot of know how. Moreover, using a particular specie can be governed by budget or availability. For example, I can't find some maple in my area, and foreign species can be at least three or four times the price of a local specie. You can do your best with what you can get or with what is on the shelf. The most unwelcome woods will require more personal qualities from the woodworker : open mind, care and expertize. It's easier to build an outstanding piece with noble wood. A good woodworker dare do it out of plywood or reclaimed wood, and succeed.

I understand people may have different taste. For some people and for me, it's more important to have a simple piece, I mean elegant, functional and well engineered, than to have a precious fancy piece. Some people would be amazed by Green & Green pieces with fake dowels, on the opposite some people will love a simple farm table or a Scandinavian minimalist piece. There's different approach to woodworking, and none takes precedence over another. Minimalism is a positive value. To me, a piece is not perfect when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing left to remove. I'm much impressed by a raw piece of furniture you can dismantle by removing a single dowel rather than by any fancy glued piece.

To me woodworking is about fun and satisfaction, not about pride and recognition. I'm not a particularly big fan, but I had fun building pieces out of softwoods. Believe me or not, but texturing softwoods is really satisfying. The result is smart and you can't do the same with hardwoods. Just an example. I am at a loss to understand not woodworking at all while waiting for the perfect specie, the perfect Benchcraft or Veritas vice. Elitism should not prevents us to have a good time woodworking. That's why I don't subscribe to your point of view on this. You can have fun building a workbench, looking at it, using it, whatever the specie or the hardware. Just do your best with what you've got.

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1 hour ago, Jean [Fr] said:

Just do your best

Then we agree.

Where we disagree is that you seem to think material selection is not part of doing your best work.  To each his own, but in my world it's a critical component.  I don't see the point in pouring my heart and soul and hundreds of hours of work into mediocre materials.  Working with the highest quality, most interesting, and most appropriate species for any given project is a huge part of the satisfaction I get from building.  The materials are where my excitement begins.  Personally I feel totally uninspired when I look at a pile of pine, and while yes...it is wood...it's so boring to work with I'd rather not woodwork at all if it were my only option.

And just for the record, I never said anything about "fancy."  That overly-ornate baroque thing that you posted makes me queasy.  Like you, I prefer simple pieces.  Clean, quiet designs, well-executed joinery and finish, and exceptional materials are my primary concerns when building anything.  And that includes a workbench.  If all you can find is lousy lumber...look harder.

 

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Well guys I really appreciate all the advice, opinions and input. I ran over to the lumber yard this weekend and their price on soft maple was lower than originally quoted to me so I went ahead and made the decision to buy enough wood for the bench top. Again thank you all for your input. 

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Good news TSparger, the fun part can start !

14 hours ago, Eric. said:

Where we disagree is that you seem to think material selection is not part of doing your best work. 

Boulle maketeries cabinets was the taste of Louis XIV and overall a standard for lords in the XVIIe century. 4 centuries later taste has changed, hopefully ! What remains is the incredible excellence of the XVIIe craftsmen. Let me tell you, whatever you like the style or not, meeting Boulle's masterpieces cannot leave any woodworker indifferent. Your stomach stays in place but you seriously reconsider your skill level. I feel lucky to have restored some Boulle's cabinets, even if I was wondering from start to end if I was good enough.

Fancy was my word which I guess much explains my thought about over qualitative wood probably misused. It takes sometimes several human lives to grow a tree, I keep that in mind constantly. We don't consider material selection the same way, that's true. To my eyes, there's no mediocre materials or lousy lumber. Beyond the material, there's different properties, different looks which is reflecting us situations, uses, locations, social status, memories... Balsa is interesting because it's light, plywood is interesting because it's stable, pine is interesting because its grain alternate different softness you can play with, and reclaimed/pallet wood is interesting because you can make something great with a sustainable development approach.

I was looking at TWW friday live (the one with Cremona) last night. And Marc said about workbench materials (1:09:02) "Use what you can get the most of cheaply. If it's like really scrappy wood or super light, maybe avoid it if you could, but there is a whole range of domestic species that will be perfectly fine : something stable with a little bit of density" and also agree with Matt's "It's an utilitarian thing so whatever goes". That's exactly what I think too. If you want over qualitative wood, it's you're decision, and it's fine. But the truth is : you don't really need the "best" hardwoods to make an excellent workbench. That was my thought.

By experience, it happens the good board I spent time to plane escaped from my hands. I like the dent to be on the workbench rather than in the corner of my board. And that depends of the hardness of each one. If the workbench is the harder, the board will take the dent. Simple as that. You probably notice that the real Roubo's vice is a spring effect vice, not the heavy stiff board most of fake Roubo's workbenches uses :

Benchfeatures_1920x1200.jpg

See the contact surface with the board is very small on Fig.4, you're wrong if you use a flat board using the whole surface as clamp because you count on the screw's torque as clamping pressure. A springy board will provide much more clamping pressure. So you don't want a board too stiff and too thick for the leg vice. And best of all, you don't need the jaw to stay parallel to the leg. Indeed, if you want a Roubo workbench, you don't want the Benchcraft fancy X stuff.

Material selection is a complex subject. To me, for an utilitarian piece, the material selection is rather about the the board itself and the grain direction than about the specie. I did not bought a special board for my leg vice, for example. But I searched on the shelf which scrap will fit better. For me it was a bowed scrap of Ash, just fine for that use : the direction of the grain provide a durable spring effect. It could be another specie, preferably a springy one, but the board was here. Some Maple would be less interesting for that particular use. I don't care about using a lot of different species, that can match your way of thinking : perfect wood each time. So why not different materials for each part ? MDF lamination would be perfect for the top, because it's stable, dense, weighty and won't dent the wood. Hmm, we have to think about it ! ;) Joking aside, weight, material properties are all things you can get around by size, lamination or tricks. Even if your top is pine, it is not crucial as long as the overall weight of the bench is right. Some people get around the budget by laminating nice hardwood boards over a cheap wood structure, and if it's well done, it's fine : you have the budget and the look.

If someone want the "best" boards for his workbench it's fine too. Is this crucial ? Probably not. Is it over qualitative ? Probably. Claiming a "perfect" specie for a workbench (or any woodworking piece) is flawed IMHO, as a lot of species will be just fine, like Marc and Matt said. Through, even the "best" specie (attempted it exists) can make an terrible workbench if you don't know how to work with the grain. That's what TSparger needs to take care about now.

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Well Jean, we have completely different philosophies about woodworking, and we'll have to leave it at that.  I have a rebuttal for almost everything you just wrote, but I'm out of time and energy for this particular topic...and I don't see myself changing your mind...and you're definitely not changing mine. LOL  Good day, sir.

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The dents issue is not hyperbole or guessing. Soft benches do NOT ensure that work pieces will not dent. This moves that whole portion of the equation into the myth zone. I am not sure why so many continue to bring it up. 

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19 minutes ago, C Shaffer said:

The dents issue is not hyperbole or guessing. Soft benches do NOT ensure that work pieces will not dent. This moves that whole portion of the equation into the myth zone. I am not sure why so many continue to bring it up. 

Completely agree and it was something I was going to argue with Jean about.  I've dropped bubinga on my soft maple bench and they BOTH dented...so there goes that theory.

Also my chop is hard maple and I can lift my entire body off the ground pushing against a workpiece that's in the vise, and I can chop a mortise without any shifting whatsoever...so needing "springy" wood for your chop is a busted myth, too.

I'm not saying anyone should spend a million dollars on lumber for a bench...I bought a pile of soft maple for the bulk of mine but the rest was a hodgepodge of what I had laying around.  My only point is that a bench build is quite an undertaking - many hours of building goes into it - so I don't really see the point of not first procuring some decent material with at least moderate density before you start the build.  In most of the USA maple, ash and oak are abundant and very reasonably priced.  The difference in cost between proper hardwoods and construction lumber is absolutely insignificant if you stretch that expense out over the course of a lifetime...so it just makes no sense to me to use an impractical species when "perfect" species are accessible and affordable.  It just boils down to a "why not" kind of scenario for me.  You're building the thing...why not do it better?

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Well, as far as you already reached the function, better is questionable. About dents, it's physics not mystics. That said, you're right, big crashes will dent both. But Pine will probably cause less damage than Maple.

I realize the US wood market might be different. Americans should feel pretty lucky on that point. As I said, your location may change availability and price. It's a reason to use standard domestic wood. Here we pay per cubic meter (+-10 cubic feet) of 30mm (1.2") thick raw oak at least 1200€ ($1400). It's the the price for the whole log, no board selection. Quartersawn or nut-free boards will be about twice the price. That's a start price for a good domestic woodworking wood. Maple's price starts at 2500€ ($3000) per cubic meter. Cheaper wood like poplar or pine will cost at least 800€ ($1000) per cubic meter. Worst of all, a 3/4" sheet of medium quality plywood cost about 100€ ($120). Please understand that depending of your area, wood can't be as accessible or affordable as in the States. Maybe an overkill wood selection makes more sense in Europe...

Otherwise, if you can afford it, why not using the finest wood for your workbench, it's OK. What please others don't hurt me. I just said this is not required to make a perfect workbench, and even less to do a good job, for many reasons I developed above. It seems I'm not the only one to share this point of view. I don't understand why I would be the right-minded woodworker's Antichrist with this statement. People have always been able to make the best of furniture on ordinary workbenches. It can scarcely be denied. I'm not very comfortable with extremism across all subjects. Do the excellency of the workbench really matter by the way ?

 

sam-maloof-x.jpg?itok=4_6xbukR

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13 minutes ago, Jean [Fr] said:

Oh, I'm sorry. I have some trouble with imperial conversions sometimes.

@Eric. See his workbench on the picture. A pretty ordinary workbench, isn't it ? ;)

Did you see the text I highlighted?

"That's what makes him Sam Maloof - a willingness to spend extra time to add beauty to an otherwise functional object."

Which has been my point all along.  So thanks for proving it for me. :)

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3 minutes ago, Jean [Fr] said:

Oh, I'm sorry. I have some trouble with imperial conversions sometimes.

Who doesn't! And of course, a cubic foot is 12 board feet just to make everything so much more complicated. So, for example, Oak at $1400 per cubic meter is about $3.30 per board foot, probably not very different from a good price for white (or red) oak in the US. You maple price is about 2x what it is here, but here it is of course domestic and in Europe I think it's imported?

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1 minute ago, Mike. said:

Another way to put it - if you need/want to build a bench cheap, use poplar or construction lumber.  If want to spend more money and build something  more durable, use Hard Maple.  Soft Maple is really a half pregnant solution.

Unless you use red maple...which is about 3/4 pregnant.  It's something like 950 Janka, which is about like cherry.  Good enough, but not as good as hard maple.  "Not as good" being the key words.

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My supplier has both both red and silver maple.

MAPLE SOFT RED LEAF 15/16 S&B SAP&BTR    $4.37/BF
MAPLE SOFT SILVER LEAF 15/16 S&B SAP&BTR    $4.25/BF

And hard maple is cheaper than both...go figure.

MAPLE HARD 15/16 SEL&BTR    $3.85/BF

So build your bench out of hard maple, and of course use the pirate ship wheel!

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1 hour ago, Mike. said:

Agreed, but I have never seen Red Maple sold as such.   It is either "hard" or "soft" and soft might be silver.  Do you bin Red separately?

We just generically call it soft maple but red is the only soft maple species he carries, so I constantly make people aware of that fact.

I agree about silver maple...it's poop.  Might as well use poplar.  We had some ambrosia silver maple come in a few times and it was light as a feather and soft as a marshmellie.

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3 hours ago, estesbubba said:

My supplier has both both red and silver maple.

MAPLE SOFT RED LEAF 15/16 S&B SAP&BTR    $4.37/BF
MAPLE SOFT SILVER LEAF 15/16 S&B SAP&BTR    $4.25/BF

And hard maple is cheaper than both...go figure.

MAPLE HARD 15/16 SEL&BTR    $3.85/BF

So build your bench out of hard maple, and of course use the pirate ship wheel!

I priced out some lumber the other day and found the same thing. HM is cheaper than soft maple 

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Hard maple is "better" if you want a hard maple bench. I agree that a pine or polar bench won't protect your workpiece from dints if you slam a piece down onto the bench. However, unless you really, really, abuse your bench, dings and scratches won't have any impact on how your bench functions. Mass might matter, but on a Roubo scale, probably not and if you are worried, make the top a little thicker. Finally, building a bench is only a'rite of passage' if you think it is.  Otherwise it's the thing you build your furniture on.  

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14 hours ago, Eric. said:

Did you see the text I highlighted?

"That's what makes him Sam Maloof - a willingness to spend extra time to add beauty to an otherwise functional object."

Which has been my point all along.  So thanks for proving it for me. :)

 

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Oh, come on !  This is ridiculous, you can't misunderstood to that point. Obviously what you highlighted was said about his production, not about workbenches. Same article, way before your block, highlight another text (first paragraph, line6) : "On his very simple workbench, Maloof has produced hundred of pieces of incredible furniture (...)". Which is precisely the starting point of our discussion you disagree with (dunno why, by the way) : you don't need an overkill workbench to do a good job. As his own workbench shows, Maloof did not share your emphasis for rituals and utilities. He simply focused on his job. That's the way of most of the great craftsmen. @Eric. You've got your own convictions, that's ok. I honestly appreciate your love of skilful work, a love I share, and most of the time I enjoy reading you, really. But you cant deny that reality to argue your point, you're better that that. Come on, you're not the merciless guardian of the sacred flame of holly woodworking. You shall also appreciate some people may don't share your point of view, for honorable reasons, even the greatest.

 

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