Tag Archives: workbench


As promised, here is a link to the first “Official” published work by The Madcap Woodwright.


There are actually two other bits published in Highland Woodworking’s blog.(Part one of the Roubo build being one of them. It is linked in the intro to this piece. Don’t miss it)

 I am actually enjoying two bylines via these brave souls.

 I have a spot in their blog, as well as a column in their online magazine WoodworkingToolTips.com.

 I wish to extend my profound gratitude to them for providing me with a literary outlet for my musings, as well as all the editorial mentoring and encouragement a budding writer could ever ask for.

Thanks especially go out to Kelley Bagby for rolling the dice on an untested voice.




The Roubo-apffel workbench is now complete. I once again could not resist a pic of it here since installing the leg vise replete with Benchcrafted “Criss-Cross/Retro.”

Highland Woodworking was where I chose to get the hardware for this vise. Excellent experience with them as usual….Not surprising…. And I’m not just saying that because they are publishing my rambling prose. The have always been a first class operation in my book.

Speaking of rambling prose, look for a couple of articles from me on both their blog

And their online magazine. I will link to the online magazine after they publish my article and send me the link……Whooooo hooooo!!!!

A Roubo is born.

I am putting this one picture up here because I just can’t resist.

However, I have committed to providing the actual “bench build” as a series of articles for Highland Woodworking for use in their online magazine. (Highlandwoodworking.com)

So, as each installment is to be published, I will be sure to leave word here so you, my dear readers, can enjoy the Chronicles of the Madcap Roubo Build.

In the meantime……Behold, the beauty of Roubo!!!

It Really Is Something Of A Sickness…



Above is the first picture of the as yet, undecided, workbench.

I continue to waver back and forth between calling this a Holtzapffel, and building a twin screw front vise for it, and calling it a Roubo, and building a leg vise for it….lol.

I’m pitiful. It is something of a characteristic feature of my particular brand of bench building insanity, that I am just not content unless I have wrung my hands and paced the floor late at night churning over the various options available for a particular build.

All this mental energy over what….the choice between two vises and if I call the thing by a long dead German guys name, or a long dead Frenchman? Sheesh….I need to take a bit of my own advice and just enjoy the moment.

I only have a little more to do yet on this unnamed bench. Drill dog holes for my hold-fasts and possibly a Veritas fixture or two. I am thinking that I may be running a row of dog holes along the front edge for use with this….



It is a Veritas Surface vise. I can use it in conjunction with dog holes in the bench top as a stand in for the end vise I have elected to delete in this build since the bench is going to double as an out feed table for my table saw.

I’ll just need to see how things go. For now, I am basking in the glow of having not hosed this project up. It’s been a bit of an adventure.

In related news, There is a series in the works for my column over at Highland Woodworking. (I love saying that.)

If you have interest in seeing what I did to get to this place, stay tuned as I think I will be writing it up here in the next few weeks.




“Baby, it’s cold outside.”


It’s cold outside and winter has finally descended here in lovely Colorado. As the holidays approach, the siren call of workbench building has become too loud to ignore any longer. My latest rehab project completed and delivered, I find myself with an itch that needs scratching.

The latest completed project out of The Tiny Shop was a 1916 Brunswick phonograph.

wp-1479138980630.jpg She came to me in pretty rough shape. Strangely, I think it was the 3 or 4 miles of cheap lacquer that were heaped on this poor thing that protected it from the abuse and torment that only the ravages of time can bestow. Once I got it stripped down and sanded, it all of a sudden began to live again.


She had been manhandled a few times prior to my loving ministrations. Some of her veneer had been sanded through, some of her lines worn down. On balance though, I felt her to be more than worthy of the care and attention I put into her.


So, without gainful employment, and without a paying project for The Tiny Shop, what better time to embark on yet another bench building adventure?

I mentioned in a recent post that I wanted to replace the cobbled together, yet highly functional, table saw out feed table I have with a second workbench. Since I have been gradually returning to hand tool use and finding myself returning to the joinery techniques of my youth, it was a wonderful excuse to enter once more into the madness that is bench building planning.

If I remember correctly, the last time I wrote I was still hemming and hawing over which style bench to make. On the one hand, a scaled down and modernized version of the Scandinavian/Germanic/Continental bench was the initial go-to choice after flirting with a Roubo design and also a brief tryst with the Holtzanapffal design. Thematic and aesthetic continuity.

I set the idea for the second bench on the back burner for a little while though. I was really starting to feel hemmed in my shop space, and the thought of a cold winter in such tight quarters was all I needed to start pondering the ways in which I could get a little breathing room in there.


Above is the original configuration of The Tiny Shop. Functional, fairly efficient, and mostly very comfortable. However, the limitations of the space and the lack of adequate means to store lumber, were beginning to wear on me. Stacking boards on top of the Gorilla racks was a real pain in the ass. It ment I had to un-stack, and then re-stack the entire pile whenever I needed something that was not right on top of the pile. It also had a way of accentuating the closed in feeling of the shop. The ceiling is very low, and towering racks just make it feel a little….tight.

In mulling over my options, I was staring at the gorrilla rack system and remembered that it was made to be modular……thunder clapped, the earth shook. Why not separate the two sections, and set them side by side rather than one on top of the other? Duh!!!


So that is what I did. Above you can see the mayhem that this caused. The Tiny Shop turned into a mess that still haunts my quiet moments. The upside though,is that I was able to mount proper lumber racking on to my walls. These were perfectly sized for  such a small space. While I wont be stocking up or nurturing a wood stash any time soon, the racks allow for good storage of lumber for projects in process currently. Perfect!

They also have the added benefit of creating the feeling of a more open space. Double bonus!


So, that little bunny trail project accomplished, I turned my attention back to the replacement out feed table.

It has become something of a return to the obsession that I had when building the S.S.Madcap bench of world renown. Back and forth I go between the various pro’s and con’s of each considered design. What should be the planned length? What should be the planned height? Blah, blah, blah.

As lumber buying time approaches, I find that the Roubo design keeps nagging at me. The down side is that anyone who has read Christopher Schwarz’s books, or who frequents the popular woodworking forums has built this bench. It is ubiquitous, almost cliche.



Yes I could carry the traditional woodworking bench theme through with another copy of the classic form. But I have done that…twice now. Add to this that for all its zombie like devotee’s, there is a lot to like about the Roubo, especially for hand work.


To start, the roubo has some features that make it a better choice for the type of work I am doing lately and plan to do moving forward. For example, instead of having a large overhang of the top, the Roubo’s legs are flush with the top. this provides extra clamping surface that the Scandinavian design does not allow for. It is lower than the S.S.Madcap. The lower height not only being optimal for hand planing, but also perfect for outfeed duties…happy, happy, happy.

It is designed to be very stout. I will be building mine with BORG lumber, just like the S.S. Madcap was. However, this time around, I will be using 4×6 material almost exclusivly. The exception being the shelf below the top which will be made from 2×6 or 2×8 BORG wood. It is going to be an absolute beast just like the Nimitz class bench I built before.

The goal here is to do this on the cheap, but still make a handsome and useful tool for the shop. The discovery of Douglas Fir as a good choice for this type of build has been like a wonderful Christmas gift.

 Sure it is fairly soft and not generally considered to be workbench material, but there are a lot of folks out there…a LOT…who would disagree, and go on to argue the liberating merits that a cheap lumber bench, made well, offers. 

Myself included.

This bench will need a vise. These can be quite expensive and time consuming to build into the bench if done in a period correct fashion. Expensive but exceptional Benchcrafted vise hardware being the normal go-to in these applications.

However, it can also be done with minimal investment of time and money while delivering superior performance to iron quick release or traditional vices. More on this later.

Finally, the Roubo will be my first experience with traditional holdfasts.holdfasts

Embarrassing in their simplicity, they are perfect for the needs of someone who is working wood by hand. Simple, effective, cheap, and super versatile. More on these later as well.

The dimensions for the new bench will be something like 80″ long by 24″ wide by 34″ high.

The top is slated to be around 3 1/2″ thick, the legs and stretchers 5″x 3 1/2″. More than enough mass to keep it in place for any hand planing and mortise chopping.

One last benefit to all this, I now have more material to write about here. Since I continue to look for any excuse NOT to write in the book I am supposed to be finishing right now, I think this may be a good jump start to get the literary juices flowing again….

Nes pas?



Some Things Just Never Change


The last post I made here was a bit of a departure from my normal obsessing over the various design options available to me when I am in the mood to dive into building another work bench.

Above you can see what has me paused for reconsideration of design. That is the Lie Nielsen large workbench. That thing retails at a cool $3500, + shipping on a parcel that has to weigh in at roughly 400 pounds. Not cheap.

Taking the Lie NielsenĀ  vises out of the equation for the moment, this bench exhibits some really attractive qualities in a blend of Scandinavian and Roubo styles.

For example, the legs are flush with the top just like in a Roubo bench. This allows for more clamping surface and also a place to use hold fasts for clamping also. (see hold fast holes in right side leg.)

While the base is of a trestle construction, a feature shared by some Roubo benches and traditional Continental/Germanic/Scandinavian work benches. This one deletes the feet normally found at the bottom of the legs of most traditional benches.

For what I have in mind, this is an interesting hybrid. Since I am going to be devoting more time to using hand tools for my work in The Tiny Shop, I will need a very stout bench to withstand the forces that operations like hand planing and the shock of blows delivered during joint fitting deliver . However, the bench will also be doing double duty as an outfeed table for my table saw. This is actually fortunate because my preferred bench height for hand tool work is almost exactly the same as my table saw height. (34″ from the floor)

Initially, I had planned to laminate 7 4″x6″x8′ together face to face to create a nearly 6″ thick top. However, given that the overall length will be less than 8 feet, this will not only be overkill, but might just …well…look funny. I also considered laminating 2″x6″ material together just like I had for my main bench, but frankly I am less than enthusiastic about this also. It’s a lot of work to mill, and glue 14 separate boards together without the help of a professional glue rack and deep-throated clamps to accept the oversized boards. Not to mention the lack of a wide belt sander to help me flatten the top after glue up.

That leaves me with a couple of choices should I decide against either of the two bench top fabrication choices above.

I could edge glue 4 4x6x8 timbers. This would get me a top that was just shy of 4″ thick and 24 inches across by 72-ish inches long. the timbers are thick enough to withstand multiple flattening operations with hand planes while the wood settles down and acclimate to The Tiny Shop.


I could just laminate 6 4x4x8 timbers to approximate the same thing, but with several more glue joints. In thinking it over, I think that having a 4″ thick top has several advantages over the radical thickness I considered before. Chief among them is that it will make chopping out the through mortises a little easier.

Still I must confess to being drawn to the heft of multiple thick timbers laminated together. I am just having a hard time envisioning what that will translate into visually on a bench that is less than 8 feet long and at a 34″ working height. The proposed length would be somewhere between 6 and 7 feet.

I suppose I will end up going with my gut.

Right now, the gut consensus is to go ahead and build the monster bench top, and slap it on top of some sort of hybrid Scandinavian/Franco trestle base a’la Lie Nielsen.

This also brings me back to the original thinking behind building a Roubo at all. I would kind of like to have “one of each” so to speak. (Scandinavian and Roubo) So why the hemming and hawing? I guess it’s just what I do once the itch to build ANOTHER workbench gets a hold of me.

TRES BON…..For now.


In a radical departure from my norm, I think I have settled on the Roubo style bench as a proposed replacement for my outfeed table/assembly table.

I realize that I have forgone the traditional hand wringing and over examination of pros and cons, but I think this may be a natural choice.

One of the main reasons…as always…is the economy of this design narrowly beats out its Scandinavian counterpart. All told, I should be able to procure the required timber for just under $175.

Next, the dimensions. While not quite as short as I had initially envisioned, the height is just about perfect for hand planing work and also for it’s use as an outfeed table for the tablesaw. The length will still provide some extra breathing space between this bench and my main workbench. The nice thing about this will be that I will still have storage for both my planer and my sliding mitre saw, as well as a bit of space at the end to tuck a shopvac, or stool, or what have you under the overhang.

An added bonus will be the joy of having built both a Scandinavian design and a Roubo, thus soothing my craven desire to “have it all.”

I also like the idea of having two highly versatile work spaces. The configuration of the different vises will provide added optional work holding capability. This will become increasingly important as I continue to focus on more handwork using hand saws and planes.


I think a simplified front vise will suffice. I can’t see spending the premium money for the Benchcrafted vise hardware swhown above in these pictures. However, I think I may actually attempt the Wagon Vise that is shown above. I have drawings and plans for a shop made version of the Benchcrafted equipment pictured. I like the Wagon Vise idea because the vise is captured within the bench itself, and therefore does not intrude in the already tight space I am trying to maximize. Were I to build a Scandinavian bench again, I would either have to contend with whacking my knees / hips on the vise handle, or delete it all together.

On balance I feel this is the best of all options since it seems I am bent on building yet ANOTHER workbench. I am excited to get moving on this project. It will be something of a technical challenge. The vise engineering alone takes me out of my comfort zone. The top lamination may make up for that, as I plan to laminate 7-4″x6″x80″ timbers together to get a top that is close to 28″ wide. The base will likewise be 4″x6″ timbers with 4″x4″ timbers as the stretchers between the legs. The legs will be through mortised into the top. Each hand chopped nortise will be nearly 6″deep. Each hand cut tenon will also be nearly 6″.

This project is a bit ambitious for just an outfeed table, to be sure. In the scheme of things though, it meets several needs especially as they relate to work holding for hand work with planes, chisels, and hand saws.

Wheeewww….it’s going to be a fun ride. loving the adventure. I just need to get cracking on a couple of small lingering projects to clear the decks for this bad boy…..God I love this stuff.