The ongoing saga of Mr Roubo and his legs

I got a pretty good day of work in yesterday, but it still feels like I’m moving in slow motion.  I’m down to paring the socket for the last leg so it can drop in.  I think I may need to do a little fine tuning on one other leg too, as it’s not sitting exactly straight.

I am having mixed feelings about these leg joints.  First off, let me tell you that this fir is a pain in the neck to work with.  Chiseling the end grain to square up the mortises is tough going.  Especially deep in the mortise.  It dulls my nice LN chisel pretty quickly, and even with a very sharp edge it doesn’t pare well across the end grain.  Paring across the face grain with my big paring chisel is better, the LN is just too small to do a good job deep in the mortise.  And, for whatever reason I’m having to do a lot of work to fit the legs into the mortises.  The tenons aren’t as perfect as they need to be, and the scale of these parts really complicates things.

After all of this struggling to get the legs fit into the bench top, will it be worth it?  Right now I’m not sure.  Wouldn’t it have been enough to have stub tenons fit into blind mortises in the bottom of the bench?   And I still need to make the stretchers, leg vise and sliding deadman.  Grumble, moan, complain.

Part of my frustration is the time this takes, part is that I wish I could do a better job, and part is that at the end of the day this won’t be a beautiful workbench.  It will be sturdy, and a huge improvement over the Wobbly Wonder™ I’ve been living with for the past year or two.  But I can already imagine myself building its replacement out of a nicer material.  Something without knots, with a finer grain structure.  Even a better grade of Fir.

One more cuppa and I’ll muster the troops and wrestle this thing into submission.

Marking out the location for the legs on the bottom of the bench

Marking out the location for the legs on the bottom of the bench

Marking the location on the TOP of the bench after mortising the bottom

Marking the location on the TOP of the bench after mortising the bottom

It Fits

It Fits

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8 thoughts on “The ongoing saga of Mr Roubo and his legs

  1. I think it looks good!

    I bet it will work like a mule, too. My Roubo has only the inside mortise, not the dovetailed one. It works just fine, but the dovetail looks so much cooler.

    The other benefit is that with the fir, you won’t be tempted to baby your bench top. You can beat the snot out of it with a clear conscience!

    • Thanks for the encouragement Brian. If this bench wiggles or walks around I’ll certainly be surprised. It’s definitely going to be stout.

  2. I think that a stub tenon, draw-bored, would have been more than sturdy enough. But the through tenon/dovetail combo IS pretty cool looking. And it’s good practice. I’m sure once it’s all done and you step back and look at, it’ll look great.

    • It should be plenty sturdy, and it’s been great practice. All of the work up until the stretchers was done with hand tools, including squaring the stock. I broke down and used my new power tools to square up the stretcher material. That was a nasty job — it was oozing sap. I I had to use a scraper to get the lumps of sap off before I started machining it (and wiped it off with solvent after scraping).

      The gaps around the through tenons bug me, but I’ll wedge it from the top and after it’s glued and flattened it should look nice enough.

  3. I agree with Jamie that the stub tenon design is more than adequate – this is an overkill design. But I also think that a maker who doesn’t like to overkill sometimes is probably not going anywhere, so I applaud such things (at least within reason).

    As for ‘beauty’ – my first bench was quite pretty (ash and walnut, lovely aprons, etc) and I hated it. Hate. In fact, I gladly gave it away in the end after I’d learned what I really wanted in a bench. My next bench was a Roubo in Doug Fir and it was (and remains) a stellar workhorse. I love that bench.

    Plus, I think pretty is a questionable quality in a bench because it’s going to make you think twice about really using the thing to its best advantage — you’ll have the nagging desire to preserve the beauty instead of making it do its job and sacrifice itself for the beauty of the furniture.

    I have a prettier oak Roubo now, but I’m not sure I would have wanted it if I didn’t know it was backed up by the workhorse mule. Which of the two will actually get used more is still an open question for me.

    In short – I think yours is going to be a fine bench, and will serve its purpose fantastically well – whether there’s a gap or two in the leg joints (which will, by the way, fill in with sawdust, sweat, blood, and grime in short order) is totally beside the point.

    Make something sweet on it and the looks of the bench suddenly become a point of pride rather than dismay.

    • Thanks Raney, I appreciate the feedback and encouragement.

      I’m looking forward to getting this done and putting it into service, and beating the daylights out of it making furniture. I have several other projects I’m holding off on until I finish this bench, the drawers for my tool cabinet and the stained glass for the sconces. Then I can start something new with impunity.

      You guys did an awesome job on the FORP benches, I’m torn between being jealous and being glad I didn’t spend a week in Georgia in July 🙂

  4. This should hopefully encourage. From CS’s French Oak Roubou:

  5. Pingback: Flattening the bench | She Works Wood

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