Roubo Delivered

finished roubo

This is the second Roubo bench that I have built this year;  this one was for a local high school.  The top and legs are made from laminated douglas fir.  The vise block is from a nicely figured piece of ash.  The initial dimensioning was done with machines, but all of the joinery (12 draw bore mortise and tenon joints) was cut by hand without power tools, which is my favorite way to work.  The legs were finished with milk paint and varnish, the top with an oil and varnish mixture.  Here’s some more pics (one with a plane on it):

I have been building lots of workbenches lately.  I find the most challenging (and thus interesting) part to be cutting the huge joints.  If I remember correctly, the tenons on this bench are 1 1/4″ wide, around 4″ long, and quite deep.  When I am chopping them I feel like a timber framer.  This school has ordered a number of things.  Next on the docket: a Moravian workbench.

Cabinet Doors

I have been building some doors for a built-in cabinet and bookshelf project.  Each corner of these doors are held together with something called a haunched mortise and tenon joint.  So what is that and who cares anyway?  Well, a joint is any place where two pieces of wood connect.  Joints can be super, duper simple (like nails) or crazy complex.  I almost always choose to cut joints that stay together without nails or screws.  Such joints are stronger, more durable, and make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.   Seriously, though, while there are simpler ways to build a door (biscuit joints, domino joints, screws, glue and optimism), I choose to use hand cut joinery for a number of reasons.  For one, it is important to me to carry on this centuries old technique.  Also, this type of joinery creates a strong door that resists wracking (distortion caused by changes in humidity and temperature).  So it a superior product that makes me feel good inside.  That’s a win-win.

I won’t go through the whole process of laying out and cutting a mortise and tenon joint.  But let me give you a walk-through.  Here is a mortise (hole) cut into a door stile.  I made this mortise using a drill press, a chisel, and a hammer.

door mortise

Here is the mating tenon, which I cut with a type of handsaw called a back saw.

door tenon

The tenon needed a tiny bit of cleaning up with chisel. (Don’t know why this picture look like a still shot from a dream sequence.)

trimming tenon

And here is the door fit together.  I used liquid hide glue to reinforce the joints.

door gluing up

This door is slightly over-sized.  Once the glue dries, I will take the clamps off and trim off those ears on the bottom.

Thanks for reading. Keep well.

Shop Update – 11/14/18

Winter is here in Wisconsin, albeit a month early.  Fortunately planing boards and chopping firewood has been keeping me toasty.  I’ve been working on a order for some Roubo-style workbenches for a local school–the same place I built the arcade for.  If I wanted to feel like a factory worker on the production floor I could make the parts for all the benches at the same time.  But I don’t like to work that way.  I make each piece individually.  Today, I am flattening the bottom of a bench top–by hand.

planing bench

Could I use a power planer to do this?  Yup.  But that would be loud, dusty, and far less enjoyable.  I am reminded about a line I heard once about wearing shoes: If you always wear shoes, the world is paved in shoe leather (or sneaker rubber, or whatever).  All wood feels the same if its just being run through a machine.  I want to experience the wood.  Rather than annoying dusty dust, here is want a hand plane produces:


Awesome stuff.

Wonderful Variety

Fall is here and things in the shop have been busy.  Before I delve into what’s being built river in fall

check out this view of the river from the back of the property.  There is always something going on here.  Okay, on to the shop work. . .

I have been building a built-in unit.  This is a rewarding project that is giving me a chance to not only build but also repair drywall and paint.  (I began my work in building and creating working for my father as a house painter, so I am on firm ground with this type of work.)  In addition, I have also, been able to build the table top for this customer.  Here are some process photos:


Here I am making a template of the top of the cabinet so the counter top can fit exactly into the space.  Because the walls aren’t exactly square it would be folly to just build a rectangular counter top and hope it fits.  I then use this template to size the finished counter top.

table top test fit

And here is an image of a test fit of that counter top.  You can also see some in-process drywall work on the wall in the back.  Now that this counter top is confirmed to be the right size, I can take it back to the shop to be finished.

This built-in unit will have ship lap against the wall in the back.  I’ve already cut the ship lap and I am painting it while applying the finish to the counter top.  It is important to keep dust to a minimum while I am applying finishes, so not a lot of building can go until this step is done.

In addition to the built-in project, I also added a simple plane till to the shop.  Nothing too elaborate but I was glad for the opportunity to hand cut some joints.


The carcass of this till is constructed with hand-cut dovetails.  The shelf that the planes are sitting on is secured with a hand-cut dado joint and the ship lap in the back was also made without the aid of power tools.  I genuinely love working this way.  Anyway, that’s it for now.  Its time to get back to work.

A Week Learning from the Best

I just returned from an awesome week studying advanced trim carpentry at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking outside Indianapolis.  I can’t recommend this place highly enough for anyone interested in woodworking–or any kind of making for that matter.  The class I took was taught by Gary Striegler (  It covered casing doors and windows, wainscoting, curved entryways, simple and layered crown molding, and baseboard.  Some of this stuff I have done lots of before, but he helped us take it to the next level. The class was demanding and wonderful.  Take a class with Gary if you can.  You won’t regret it.  And if you want to see just how beautiful trim work and built-ins can be, check out his website.  You will only find a few pictures of me and my work below.  As I ramp up this website I have to get in the habit of taking more pictures, which is hard for me because I hate stopping the action to take a picture (or worse, ask someone else to take a picture of me).