Steady Progress on the Silver Maple Roubo

  • Posted on: 12 February 2017
  • By: Jay Oyster

Benchtop endcap with the mortise to be cut laid out in pencilIt's not that I'm not doing anything. I haven't been posting to the site due to too much work at my day job. I've been slowly and steadily making progress on a couple of projects. Mostly I've been working on the Roubo workbench. Six years and counting on this project.

So where were we when last I left the narrative? I did the mortises for the leg stretchers. I've been working on getting the top ready to  attach to the base. So this meant:

  • Attaching the end cap
  • Fitting the front leg vice to the leg
  • Cutting the front part of the benchtop to dimension, and then dovetailing it into the endcap
  • Carving my credo into the bench front

I still need to do two more things before I can attach the legs to the top. I need to cut the mortises for the leg tenons into the top itself. And I need to install the Benchcrafted wagon vice onto the bottom of the benchtop.


Details of the update - Reading back through old posts, I am REALLY longwinded about things that no one cares about. Still, I keep this as much for my own memory as for any random reader. So I summarized above and will go into details here below.

Attaching the End Cap

Starting to drill out the waste of the mortise in the endcapThe endcap of the bench has been glued up for over two years now. I need to get it attached to the benchtop. Lacking a workbench to clamp things on is an ongoing hassle for building a workbench. I also don't have a beefy drill press, so I'm going to hog out the waste from the mortise with a hand drill. This is a new 'American-made' Dewalt  cordless drill I picked up this past November. It handled the workload surprisingly well, although it did end up taking me two days to finish all ten of the deep holes.

Ten holes in a row, hand drilled using the cordless Dewalt.After finishing the holes, I chopped out the mortise square with my old trusty Harbor Freight rubber tipped hammer and my workhorse Buck Brothers chisels.  (It's odd how most jobs seem too hardcore for my fancy chisels and my carving mallet.) 

It took some back and forth, and I'm embarrassed to say, but a patch on the tenon since I hogged out too much on the mortise, but the endcap is now fit to the benchtop.






Chiseling out the rest of the mortise in the endcapEndcap fit to the end of the workbench

Squaring up the hole and fitting the endcap to the end of the bench took about an hour. Mostly it was just pounding a lot on my old chisel. As you can see from the photo at right, which shows the benchtop sitting upside down on my outfeed table, the bottom of the endcap sits a bit proud of the bottom of the main bench. I'll need to level it with a handplane later, if I bother to do that. I'm not sure. It depends on the layout of the Benchcrafted wagon vice. It will probably be simpler if they line up.





Fitting the Front Leg Vice

Installing the leg vice collar on the front legAfter the endcap, the next step to get ready before I glue together the undercarriage is the leg vice. I need to drill the hole in the leg, and create the mortise in the back of the leg for the vice collar. The vice itself is one I bought from WoodCraft. I hate shopping there these days since their primary mission seems to be to do whatever they can to drive American manufacturer's out of business. If there's an American-made good that they sell, they seem to go as fast as possible to a foreign manufacturer and see if they can get it sourced for cheaper. I suppose it is 'just business', but it funny how the most patriotic of business owners seems to feel zero compunction about screwing over American firms if there's a dollar involved.  Anyway, I bought the vice because I wanted to see it in person before I bought it. And WoodCraft had them in stock.

This operation involved two steps, drilling the through hole for the acme screw, and creating the square mortise for the vice collar. The through hole was tricky since I don't have a drill press with a long enough throw to go through the entire leg, and besides I don't have large enough bit that's that long anyway. So I drilled a smaller pilot hole all the way through, and used that, along with careful measurements and markings on both sides of the leg, to try to drill from both sides and line it up. I managed to get it close enough that the screw just fits and doesn't wobble. I may actually need to file out the hole a bit just to give it some clearance.

Chiseling out the waste in the leg vice mortiseAfter the hole, I drilled out the basic area of the mortise, and then chiseled out the rest by hand. At first, I got the hole too shallow. I thought briefly about going back to the drill and the chisel to make it deeper, but then realized this was the perfect opportunity to use my router plane. I have so few opportunities to use it. Of course, that's my fault for being so slow at projects. Work more, more opportunities to use the fancy tools I bought five years ago. 

Using the router plane to deepen the leg vice collar mortiseThe router plane made quick and very neat work off the mortise. It is such a joy to use, I may take to cutting dados by hand just for the excuse.








Dovetailing the Bench Front to the Endcap

The outlines of the front piece credo message. It's a Robert Frost quote.Before I did the dovetail to connect the front piece of the benchtop to the endcap, I started working on the letter carving for the front. I printed the message out in Times New Roman at 170pt or something and gave it a style of outline. 

Pattern for the letter carving glued to the front piece

I printed it out from Word, cut it into strips, identified the top and bottom letter edge lines, and transferred the line to the board. That allowed me to cut up the message and line it up. I used a 3M adhesive to attach the pattern to the board.



Laying out the tails on the right end of the front boardAt this point, I changed my mind and decided I need to do the dove tail first before I work on the carving. I'd hate to do all that carving only to mess up the dovetail. Strangely enough, I'm more confident of my letter carving than of my large-format dovetailing. I've done a lot more of the former than the latter, of which I have done none whatsoever. So I switched to the dovetailing. It turned out to be a good idea, because I quickly almost completely screwed it up. I completely missed the base line on part of the tail board. It was only through heroic efforts on the pin cutting in the endcap that I was able to recover and keep the same piece of wood for the front edge.

The result of my attempt to cut large tails. It's great . . . except for the base line on the right end of the tailI'm out of practice cutting dovetails. And I always seem to have more problems with the tails, which is odd since they are physically less demanding to cut. So I worked very carefully to lay ou the pins. I cut them with my brand new Lie NIelsen carcase saw. I call it brand new. I got it Christmas of 2015, but hadn't used it yet. So it was a virgin to the taste of wood. Now it's not.

With no workbench, I had to quick clamp the endcap to the leg of my out feed table in order to work on the pins. It's going to be so much nicer having a workbench.

Layout of the pins






Cutting the pins on the endcap and the tails on the bench frontispiece