French Oak Roubo Workbench

In July 2013 I participated in an event that changed the course of my woodworking endeavors.  At the time, my “workbench” was a four foot square table made from 2×6’s topped with plywood and hardboard. It was originally made to pack electrical parts for shipping, and it’s most charming elements were the dirty pictures drawn here and there.  At the time, I was in the process of determining if I wanted to build or purchase a functional workbench. Since my heart was into making furniture, I was not particularly excited about spending the time needed to make a quality bench.  But I knew that I needed a better solution for work holding to become more efficient in the shop.

Benchtop Slabs
Benchtop Slabs

In late February 2013 I stumbled across a post on the Benchcrafted blog about an event being organized to make benches exactly as detailed on Roubo’s Plate 11, headed up by some world class woodworkers, thinkers and makers. I sent the link to Nicole, for no other reason than just share information about such a fascinating project.   She replied back a short time later and said it looked like an opportunity that may never happen again and why hadn’t I signed up yet?  I was shocked!  I immediately sent a note to Jameel at Benchcrafted – the post was a day old and the project was only open to 10 folks, so I was concerned that I was too late.  A few anxious hours later, Jameel replied back and said that I had made the request in time, and he would be sending more information out in the coming weeks. Whew!

The reality is that as you get older, you don’t generally get as excited the same way you did as a kid or young adult.  As it does for many, woodworking had become a bit of an obsession – and outside of the birth of my daughter, the anticipation for the French Oak Roubo Project over the next four months was perhaps the most excitement I had felt in my adult life.  That was one of the biggest thrills of the event.

Squaring the Top
Squaring the Top

The project week finally came, and as expected the experience was incredible. The cast of characters involved of course made the event, and working in harmony with all in the spirit of Roubo made for an experience that will last the rest of my life. Of course you know you are someplace special when Jeff Miller and Don Williams are making jigs for the project!  The essence of the event was wonderfully captured on Jameel’s documentary found here.

I had every intention of bringing a finished bench home, but in reality none of the participants were able to get to the point of assembly by the end of the event.  So over the next several weeks I was able to slow the pace and think clearly through the details.  It all lead to the day the bench came together – a few seconds of pure woodworking bliss captured here.

And this is how 80+ Roubo legs and chops are milled!

In all there were 16 benches initiated during the French Oak Roubo Project, including Bo Child’s 16 foot beast.  And it appears that there is going to be a FORP II in late 2015!

Here are a few more images of my bench shortly after it was assembled: