If you’re a woodworker that is trying to make a living off your trade like I am, then you probably aren’t too keen on forking over $2-5k for the workbench of your dreams. That’s why I’ve always planned to trade in the used, non-woodworking workbench I was able to scavenge from the unfortunate 3rd Ward sinking ship, for a shiny new DIY, work piece holding, inspiration enabling, masterpiece on four legs. Three years later and several months ago, I realized I was no closer to that dream than I was to winning New York’s Mega Millions. It was just then that my business partner, Roger, sent me the most recent installment of Christopher Schwarz’s manifesto on building Roubo Workbenches from green Red Oak lumber.
Roger was on to something real because He and I run a sawmill and furniture operation called RE-CO BKLYN, and we make use of storm damaged NYC trees that are already down to make our lumber. As it turns out, Red Oak is the most prominent species of tree that is chipped up and wasted, which also makes it the one we end up with the most of. With the ferocity of a lightning crack, we unaminously decided we were going to give making Roubo Workbench Kits from Reclaimed Red Oak a go.
I’m not happy to report that the fate of urban Red Oak trees once laying on their sides is grim. The problem is two fold.
- There are a lot of Red Oak trees in the NY metro area. Therefore, there are a lot of downed Red Oaks when storms roll through.
- Red Oak holds only a fraction of the value that other species like Black Walnut and Cherry do because of public perception and social trends.
We happen to think that Red Oak is an extremely attractive wood and are doing our best to change that perception and show people how beautiful and unique Red Oak can be for furniture and other decor. These workbenches are an exciting opportunity to prove another use for this beautiful, versatile and strong as an ox material.
As the name suggests, this workbench product is a kit which requires assembly. No big deal, we’re all woodworkers here. It’s what we do. If you’re looking for some guidance or inspiration there are some great resources available. Let’s start with a handful of articles put out by Lost Art Press:
- The Plate 11 Bench
- French Oak Roubo Bench: Chop Work
- Roubo Workbench: By Hand & Power
- Another Roubo Workbench: Fin
- Add a Drawer to the Roubo Workbench
- Work With Wet Workbench Tops
- New Source for Big Slab Workbench Kits (My personal favorite)
And a couple more great resources for good measure:
Now that you have your design and material squared away, you just need to add in some clever vice hardware and you’re off the races! Roger has two workbenches that I use often and they both have metal vice hardware. That’s all well and fine but we both have had a strong desire to give wooden hardware a try, like this hard maple vice screw kit from Lake Erie Tool Works. We spoke to the guys at Lake Erie and it seems like the right choice, so we’re going to order one of those kits for our new bench project!