I think a sturdy and functional workbench is a necessity for any serious woodworker. It makes for a much more enjoyable experience, especially when working with hand-tools.
Initially I intended on building the Moravian Workbench, I was attracted to the portability and how easy it was to assemble/disassemble. I began to source material and was was about to start making my first cuts when I began to have second thoughts. In the back of my mind I always knew that I preferred the straight leg aesthetic of the French Roubo style benches, ultimately this led me to combining both designs into something which suits my needs.
Traditionally a Roubo bench consists of legs which are mortised into the underside of the bench top but I was drawn to the idea of having a removable top, mainly for portability and ease of maintenance. The trouble with this arrangement is that without the fixed connection to the bench-top I was worried the bench would lack rigidity. My solution to this is to have upper rails connecting the legs which create a rigid base assembly. The one main downside I see is that it is slightly more awkward to clamp workpieces to the bench-top using clamps. It can still be done but the clamp must register on the bottom of the front rail rather than the underside of the bench-top. I had also planned to also use holdfasts which would reduce the need for clamping anyhow.
When I finally got around to building this bench I really just needed a workbench, I was time-poor, due to family/work commitments etc. and didn’t have a lot of time to devote to the build. The mortise and tenon joinery used in a Roubo style bench is the traditional “proper” way to go about it, but is also time consuming. In the end I settled on lap joints for the base structure which were glued, screwed and had the holes plugged with walnut dowel. This turned out to be a very efficient way to construct the joints and has proven so far to provide excellent performance.
The finished dimensions are 1500 mm long, 920 mm high and 600 mm deep (including the tool-tray), the main work surface is 365 mm deep.
The dressed pine was used for the legs, Fijian Rimu for the top and NZ native Rimu for rails.
The vise functions great and spins freely, as seen below.
Below are some images of the bench in its final form.
After having this bench in my workshop for several months I have realised how much of an asset it is to have a solid work surface with good work-holding options. It really makes working with hand-tools much more enjoyable.