Upgrades to my split-top Roubo bench


It is almost a year since I finished my first Rouboesque bench, which gave me ample opportunity to see which design features works for me and which does not. One of several reasons (discussed in detail in this post) why I decided to go with a split-top design was to be able to have easy access to clamp work using f-style clamps along the centre of the bench. I therefore sized the sliding tool trays in such a way that there would always be gaps between them for the above mentioned clamping activities.

What has become apparent over the past year is that although this is a very handy feature I do not need it all that often due to the number and positioning of the holdfast/dog holes. I am able to use holdfasts for 95% of that type of work holding. To add to that, the gaps between the sliding tool trays constantly threaten to swallow tools which the end up crashing into the planes on the shelve below the bench top.

For these reasons I came up with a fairly easy solution. I made two gap fillers that can easily be removed. The pictures should make it clear how it works. The bigger one of the two now act as a more traditional type tool tray that can hold plenty of tools below the surface of the bench top. These gap-fillers do not interfere with the sliding tool trays at the top, which can still slide to expose the tool trays below them.

I hope that the series of photos that follows will make it clear how these minor tweaks prevent the bench from swallowing tools yet retains easy access for clamps when needed.


Holdfast boots


As self-proclaimed leader in the field of woodworking haute couture, I would like to introduce the next frontier in menuisier fashion. Last week the four Gramercy Tools holdfasts that I ordered arrived  after 5 weeks of traveling across time zones, an ocean and the equator. Holdfasts work like a charm, but tends to mar your work unless you stick a bit of scrap between it’s fangs and your stock. It can be a bit of a hassle so I thought of a way to address this particular issue.

I like to do leather work from time to time and it made sense to use this skill to alleviate the problem. As you can see in the pictures below, I custom-fitted these stunning Almond-toed leather booties to the business end of the holdfasts. I used two layers of Skeleton Coast seal skin for the sole and free range Namibian cow’s hide for the upper. It would not look out of place on a catwalk in Milan (says he), but I am not sure whether the common adage used to describe particularly sexy boots would necessarily apply. Apart from the obvious visual appeal, it has real functional advantages as well. It improves grip, protects your stock and cuts down the time spent fiddling with bits of scrap wood.



I also took to the shaft section of the holdfasts with a rasps to improve it’s grip. It works like magic.


Below you can find some examples of the boots in action. The pictures also provide ample evidence to support my decision to ignore Monsieur Schwarz’s Commandment to stick to very few dog/holdfast holes.


Here are a few examples of a saw bench modeling the trend-setting footwear.


My bench holdfasts live here.



So there you have it, once again the best of tres chic woodworking. Only at Je ne sais quoi Woodworking.

My 18th Century Workbench in progress 29


Since being part of the Woodspotting family I started reading Joshua A. Klein’s blog, The Workbench Diary. It is highly recommended, by the way. A while ago he wrote a series of posts with advice for woodworking bloggers. I realised that I tick almost none of the points he mentioned.

The point which is relevant to this post is that he recommended that one should post photos of yourself on a fairly frequent basis. I realised that I have posted almost no (such) picture at all. Apart from the Freudian look on my home page of course. My daughter Aoife (6 yoa) took to the camera this weekend, thus providing me with some material to scare off potential readers. I recently heard someone say about another person: “He has a face for radio and a voice for the printed media!”. I wonder whether Joshua considered this issue in writing his blog guidance? Maybe some of us should rather stick to pictures of old Stanley’s and dovetails.

Anyway, into the fray!


By now you might want to pray (just to make it today!) …


… fair enough, let’s get back to woodwork. Here you can see the first fit of the Roubo-esque sliding-deadman-cum-eggbeater-leg-vise.


… and the same beast after some oil. You might notice the candle wax I applied as a lubricant. It works like a charm. As you can see, it is quite easy to remove the jaw and it becomes a conventional sliding deadman when necessary.


It did not take too long for it to start paying rent.




Gerhard Marx

Dog maker


My nearly finished workbench needs a profusion of dogs. In order to speed up the production and have some degree of consistency, I made this dog maker out of a scrap piece of beech. It has a multitude of “high-tech features” such as:


1) Self-tapping screw to hold the stock in position.


2) A hole for drilling the bullet catch hardware hole.



3) A kerf to saw a flat face (leaning 2º forward from the vertical position, ensuring that the upper most tip would touch stock first)


4) A kerf to cut each dog to the exact same length.


That is followed by a few more steps, once the dog is liberated from it’s maker. The pictures tells the story.






My 18th Century Workbench in progress 27


On Friday afternoon I finally fitted the planing stops. It must be at least 3 months since the Ysterhout scraps were laminated. During the coarse of these months, I had several different ideas as to how the planing stops should be kept in place. In the end I simply went with a very tight friction fit. In other words, you take a mallet and bliksem (colloquial Afrikaans meaning many things, depending on the context, in this particular case ‘clobber’ comes to mind) them in and out of their little nest. So far it works like a charm, but I will report on how it turns out in the long run.

I decided to place the planing stops in front of the leg vise, rather than behind it as seen in most traditional benches. This shortens the bench surface available for planing, but also means that most of the planing can be done without having to lean over the leg vise. For longer boards I will eventually have a stop at the very end of the bench as well.


During the course of last week, I moved all my bench planes to their new address. You will notice that some of them have leather sleeping bags to stop them from collecting excessive woodworking debris. I am slowly stitching these by hand during weekends away from the shop.


The idea all along was to fit a traditional crochet to operate in tandem with the leg vise, but last week I saw this idea on another blog (unfortunately I can not remember which). I simply drilled four x 3/4″ holes in the side of the top beyond the leg vise. A simple Assegaai dog can now be used in the appropriate hole as a stop.


This weekend was actually the first opportunity to use my new bench properly. In the pictures below you can see how it assisted in an array of different ways to do bread-and-butter type operations. I am working on a sliding deadman for each side of the bench.




I wrote a separate post on this shop made beader, which you should find in the recent posts section. I added the beads to hide the laminated nature of the stock that makes up the deadman.