Thursday, January 3, 2019

Ash log Roubo project 1, preparing stock.

As you might remember, I bought an ash log just at the termination of the DCBE. I didn't have any specific plans for it, but I had to get it processed, since I have a beech log waiting in line for being milled, and since beech is not very rot resistant, I thought that I'd better get moving.

I have plenty of 2.25" slabs, so I thought that the best way of getting the log reduced to some useful stuff was to make a 6" slab and start a workbench build.

Ash isn't the most classic workbench material, but I still think that it will hold up just fine for regular use. If not I can always glue and tack a piece of plywood on top of it..

With my usual luck, the sawblade for the mulesaw suddenly detonated in the middle of the milling operation. I found my spare blade, and got back in business in fairly short time. I am going to weld the regular blade again, and I have even considered perhaps buying a new blade for the saw. But I am still not sure about that.

The trunk was Y-shaped, and there was quite a bit of tension in one side which became visible as the saw blade slowly progressed through the log.
Once the slab was milled, I trimmed the ends with a chainsaw, and it became apparent that there was a bit of rot where the crotch of the tree was. So I ended up getting a slab that was a little shorter than I had hoped for.

The benchtop slab was edge sawn on the mulesaw as well, since it was too wide to balance on the circular saw. The rest of the 6" thick piece was milled to legs and stretchers on the circular sawmill. It is so much faster than the mulesaw after all.

I started out making the legs 6x6", but they looked really clumsy, so I studied Roubo's book, and the text suggests that the legs are made 6x3 or 6x4" which I thought was kind of funny since all the images of workbenches had square legs. Anyway, I decided to go for 3.5 x 6" legs and I still think that they'll be up to the task of holding the top.

The material was still wet, but I started working on the top nevertheless.
First task was to rout a recess where there was ingrown bark from the two parts of the upper trunk. This was done on both sides of the slab, and a piece of dry whitebeam was glued in.
Next up was to install some butterfly keys to reduce any chance of splitting, and also to practice making those. So 4 butterflies went on each side of the slab.

I flattened the underside of the slab and then the two sides, and the lesson learned was that it really is a lot easier to plane if the height of the workpiece is correct.

The legs and the stretchers were squared up and brought to size using my jointer/planer.

Once I get back from the sea, I hope to be able to get the frame completed and install the top on it.

Slowly a slab emerges.

6" x 20" x 80" ash slab.

Recess milled and trimmed.

Butterfly practice.

Flattening the underside.

Planing the side (too low a working position).


  1. Cool! Ash should be plenty hard enogh for a workbench. Better a dent in the bench as in the workpiece.


    1. Hi Pedder.

      I think it will hold up fine too. If the surface becomes worn, I can always plane it down a bit. Actually I can plane it down a lot before it will become too thin :-)


  2. Wow, that should make a mighty fine bench slab
    Looking forward to the next one


    1. Hi Bob.

      I think I am going to make a shelf below this workbench. I haven't got one on my old bench, but I could try to see if it was worth the trouble to make one.
      I am also planning on making two leg vises, one on each of the legs at the front. That way it could potentially be used for my boat building project way out in the future.

      I bought a Record 5 1/2 vise from Brian Eve that will serve as end vise, so I have a feeling that it will end up being a fine bench to use.

  3. Hey Jonas! It looks like a fine slab so far. DavidW on YouTube built his French bench out of ash.

    I hope it doesn't twist much as it dries. I predict once you get the legs and undercarriage done, it should keep things fairly stable. After a few years of use it will stabilize and the number of times you must flatten the top will be more dependent on the abuse it takes from woodworking as opposed to wood movement.

    Enjoy the 52 1/2! I'm sure it will make a fine end vise.

    1. Hi Brian.

      Thanks for the nice comment.
      I am looking forward to installing the 52 1/2 vise. I think it will fit the bench perfectly.
      I hope that it won't twist too bad, but I guess I'll just have to fire up the hand plane if it does.


  4. Jonas,

    I had planned to build my last bench using Ash but the wood store let me down and I had to settle for Beech. The Ash should make a great bench. That said, my back is crying "no mas, no mas" just looking at the photos.

    BTW, remember how I posted building benches is like childbirth, after a few months you forget the pain and only remember the joy. The other day I caught myself thinking about the next build. :-)

    Be sure to check out for your vise screw. They just came out with a double speed screw, the old one was damn fast, much faster than any metal screw I've used with better holding power as well (The better holding power could be because I've learned more about building leg vises). I've two of 'em that I've used for a couple of years with zero issues. The new one should be great.


    1. Hi Ken

      Thanks for the nice comment.

      I like the child birth analogy, though I must admit that I don't mind the work involved in making a bench. I just had to find some time to get started on a new one.

      You are right about the slab being a bit awkward to move around single handed, but moving one end at a time helps.

      I have decided to make my own screws for leg vises for this build. So I just started making a tap for making wooden threads out here.
      I thought about doing a double thread, but our lathe out here is not very good. And after battling the flimsy feed mechanism for the duration of the thread cutting part of the project, I am glad that I didn't do a double thread.

      I once read an article in an old old Popular Mechanics booklet, about building stuff for your shop I think, that the preferred angle for the threads should be 80 or 90 degrees as opposed to 60 degrees on metric and UNC/UNF.

      My thread is going to be 50 mm (~2"), and the pitch is 4.5 modules (a module is Pi mm), so the pitch is 14.14 mm or close to 9/16".

      I plan to make a leg vise on each of the front legs. I am not sure if it is a good idea, but I can always remove one of them if I don't like it.