Roubo’s Apartment Workbench pt. 1

Now I have not confirmed with The Schwartz  but I do not believe Roubo ever made it to this side of the pond. If he did he probably would have moved to Brooklyn, with the rest of the French hipsters.

I’d like to think that if Roubo had lived in Brooklyn he would have designed his now famous bench to fit in his apartment.  You see space is a premium in NYC. My “garage” (which is a mortgage payment alone) is down the street and shared with 100 other folks,  and my landlord would not take kindly for me building a shop in the basement of our eight unit apartment building.  So its no woodworking during the week in Brooklyn. 

Now I am fortunate enough to spend my weekends upstate at our house in the woods, where I’ve built a tiny shop in the basement.  However,  during the weekdays, in the city that never sleeps, I find myself very envious of others who can steal a few minutes after work and spend time in the shop.  

Then it occurred to me that I might be able to carve out a corner of my home office for a little woodworking.  I presented this idea to my amazing and supportive wife, who agreed on one condition: we renovate the office, rethink the space, add some closets and make some desk space for the kids.  We’ve been in our apartment for 24 years and the room had not been touched in nearly 14 years, so it was time. 

So it got me thinking of what I wanted. Space was still a challenge, but as a designer I have always thrived on having restrictions.  The truth is I just wanted a space the I could spend an hour on a project, perhaps tune up some old tools, sharpen some handsaws and work on some smaller scale projects.  With NYC apartments you become very intimate with your neighbors, whether you like it or not, so hand tools was a no brainer. A quiet neighbor is a good neighbor!

Even in my upstate shop I don’t have the space for a proper workbench. Perhaps if I started from scratch, but not anymore. So I was merely observer at the height of all the Roubo bench building frenzy.  

woodworking bench shannon joinery - Google Search

As a Hand Tool School member I admired Shannon’s Joinery Bench.                       This seemed perfect.

Shannon’s Joinery bench was my inspiration.  The size was certainly compact and would give me a solid workstation. I headed to the google I found a few variations. 

I liked this one in particular.

Forgive me-- I cannot find the owner to give due credit!  Please let me know if you know the owner!

Forgive me– I cannot find the owner to give due credit! Please let me know if you know the owner!

I have certainly been intrigued by the Roubo joinery and I have a certain affinity for building items sans hardware. So I decided to adapt the Roubo design for my needs: which really just meant the size.  24×36* seem to do the trick. Naturally I over researched it, looking at different bunches and techniques.  Finally I turned to Schwartz’s French Workbench DVD.  Straightforward and just what I needed.roubo workbench schwarz - Google Search

*In the end the top was 24×32 as it had to fit thru the narrow hallway and a turn into the narrow doorway.

I headed to sketch up and drew up some options. As stated some measurements were dictated, so the height was the only question . I knew I wanted a Moxon vice, but when not in use storage would be an issue. So I decided to integrate it into the front. This certainly made me think about the overall height of the bench. After all, the whole point of the Moxon was to raise the piece higher while cutting dovetails.

Apartment bench -

My final sketchup drawing. Very helpful in this case.

After overthinking it I landed on 33″ high.

Based on this design I found:  I started considering what other storage options and accessories I could bring to the table (pun intended).  This guy went all out. I decided to keep it simpler, in the Roubo tradition, adding two shelves and a tool rest attached to the back. I wanted to finish it this year! 

With measurements and a cut list in hand I headed to my local lumberyard, Ghent Products.  I wanted the stock to be as beefy and the Schwartz/Roubo described.  I found some beams that were 16/4 x 7″ by about 10′. Of course they were on the bottom of a massive pile, so I had to be ‘that guy’ and ask the yard guy to forklift all the smaller, inferior wood out of my way. 

These massive beams took up room in my shop for nearly a month.

These massive beams took up room in my shop for nearly a month.

I had no misconceptions that they would acclimate to my shop in this short time but rather that’s sometimes how often I’m able to get back into the shop.

All in all it took me about six months. That certainly does not translate into man-hours, but it does give you an idea of how often I am able to get into the shop. Now that its done I thought I’d share the build with you.

So without further adieu….check out part deux…..

My once in a lifetime afternoon in the shop of Sam Maloof.

A few weeks ago, when I was in LA,  I snuck out of work one day and drove down to take a tour of the Sam Maloof house.

I was very excited to be in California and to have the opportunity to go down and tour the house.  I read up on the tour and it occurred to me that they mentioned nothing about the workshop.  Hmmm.  So I decided to email them and see what the deal was.  I explained that I was a woodworker from NY and was very interested in taking a peak at the shop.  I quickly received an email back from Kiristine who runs the tours at the Maloof house.  She pointed out that there was one day a month where woodworkers could come for a day and get a tour of the shop.  I explained that while I was still going to be in LA for the next opportunity, I was going to be working that day.  To my amazement she emailed me back and said one of “the boys”,  Larry, would be around that day and could show me the shop.  How awesome is that?

I arrived and for the first tour at noon.  I met Kristine and she told me to come find her after the tour ended.  The grounds are pretty are amazing by themselves, but the tour of the house is really something else.  You really get to walk around a true artist’s space. Nothing over the top or pretentious, just the setting of a very talented artist, with a keen attention to detail.  It’s a pretty magical place. 

After the tour Kristine took me back to meet Larry.  

For those of you who don’t know Larry and John, affectionally known as “the boys” were the workhorses of the Maloof shop. They received the rough pieces from Sam and put all the finishing touches on them from shaping to sanding to finishing.  Every piece went from Sam to the ‘boys’.  While Sam was the visionary, the ‘boys’ were the craftsman. Together they created the most amazing American furniture at an outstanding rate.

Larry White met us at the door with welcome arms.  He first showed me his space where he has begun to set up shop, he told me he recently retired from the shop, but that he was planning to use this space for his own work.  He then took me into the shop.  The shop where Sam and the boys had create decades worth of furniture.  The shop isn’t huge or glamorous, or particularly tidy.  It’s a working shop.  But it’s not the shop that’s special, its the wood and the history.  As we walked around Larry was kind enough to reminisce, telling me wonderful stories, as pieces in the shop would jar a memory.  He’d stop and investigate a template on a table, still curious about what was being built.  Great fun figuring out together what the other boys were creating.  And the templates!!!  Every piece has a template that hangs around the walls of the shop, all dated and labeled (in Sam’s writing) for the piece of furniture, as well as the particular part.  What a unique thing, to have the original templates.  Even after Sam’s passing, his legacy continues and grows as orders are still being filled.  Few crafts offer that ability.

It’s hard for me to articulate the joy I got from my time Larry spent with me.  Just being in Sam Maloof’s shop was an incredible experience, but to have someone like Larry take so much time to just share his time and stories with an aspiring woodworker such as myself is, well, humbling.

I had driven down from Hollywood where I spend my days working with the ‘hottest celebrities’ and most notable people in show business, and all I wanted to do was stay with Larry and learn more about the superstar Sam Maloof.

Woodworkers are the kindest folks.

No pictures at the house *From Larry's site

Thank You Larry!

But I can’t get woodworking this week!!!

So today is the last day of Get Woodworking Week 2015 and I am 2500 miles from my shop.  So I haven’t got any woodworking done.

GWW15

However–one of the perks of my job is traveling and staying in fancy hotels and at the moment I am suffering through 70 Degree weather out in Hollywood (it is 10 Degrees back in NY).  So I am not complaining.  But I will be here for three weeks which means about a month with no shop time.  Bummer, but I keep my mind on the wood–I still read the blogs and as a woodworker I am always on the lookout for interesting furniture and art built from wood. I constantly snap pics with my phone of things that piqued my interest, either that I admire and think “I could build that” or pieces that I look at and think “What the ….?”

So instead of sharing what I’ve been up to in the shop I thought I would share some photos of pieces I’ve found travels.

I’ll start with some of the woodwork in my hotel in Beverly Hills.

This is a beautiful wall of wood 'plates' in the bar of the hotel

This is a beautiful wall of wood ‘plates’ in the bar of the hotel

A detail of one of the plates

A detail of one of the plates

Panel doors that close off the door.  CNC'd  but a very slick design.

Panel doors that close off the door. CNC’d but a very slick design.

A detail of the same bar panels

A detail of the same bar panels.

I call these the Into the Woods panels.  Used in the restaurant  as dividing walls.  As a lighting designer I am big fan of these.  This is  also where I get coffee every morning!!

I call these the “Into the Woods” panels. Used in the restaurant as dividing walls. As a lighting designer I am big fan of these. This is also where I get coffee every morning!!

Some wacky stick pile art in the corner.  Kinda cool though.

Some wacky stick pile art in the corner. Kinda cool though.

It’s fun to travel to different parts of the country and see what they see as art and decor. The next photos are from Miami, a place where I don’t think any woodworker lives!  Plaid wool shirts are a little hot I suppose.

This is the root of a tree cut into a table and gold leafed.  yup.....

This is the root of a tree cut into a table and gold leafed. yup…..

...and here is a gold leafed stump.

…and here is a gold leafed stump.

These slabs were standing in the lobby as art work.  I am a huge fan of live edge slabs, but felt like I was walking through the lumber yard.  Felt really out of place in South Beach.

These slabs were standing in the lobby as art work. I am a huge fan of live edge slabs, but felt like I was walking through the lumber yard. Felt really out of place in South Beach.

But who am I to judge.  Besides, some woodworker can make a lot of money selling these.... I am looking at you  Dale Osowski!!

But who am I to judge. Besides, some woodworker can make a lot of money selling these…. I am looking at you Dale Osowski!!

A different hotel in Miami had woodgrain elevators.  Again, very odd on the beach.

A different hotel in Miami had woodgrain elevators. Again, very odd on the beach.

Here is a bench made from a beam in the hallway of a hotel.  the rest of the decor was cement walls and very industrial, so this fit, but certainly goes into the category of "I can do that".

Here is a bench made from a beam in the hallway of a hotel. the rest of the decor was cement walls and very industrial, so this fit, but certainly goes into the category of “I can do that”.

This Thimble Table served as my coaster for many nights.  ;)

This Thimble Table served as my coaster for many nights. ;)

And finally: This is a Hollywood Dust Collector!!  This is from the scene shop on the Paramount lot.  Everything is big in Hollywood!

And finally:
This is a Hollywood Dust Collector!! This is from the scene shop on the Paramount lot. Everything is big in Hollywood!

So while I can’t be in the shop this week, woodworking is always on my mind.  I see it everywhere I go.  That’s what makes it such a passionate hobby.

That said:  Tomorrow I am sneaking out of work and headed to the Sam Maloof house outside of LA for a tour!!  So excited!  I’ll report back….

Wake up!! It’s Just a Dream Shop!!

Well it might be a dream, but I’ve certainly put a lot of thought into it!  I really think I am on to something.

Shop Inspiration 1

Let’s start with the exterior:

Barn Exterior 1

This is the view as you drive up the driveway. Below is a two car garage and a shed for outdoor tools

Barn Exterior 2

From the driveway you can drive up to a sliding barn door for easy unloading.

Barn Exterior 3

The side facing our house. These double doors would be the main entrance.

Barn Exterior 4

Shop Inspiration 2

Now let’s go inside……

Barn Shop 1

The overall space

The Breakdown

The Breakdown

The Breakdown:

  1. The Office Space–Complete with drafting table and a roll top oak desk.
  2. The Finishing Room–I really wanted to create a separate dust free room for finishing, complete with slop sink
  3. Stairs to Loft–over the office and finishing space I put a storage loft with easy access
  4. Floor Access to basement–This floor board would be pulled up a pully and allow access to the lower level.  I did not want to wast space with a door and full stairwell.
  5. Router Table
  6. Woodstove— I would most likely add another form of heat, just to keep the temperature above freezing, but, much like our house I would primarily use a woodstove while working in the winter, when we tend to be in the teens.
  7. Clamp Storage— I show a rolling clamp rack, but the space under the stairs seems like the perfect place to store clamps.
  8. Drill Press –I would definitely like to someday graduate to PM2800.
  9. Sharpening Station
  10. Hand Tool Area— I designed a dormer into the roof line of the saltbox style room in order to accommodate a window in front of which my bench could sit.  There is not as much natural light as I would like, but this is a place I would find it quite important and well, just a pleasing place to work.  These windows face the road, but given the height and the slope, the view will only be trees and the morning sun.  I also really like the idea of having a nook exclusively for hand tools.
  11. Hand Tool Cabinet
  12. Saw Stop 3HP-– On the other side of the spectrum and in the center of the work area would be my Saw Stop cabinet saw.
  13. Outfield table–no more flimsy Rigid stand!
  14. Assembly Table
  15. 16-32 Drum Sander — would be a nice addition
  16. Oscillating Spindal Sander— I own the rigid orange one now, perhaps an upgrade.
  17. Lathe— I own a Jet 12-36
  18. Jointer—  I own a Powermatic 8″ Jointer, 2HP with helical head
  19. Planer—  I own a Dewalt 735 Lunch box.  It would be nice to upgrade to a Powermatic.
  20. Chop Saw— Definitely an upgrade.  Still use one of the 1st tools I bought: a Ryobi Chop saw–Chop being the operable word (but it works!).  I’d love a Festool Kapex Compound Miter Saw.
  21. Antique Band Saw—   On a surprise visit to a neighbor (who had found our cat) we were invited in to see their shop, complete with the most amazing and interesting collection of power tools.  The stand out in their shop was a beautiful antique band saw.  My wife was kind enough to say “you’ll own that some day”.
  22. Powermatic 13″ Band Saw— Which I presently own.
  23. Mortiser–I own a Delta which has served me well.  If I used it more I’d be inclined to move up to a Powermatic.
  24. Large overhead factory lamps–always a favorite of mine.  We installed 12 in our cheese shop and the provide plenty of light.  I would never use fluorescent lamps.  To me woodworking is the the most romantic activities I can think of and this lighting designer loves the warm glow of an incandescent bulb.
  25. Sliding Barn Doors— on the driveway side for loading and unloading.
  26. Double Doors–Main Entrance.
  27. Basement–Storage and large cyclone dust collector system.
  28. Two Car Garage
  29. Wood Storage under eaves—  Not shown in the ground plan or model is the large amount of storage space under the eaves–I planned this for wood storage.
  30. and of course–ME

Barn Shop 1

Barn Shop 2 Barn Shop 3 Barn Shop 4 Barn Shop 5 Barn Shop 6

Finishing Rooom

Finishing Rooom

 

Barn Shop 8 Barn Shop 9 Barn Shop 10

 

The one thing I guess I’ve left out of the dream is that I really want to build it myself.  I was scheduled to take a timber framing course this fall, but schedule wise that just wasn’t in the cards.  No worries.  I have years before I will need those skills.  In the meantime I can perfect my timber framing, sketchup skills.

The Return of the Lighthearted Woodworker

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted!  It’s been a pretty intensely busy year filled with lots of adventures. So forgive me if I haven’t taken a breath to blog about them.

So what’s been keeping me so busy? 

– Well for one my wife and I, along with our very close friends, opened a cheese shop on Labor Day. Signed a lease June 1st and I spent the summer being a carpenter and general contractor in order to transfer the space from a clothing store to a cheese shop. More on that in a future post.

-Work– just like the rest of you– I have have a day job, that often turns into a night job

-Life.

But I have managed to get some woodworking time in:

– I built most everything in our shop: reclaimed wood walls, stud walls, counters, shelving, butcher blocks, doors, etc . etc., etc

-I finished a tool box I had started in a  hand tool class

-a couple of never ending shop projects

-just last week took a field trip to the George Nakashima house with the NYC Woodworkers guild

-finally a good shop cleaning!!

In my travels for the cheese shop……

-I found an awesome old tool chest that I plan to use in our apartment

-found a Stanley #50 1/2 mitre box for $10 that I plan to restore.

– picked up a great old tool box on the streets of Brooklyn that I now use to store all my chainsaw parafanalia down in the yard.

– went dumpster diving in Brooklyn and found some great old Douglas Fir beams.

– scored some beautiful reclaimed barn wood from a friend.

I’ve decided I would like a small bench in Brooklyn, to satisfy my woodworking cravings during the week. So I’ve been designing and started building a joinery bench. So look for more on that.

So life is full, and never dull. 

Look for more here– The Lighthearted Woodworker has returned.

Incarnations of a Reoccurring Dream

As with all dreams I’ve had a lot of incarnations of my dream shop, and lots of ideas to mull over in my head.   What tools would I want to put in it? How would I use a Roubo type bench?  How much space do I really need?  With all this new space maybe I’ll take up blacksmithing as well!  I’ll need a welder!  Wow– I need more power!  Windows!  I want lots of natural light!  But most barns don’t have a lot of windows. Hmmm.  We don’t have a garage now, but we now we need a three car garage (in order to house the dream sports car and dream pickup truck)! Dust collection in the floor of course (thank you Vic).  So many things to consider.

This rarn seems about the right size and general shape

This barn seems about the right size and general shape.

I’ve spent hours over the years staring at spots in the yard- sighting and plotting out ideal locations for a barn.  I believe I’ve landed on the perfect spot:

Potential Barn Sight

Potential Barn Sight

So many things to dream about!  It can keep you up at night!  This one I can conceived one night in bed:

The Concept Shop!

The Concept Shop!

Before that I had a friend help me with some basic design ideas I had and figured that would get my juices flowing,  without my sketch-up skills slowing me down.  Here are some of the designs he helped me create:

Barn Frame 1

Barn Frame 1

Barn Frame 2

Barn Frame 2

Barn Frame 3

Barn Frame 3

These certainly gave me a model to play with and be able to consider space.  Probably the thing I gained the most from this exercise was to realize I don’t want or need a full second floor. The third garage door makes the building a littler grander than I would like. And while I like a modern spin on traditional design, I would most likely go with a more traditional design.

What do you think?  What version do you like?  Leave a comment below.

A Guy Can Dream Can’t He?

The weather in the northeast and much of the entire United States has been unreasonably cold over this winter.  I have several small electric heaters in my tiny basement shop, and finally found the motivation to finally rewire a 220 heater I had and now I can get it quite toasty in there.  But that was nearly all the work I got done in the shop the past few weeks, outside of a good cleaning and assembling some Christmas goodies.

So I decided to stay in by the wood stove, work on my sketch up skills and design my Dream Shop!

We have talked about building a barn on the property for almost as long as we’ve owned the house.  In fact, when we were looking for houses, we really were looking for barns that could be converted into a home (thank god we did not do that!).  We own 10 wooded acres, we’ve attempt mini-farming and a barn only seems natural.  Thankfully my wife has always been on board that this barn would also be my wood shop.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with barns and timber frames.  Being from New England we’ve had our fair share of amazing barns dotting the countryside. There is something so incredible about these structures.  Although built primarily to house livestock, feed and farm tools these buildings have come to represent so much more than that.  When you stop and think about went into building a barn, entirely hand built by a community, with engineering skills past on from generation to generation.  Then think about the amount of trees that needed to be forested and moved, to the milling and joinery, to the actual raising.  Each and every structure is an amazing feat.  I could go on and on about barns…..in any case what better place to create a shop than within a timber frame barn?

I’ve gone over and over in my head what the best design for a barn/shop would be.  Our property is on a hill– so a bank barn certainly seemed to make the most sense.  I knew approximately the size shop I would want and that I wanted room for a 2-3 car garage, something we do not have right now. I also want to keep the size in scale with our house and the property.  This helped dictate many things and I started pulling together research of barns that would fit the bill.

Barn Research

Barn Research

I say all of this as if I only started thinking about this idea few weeks ago, but the truth is I’ve dreamed about this for years. I love my little shop, but it is incredibly ‘cozy’.  I’d love to be able to spread out and work on larger projects someday.

I drive by barns, sometimes stopping to snap some pics, and try to imagine how that would look on our property and if that would fit our needs.  I’ve sketched out tons of ideas, but it was not until recently that I studied a barn that I drive by constantly and is about a mile and a half from my house.

BarnUndermyNoseThis barn really seems to fit the bill!……….

I’d love to hear about your Dream Shop, leave a comment below.

Stay warm and stay tuned for more on my Dream Shop!