Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Roubo book stand

There have been a number of articles, posts and videos about the Roubo book stand, a clever and attractive piece made by creating a "hinge" in a piece of wood and resawing the board in half so it will open.  Roy Underhill did a program on it which motivated me to give it a try.  In addition to being a skill builder, my sons are bibliophiles and I think it might make a nice gift.

When I am trying something new and challenging for the first time, I like to take the pressure off of myself by making a crude prototype from secondary wood I have on hand with the explicit intention of throwing it away.  I have a large stack of alder which is perfect because it works easily.

You can watch the program, but I want to mention a couple of issues I ran into.  After layout, the first thing Roy does is make internal vertical cuts along the sides of the "hinge leaves," which, predictably, he has vintage gizmos for.  You drill a small hole in the corners and then use a hack saw blade on which a sharp point has been created and a handle attached to start from this hole and open up the cut.  I was able to make the blade by using a pair of tin snips, but I don't have the vintage handle, so I just used the blade.  Took a very very long time, perhaps because it was a fine blade and I couldn't exert much downward force.  Roy then switched to a small keyhole saw to complete the cut.  The keyhole saws I can find around here have very thick blades which would detract a lot from the appearance of the stand.  I hit on the idea of using a jig saw blade, which seems to work and is thinner.  I am going to make a handle for this jigsaw blade before my next attempt.

Next comes chiseling out the hinge.  That went smoothly until I got to the nearly vertical part of the hinge.  My bench chisels are too thick to use.  Roy uses a very thin paring chisel, which I don't have, so I just cut away the hinge enough to let my bench chisel fit (this is just a prototype).  I think a carving chisel might work better than a paring chisel and I am going to look for one.  If I understood him correctly, he made these in the past with a bevel rather than rounding the hinge, so this is another alternative.  I think it might look better and you might be able to round it over after the stand is opened.  Roy points out that you can use a shoulder plane to clean it up once it's opened and this would make things a lot easier.  You just have to avoid spelching by putting a slight bevel on the sides of the leaves before you use the shoulder plane.

Anyway, here is the result.  I am quite pleased actually, as it accomplished its intended purpose.  It's very crude but I learned what I need to know to improve.  I think these would look especially nice if you chose a board with a prominent grain pattern that would accentuate the fact that the stand is made from one piece of wood..  Now it's into the burn pile!

Give it a try.  I found it a lot of fun.

Update:  A friend made me aware of a short video by Chris Schwarz on the Popular Woodworking site that addresses both of the issues I ran into.  Coincidentally, I had reached the conclusion that the methods he demonstrates are the way to go.  Here it is.


  1. Nice article.

    I saw one of these for sale in a local antique shop last week. It was hand carved in a fairly ornate style, but was fairly crude overall. It might have been an advanced shop class project.

  2. For fairly crude, it looks pretty good to my eye. I usually do my experimenting with poplar (New England) before I do the real thing. I would rather make my mistakes in the experimental piece than the good stock.

  3. I know this is an old post, but the hacksaw blade handle you described (haven't seen the episode) put me in mind of a mini hacksaw I bought for work in tight spaces. Here is an example http://www.lowes.com/pd_198280-930-324HF25N_0__ It uses a normal sized blade, but the handle clamps the blade halfway down so the blade extends a few inches without obstruction. This might work as is or could be easily modified.