Chris Schwarz Interview

Download Mp3

Chris Schwarz is the former editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine and one of the geniuses behind Woodworking in America. He is considered by most to be the authority on Workbenches and is responsible for the popularization of the Roubo design. His latest book, The Anarchists Toolchest is taking the woodworking community by storm.
You can follow Chris and all his work at as well as his blog at

Chris mentioned an industrial-strength mobile system in the interview and here’s the link.

General Questions

– How’s life after Popular Woodworking?
– What intrigued you about the Roubo design?
– What are your thoughts on the split top concept? Any gotchas?
– (Brian Brazil) I’ve recently become a little obsessed with the Holtzapffel bench from Chris’s Workbench Design book. Since he has experience working on both the Holtzapffel and Roubo bench designs, how would he compare the two?

The Wood

– Hard or soft and why? Primary and secondary woods to save money?
– (Bjorn) I recently got a good amount of quarter sawn old growth Douglas Fir. These are former floor boards. If we assume that money is secondary concern, would you recommend building the workbench top from that wood or is there something better?
– (Chas) Wants to use two species in his bench top. Do you foresee any problems incorporating a different species in places like an end cap, a vise chop, or in the case of the split top Roubo, the dog hole backing strip (in terms of wood movement)?

The Hardware

– What do you think of the Benchcrafted hardware and how does it compare to other options you’ve tried? Any reasonable alternatives?
– (Torch) Any good sources for older quick-release vises?
– (Imaginos) (pretty Benchcrafted specific) The wagon vise on the split top Roubo is perplexing me. It looks like the hardware is either identical or very similar to a slide L block tail vise. It seems that with a sliding block and dog holes in the right spots, I can do everything that the wagon vise can do plus more options for work holding on right end of the bench minus a little bit of support where the block sides out. The recurring theme that stands out in Chris’s book is efficiency and economy of effort, so what’s the downside of the sliding L block tail vise? What’s a wagon vise do that an L block can’t?
– (Skunkeye) You use those huge wooden screws on some of your leg vises. Do you have a preference for coarse wood threads or metal acme threaded rods?


– (Texfire) Does the added height of a Moxon Vice change the equation on bench height? Do he suggest setting a bench low enough for planing and use the Moxon to raise the material for dovetailing and/or power tool usage?
– (Brice_Arnold) I have heard that a bench is dependent upon not only the user but what kind of work they will be doing (hand tools vs power tools/routers). If you can only have one bench and the work you do is a balance of hand and power tools, how should this influence the bench height? Average between high (power tools) and low (hand tools)? Also could you reiterate the rule of thumb for ideal bench height.
– (JeffB1) If my stock permits me to go thicker than 4″, is that recommended?
– (Barron) In your book you indicate that holdfasts don’t work well as the top gets thicker, is there a problem with the holdfast holding if making the top a more than 4″?
– (Bjorn) Do you think a workbench top is best made from a lamination of smaller boards or a couple massive slabs?
– (hhh) Do you have a preferred lamination pattern for a top made from 8/4 stock?
– (Torch) In your books, you have implored people to build as big & sturdy of a bench as they can. If neither cost nor space were an issue, what would be the ideal size?
– (Skunkeye) Preference for square or round dog holes (or both)?
– (Skunkeye) What are your thoughts on bench storage? Should a bench be for work holding only? (Tool trays)
– (Tom Buhl) Full mortise and tenon vs barrel bolt hardware approach. In your book you did not think highly of the barrel bolt approach.
– (Tom Buhl) What are your thoughts on how short a roubo bench could be (practically) and still use the BenchCrafted Tail Vise? My space can handle about 6 feet.
– (Tom Buhl) I need my bench to be mobile.I plan to add a flip down wheel bar as shown on the LVL bench and seen at WIA. For the split top Roubo, is this lunacy or workable given the size/weight?
– (hhh) Do you have an adhesive preference: PVA, epoxy, hide glue?..
– (many people) Do you think it is worthwhile to design the end cap so it can be removed later for easy machine planing or is this lunacy?

Wanna build along? Sign up for the Wood Whisperer Guild today!

15 Responses to “Chris Schwarz Interview”

  1. Great interview Marc!! Very interesting information and project. I would love to be building along with this project, but space and funds do not permit at the moment. For now I have to satisfy myself with my Black & Decker Workmate as my split top Roubo 🙂

  2. Hey Marc
    Nice interview with the Schwarz , I like his finish recipe . sound like a winner . Great tip on using water based finishes to help with grip .

  3. What about the Hovarter Vise?
    To me, as an engineer, this seems the best concept for a twin screw – but no one talks about it….
    Is it the high price?
    Is it not working properly?

    • Good question. It the coolest vise people have never heard of. Even though they were represented at WIA, there was no after-show buzz about that product in the forums. I hope they are better engineers than they are marketers.
      Chris was supposed to return with a full review. Let’s hope that still happens.

  4. Great Interview. If its of any help, about 15 years ago I built a bench top from Scots pine six by twos laminated ( I made the top 6″ deep and nine feet long) with eight by eight white pine legs legs. It probably was the best bench I ever had. Sadly it weighed so much I had to leave it behind when I moved house! It was solid as a rock, and didn’t warp or twist despite years of hard treatment. I used construction grade lumber, so it was dirt cheep.

  5. I have all the maple 6/4 but want to know if anyone has an opinion about using Pressure Treated Lumber fo the legs?

    • Other than all the usual safety precautions and potential gluing issues, I can’t see any reason you couldn’t use pressure treated stock. I wonder if anyone else has some perspective on this……

  6. Marc thanks for the quick reply!
    BTW – I will be joining the Guild in the New Year. I have watched ALL of your videos and while I have been woodworking for longer than you have been around, I admire and appreciate the way that you cover techniques and information! almost Sloyd like 🙂
    many thanks!

  7. Great fun!

    I have been using a split bench with removable end caps for 15 years. I just liked the idea, no real heavy concept. I epoxy bonded studs in the bench elements so that each of my two solid slabs of maple+dogs and caps, has a stud that just smoothly inserts into the endcap, and is held by acorn nuts. I like this arrangement because it is very easy to assemble or take apart. If I needed to flatten the bench I would do it in one piece just so I could be sure the whole thing was coming out on the same plane.

Leave a Reply