Roubo Bookstand – A Pleasant Distraction

I had a couple of hours in the shop today, and made one of these “Roubo bookstand” thingies.  I’m sure most folks have seen this before, either on The Woodwright’s Shop, Christopher Schwarz’ blog or in PWW.  I say Roubo bookstand in quotes because I believe this style actually dates from the 13th century.

Regardless, it was a simple, fun exercise.  I used the drawing from Roy Underhill’s website, and a 15″ long scrap of 1×8 pine.

This drawing, courtesy of the Woodwright's Shop, is all you need.

This drawing, courtesy of the Woodwright’s Shop, is all you need.

I did all of the layout first.  Laying out the s-curves was an interesting exercise.  Prior to building this I did some web searching and came across techniques to layout different kinds of arches.  I’ll have to play with that another day.

Layout done

Layout done.  I knifed in the critical cuts.

Once the layout was done I sawed the profile in the top and bottom, somewhat badly in spots, and proceeded to start chopping the knuckles.  I used the scroll saw to cut the separation between the knuckles as my fret saw is too shallow to reach.

Profiles sawn, starting to chop the knuckles.

Profiles sawn, starting to chop the knuckles.

What makes this work is the alternating chisel cuts to form the knuckles.  Nothing magic about doing this.  I could see using a block with a 45 degree angle to make the final paring cuts as perfect s possible, but since this is just a fun piece (and Pine is so forgiving) I just eyeballed it.

Before I knew it, all of the knuckles were cut, and I was ready to resaw this to open it up.  I expected to have to fuss with this to get it to pop open…or to make a mistake with the ripping and end up with scrap.  No such (bad) luck, it opened right up.  A little sanding and it’s presentable.

Wow, I'm surprised...

Wow, I’m surprised…

I padded on one coat of Blond Shellac, and rubbed it out with some paste wax and that’s it.  Simple.  Simpler than, say, a pocket-holed cabinet.  There are places I could do a better job.   I think a narrow rebate plane could be used to clean up any inconsistencies in the knuckles once it’s opened up, as an example.  I’d like to use this kind of project as a basis for a carving or inlay project some time in the future.

Completed bookstand.

Completed bookstand.


Categories: Uncategorized | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Roubo Bookstand – A Pleasant Distraction

  1. Paul K. Murphy


  2. I recently discovered this bookstand via Roy on YouTube. I’m tempted to try it but the hinges still seem a little strange to me. Yours looks nice, by the way.

  3. Nicely done! This has been on my list of quite a while. It always seems to loose out to other projects though.

    Thanks for the reminder and the inspiration to move it up the list again.


    • Greg, I was really surprised how simple this was to do. Maybe two hours from start to finish in Pine, with a chunk of that time spent re-doing the curved layout at the top of the stand to get close to Roy’s drawing.

      I want to think about how I could inlay a marquetry design — almost certainly I’d need to do the marquetry in thicker material so I could then level it with the re-sawn face.

  4. Joe what did you use to saw the hinge flats?

    • Ralph, do you mean the space between the sides of the hinge knuckles? I used a scroll saw with a #3 15 tpi blade. I would have just used a fret saw as but my saw frame is too shallow to reach the middle two knuckles. On Roy’s show I believe he cuts these using a pad saw, starting with a small hole, pushing the point of the blade into the hole and pulling it down and out. That would make a much bigger gap.

      The horizontal part of the hinges aren’t sawn, just chopped to the middle of the board, where they eventually intersect the resaw cut to allow the stand to open.

  5. Nice! I’ve also wondered about this projects roots. While in Instanbul, I saw these things everywhere used to display Korans.

  6. Pogo930

    Check out Jack Plane’s Jan.9th post. Some elaborately carved stands.

  7. Robert Demers

    Nice job, a fun exercise for sure. Have done a few, including ones to hold my IPad in style. Roubo meet 21st century 🙂

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