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It all started when I was inspired by Roy Underhill and his 2011 episode of the Roubo Bookstand on the Woodwright’s Shop.  I wanted to build it; I could cut my teeth on my new-found hand tools by building this exclusively with them.

My wife’s birthday was upcoming, so I decided to use her birthday as an excuse to build my first ever Roubo Bookstand out of Mahogany (as her birthday present). The only problem is: my wife doesn’t like to read books.

So… I still built it for her birthday… only she also got an iPad 2 thrown in with it for her birthday present. I guess it’s an expensive way to make it useful to her, but hey, I got to build it and I have an extremely happy wife that likes to use it with her new iPad 2. All in all, it took me about 6 hours to build and finish it. You can make these (to fit the iPad) from one piece of wood 15” x 7.5” x 3/4”. I like (and tried) to keep the hinge round; I didn’t like the way the straight 45 degree hinges looked that some people do. I finished it with a coat of Teak Oil.

Softer woods (like Mahogany or Cherry) are easier than harder woods (like the Blue Mahoe I used for my second and third one, or Bubinga).  On the harder woods especially: take extra care not to split the hinge when you’re cracking this beast open.  It happened to me twice (and only while making one out of the harder stuff).

Watching Roy Underhill’s episode on it is the easiest way to obtain instructions on how to do this, so I recommend that first.  But here’s a montage of how I did it if you insist on other points of view:

Measure about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom and mark it – this will be your hinge joint.  You’ll spend maybe 30 minutes marking.  I use a marking gauge to find the center and mark this on all 4 sides (this will determine where you saw to split the wood exactly in half and open it up to an iPad stand).  Then with a compass (the one that draws circles), I find the 1/3 point where I marked the hinge, and center the compass into the groove I just made with my marking gauge (the center of the wood from above) and draw a circle to mark the profile of the hinge.  With a straight edge, just draw lines around that follow the hinge.  See below:

Marking the Roubo iPad stand

Once everything is all marked, it’s now time for my favorite part: chiseling out the hinges.  Some tips before you start hammering them out:

  • If you have figure that you want to show, determine how the stand will open.  My point: the shortest (and most vulnerable and breakable) part of the stand will be the front lip that the iPad will rest on.  Because of this, you want the outside grain intact from the leg to the hinge (so that little portion won’t snap off).  In the orientation of the above picture, my front lip will be the upper left of the board, and you see that the outside hinge here is continuous as it travels up the board (to the left in the picture).
  • color in each half of the hinge that you are going to chop out.  It should alternate like a taxi “checkered” pattern when you’re done.  This is where you will be chiseling.  In the above picture, I have already chiseled out my penciled-in portions.
  • Whatever you do, make sure you scribble in the opposite halves on the other side of the board!  Ie, if I chisel out right where the yellow arrow is pointing (which is the same half of the hinge), then the joint won’t work and I’ve failed.  It’s probably good to double check your markings to ensure you have opposites marked.  It can be easy to screw this up.

From there, it’s just a down chop (like mortising) against the outside of each hinge, then a 45° chop angling from the center to the outside vertical chop.  Continue until you’ve gone halfway through the board.  Once complete, flip it over and do the other side.

After it’s split, you can either saw the iPad lip first, or groove it first.  In the case of the Bubinga I oversaw one of my friends do, he opted to groove first:


Then afterward, cut it.  I tend to start the cut with a back saw and then, as the back of the saw starts to interfere with the cut, I switch over to a panel saw.  Once cut, I’ll use a sharp block plane to ensure the cut is flat/square:


From there, I’ll draw out a design on the large part of the stand that the iPad will rest against.  You can go with Roy’s ogee method of points and compasses, or I found it slightly less time consuming to look online for something I like (like Google “gothic windows”) and make a print out to sketch onto the top.  Then it’s just a matter of following the lines as you cut with a fret saw or bowsaw.