The portable “Milkman’s Workbench” from the June 2013 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine has attracted a lot of attention, judging from the e-mail piling up in my Inbox. The No. 1 question: How can I build the bench without wooden bench screws?
One answer: wedges.
Reader Ilkka Sivonen of FInland built the bench without wooden screws. instead, all the workholding is handled by wedges with a 4° taper.
“To my surprise the wedges work great and provide good workholding,” Ilkka writes. “You don’t even need to tap the wedges with a hammer, a gentle push is enough to provide enough holding pressure. The downside is that you do need several sizes of wedges for different work widths, but at least they are easily replaceable if they break or go missing.”
Ilkka got the idea for the wedge-based system from old photos of workshops. Metal clamps were very expensive in the 18th and 19th centuries (and still are). So many woodworkers made panel-gluing fixtures that were powered by wooden wedges.
Ilkka also pointed out that the wedges shown in the photos are too tall for planing or mortising the books.
— Christopher Schwarz