Woodworking Essentials: Setting Up Shop – Rules for Workbenches

By Christopher Schwarz
Pages: 41-48

From the June 2007 issue #162
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When it comes to building or buying a bench, most woodworkers get wrapped up in what form it should take. Should it be a continental bench popularized by Frank Klausz? A Shaker bench like the one at the Hancock community? How about a British version like Ian Kirby’s?

Copying a well-known form is a natural tack to take. After all, when woodworkers buy or build their first workbench, they are in the early stages of learning the craft. They don’t know what sort of bench or vises they need, or why one bench looks different than another. So they pick a form that looks good to them – occasionally mixing and matching bits and pieces from different forms – and get busy.

That, I believe, is the seed of the problem with workbenches today. Many commercial workbenches are missing key functions that make work-holding easier. And many classic bench forms get built with modifications that make them frustrating in use.

What’s worse, the user might not even know that he or she is struggling. Woodworking is a solitary pursuit, and it’s rare to use someone else’s bench.

From the June 2007 issue #162
Buy this issue now