Chris Schwarz's Blog

French Bench. German School. American Teacher. Day 1.

No matter how many times I do it, every class on building a workbench is remarkably different.

Different wood. Different tools. Different students. Different country.

I don’t know how I got talked into teaching a workbench class at a hand-tool school in Germany. OK, that’s a lie. I know exactly how. I was drinking beer with the students from the class last year, and they convinced me it was a good idea. (Note to self: Stop at two beers.)

Despite my misgivings about preparing for a workbench class on the other side of the world, I am really quite excited about some of the challenges ahead.

First up: Mortising the top. The staff at Dictum GmbH glued up the tops for the 13 benches we are building. It is a European oak – French, I’m told – and very hard and heavy. They found the oak beams from a supplier that stocked wood for repairing or restoring bell towers. It’s quite massive stuff (each stick is 140 mm x 140 mm).

If we mortised it by hand, we’d probably break a few chisels. And a few spirits. Luckily, one of the teachers at Dictum had a brilliant idea. There’s a hint in the video that goes with this blog entry.

Challenge No. 2: Cutting the tops to finished length. The solution is a circular saw. But not just any circular saw. Again, it’s in the video.

I’ve got to cut this blog entry short because I need to go eat my Wheaties before the heavy lifting begins. Correction. I’m in Germany. I need to go eat my cold cuts on delicious brown bread.

— Christopher Schwarz

I’m in Bavaria this week at the school run by Dictum GmbH. They offer some very interesting classes in English. If you’re thinking of a woodworking vacation, you might want to check the company’s class schedule.

For more on workbenches, check out “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use” in our store.

5 thoughts on “French Bench. German School. American Teacher. Day 1.

  1. ffhyatt

    You get to use Mafell tools?! Lucky dog. I do allot of timber framing and those are the Turbo Carrera of framing tools. (Cost about as much too)

  2. Marlon1

    After seeing the video, I’d bet next time it won’t even take two beers to talk you into going back over there. That was a brilliant idea!

  3. renaissancewwrenaissanceww

    We get quite a bit of people asking for French White Oak at the lumber yard and we have imported a bunch of it for our customers. Seems it is all the rage in the Hamptons. It is some dense and beautiful stuff. My mortising chisels just went into hiding at the thought of it.

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