A Visit to Ron Herman’s Shop

Megan Fitzpatrick and I drove up to Columbus, Ohio, last Thursday with Al Parrish, our staff photographer. We visited Ron Herman at the shop for his business, Antiquity Builders of Ohio. Ron had recently shot a couple of videos for us; one on sharpening saws and one on a joinery exercise. He’s working on an article on why and how to fit hand tools to the user, so we needed to get step photos for the article, as well as some images for the covers of the dvds. So while Megan was working with Al and Ron on the shots we needed, I got to roam around the shop and take some pictures.

Needless to say, Ron’s shop is a tool-lovers’ heaven. Ron and his crew prefer to use hand tools on their jobs, which includes everything from new construction to the restoration of buildings that are registered on the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Consequently, he has hundreds planes, handsaws, chisels, braces and axes that are sharpened and ready to go.

The most interesting tool Ron owns is one he built himself. It’s a sawbench that he customized to his body. He uses it for everything from sawing, chiseling out dovetails, and taking a rest at lunchtime. He made it out of white oak, but he considers it to be a disposable bench. For example, if he needs another hole for his bench dog, he’ll drill it into the top of the bench. Eventually, it will have so many saw cuts and drill holes that he’ll scrap it for fire wood and build another.

I sure wish I’d had one of those benches during my days as a carpenter. On most jobs, you’ll find guys using 2x4s on the floor to prop up a board in order to make a cut or drive a nail. I would venture to guess that if more carpenters used a bench like this, their work would be more accurate and there would be fewer lower back injuries on the job.

– Ajax Alexandre

5 thoughts on “A Visit to Ron Herman’s Shop

  1. Joe "the Pro" Sainz

    Wow, and I thought I had a tool problem. From the photos it looks like this is only part of his collection, and it really puts me to shame. I’m going to have to send this to my wife so she can see that I’m really not that bad, and in fact I *really* need a few more. Of course If I had them all a little more organized it might look a little more like this (although I only have about 20 braces).

  2. Steve_OH

    I think you have cause and effect reversed: Having a great sawbench isn’t going to make you a better carpenter. Rather, being a great carpenter–that is, caring about doing great work–is going to lead you to build yourself a better sawbench.

    -Steve

    1. tsstahl

      I won’t argue with your logic. However, it is an easy choice after six hours of pounding nails between going six feet down to the ground to cut, or a mere three feet to a dedicated bench.

      I share Ron’s philosophy that tools are to be used for an end, not an end unto themselves.

COMMENT