Chris Schwarz's Blog

Antique Lefty Workbench in the Wild

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Until yesterday, I’d not seen a left-handed antique workbench in the wild.

While I’m sure there are some out there, the historical record suggests that left-handed woodworkers usually made do with right-handed benches and learned to plane with their dominant hand on the toe of a handplane.

While poking around Bloodline Merchants, a delightful import business in Cincinnati, we stumbled on this bench which, like my bench in my shop, is a place for books and coffee.

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It’s an English or Nicholson-style bench made from (mostly) softwood. The leg vise appears to be original and is mounted on the right front leg of the bench.

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Judging from the wear on the bench and the construction of the vise screw, my guess is it’s a 20th-century bench that has seen a lot of miles. It has a couple delightful details. In addition to the standard dovetailed drawer let into the front apron, the maker added a cubbyhole on the left side of the bench, using the open space between the aprons for a shelf.

So lefties, you can rejoice that some English joiner got fed up with right-handed benches and did something about it.

— Christopher Schwarz

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4 thoughts on “Antique Lefty Workbench in the Wild

  1. Abbott

    Sweet bench. Need to get down to Bloodline Merchants and see it. Great shop.

    I’ve just assembled the top for my start of my new Left handed Bench in the Wild. It’s my first bench: a 96″ x 24″ x 3″ slab made with 2 layers of 3/4″ mdf over 2 layers of 3/4″ plywood. The undercarriage will be the first job where I use the set of bench chisels that I got from Bloodline. The base is being made from reclaimed timbers I gathered at Building Value. I found an antique wood vice screw at another antique shop for a great price and it will be my leg vice. I’m going to pick up a scaffold leveling jack to make an end vice. It won’t win any beauty pageants but it will be mine and a tool for my work. Thanks Christopher for all the great information.

  2. Erik Pearson

    Are there any other bench building considerations for lefties? I guess if I wanted a tail vise I’d need to move it to the opposite end of the bench from the face or leg vise?

  3. Ewing-OK

    Greeting from Poteau, a “suburb” of Hackett, AR.

    This bench was (as the locals would say) ‘rode hard and put up wet’ way too often it seems. But I guess that is what they are built to have happen. In its advanced age, it still looks like it would fit in my shop and last longer than my old bones.

    Ewing Waymire

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