I don’t know if there were ever guinea pigs in Europe, but now there are 11 of them.
This week I am teaching a class in building the traditional tool chest from my book “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” at the Dictum workshop in Niederalteich, Germany. I’ve never taught this class before. Heck, I’m not so sure we can even accomplish it in a week.
So I decided to try this class first in Germany. That way, if I fail miserably, the news might not travel as fast as it would in the United States. (Thank you, language barrier.)
The other goal of the class is to sow a few seeds.
You see, when I wrote my first book, “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use,” the initial reaction from woodworkers wasn’t very warm. The benches were odd looking. The material I chose was lowly. The vises were simple and weird looking compared to a modern quick-release vise.
But after a few people built them and agreed that these ancient benches were nice, the word began to spread and now the book is in its third printing in less than four years.
Most people I talk to think I’m insane to work out of a traditional tool chest. Even if they like the book, they say that my ideas about tool chests are simply wrong. They involve stooping. They are too heavy. Too big. Poorly divided up inside.
My hope is that these 11 people – who are from all corners of the world – might agree with me and appreciate working out of their tool chests as much as I do.
Today was the first day of the class. After a quick lesson in dovetailing and sharpening, I threw them into the project. The first goal: Handplane the insides of the chest pieces. Then dovetail the corners. Glue it up by the end of the second day.
What was surprising was how easily they jumped into the planing without much instruction at all. And their results were quite nice – shimmering surfaces.
And I learned a Danish idiom that describes this kind of work: “As smooth as a nun’s stomach.”
Did I mention we are staying in a monastery? I better keep an eye out for lightning bolts.
— Christopher Schwarz
• We’ve published two good books on designing and building workbenches: “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use” and “The Workbench Design Book.” Both are available in our store.
• Roy Underhill’s tool chest from the June 2009 issue is pretty awesome. That issue can be downloaded from our store here.