Toilet Paper & Workbenches

WorkbenchI recently saw a post on Facebook that vindicated what I’ve been telling people for years. Seems the original 1800s patent for the toilet paper dispenser shows the roll with the paper feeding over the top. Victory!

What does this have to do with woodworking? Well, one of the most common discussions I’ve been involved with is on the “best” workbench. Now don’t get me wrong, I applaud and encourage the research and education on historical workbenches. (For some interesting articles on historical benches, see these blog posts from Christopher Schwarz.) And I’m definitely still on the fence when it comes to the value of the back “trench” on many European workbench designs. Seems like a place to collect tools…that then get covered by shavings – but at least I know where those tools are!

When it comes down to it, I guess it’s all about what I actually learned on. And that would be my father’s European-style workbench with a front vise and tail vise, dog holes up the length of the top, and a basic trestle base that could break down for transport.

And so we’re back to the toilet paper patent. I just shot a new video for Popular Woodworking with Alan Turner of Philadelphia Furniture Workshop. In it, he shows how to build a knockdown joiner’s workbench that made me nostalgic for dad’s bench. I have to say, though, that the Lee Valley/Veritas vises Alan uses are a huge improvement from what I grew up with. But other than that, it was a very happy experience – and it was nice to feel right again!

The new video is out, and if you’re looking for a seriously solid bench suitable for hand tool and power tool work (and that you can take apart for storage or transport if need be), take a look at the new video, “Build a Joiner’s Workbench.”

—David Thiel, PW Video Manager