Chris Schwarz's Blog

A Gallery of Unusual Workbenches

One of the side benefits of writing a book on workbenches is that I got to see hundreds of variations on the traditional designs, both in person and in old books. I also dug up some dead-end designs , benches that looked liked a good idea at first glance but turned out to be much more like the 8-track of the workbench world.

Both of these benches are from “The Great Tool Emporium” (Popular Science) by David X. Manners, a 1979 survey of tools both modern and archaic. The book’s section on workbenches was clearly an afterthought , it shares a chapter with Dremel-style rotary tools and glue guns.

Exhibit A: From an unsourced engraving (above). This bench has a leg vise mounted on the left end of the bench. It’s a loony, but not entirely stupid idea. There’s a pop-up dog on the leg vise that allows you to pinch your work between it and a dog in the benchtop. You probably could use the vise for crosscutting your stock without too much trouble.

But how in the heck are you going to clamp wide boards on edge? And why is the apron on the end notched to receive the jaw of the leg vise? This prohibits some basic clamping jobs. And one minor gripe: Having your vise on the end like this could be a recipe for disaster when planing. If you slip at the end of the stroke, your plane is more likely to go crashing to the floor. That’s one of the reasons it’s nice to have your planing stop several inches in from the end (mine’s located 12″ in from the end on the Roubo). I give this bench a D+.

Exhibit B: This is a Lervad 610 “Single Technology” bench made of Danish beech and once distributed by Leichtung Inc. Check out the shoulder vise on the left. It has two jaws! One is in the traditional spot to press against the benchtop. The other is outside the dogleg section of the bench. I suppose that this outside jaw is intended for working small parts and will allow you to come in at an angle with your rasps etc. and not hit the vise.

But this extra jaw seems vestigial, the gill slits of the workbench world.

And, once again, I think this bench lacks a way for you to work the edges of long boards and assemblies. I suppose you could clamp a bench slave in the end vise on the right, but that wouldn’t solve all your problems when faced with edges.

What also is interesting about this bench is how the tool tray is so short. As tool tray ideas go, this one isn’t too mad. Having the open section at the rear would allow you to do some clamping on the backside of the bench. I give this bench a C.

– Christopher Schwarz

One thought on “A Gallery of Unusual Workbenches

  1. seezee

    The Lervad bench vise does not have a 2nd jaw. Instead, it is a ‘vertical-hold shoulder vise’, with spindles & rods not passing through the jaws. This allows vertical clamping of long workpieces in the vise.

    Lervad benches are only sold B2B to institutional users, but you can sometimes find a used one at a bargain price; I paid $250 for mine at an estate sale. Brand new, they cost about $1000 USD for the basic model.

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