Chris Schwarz's Blog

A Visit From the Ghost of Joseph Moxon

Sometimes I am so dense that it’s a wonder that my parents ever allowed me to stop attending a Saturday school program for slow kids (true story).

Sometimes when I encounter a new or unusual form of workbench it takes me a while to fully and totally grasp it. Such is the case with Joseph Moxon’s bench shown in plate 4 of “Mechanick Exercises,” the first English-language book on woodworking.

Until last night I thought it was basically like the French bench shown in Andr�© F�©libien book on woodworking (where Moxon got most of his drawings), with a couple English enhancements.

But last night the scales fell from my eyes and I see the genius behind it. And believe me, it is pure genius and solves a lot of workholding problems that all of us struggle with when building casework.

This morning I got up early and started work.

First up: I’m installing a threaded wooden screw in my crochet. This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time ever since I read Peter Follansbee’s experiences with this device. We have a tap and a screw box (remarkably, the cutter is sharp). That should be done this weekend.

Moxon’s screw through the crochet. Hard to see, I know.

Then I’m going to temporarily remove the leg vise from my pine bench and customize it Moxon-style.

Then next week, somehow between trips and meetings and completing the August issue, I’m going to build Moxon’s “double screw.”

And once I do that, explaining the bench to you will be easy. Stay tuned.

– Christopher Schwarz

P.S. If you have an e-mail in to me and I haven’t responded, I apologize. I’m traveling until the end of May. Then I hope to get caught up on answering questions.

13 thoughts on “A Visit From the Ghost of Joseph Moxon

  1. Eric R

    To say your activity schedule makes me look like a total slacker is the understatement of the year!

  2. Jonas Jensen

    I agree with Patrick.
    Now that I finally understand the engraving, I would say that it is very similar to the "sidetang" as it is called in Danish.
    There is a similar system on the old workbenches that I have at home, but there is a sliding piece of wood between the screw and the bench. So the workpiece is clamped between this sliding piece and the bench.
    One of the benches actually have something like a lot of small sliding "deadmen", that you can pull out from the side of the workbench, all along the side that is marked "f" in the illustration.

  3. Gary Roberts

    Andy

    Alas, perspective in engraving was not a well known or practiced art, unlike in architectural renderings of the time (or earlier). Hence the Escheresque images we try to bend our heads around. It helps to keep in mind that the engraved illustrations, while nice, were really not meant to be as instructive as is the use of illustrations in modern books. Books of Moxon’s days were text driven with engraved illustrations thrown in in order to sell the book, not to be a de facto example of how to do something right. And we still don’t know who actually did the engravings for Mechanick Exercises, one of the brothers Moxon, a hired hand or?

    Pity
    Gary

  4. Patrick

    This would appear to be the forerunner of the modern shoulder vises seen on many European/Scandinavian benches would it not?

  5. Andy

    From the illustration, it appears that the crochet screw is aligned vertically (i.e. with the long axis of the front left leg) when Randle Holme and Peter Follansbee show it parallel with the double screws, which seems like the only logical orientation.

    If I were Isaac Newton, I would have given Moxon grief for this error of perspective when he presented his work to the Royal Society.

  6. Ethan

    Honestly, I’m a little disappointed you aren’t going to fully flesh this idea out with a completely new bench.

  7. Andy

    Any idea how Moxon would have attached the double screw vise to the front of the bench as in the above illustration? He does mention an alternative of clamping the rear cheek to the top of the bench with one or two holdfasts. To me, this implies that the double screw vise would always be removable since, as illustrated, it would interfere with clamping long Stuff for edge shooting.

  8. Alex Grigoriev

    This kind of cheap Taiwan-made tap may need a bit of honing to remove the burrs. Looks like they sharpen it first, then do heat treatment. Also: it won’t work in end grain; not that you’ll try that.

  9. joel

    Are you also going to carve letters in the benchtop and sides? It would the bench even more authentic and easier to explain.

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