Chris Schwarz's Blog

Carved (and Quite Cool) Sawbench

This week we received a visit from James Travis, who built what could be the most ornate sawbench.

Travis, who is in his early 20s, was traveling through Cincinnati on his way from Boston to San Antonio, Texas, and dropped by the shop. Travis recently completed the “Three-month Furniture Making Intensive” program at the North Bennet Street School in Boston and was headed back to Texas to set up shop as a furniture designer and craftsman.

After showing Travis our shop, he asked me to step outside to his Budget rent-a-truck to see his sawbench.

He built the bench entirely by hand using simple tools and home center red oak. The sawbench is, in every way, completely over the top. There are wedged through tenons at every corner. The pegs that attach the leg go entirely through the top and are capped with carved oak.

“I will never carve red oak again,” Travis said of the project.

And like every woodworker, Travis immediately began pointing out the errors he made in building the sawbench, including the patches he had to make when the base didn’t quite fit the notches he’d cut in the top.

He said he’s thought about rebuilding the sawbench now that he has even more hand skills. But instead, he decided to keep using the shop appliance to remind him of all the lessons he’s learned in the craft so far.

And Travis has quite an adventure ahead of him. His desire is to be a furniture designer and specialize in re-imagining 18th-century styles. His sawbench is one example of how his brain works. The carvings and shapes are not taken from any single piece of furniture or period but are instead they way he remembers some pieces of early American furniture he saw when he was young.

Once he gets home to Texas, his plans are to set up shop, buy a table saw and get to work with the help of his sawbench and a second day job.

“Target or anything, really,” he said.

– Christopher Schwarz

Other Hand-tool Resources You Might Like

– Download a free plan for the simpler sawbench I built for Woodworking Magazine.

– “Handplane Essentials” is a compilation of my best writing about planes.

– “The Arts & Mysteries of Hand Tools” CD contains all of Adam Cherubini’s columns on 18th-century woodworking and furniture.
 
– “Forgotten Hand Tools” DVD from Lie-Nielsen Toolworks.

8 thoughts on “Carved (and Quite Cool) Sawbench

  1. Joel Jackson

    OK, I have to add today’s events to the thread. Dowd’s Vintage Tools was scheduled to set up in front of Woodcraft in San Antonio this morning at 11AM. In spite of not being scheduled to work today, I went in around 10AM to see if I could help (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). As I looked out the front of the store, there was a Budget rental truck parked in the lot. I assumed it was the people from Dowd’s, so I went out to offer to help. Well, it wasn’t…it was a young man in his early 20’s who said that he was moving back today, but wanted to kill some time at Woodcraft. I asked him if he was James…James Travis? He blinked several times, then asked "How did you know? I explained, then laughed to myself all morning. I guess if I had just driven from Boston, made a random stop at Woodcraft on a Sunday morning, and the first person I encounter knows my name; I think I would freak, too. Welcom back James…and by the way, the saw bench looks awsome in person.

  2. Neil

    Hey Joel Jackson ….put in a good word for James T in the SA WoodCraft…..it would fit his plan better than hitting the Target.

  3. Joel Jackson

    Great job, James. I am pretty sure my saw bench would be embarrassed next to yours. In, fact, James, I work at the SA Woodcraft, and would love to see your bench in person. And, Chris. I really appreciate the "gems" such as James that you share with us. Please keep it up.

  4. james

    He built the bench entirely by hand using simple tools and home center red oak.

    "I will never carve red oak again,"

    LOL, yeah, i dont know first hand but word on the street is you have to carve oak when its green.

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