Chris Schwarz's Blog

Cool Hardware You Can't Buy Anymore

Sorry for all the bench posts. (Hey, that should be the name of this blog.) I have a lot of extra jetsam (or is it flotsam?) sitting around as I crank out my next book. Here’s an awesome piece of detritus.

A couple years ago a reader sent me a cardboard box containing two unused pieces of bench hardware , and the instructions! , from the Mechanical Manufacturing Co. One piece of hardware, a bench clamp, is stamped as patent pending (but I can’t find a patent for it). The other gizmo, one of 10 billion bench hooks patented between 1854 and 1920, received a patent in 1910. (If you don’t have any friends either you can read the patent here.)

The bench hook is a cool piece of spring-loaded hardware that you can install into the top of any work surface merely by cutting a shallow mortise and driving in two screws. The bench hook has three different kinds of bearing surfaces (serrated, two points or flat). And you can set the hook for a variety of heights.

The other piece of hardware is a cool quick-release tail vise you can install anywhere with a mallet. When installed on the benchtop, it’s a little less than 3/8″ high. Pull the lever back and the forked dog extends 1-1/4″. Push the button at the rear and the dog snaps back into its case.

And, most important: It makes an awesome clicking noise than annoys your co-workers when you engage it 60 times in a row while they are trying to edit a story by Toshio Odate.

Though the patent and directions don’t mention this, my guess is that this hardware was intended for house carpenters who needed to set up a quick workbench on a home site (which was still common practice in 1910). I also could see how some amateurs might find it useful.

We shot a short video that demonstrates how these devices are applied on a temporary benchtop.

- Christopher Schwarz

Other Bench Resources (Yes, Some Are New!)

- Do you get a funny feeling inside when you look at cool old patents of woodworking stuff? Here is your porn site. It’s called the Directory of American Tool and Machinery Patents (DATAMP for short), and you can explore its bowels by visiting datamp.org.

- Ever heard of Rob Tarule? He built the Roubo workbench in Scott Landis’s “The Workbench Book.” Visit Tarule’s site at heartofthewood.com. His 17th-century stuff is just awesome.

- And my pathetic commercial plea: I have a new DVD on building the workbench featured on the cover of the August 2010 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. The DVD shows how to build a monster 18th-century workbench using hand tools.

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11 thoughts on “Cool Hardware You Can't Buy Anymore

  1. james

    Well, this is slightly off thread (ok, alot then) but how come one cant subscribe to PW in digital form? I say it’s time for PW to get some cool IT tools that you can buy.

  2. Bill Rusnak

    "Audels Carpenters & Builders Guide"…the next item to sell out worldwide and then double in price. Thanks a lot Chris. LOL

    Great post. These things should definitely go back into production.

    Bill

  3. TS Jones

    That little doo dad cost a $1.50 in 1910?

    Going back to 1913, the earliest CPI index available, that thing would now cost about $33.00. According to one source on the net that I googled, the average wage in 1910 was about $3.00 per day. It should be noted they didn’t work 8 hour days back then to get that wage either.

    It just goes to show that the good old days *were not*. NOW are the good old days.

    Thanks for that bit of history, Chris. It’s always nice to realize what previous generations had to do in order to earn a living.

  4. Christopher Schwarz

    Ed,

    I have tons.

    Get a copy of "Audels Carpenters & Builders Guide." Originals are reasonable. Lee Valley has a reprint of it. The four books are worth their weight in gold.

  5. Ed

    Chris,

    Flotsam is cargo that errantly falls overboard and floats. Jetsam is cargo which is purposely pushed overboard, and if it’s buoyed for recovery its called lagan.

    Also, do you have any pictorial examples of workbenches which might have been used/built on site by early 19th century carpenters, especially for trimming out rooms?

  6. Joel Jacobson

    A quickie currency conversion show that a 1910 – $1.50 would be equivalent to about 34.50 today.

    Would you pay this for that hardware?

  7. wilbur

    It’s interesting that you mention Toshio Odate, because in his book on Japanese tools, he writes about Japanese woodworkers setting up workbenches (planing beams, actually) at the job site.

    By the way, cocaine parties are so 1980′s.

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