The bench is in the carpenter’s shop of the Ta’ Kola Windmill, an 18th-century structure on the island. The bones of the bench are fairly typical for an Old World workbench. But the face vise is the real show stealer. It is, in essence, a leg vise that has been rotated 90°. The vise’s parallel guide is a piece of iron or steel that is strapped to the benchtop and pierces the chop of the face vise.
With a vise like this, the pin goes on the outside of the chop to make the chop pivot and grab your work. That’s because the parallel guide is fixed to the benchtop and front leg instead of the chop. It is simply backward from the arrangement of a traditional leg vise.
Other interesting details of the bench:
1. It clearly had a wooden planing stop common on old benches, though I can’t see if it’s still in its hole and if it has an iron bench hook in it or not.
2. The top is made up of two pieces of timber and it looks like there is some piece of iron strapping across the seam. I wonder if this is a later addition to the benchtop or is original.
3. The bench’s base is secured with bolts. This is feature typical of 19th-century benches and later, though I wouldn’t use this detail to definitively date the bench.
4. The cabinet on the right side of the bench is something I see fairly often on these old workbenches, both in Europe and in French Canadian workbenches. If you don’t have an end vise that would interfere with the cabinet, it’s a generally swell idea.
The small decorative details on this bench are nice – not overwhelming. I like the full bead on the end of the metal parallel guide. The vise’s chop has a nice cove on one end. And the front left leg has an hourglass shape – at least that’s what I think I’m seeing.
Thanks to Nick for photographing this bench and sharing it with with us.
— Christopher Schwarz
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