Chris Schwarz's Blog

Patrick Leach’s (Awesome) American Workbench

After writing about Deb Chalsty’s amazing workbench (here and here), and noting that the hardware looked like the bench on piano-maker H.O. Studley’s workbench, I got an e-mail from Patrick Leach.

You know Patrick. Or maybe your wallet does. He sells Grade A vintage hand tools through his usually hilarious and always snarky monthly newsletter. Click here to subscribe. You don’t really need that tax refund now do you?

Here are Patrick’s notes on the bench, which have been edited only so we maintain our PG-13 rating here on my blog. I’ve uploaded all his photos to our Flickr page, so you can see them in glorious full resolution.

Here is the piano case maker’s bench, the bench where I lovingly pack each and every tool that is shipped to the four corners of the globe. I got this out of a house in Leominster, Mass. It looks like an 1890-1910 effort.

Leominster, and the &*%$#@%$ to the north, Fitchburg, were home to many piano case makers who supplied those to the retailers who stuffed the cases with their guts. It was sort of a
“cottage industry” in the area. I had a similar bench that came out of Gardner, home of one of
America’s largest furniture makers, Heywood-Wakefield. Gardner was an epicenter of late Victorian to the 1950s furniture making, particularly chairs, that’s all gone now having first moved to North Carolina, then to China.

The bench is 7′ long, 30″ deep, 35″ tall, the top is 2″-thick laminated cherry and maple. There are two massive cast iron vises mounted in the standard shoulder and tail/end configuration.

These vises are manufactured, but I don’t know by whom. The tail vise has a sliding dog, with a cast iron assembly to pinch it in place. While these are massive and rugged vises, you’ll note the welded repair that must have cured a design flaw. You can see a common Millers Falls-style stop mounted flush to the surface, directly over the face vise.

There’s a superstructure at the back of the top designed to hold chisels, augers, etc.

The base is a massive frame construction. The rails are large sliding dovetails into the legs and then fit with two banks of drawers below three smaller drawers. To either side of the frame are shallow compartments, fit with doors. When I removed the bench from the home, the right-most compartment had some old circular saw blades. The leftmost, wedged shut tightly, was filled with a later generation’s stash of Playboys!

— Christopher Schwarz

One thought on “Patrick Leach’s (Awesome) American Workbench

  1. griz

    My Dad had a bench with 2 vises exactly like that. He never used it and just left them in the barn when he retired and sold the house. I have often thought about them as they were the solidest things I ever used. They had no marks either, this was in Bethel,CT. So maybe a local New England maker???

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