Chris Schwarz's Blog

Something for the Wee Vixens

I finished up work on the base configuration of this old-style Roubo workbench last night for a photo shoot today. But before I tore apart the shop and moved all of our workbenches around for the photographer, there was one last task to perform.

Ever since I visited Roy Underhill’s school in Pittsboro, N.C., last year, I’ve been charmed by an old-world idea of his: That you should nail a coin to the underside of every workbench. The coins were offerings to the “wee folk” of the forest who might , if displeased , bring you bad fortune.

Ask anyone, I’m not one to mess with European tree fairies. So this morning I fetched a special coin from a large copper bowl in my sunroom. The bowl contains the last remnants of my coin collection as a kid. My grandfather traveled a lot and always brought me coins from the countries he visited.

I knew exactly the coin to get: A 5-franc coin minted in 1971. It features a shapely woman in flowing robes (surely I’m going to hell for having impure teen-age thoughts about Lady Liberty). For me this coin makes perfect sense.

My grandfather introduced me to woodworking. The bench is French in design and, like the franc itself, is considered obsolete. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t look good.

– Christopher Schwarz

P.S. The benchtop is shiny because the oil/varnish finish on it is still wet. So don’t worry , I didn’t jump the requin and apply a high-gloss finish.

17 thoughts on “Something for the Wee Vixens

  1. John

    Chris, you’ve inadvertently named this bench "Marianne". You can Google it.

    John

  2. Jerry Olson

    Please define "requin".

    Great bench. I never thought I would need another bench after building my Frank K. copy. However since I have recently doubled my available shop space and acquired a couple of familial heritage bench vises that fit this design, what the heck.
    To paraphrase the great Senator Phil Gramm " I own more (insert here, guns or tools or benches) than I need, but less than I want."

  3. Daniel Sheehan

    I heard somewhere that the date on the coin often matched the date of construction. Anyway, the Franc is entirely appropriate here. A Euro might prove fatal to this or any other project.

    I’ve dome some timber framing and have found evidence of past generations, often names and dates, like the graffiti on a passing train, evidence of man’s desire for immortality. And nature does nothing in vain.

    Why does your grandfathers tool chest mean so much to you? No tool chest? Then why his tools? No tools? Then why his name, and your father’s, and yours, and your son’s?

    O to make something to leave for them. Something that will outlive me. Something they will know me by when no one knows me any more. Isn’t that really our task? If so, our craftsmanship speaks for us. The coins help.

    We are engaged in a sacred art. We build bridges through eternity. We ought to build well.

    Thanks for the post Chris. I look forward to more.

    Danno

  4. Jonas Jensen

    Thanks for the explanation of the Canadian currency system. Cool names for those coins.

  5. Jeff Burks

    I’ve long been fascinated by the secret markings and dates left behind by carpenters and builders. It’s quite exhilarating to find a message from the past when renovating an old building. I have seen names and dates carved into masonry, scribbled on the back of mantle pieces, scratched into the bottom of slate shingles, etc. There is nothing quite like opening up a wall in a building and finding the builder’s name and a date from 150 years ago.

    For that reason I think it would be much cooler to attach a coin minted in the year of the bench construction. That way you could inform future generations about the history of the bench.

  6. Mitchell

    …a restored Gia, a Roubo bench to end all Roubo benches and a room crammed with old planes. Your livin’ the life I was supposed to get, ya bugger.

    Peace

  7. Christopher Schwarz

    Jonas,

    This bench will go to my home. A loonie is a Canadian one dollar coin.

    Chris

  8. Jonas Jensen

    Nice looking job. What will happen to your old SYP Roubo?
    By the way, what is a Loonie or a toonie?

  9. Mike Siemsen

    The lovely woman on your coin appears to be sowing seed. Maybe that is what got your teen-aged mind reeling.
    As to the bench, I think I heard several emulators being started already.

  10. Swanz

    Sweet! Ya had us worried in the beginning with all that
    talk of punky wood. But I never doubted ya for a minute.
    Looks like another winner!

  11. Brian

    Chris, you did one hell of a job, nice work. Thanks for the heads up on the coin idea, I might throw one under my bench once completed.

    I’ve been following this thread since you introduced the cherry planks and have really enjoyed it. Thanks for the school’n

Comments are closed.