Chris Schwarz's Blog

Workbenches: From Peanut Butter and Salsa to Walnuts and Dentistry?

If
you use your workbench for wood alone, you are unusual. My workbenches
get used for all sorts of things, from wrapping presents to cracking
walnuts. Opening stubborn jars of peanut butter to holding acetate
horsies while I glue on their wounded legs.

So I was delighted
when a reader reminded me of this passage from Herman Melville’s “Moby
Dick.” And it gave me a few ideas as to how we can save on our medical
bills in 2011 in the Schwarz household.

— Christopher Schwarz

Chapter 107
The Carpenter

The
one grand stage where he enacted all his various parts so manifold, was
his vice-bench; a long rude ponderous table furnished with several
vices, of different sizes, and both of iron and of wood. At all times
except when whales were alongside, this bench was securely lashed
athwartships against the rear of the Try-works.

A belaying pin
is found too large to be easily inserted into its hole: the carpenter
claps it into one of his ever ready vices, and straightway files it
smaller. A lost landbird of strange plumage strays on board, and is made
a captive: out of clean shaved rods of right-whale bone, and
cross-beams of sperm whale ivory, the carpenter makes a pagoda-looking
cage for it. An oarsman sprains his wrist: the carpenter concocts a
soothing lotion. Stubb longed for vermillion stars to be painted upon
the blade of his every oar; screwing each oar in his big vice of wood,
the carpenter symmetrically supplies the constellation. A sailor takes a
fancy to wear shark-bone ear-rings: the carpenter drills his ears.
Another has the toothache: the carpenter out pincers, and clapping one
hand upon his bench bids him be seated there; but the poor fellow
unmanageably winces under the unconcluded operation; whirling round the
handle of his wooden vice, the carpenter signs him to clap his jaw in
that, if he would have him draw the tooth.

11 thoughts on “Workbenches: From Peanut Butter and Salsa to Walnuts and Dentistry?

  1. Jack

    so appreciative to be able to write you, have looked AND looked on the web. Would like to surprise my wife with a bookshelf, you know how they burn the knotholes,etc. then varnish. Just can’t find ANY instrux how on the web. I would so deeply appreciate your help pointing me how to do this. Thank you SO much 🙂 🙂

  2. Don Williams

    A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

    -Robert A. Heinlein

  3. Bart johnson

    My greatgrandfather was a blacksmith…and a carpenter, and a stonemason, and a beekeeper, and a farmer, and…well you get the picture. My Dad says that during the Depression people would come to Grand-dad to get their teeth pulled…’cause he had the tools! Ouch!
    Bart

  4. Dave Brown

    re: IPAs

    IPAs weren’t brewed on board ships. They were purportedly brewed with extra hops to survive the journey from Britain to India. Actually, Porter survived the journey but the hoppier beer was more refreshing in the hot, humid climate of India.

    Speaking of IPAs, a recent favorite of mine is Arrogant Bastard from Stone Brewery — very good stuff. ; – )

    cheers,
    Dave

  5. John Cashman

    Megan, beer is an excellent antiscorbutic. India Pale Ale was brewed fresh on board ships for just that reason.

    Isn’t rationalization great?

  6. Kirk Brinker

    My brother-in-laws commented on the "great looking bar" when they first spotted my Roubo-Schwarz workbench in the garage. It can easily be accessorized with a few bar stools to aid in administering some of Dr. Schwarz’s Patent Medicines…..

  7. John Cashman

    You should open Dr. Schwarz’ line of Patent Medicines as well. It could be a second career.

  8. James Watriss

    Sounds like me shop teacher from boarding school. He was the go-to guy for everything from wood, to fixing bicycles, to repairing the rifles that the school had in the rifle range under the gym. (!)

    I don’t think he ever drilled anyone’s ears, but I wasn’t down there very often.

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