You can hold anything on your workbench with just pegs, wedges & notches – no fancy vises required.
By Christopher Schwarz
It’s difficult for most woodworkers to imagine a workbench without screw-driven vises. But for most of human history, that’s how you worked. No matter what you were building – furniture, wagons, barrels or houses – the workbench was typically a strong table with a collection of pegs, wedges and notches.
While screw-driven vises have existed since Roman times, they don’t show up on workbenches until about the 14th century. And even in the 18th century, many woodworkers still preferred simple benches without screwdriven vises.
For today’s woodworker, I think there are many reasons to understand and consider alternatives to the modern workbench. For one, they let you transform almost any surface into a workbench – even a picnic table. So, you don’t have to leave your shop behind while on vacation.
They also are a great way to get a fully functional bench without spending much money. All of these contrivances use scraps – plus maybe a holdfast or clamp. So, you don’t have to spend $3,000 on a bench to build your first birdhouse.
Finally, these workholding methods are just as effective as modern vises. In some cases they are actually superior. Let’s begin with my favorite – the singlepoint planing stop.
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