Ancient Bench Built from Modern Materials
Planemaker Gary Blum introduced a new workbench design for sale here at the International Woodworking Fair. Well, it’s not really fair to call it new. The base design is a couple hundred years old, but Blum has added Baltic Birch plywood, bronze bushings and pipe clamps to make it a thoroughly modern bench.
The bench looks like the English-style workbench immortalized in Peter Nicholson’s “Mechanic’s Companion” of the 19th century. It is essentially a torsion box on top of some stiff legs.
The top of Blum’s ingenious bench is also a torsion box made from 3/4″ Baltic birch plywood throughout , the front apron is actually a sandwich of two layers of Baltic birch. Below the torsion box top is a set of red-oak legs and stretchers joined with bolts, which allow the bench to be knocked down. The legs are angled out to give the bench a firm stance.
Weighing in at about 240 pounds, the bench is 24″ deep and 6′ long, though Gary says he will make the bench 7′ or 8′ long upon request. The user also can specify the height of the bench.
The most clever aspect of the bench is how Blum incorporated Jorgensen pipe clamps into the design to work as the face vise and the end vise.
In the face-vise position, Blum built a twin-screw vise by placing two pipe clamps in bronze bushings on 18″ centers. The clamps press a large removable wooden chop against the front edge of the benchtop. You might be wondering if pipe clamps have enough throw to be useful as a woodworking vise. They don’t. If you need to clamp really thick work, the pipe clamps can be slid out and locked in position to hold thick stock.
Blum put a similar clamping system on the end of the bench, but he also incorporated a dog system into the end vise so you can clamp panels to your benchtop between dogs.
The base model of the bench will cost about $995. Longer versions will cost more.
I got to work with the bench for about 15 minutes today and was very impressed. It is a solid bench, and the torsion box will ensure that the top remains rigid and flat (unless you leave your bench out in the rain).
So for those woodworkers looking for a solid English-style bench, drop Blum a line. It’s a heck of a deal at that price.