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Last Wednesday, it felt like I was in a wholly different line of work (and one that I’ve heard can be far more lucrative than publishing , if illegal in 49 states). You see, I spent the day with a man’s hands on me as he assessed my various body parts…¦while my boss took pictures (I’m expecting Human Resources to come tearing through the shop door any moment now…¦).

We’re working with Ron Herman on a couple stories at the moment. Ron is a seventh-generation housewright (his family business is Antiquity Builders of Ohio, in Columbus, Ohio) who has amassed a huge number of tools both through his family’s business and by haunting flea markets, yard sales and the like.

If you were at last year’s Woodworking in America conference in Valley Forge, Pa., you met or at least saw Ron , you couldn’t have missed him. He’s the 6’4″ fellow who was in the front of the Marketplace with at least 15 saw bucks, a few miter boxes and a saw vise. When he wasn’t teaching a formal session, he was teaching on the show floor, showing attendees how to saw and sharpen, and talking about why it’s important to have a number of saws at one’s disposal (each buck has a collection filed differently for various types of wood, classes of cut, etc).

So getting back to being manhandled whilst my boss clicked the shutter: One of the stories Ron is writing for Popular Woodworking Magazine is on fitting one’s tools and shop accessories to one’s body. In the picture atop this post, I’m sitting on a sawbench that’s typically used by one of his female co-workers. While she’s an inch or two shorter than me, apparently her legs are longer, and the points of her hipbones are farther apart (or she doesn’t straddle the bench). Her bench is an inch too high for me, and about 4″ too wide.

How do I know this? Well, my thighs should be parallel to the floor, and when I straddle the bench, its edges should be in line with the points of my hipbones. If it’s either too high or too wide and I’m straddling the bench to, say, chop a mortise, the bench’s long edges will cut into the back of my thighs (assuming I’m sitting properly for efficient work) and cut off circulation to my feet. And when sawing, if the bench is too short, I would drive the toe of the saw into the ground with a saw sized properly for my arm’s length.

You’ll be reading more about why size matters in an upcoming issue , just as soon as we have the drawings done to illustrate the text. I simply won’t allow us to print most of the pictures we took. Taken in context, they’re just fine. But I’m pretty sure my mother would not appreciate seeing a photo of her daughter in some of those positions.

– Megan Fitzpatrick

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Showing 11 comments
  • Bill Ricker

    I love Megan’s new saw bench
    With it my saw I could clench
    What would be tops
    At my little shop
    Is my very own saw bench wench

  • Paul Korman

    I can’t wait for the article. I met with and sat in on a couple of Ron’s seminars in valley forge . Not only was he a great speaker, but his knowledge and enthusiasm were exceptional. I even bought and restored a Stanley Miter box because of him.

  • Josh

    Megan, as Austin Powers would say, you’re a bit of aright.

    I have a saw bench that has never seemed the right height for me so I am interested in seeing this article.


  • megan


  • Charles

    Thanks Chris,

    Got the pics and they are amazing. The one on the shavehorse, wielding a riding crop seemed a little gratuitous and thus was my favorite.


    (this comment may contain multiple factual untruths)

  • Chris Schwarz


    I have some photos that would probably make Megan’s mother kill me.

    Send me an e-mail and we’ll talk. (Sorry Megan, just business.)


  • Steve

    You may as well publish the photos in the magazine. They’re eventually going to end up on the Internet anyway.

  • Charles


    One mother’s disappointment compared to thousands of woodworkers delight…. um, I mean enlightenment. I’m not saying "we need this" but we need this.

    Plus, I have no idea how to properly straddle a workbench… Being that men are very visually oriented, a picture would seem to be most appropriate vehicle to convey such information. Wait, why am I trying to persuade you… I just need to find me a Wisner plane that a certain photographer would gleefully accept in a barter situation.


  • Don Peregoy

    This is good news – learned a lot from Ron at Valley Forge. possibly more important Learned how much more there is to know.

    Hope there are some drawings of his sawbench in there – thought it was a nice design- have been whishing ever since I hade brought a camera.

  • Charles

    I can’t believe you fell for the old "I need to measure you for science" bit… I use that one all the time.

    Can’t wait for the new Popular Woodworking calendar to come out [hint hint]

  • Mike

    I always knew when the rubber hits the road, size matters. Thank you for confirming that suspicion…

    Aside from his knowledge, Ron’s a great guy. I look forward to the article.

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