Modern hardware and techniques update this Tage Frid-inspired bench.
by Bill Rainford
Scandinavian- or Continental-style workbenches are the vinyl LP records of the woodworking world. These iconic benches have never left the scene. A few are classics and others are the flavor of the month. Some benches in this style are masterworks and some are poor approximations of an archetypical form. The trick is finding the workbench that hits all the right notes for how you work so you can go on to create your own opus.
What’s Old is New Again
Much as how Roubo and Nicholson benches have re-surfaced in recent years and have their merits – they were products of their times, the needs of the craftsman and the availability of wood and hardware – so too has the Scandinavian style of workbench, most popular in the late 19th and 20th centuries. This newer style of bench made use of a changing tool landscape and scarcity of wood, and often required a higher level of skill and/or mechanization to produce. All of those forces are still present in our modern world, where we want to conserve natural resources, mix old and new techniques and tooling and build something that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
When Tage Frid wrote about workbenches in the third volume of his iconic “Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking” (Taunton) he described a state of time (1948) wherein a good workbench could not be obtained in this country. His solution was to design and build a bench similar to the one he was trained on. Almost 70 years later, things are not much better on the retail front, with the majority of mass-produced benches lacking in heft, design and quality. Thankfully we’ve had a resurgence in traditional woodworking and have a much wider variety of tools, hardware and literature, making today one of the best times to be a woodworker since World War II.
Blog: Read about the author’s Tage Frid-style deadman, for use in the tail vise.
Website: Read more from the author – including his article on how to make face-mounted clamps for this bench – on his blog at rainfordrestorations.com.
Model: Download a free SketchUp model of this bench at the Popular Woodworking SketchUp Warehouse.
In Our Store: “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use,” (revised edition), by Christopher Schwarz.
To Buy: “Building the Portable Moravian Workbench” with Will Myers.
From the February 2017 issue, #230