Recently I stumbled on an 1834 tool catalog from Holtzapffel & Co. in London that describes every tool a 19th-century woodworker could ever want, from planes to wrenches to chisels to tools I’ve never seen (brass straightedges, Water of Ayr sharpening stones, crow irons).
Naturally, there is a section on workbenches. Of course, I’ve pored over it. And I am intrigued and a little bewildered a bit by some of its details.
The Holtzapffel company offered a number of “planing benches” designed for joiners and even offered a drawing of it on the second page of the catalog, which I’ve shown above.
Now here’s the description of the bench:
“521 PLANING BENCH of beech-wood, framed with screw bolts, two side screws at the front, and one end screw, framing to correspond, with the sliding bench hooks, to serve as a Vice, opening 5 feet, a case moving upon rollers, with eight drawers, one tray, and partitions for each tool, made to fasten with one lock, also a well at the bottom, with a slide, and long drawer underneath.”
Then follows a long description of tools supplied with the bench. Then the catalog describes all the ways you can buy the bench without tools, from 4′ long to 7′ long and with different vise configurations.
So let’s break down the description and see what you would get with this bench.
1. It’s framed with screw bolts. I assume this is to make the bench easy to break down and ship to the customer. No surprises there.
2. Two side screws at the front. This is, I assume, a twin-screw vise at the front left of the bench.
3. “(O)ne end screw, framing to correspond, with the sliding bench hooks, to serve as a Vice, opening 5 feet.” The end screw is, I assume, a tail vise. What are “sliding bench hooks”? Joseph Moxon and other English sources use the words “bench hooks” to refer to planing stops or bench dogs. So a sliding bench hook could be a moving dog, like the moving dog in a tail vise or wagon vise. The 5′ dimension is the maximum dimension between the dogs.
4. “(A) case moving upon rollers.” Hey this is neat. These benches have a toolbox that slides under the bench. This keeps your tools handy and allows you to push them out of the way for clamping or storage.
5. “(A) well at the bottom, with a slide.” This is a bit confusing. I assume the well is the area between the stretchers, but I’m not following what the “slide” would be. Perhaps that is what the tool case moves upon.
In any case, I like the idea of the sliding tool cabinet. It would provide storage that wouldn’t get in the way of clamping. If I added one to my workbench, I’d place it behind my sliding deadman so that both could be positioned anywhere as needed.
Excuse me while I go scratch my itching SketchUp finger.
– Christopher Schwarz
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