Designing and building good workbenches has been a passion of mine for the last decade or so. I’ve spent years rooting around in old books and getting dusty in the shop while building benches (I think I’ve built 10 different kinds now). And then I’ve had a great time using all these benches for all sorts of woodworking with both hand and power tools.
For the last year, I’ve been writing a book at night and on weekends about workbenches. It was first intended as a manual for my students when I teach classes. Then it grew into a series of articles for the magazine. Then it got out of hand.
I finished the book in February, designed it and turned the whole thing over to our woodworking books division (which is run by David Thiel, a former senior editor for this magazine). They thought it was good enough to publish, so you can look for the book in early 2008. The preliminary title is “Workbenches: From Design & Theory, to Construction & Use,” but that could change. The design of the book will be quite similar to Woodworking Magazine: nice paper, sepia-toned photographs, old engravings from historical books (many from Gary Roberts at The Toolemera Press) and lots and lots of words.
I’m not permitted to give out advance chapters or material on the book I’m afraid, but here is what I can tell you about my first literary effort.
– Workbench Design: The book explains the fundamental rules of good workbench design that have been largely forgotten. It explains all of the complex vises and ways of holding work so you can understand what they do. And it shows you how to use this knowledge to design a workbench using two venerable designs as basic skeletons.
– Workbench Construction: The book features extensive plans for two workbenches, including an expanded explanation of how to build the French-style Roubo workbench and complete plans for the English-style Nicholson workbench. The construction drawings are extensive and nice (they were made by Louis Bois, a draughtsman who makes the eDrawings for the Woodworking Magazine projects).
– Workbench Use: The heart of the book is on how to use the various vises and workshop jigs to actually hold work on your bench so you can work on it. While you don’t need a good workbench to do world-class work, it certainly takes away one of the biggest obstacles: workholding.
Also, I think it’s important to say what this book is not. It’s not going to offer you a tour of workbenches both unusual and typical from around the globe. I think that the current crop of workbench books have done a good job of showing the wide variety of solutions out there. Instead, this book is an attempt to explain the principles of good workbench design that you can use to build any style of bench.
When I have more information on the release of the book, including where it will be available and its price, I’ll post it here. So stay tuned.
– Christopher Schwarz
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