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Once you are able to rip your eyes off of H.O. Studley’s magnificent tool chest, you can spend almost as much time looking at the benchtop and vises of the Massachusetts piano maker.

On Monday, Don Williams, the author of a forthcoming book on Studley, and Jameel Abraham of Benchcrafted spent the morning taking a close look at the vise hardware on the bench.


Don has been traveling all over the Eastern seaboard this year to research Studley’s life and to examine other piano maker’s vises owned by other woodworkers. Don has been documenting his travels on his blog at If you want to see some incredible vise hardware, I definitely recommend you spend time on his blog.

All of the vises Don has examined have been a little different in their construction, but they all share similarities. The goal is to produce a handwheel vise that incorporates all of the best details of the vises Don has examined. Don and Jameel plan to work together on the project, though there isn’t a timeline. (In other words, please don’t pester Don and Jameel about these vises because they are still in the embryonic stage.)

While Don and Jameel studied the vises in detail, I spent some time looking at the underside of the benchtop itself. While we once suspected the top was made from a solid slab of mahogany, that is clearly not the case.

The benchtop is laminated: Mahogany on the faces with a core of a heavy wood. Don suspects the core is oak. The entire benchtop is surrounded by mitered solid mahogany pieces.

Also interesting is how the dog holes were added to the benchtop. Unlike many modern woodworking benches that have square dogs, the dogs are not installed at a slight angle into the benchtop. The holes are perfectly vertical. To make the dog holes, the builder merely laminated pieces of solid mahogany to the core of the bench and left spaces for the dog holes.

The dogs have an ingenious stop system that prevents them from falling out of the benchtop. More on that later.

This is our last visit to the Studley tool chest, but there is much work to be done. In other words, I gotta go now.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 2 comments
  • cagenuts

    Very interesting, thanks for sharing.

  • pmac

    pester, pester, pester …

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