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When I walked into the shop at Kelly Mehler’s School of Woodworking this morning at 8:24 a.m., the place was a wreck. The students were fitting their joints among piles of shavings and sawdust and joking with one another.

The radio was on (they have a radio?) and playing a Bob Marley tune.

This, I thought, is the day we go off the rails and into the high weeds. This calamity happens with some classes, and it actually never surprises me. After all, most amateur woodworkers aren’t accustomed to 10-hour days on their feet, lifting 300-pound tops all day and my peculiar brand of fecal-based humor.

So I got a cup of coffee and waited for something to happen. Or, more likely, nothing to happen.

It’s 11:02 p.m., and I just walked the narrow bridge from the school to the Sunday House where I’m staying. We glued up all 10 workbenches – in one flipping day. The students kept at it all day, helping one another fit and assemble the benches – it takes four or five people to do it right.

We stopped for dinner after gluing up six benches. I felt pretty good about that number – six. And I thought the students would fall asleep on the nice deck on the back of the school with the cool breeze wafting though their smelly armpits.

But no. We just kept going. Each assembly got easier. Each bench looked better than the one before it. After we glued up the last student’s bench, I gathered up my tools.

One of the students said: “What about Kelly’s bench? Can’t we do that?”

Kelly has been building a bench alongside the students that will be used by the school. The parts needed some tune-ups before assembly, but all the students jumped on it and the glue was flowing within minutes.

At that point, I was just playing along with the mob. If someone had suggested we go lynch someone at the jail, I probably would have joined in.

— Christopher Schwarz

Read the other stories in this series:

French Workbench – Monday
• French Workbench – Tuesday
• French Workbench – Wednesday

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Showing 10 comments
  • Jonathan Szczepanski

    How are they getting the benches home?


  • Mitchell

    Hand tools, power tools or a couple of beavers with big teeth, who cares. The videos show a group of people having a damned good time building great looking benches.

  • Andrew Yang

    Americans building French workbenches and drinking Belgian beer. Is there a joke in here somewhere?

  • rhancock

    That was my question, too, Damian, but I figure those old benches Chris talked about in the first blog weren’t built with bandsaws. While I would love to build a bench with half a dozen other woodworkers to help lift stuff, I can’t see anything that can’t be done by hand. Looks like about 10 pieces of timber to plane and joint – a good workout, but not impossible. Course, you’d need a friend or two to lift the top on!

    I like the simplicity of the design of this one, so I’m already planning on making one in the next while (year or two…) Are there / will there be plans available somewhere?

  • damien

    Great, as beer marketeers say here: Home is where my Stella is.

    It was instructive to see the thing happen. I had a question, if it takes “four or five people to do it right” can the lone worker expect to finish a workbench in 40 hours like it was proposed in the first post? There is the added handicap of smaller or no thickness planer, but there, I can always go to a lumberyard.

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