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I’ve taught woodworking in places where the best available bench was the floor. And the best available vise was my wholly inadequate buttocks.

So whenever I teach at a school where the benches are suitable for handwork (such as the Marc Adams School of Woodworking), I get all tingly. Actually I get to do a lot more teaching instead of trying to figure out how to hold some typical piece of work.

This week Kelly Melher at Kelly Mehler’s School of Woodworking sent me a message that set me down on my bony bum: He and a group of alumnae from the school built seven workbenches in nine days. And not just any workbenches: Four Holtzapffel-style cabinet maker’s benches and two split-top Roubo-style workbenches.

Three of the benches feature the Benchcrafted wagon vise and two have the Benchcrafted Glide vise. The other benches have giant wooden twin-screw vises for the face vise.

The school’s previous benches weren’t terrible , there was a mishegoss of styles, from Ulmia to German to contemporary. The instructor got the nicest bench , a Lie-Nielsen European-style bench.

After Mehler finishes building three more workbenches, the entire school will be outfitted with benches that were designed for handwork but can easily be pressed into service to work with power tools. Mehler teaches both disciplines at his school in Berea, Ky.

What does this mean for you? Well if you are enrolled in an upcoming class at Kelly Mehler’s school you are in for a real treat. I’m teaching a Hand Tool Boot Camp class there in October, and I can’t wait to help break in these maple beauties.

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 4 comments
  • Christopher Schwarz


    I wrote about the split-top bench idea here:

    If the slabs start out in close alignment, I can’t imagine that it would be a big problem. But I haven’t flattened one personally.


  • Matt Davis

    Let’s hear it for women woodworkers!! Unless you meant "alumni."

  • Peter C. Tremblay

    What do they do for a finish on the bench top?


  • Tony

    chris, i’m interested on your perspective of a split top bench. It sounds like a challenge to flatten. does the crevice add or subtract value in the overall workholding and usability equation?


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