As patternmakers are the Jedi Knights of the woodworking world, their workbenches are always a little different.
Usually you’ll find some sort of vise that has more adjustments than usual. A typical patternmaker’s vise is the Emmert. These vises are gorgeous – read all about them at The Iron Hand website. I think these vises are overkill for most furniture-makers, unless you do a lot of sculptural work and need to rotate pieces in unusual ways. Some chairmakers also swear by these vises.
The workbench that holds the vise can also be a bit different. Take a look at the illustration above from the February 1908 edition of Carpentry & Building. This bench incorporates a lathe into its design, which is probably why the bench has sled feet.
There are two details of this bench that are quite interesting for us furniture-makers. First, check out the sliding deadman – sometimes called the board jack. It’s a simple sliding “X,” which is a pretty ingenious design. Because of its wide stance, you wouldn’t have to move it left and right as much as a board jack made from a single plank.
My only concern would be that the joint at the middle should be perfect and tight. If this joint came even a little loose, I suspect it would wreak havoc with the way the jack slid left and right.
The other interesting detail of this bench is its accessory “high vise.” This is a leg vise that can be installed in a face vise or end vise. It brings the work up higher and allows you more freedom in positioning your work. I’ve seen “high” vises like this in several furniture shops, including the Moravian shop at Old Salem in Winston-Salem, N.C. Read that story here.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. Thanks to Jeff Burks for digging up this article for me. You can download the entire 1908 article about patternmaking by clicking here.