This week we received a visit from James Travis, who built what could be the most ornate sawbench.
Travis, who is in his early 20s, was traveling through Cincinnati on his way from Boston to San Antonio, Texas, and dropped by the shop. Travis recently completed the “Three-month Furniture Making Intensive” program at the North Bennet Street School in Boston and was headed back to Texas to set up shop as a furniture designer and craftsman.
After showing Travis our shop, he asked me to step outside to his Budget rent-a-truck to see his sawbench.
He built the bench entirely by hand using simple tools and home center red oak. The sawbench is, in every way, completely over the top. There are wedged through tenons at every corner. The pegs that attach the leg go entirely through the top and are capped with carved oak.
“I will never carve red oak again,” Travis said of the project.
And like every woodworker, Travis immediately began pointing out the errors he made in building the sawbench, including the patches he had to make when the base didn’t quite fit the notches he’d cut in the top.
He said he’s thought about rebuilding the sawbench now that he has even more hand skills. But instead, he decided to keep using the shop appliance to remind him of all the lessons he’s learned in the craft so far.
And Travis has quite an adventure ahead of him. His desire is to be a furniture designer and specialize in re-imagining 18th-century styles. His sawbench is one example of how his brain works. The carvings and shapes are not taken from any single piece of furniture or period but are instead they way he remembers some pieces of early American furniture he saw when he was young.
Once he gets home to Texas, his plans are to set up shop, buy a table saw and get to work with the help of his sawbench and a second day job.
“Target or anything, really,” he said.
– Christopher Schwarz
Other Hand-tool Resources You Might Like
– Download a free plan for the simpler sawbench I built for Woodworking Magazine.
– “Handplane Essentials” is a compilation of my best writing about planes.