One of the best things about building old-style workbenches (like Andre Roubo’s bench above) is that there are little lessons you learn by using them. At times, you learn the lesson unconsciously and it takes a couple years for you to even learn that you learned it.
This morning I was flattening the panels for the blanket chest I’m building for the Summer 2008 issue by planing them directly across the grain – what Joseph Moxon calls “traversing” in his book the “Mechanick Exercises.”
So I’m minding my own beeswax while traversing, and I notice something I’ve been doing for a while without really thinking. While traversing, I wedge my left foot under the stretcher, and I use that foot to help pull my body back on the return stroke.
So I paused and I pulled my left foot out from under the stretcher and tried planing with both feet planted on the floor instead. That felt a lot like working. So I wedged my foot back under the stretcher and returned to work.
Did Roubo design this workbench with this little detail in mind? Likely, no. But the stretcher’s location has always been curious to me , it’s only 5″ off the floor. Other benches I’ve worked on (and constructed) put the stretcher considerably higher off the floor. If you have a low stretcher, give this a try and let me know what you think.