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Plate 11 from A.J. Roubo’s “L’Art du Menuisier” is one of my favorite woodworking documents. The workbench shown there has inspired many of my own designs, but that’s only half the story.

Plate 11 is backed with visual detail in the section at the top of the plate, which is an interior view of a craftsman’s shop. It features eight French-style joiners’ benches and six men at work. The walls are covered in jigs, tools and work in progress.

I’ve studied this plate a long time, and what is fascinating to me is that it’s not just a romantic view of a shop. Pretty much every item shown in the plate is discussed in further detail somewhere else in Roubo’s volumes. In fact, many of the items are intentionally shown out of scale so you can study them. So no, dividers were not as tall as a grown man in the 18th century.

Also interesting is the work that is going on down at the benches. One menuisier is planing a long board against the bench stop. A second is sticking a moulding on the bench with the stock offset on the bench stop. A third is crosscutting on the bench (with the help of a holdfast), and a fourth is ripping with the stock hanging off the benchtop.

To show you what a great thing this plate is, I’ve created two wallpaper images for computer screens that you can download now for free. These are for 16:9 monitors and are available in four sizes (1,280 x 800; 1,440 x 900; 1,680 x 1,050 and 1,920 x 1,200).

One of the images is of the workroom. The other is of some of the bench details shown at the bottom of the plate.

Benchfeatures_1280x800.jpg (198.63 KB)

Benchfeatures_1440x900.jpg (215.19 KB)

Benchfeatures_1680x1050.jpg (254.33 KB)

Benchfeatures_1920x1200.jpg (298.36 KB)

Workshop_1280x800.jpg (459.74 KB)

Workshop_1440x900.jpg (515.99 KB)

Workshop_1680x1050.jpg (654.59 KB)

Workshop_1920x1200.jpg (807.68 KB)

I hope you enjoy the wallpaper (it works with both Apple and PC) and the poster as well. If you see something cool in the poster, post a comment below.

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 17 comments
  • Tom Holloway

    Many of the issues raised in these comments would be settled, or at least clarified, if we had an English translation of the 6 large-format pages of descriptive text keyed to Plate 11 in the full edition. Does such a translation exist? I have the 3-volume facsimile edition of Roubo published by Bibliotèque de l’Image (Tours, 2002), but my French is both minimal and rusty. If no one knows of a good translation, I would be happy to provide the original French text to anyone who could then translate it and distribute the result (by putting it online). I think the text would be an excellent complement to the poster.

  • Tom Holloway

    We have one of those proverbial failures to communicate. All the benches in the shop have crochets (which is just French for hooks) although they are rendered more like blocks in the shop image. As for the configuration of the top of the leg vise, "n" in fig. 4: Unless the bottom of the leg is also guided by a screw, the angle of the upper face will often be off of true vertical, so an upper face that curves toward the bench, as shown in fig. 4, would help ensure that the work is secured at the upper edge, as desired. This is a refinement not often seen on more modern leg vises.

    A different note: I think the tub at the sharpening station probably holds a sort of hand mop (rag strips tied to a handle) for cleaning the swarf from the huge whetstone.

  • Chris Bowyer

    Now I guess I’m even more confused. I’m pretty sure the crochet is piece "m" in fig 1, what I’m looking at is the top of piece "n" in fig 4, and I can’t see how they’re even close to the same thing. There’s even a vice screw in figs 3 and 4. Now, there’s definitely no leg vice on the bench in fig 1, but I really think that is one in 3 and 4. So if my eyes aren’t working right, or I’ve fallen into some kind of 18th century twilight zone, somebody let me know.


  • RE Jim Tolpin "Check out the panel leaning against the wall in the back right-hand corner. First, notice the panel–a large,flat surface(not made of plywood, of course!)–which would be a considerable amount of work to make. Necessary, though, for laying out project parts full scale. Looks to me like they have laid out curved stair rail parts using a trammel, dividers and straightedge and square."

    It could also be a part of an armoire.
    I believe it is a change of plane to produce a
    template for the curved part. It is better to do
    this kind of drawing full-scale to minimize


  • RE Chris Bowyer’s question…

    I believe what you are seeing is the "crochet," not the top of a leg vice. There are no leg vises on the benches. Instead, each has a crochet which is a curved hook that is used as a wedge to hold the end of a board placed vertically against the face of the bench.

  • Tom Holloway

    Yes, surely the figure on the far right is sharpening a chisel at the shop’s sharpening station, which apparently features a mondo block of sandstone.

  • Nick Webb

    Could the guy on the right be using a large flat(ish) whetstone? The thing next to it appears to be a sink/vat of some sort.

  • Nick Webb


    I don’t think it’s a bar, but a board with that profile on it. It also appears to have a hook on the opposite edge at the top. No idea what it is though.

  • Jim Tolpin

    I just looked more closely at the large "bar clamp" I mentioned in my last post—I think its not a clamp, but rather a trammel. Which makes sense since its right next to the lofting. Also, if you look on the left hand wall, you’ll see a giant set of dividers–useful for full scale layouts of a large architectural components. I’m assuming this shop does more joinery work than furniture/cabinetmaking. Anybody know what the guy at the far right is doing at the small bench against the wall? Looks like he has a foot long tool in his hand–or brush.

    You probably need to download the highest resolution version of the picture to view this stuff with your magnification tool of your viewer.

  • Jim Tolpin

    Check out the panel leaning against the wall in the back right-hand corner. First, notice the panel–a large,flat surface(not made of plywood, of course!)–which would be a considerable amount of work to make. Necessary, though, for laying out project parts full scale. Looks to me like they have laid out curved stair rail parts using a trammel, dividers and straightedge and square. While you are in that corner, also check out the strange object in the very corner of the room, just to the right of the long bar clamp. Looks like a metal rod with a couple of z-bends in it, with each end bent and pointed. Anybody have a clue what this is? I sure don’t!

  • Kurt Schmitz

    The guy walking in the back is carrying a candle, and the menuisier formerly known as Pinochio is smoking something. That could explain why the guy to the right, along the wall, is cutting on a very large sandwich… Good times!

  • Nick Webb

    Is the guy sticking moulding Pinochio?

  • Mitchell

    Great image for a great poster and one that triggers a question.

    The first tool in from the right, hanging loud and proud on the wall is a ripping frame saw. I have seen articles on just about every other type of frame saw, but almost zero on this one.

    I wanted to build one of these a while back but snagged on the choice of blades. I just couldn’t find enough information about the choices available to make a decision.

    Even a search using the Searchwarz turned up nothing relevant.

  • Chris Bowyer


    Thanks for the wallpapers they are great. I’ve never seen plate 11 that size, and looking at it for awhile, I noticed something I’d never seen before. At the top of the leg vice it seems to curve back toward the bench, so that (it seems) only the top couple of inches actually make contact with the board (Possibly in order to help with clamping pressure). My question is, is this common practice when making a leg vice?

    A traditional workbench is going to be my winter project, so this is perfect timing to get some insight into good design.


    Chris Bowyer

  • Ya….like I have an 18"x24" blank space on the walls of my shop to hang a poster…..!!!!!

    Hmmm… there is the ceiling….

    Thanks Chris.

  • Dave

    This plate will no doubt start a firestorm of controversy, just like that painting of the last supper. Why are there only 6 men working, who’s the guy walking in the door in the back. Why wasn’t Paul wearing shoes on the Abbey Road album cover, is it possible for one man to wield a brace & bit that’s over 6 feet tall…………..I could go on & on. Let the discussion begin!!


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