Solve a Workbench Mystery
Wear and tear on an old workbench is
always interesting to me. Most of it is predictable and understandable –
French marks on the benchtop, the occasional saw kerf in the face vise
and always the ubiquitous white paint splatters.
reader sent me a link to two workbenches for sale through antique
dealers – one on the West Coast and the other on the East – that made me
Both of these benches are touted as 19th-century
French designs, and I think that’s a fair assessment based on the design
and the vise hardware. Let’s take a look first at the one from Suzanne Golden Antiques in New York.
86″ long, 23″ deep and 29″ high – all pretty standard dimensions. What
is unusual is the wear on the top. The benchtop is covered in saw kerfs.
But it’s the front edge that has me curious. I’ve not seen American
benches sliced up this way. I wonder if this is a result of using
bowsaws vertically at the workbench – perhaps short rips that end right
as the saw hits the benchtop.
While you’re over there, take a
look at some of the other interesting features of the joinery – the
sliding-dovetail/through-mortise joint is curious. On the front right
leg the dovetail joint has an extra shoulder.
Now go visit this page at Garden Court Antiques in California. That front edge is plumb wore out from saw kerfs and the like.
So I have to ask our woodworking friends in Europe: Is this common?
— Curious in Cincinnati
And if you like DVDs, we have a video of me building the French-style
bench on the cover of “The Workbench Design Book” entirely (except for
one band saw cut) by hand. “Build an 18th-century Workbench” is available in our store.