H.O. Studley’s Workbench (Most of it, Anyway)

Henry O. Studley was a piano maker and he had a bench that suited his trade. And though we are still in the initial stages of researching his work, some accounts suggest that he was a craftsman who specialized in building prototype organs and pianos for the Poole Piano Co. before the units went into production.

This fact, if it bears out, helps explain some things we saw while poring over the man’s tool chest and workbench for Don Williams’s forthcoming book “Virtuoso: The Toolbox of Henry O. Studley.”

During our visit, I looked over the workbench that sits below Studley’s tool chest. It bears a family resemblance to the one owned by ironmonger Patrick Leach. Leach’s bench was owned by a piano case maker who lived in the same area and time that Studley worked. See the photos here.

So I am presenting the following bullet points on the Studley bench without much comment. I am still processing a lot of the data I wrote down, including 41 pages of typewritten notes, so I don’t have answers. I have just data and a sore bottom. But because data is better that a swift kick to… anywhere, here we go.

Some things I know about H.O. Studley’s workbench.

1. The benchtop is original. The base was made by the current owner and is modeled after the chest. The workmanship on the re-creation is excellent, though it is not aged to look like a vintage original.

2. The benchtop was acquired at the same time the owner acquired the chest.

3. The benchtop is made up primarily of three gorgeous pieces of Cuban mahogany. There are additional mahogany pieces on the ends that cover the end grain.

4. The top is banded by ebony that is let into a rabbet in the benchtop. The ebony is 1/2” x 1/2”.

5. Inside the ebony band, the three mahogany pieces measure 15-15/16” wide, 6-15/16” wide and 5-5/32” wide. The top tapers in its overall width. The tail vise end is 1/4” narrower than the face vise end.

6. The top is 3” thick overall, 30” wide (at its widest) and 78” long.

7. The dogs in the benchtop are 1” x 3/4”. The dogs are ebony. They are 4-1/4” long and are held in the holes with brass spring clips. The dogs are held flush to the top of the benchtop by a small metal clip at the bottom of the dog hole. This clip runs in a stopped groove in each dog. It is… remarkable. Every dog hole has a dog. All of the dogs are spaced on 7-1/2” centers, except for one.

8. The vises were plated with nickel when the owner acquired them, but they were rusting and in need. The collector had them re-plated. There was a lot of effort put into masking original surfaces to preserve the smooth action and tolerances of the vises.

9. The sliding dog on the tail vise is… interesting to me. It is a sliding dovetail that runs in ways that are cut in the vise chop. The tolerances on the machining is remarkable. The dog is pushed up and down easily and holds its position. All dogs should be so obedient.

To see a slideshow of my photos, click here.

Like all things with H.O. Studley, you should take this data with a pinch of salt. There is a lot of misinformation out there. The first Fine Woodworking poster of the chest discussed the “stonemason” tools inside it. Duh.

So I recommend you enjoy the photos and try not to jump to any conclusions until 2013, which is when Williams’s book on Studley is scheduled to be printed.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Chris Schwarz

Publisher of woodworking books and DVDs specializing in hand tool techniques.
This entry was posted in Virtuoso: The Toolbox of Henry O. Studley. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to H.O. Studley’s Workbench (Most of it, Anyway)

  1. Megan says:

    Hmmmm…you think Jameel would nickel-plate my Benchcrafted vises? I covet.

  2. Peter Pedisich says:

    What a way to make a living, working at that workbench and cabinet! I bet he had no fluorescent lights humming away above his head either. Office life rules!

  3. Tom says:

    I think I’ll build a coffee table suitable for holding the book. Inlaid with ivory (sorry, elephants) and brass. Lots of Mahogany. All the screw slots running north-south. A gold $20 coin inlaid in one corner. A little drawer with a secret lock to hold my ashes.

    • joecrafted says:

      Except for the ivory and ash box, that is not a bad idea for a project. Mother-of-pearl would probably work as a substitute. Maybe create a sealed glass section for the book. Compulsively clear the table around the book area during parties, while giving guests who place their beer or wine glasses over it a jaundiced eye.

  4. Niels says:

    Blog post of the year(decade?)! Thanks Chris!

  5. Matt Sullenbrand says:

    I think I see the next Benchcrafted vice offering- the Studley!

    • Brian Z says:

      If Jameel builds a Studley vise I will lose my other Benchcrafted vises in the divorce settlement.

      Chris your writing is really starting to make me question my sanity. First I thought I was the only one OCD enough to time screws on my projects, and the light switch covers in my house. Then I read your post on timing screws and someone here even pointed out that the screws on the Studley Tool Chest were timed. Now I look at your pictures of the Studley Workbench and my first thought was that the screws visible when the face vise is open were not timed. A beautiful workbench and this is what I picked out – someone help me please.

      • lostartpress says:

        Not all the screws were timed on the chest.Many of the visible ones are.

        The vises were removed for plating. So we don’t know if they were originally clocked or not.

      • Mattias in Durham, NC says:

        Don’t worry, it’s ok to have OCD as long as you are also productive. At least that’s my rationalization.

  6. Mike Siemsen says:

    Will there be a T-shirt offering?
    I’m a Studley man!

  7. tman02 says:

    The front side of that workbench base certainly does look like a desk. It will be interesting to see inside the drawers, if they are anything like the tool chest.

  8. Jim says:

    Chris
    You don’t suppose the “stonemason” reference in FWW referred to the Masonic symbol in the tool chest.
    Can’t wait for the book.

    • lostartpress says:

      Jim,

      Absolutely. The poster says Studley was a stonemason, the chest was oak and that it was filled with stonemason tools. Someone was asleep at the switch.

      My point is not to rib FWW, but to point out there is a lot of misinformation and mistakes in descriptions of this chest. Ergo, our cautious approach without conclusions.

  9. nate says:

    I do have a question, on your slideshow on flickr in pic 17 what are those blocks mounted to the face of the bench on the back side? There looks to be three of them, are they some type of minitool rack or a spacer to keep it from the wall? The pics are great and I can’t wait for the book to come out!! Thanks for the updates and please keep them coming!
    Nate

    • nate says:

      Opps, never mind! I didn’t know that you could click and get a description of the picture! Technology is great sometimes and other times it makes you look like an idiot!

  10. Jonas Jensen says:

    What a beautiful slideshow.
    It must have been a tremendous experience to document such work.
    By the way, the octagonal chest of drawers in the back of the room on slides 13 and 14 looks gorgeous.
    Do you have any plans for such a chest? I built a smaller version a couple of years ago but only as a hexagonal one, (2 ” high).

  11. Tom Knighton says:

    I never thought I could be as blown away with anything as I have been by the Studley tool chest. I was wrong. The bench is equally as impressive. Of course, I’m curious what that block attached to the corner was.

    All in all, just a work for art. I have to agree with what someone else wrote though, when they asked if Studley ever had time to actually…you know…build a piano? I could spend a lifetime just trying to emulate the chest and workbench, and never actually achieve it. H.O. Studley is truly immortal, living through such practical works of art.

  12. robert says:

    All this is remarkable to see. Does the current custodian of the tools use them? Think how cool it would be to know those tools and that bench were being carefully used them to craft beautiful things. The essential knowledge is the knowledge of how the tools, chest and bench function together.

  13. Frank from Cape Town says:

    What a sight! How come the metal jaws are not lined with wood or leather or something? Am I missing something? Even the inside screw heads seem to protrude?

    • lostartpress says:

      Frank,

      As I noted in the entry, the vises were removed for replating and replaced. We don’t know what (if anything) they were lined with. Or the original mounting configuration of the screws.

  14. Speaking as a mechanical guy all i have to say is, THAT is a workbench

  15. I hope that no one working for the government is looking at this site or they will raid the place and take away the ebony.

  16. Dave from IN says:

    The design of the bench dogs is fantastic. I’m certainly glad you are sharing pictures before the book comes out!

  17. humblewoods says:

    These photos and videos have been amazing, Chris. As a novice hand tool user, this is the first I’ve ever heard of the Studley chest and bench. I’m currently trying to develop my quiver of tools (with the aid of your books and blog, thanks) and seeing these past few posts has just blown my mind. Now that a few days have passed, I think I’m starting to wrap my head around the tools in the chest. It was very overwhelming at first to look at all those perfect hand tools, but I keep finding myself staring at pictures of it and I’m starting to memorize every part of it. This chest has been truly inspiring to me to not only establish my quiver of hand tools, but to also build my own tools. Thank you for sharing these beautiful works of art.

  18. Dave from IN says:

    Here’s a random question: I noticed from the detailed picture of the bench dog that there seems to be an inset piece between the half-round channel and the spring. I know ebony grain isn’t particularly obvious, but is that inset piece an attempt to get a “cross grain” header to prevent the top of the channel from breaking out? Do all of the dogs have this inset piece?

    Thanks again for all of the pictures!

  19. Tim Cottle says:

    I have one of those vises. The action is beyond smooth, I got it for an amount that I am now ashamed of, but nonetheless, I am thinking of building an assembly table just so that I can install the vise on it. It has to weigh between 50 – 70 lbs, and is seriously beefy.

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