Whenever I pore over old woodworking books, drawings and photos, I spend as much time deciphering the background as the foreground. There are always clues hidden in shadow.
Case in point: I have copies of some 19th-century photos from German workshops. In one photo there are about 20 guys standing at their benches, pausing to have their picture taken. Curiously, none of the handplanes are on their sides. All are resting on their soles.
This week I’m building something hanging on the wall of the shop from André Félibien’s “Principes de l’architecture, de la sculpture, de la peinture, &c.” (1676-1690). This is the book that we think Joseph Moxon used to make the illustrations in “Mechanick Exercises.” (You can see more of Félibien’s plates in our digital edition of “The Art of Joinery.”)
Félibien calles the device a “press for wood” and in the text gives the thing one line: “Les presses de bois qui se serrent avec des Vis.” Or, roughly translated, a vise for wood that uses screws.
So if you take a look at my terrible scan of Félibien’s plate XXX (above) and squint your eyes like you’ve had one too many glasses of Maderia, then you could guess that Moxon’s engraver took this French press and scabbed it on the front of the bench for Mr. Moxon like so.
Maybe the vise isn’t supposed to be attached like that. Maybe it’s not supposed to be attached at all (see Peter Follansbee’s recent posts on this topic). Now my take is a little different than Peter’s. I just have to check one more thing this week to see if I’m correct.
Tune in to my blog at blog.woodworking-magazine.com later this week for an update.
— Christopher Schwarz