Let me translate this chatter for you: Don’t build a French-style bench or some other ancient workbench. They are just a fashion craze.
I get asked to weigh in on these discussions. A lot. I never do. Here’s the reason: I do not give a rat’s hinder what “style” of workbench you build. The “style” is immaterial. The era is came from? Irrelevant. The particulars of the workholding? Mostly a non-issue.
When I wrote my first book, “Workbenches: From Design and Theory to Construction and Use,” I began the text with the only thing I care about when it comes to workbench design. I hate to quote myself. But because my ideas get mangled like a hog through a grinder, I’m going to make an exception:
“Every piece of lumber has three kinds of surfaces: edges, faces and ends. A good workbench should be able to hold your lumber so you can easily work on these three kinds of surfaces. Any bench that falls short of this basic requirement will hold you back as your woodworking skills advance.”
That’s it. That’s all I care about when it comes to workbenches. I go on for 128 more pages in that book, but that’s the core idea. Now you don’t have to buy the book (hat tip to the wives).
So why do I build French benches ad nauseam? Because they accomplish that goal with flying colors, and are they cheap, simple and fast to build. Period. That’s it.
That’s not a hemline that goes up and down in wartime. That’s just fact.
You can build any workbench in any style that makes it easy for you to work on faces, edges and ends. I’ve seen them – even benches made out of melamine slabs that are mindlessly humping military desks. You can modify a Euro bench to do the job (I’ve done it). You can probably make one out of toothpicks or Legos and accomplish the same goals.
How you get to the goal is irrelevant. The goal, however, is everything to me.
So if you are one of the many would-be bench builders out there who have been confused, concerned or constipated by these discussions, relax. There is no bench fashion. There are only benches that work and benches that make you do all the work.
— Christopher Schwarz