I don’t need a workbench. I really don’t need to build another French workbench. And I don’t need to spend a week in the Deep South in the middle of summer hoisting thousands of pounds of ancient oak with a bunch of (for the most part) middle-aged, hairy-backed sweaty dudes.
And yet that is exactly what I’ll be doing starting on July 15.
The lovable nutjobs at Benchcrafted have, with some help, put together a bench-building event that made me clear my summer calendar, forsake a family vacation and pony up some serious cash to be involved.
The benches will be massive, built like the simple French versions shown in “L’Art du Menuisier” by A.J. Roubo. The wood is ancient, thick and French. The hardware? Authentic – with metal bits being made by blacksmith Peter Ross. And the machinery we’ll be using to make the benches is big enough to handle it.
I’ll be there to lend a hand with students, talk about the history of workbench design, build a bench for myself and try not to inhale too deeply the inevitable body odor.
All it takes is money. So head on over to the high-IQ sperm bank. Get a paper route. Sell off that bottle of fingernail clippings you’ve been hoarding. This is the bench-building event of the decade – if not a lifetime.
I could prattle on about all the details, but you should instead head over to the Benchcrafted blog page here, see all the photos, read all the text and try like hell to make it.
Craftsman W. Patrick Edwards recently made an interesting video on marquetry in conjunction with the Art Institute of Chicago. Patrick discusses the video, which you can view at his site, and also explores the history of the “chevalet” – a saw guide that assists the craftsman.
For me, the hardest part of making half-blind dovetails isn’t the sawing. It’s chiseling out the waste between the pins. So when I have a crapload of half-blind dovetails to make, I use my drill press and a Forstner bit to bore out the bulk. Then I finish up with a regular bench chisel.
I’m in the midst of a sea of half-blind and full-blind dovetails for my latest campaign chest. All together, I have 16 half-blind corners, two full-blind corners and 10 through-dovetail corners to make. In my book, that’s a crapload.
I set my drill press so that it bores just shy of my baselines – I don’t trust its depth stop. (The stop has bent many times; I should replace it.) So there’s still some chopping and paring I need to do with each joint.
With any luck, I should have the lower carcase of this chest glued up this afternoon. And thanks to my drill press, I’ll have saved several hours I can devote to editing some upcoming books. That’s also removing waste, but it’s a process that my drill press can’t help with.
But what of this new style that has been struggling through to beauty in these post-war years? One sees the impressionistic school of pre-war days. One sees a war-racked England, struggling to get away from its own nerves – the nerves that it inherited form the past. The race feels intensely that things must change.
There are creations like flashes of lightning, or the stars seen by one dazed by a blow; jazz designs in upholstery, sideboards with the oddest shapes stuck on their ends, things designed to meet eyes that are too weary to rest.