When I built my first French workbench in 2005 from Southern yellow pine, I vowed to someday build one just like the version shown in A.-J. Roubo’s “L’Art du Menuisier.”
I’ve come close to filling that pledge a couple times, but that vow is now eight years old. If my vow were a hot dog, it would be almost inedible.
On Sunday I leave for Georgia to participate in the French Oak Roubo Project, which has been organized by the Benchcrafted Brothers. I’ll be helping the students build their benches from the massive and ancient French oak slabs that Benchcrafted and Bo Childs have gathered for the week-long workbench orgy.
But I will also get to build my own bench. (I am paying for all my materials. #eyeroll)
My bench will be designed to the print of plate 11 of “L’Art du menuisier.” It will have a grease pot. A drawer. The rack. And the exact pattern of holdfast holes shown in the well-known plate. And the hardware… well I’ll be blogging about that next week, I’m sure.
I will have a leg vise. But I’ll have the leg vise shown in plate 11, which doesn’t have a parallel guide. How does it work? Roubo explains that in his long discourse on shops and benches. To date, only a small bit of that text has been translated. But thanks to Don Williams, Michele Pietryka-Pagán and Philippe Lafargue, we now have an excellent and complete translation of the text relating to the bench and other shop practices.
With the leg vise, you use loose blocks of wood on the floor to pivot the jaw into your work. A parallel guide is shown in Roubo, but it is on his “German workbench,” which will be discussed in our translation coming out in August.
This bench will be a daily worker in my shop. I’m going to have to re-organize some things, but now that we are not a book warehouse, that should be do-able.
Next week I’ll be blogging daily about the class, as will many of the other participants. But I won’t be answering e-mail or my phone.
This coming week is my vacation.
— Christopher Schwarz