One (or Two) of Jonathan Fisher’s Workbenches


Jonathan Fisher built a number of workbenches during his life in Blue Hill, Maine, according to woodworker Joshua Klein, who has studied Fisher’s journal in detail.

One of Fisher’s workbenches is a lightweight model that uses a basic Nicholson construction with an unusual base that looks a little like a folding ironing board.

Here are some of the details Klein and I observed while looking over the workbench.

1. The front apron of the bench, which is facing away from the camera in the photo above, has two threaded holes in it that look like they were intended for a twin-screw vise.

2. The benchtop doesn’t have a planing stop. Instead it is bored with a series of holes for wooden pegs. Some pegs are designed to restrain the end of the board; other pegs are designed to restrain the board laterally. It looks a lot like workbenches shown in drawings of Nuremburg woodworkers.


3. The underside of the bench uses four diagonal braces and one horizontal brace to restrain the bench while traversing. The aprons are fastened to the legs with nails, which prevent it from swaying while planing with the grain.

fisher_bench_rear_IMG_9877 fisher_bench_notches_IMG_9878

4. The one thing that had Klein and I scratching our heads was the backside of the bench. It looks like the bench had a drop leaf attached with butt hinges. In the middle of the apron are some notches and a semi-circular dado. Our guess is that this was the mechanism for holding the drop leaf up. But we couldn’t figure out how it worked exactly.


Another bench at Blue Hill is a low workbench that looks like a Roman or Estonian model. It is pierces with a lot of holes for pegs (or jigs). There is some evidence of sawing and chiseling that was done on the bench – but not a lot.

This could have been a low workbench that Fisher used. Or perhaps it’s a sitting bench that was used occasionally for woodworking.

— Christopher Schwarz

To read more about Jonathan Fisher and his woodworking, check out these links.

Jonathan Fisher’s Tool Chest (and Tools)
Jonathan Fisher. Begin the Begin
Friday’s Fisher House Tour
The Congregationalist’s Tool Chest


About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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7 Responses to One (or Two) of Jonathan Fisher’s Workbenches

  1. Jeff Faulk says:

    It appears like there’s actually two sets of dadoes and notches. Is that right? So there was some sort of frame on the bottom of the leaf, which had the folding support hinged to it. Perhaps he used chunks of wagon wheel with holes bored through them as the hinges, hence the semi-circular dadoes?


  2. Jeff Faulk says:

    Also, in the first picture, what is the strange little contraption on the floor, to the right of what looks like a tall and skinny miter box? It may have a batten or some such attached to the base…


  3. wow – honestly a drop-leaf on the back of a bench seems genius. It allows for larger panel work, but you don’t need to give up the space all the time.


  4. Looks like those notches are just right for the end of a board, like a more subtle version of the mechanism Peter Follansbee uses on his turned bookstand:

    I have heard of workbenches being used as dining room tables, makes me wonder if family picnics may have seen some use here as well.


  5. So I was over at Joshua’s blog when I noticed that the handles on the chest are shaped like they would fit into these coves. I can’t imagine how the two would fit together, but…


  6. Is the top a single slab? How deep is it?


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