Revising my First Book, ‘Workbenches’

PW_Chris's-Bench-2-copy

For the last month, I’ve been revising and expanding my first book “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use” for F+W Media. The revised book is scheduled to be out by the end of 2015 and printed in the United States.

I started writing that book in 2005, and a lot has changed in the last 10 years – not in workbench design, but in workholding. Plus, after teaching 15 or so classes on building workbenches (and building another dozen benches myself), I have learned a few things about bench building that have made my life easier.

Oh, and there are a few small errors in the original edition, including one line that people give me inordinate amounts of crap for. I wrote that I added a coat of wax to a benchtop, and then in a later photo caption discuss how that’s stupid for handwork. So I gave bad advice and then I contradicted myself. Sigh.

So I’ve been nipping and tucking the text throughout the entire book. Most of my edits are to reflect changes in what’s available. When I wrote that book, there weren’t any commercial benches that I would buy, there weren’t any manufactured holdfasts that I’d buy and wood vise screws were extremely difficult to find. Today we have an almost-embarrassing array of benches and accessories to choose from.

It’s weird revising your own work. It’s like having a conversation with a younger version of yourself. As I make small changes I mutter to myself: “Yeah, you’re right. But you could have said it in a nicer way.” Good thing I work alone.

I also decided to add two benches to the book.

In the original edition I show how to build an English bench and a French bench, both from construction lumber. They are great benches, and are still in daily service today. But after much thought, I decided to add plans for a knockdown English bench and a no-compromises French bench with all the crazy sliding-dovetail joinery.

As I sat down to write these chapters, I didn’t think I had anything more to say about workbenches. About 10,000 words later, I proved myself wrong.

I’ll have more details on the revised edition as they are available. Because this book will be printed in the United States, Lost Art Press will carry it. We will have 500 copies, and all will be personally signed by me before going to our warehouse.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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35 Responses to Revising my First Book, ‘Workbenches’

  1. hgordon4 says:

    In the last few months I’ve bought and read both of your workbench books. Great books – thank you for sharing all that knowledge and experience. I had wondered about the changes in vices and holdfasts because there are so many things on the market that strike me as worthwhile, but weren’t around when you wrote the books. Glad to hear you are doing an update. Although…I’ve already started collecting my SYP boards to acclimate in my shop as I’m designing my modified-Roubo. So I’m sorry to hear the book won’t be out until late 2015. I have one question if you are comfortable answering product questions… The Veritas fast-action holddown seems to me to mechanically do the same thing as a traditional holdfast that you strike. Agree/disagree? I’ve talked to a couple blacksmiths in my area about making holdfasts, but they only seem to do decorative stuff these days.
    Thank you for all you do for us in the woodworking world.

    • The holdfast and Veritas Hold-down do the same job. The Veritas is slow but reliable (because of its barbed shaft). Holdfasts are faster but some people have problems with them in very thick benchtops (which can be remedied by dimpling the shaftt with a centerpunch). I steer most people to the Gramercy holdfasts – $35 for a pair.

      • hgordon4 says:

        Thank you.

      • drewstout says:

        I love the Gramercy holdfasts. They’re inexpensive and reliable. Thanks for having pointed these out in the past, Chris. Just a note to anyone go hasn’t used them – lightly rough up the shafts with some coarse sandpaper to make them grab better.

      • hgordon4 says:

        I bought 4 of them (directly from Gramercy) and they arrived today. Very nice. Drewstout is right – they needed a little roughening. Shafts were very smooth. Thanks again Chris.

  2. Looking forward to the revised edition, and your efforts to keep your manufacturing in the U.S.

  3. Doug Norris says:

    Yahoo ! Great book – will buy the new one. Spent an enjoyable year browsing the book, pondering, revising, while my ash and oak dried on my property, then spent a year puttering at the building. Pretty much every decision made based on the book was the right one, and I’m loving the use of it. Probably time for a bigger bench, so, bring it on. And it will good to hear you pull together all the new products and devices (the BC Moxon is a great tool). And don’t get any less cheeky or irreverent. It’s half the fun of reading you. Keep the great B&W photos coming.

  4. beshriver says:

    You should also include the plans for the milkman bench…for guys like me that do our woodworking in the kitchen…on a related note, my cheater chest is still sitting there like a kitchen island, maybe I’ll finish it up today.

  5. jim4570 says:

    I had planned on building a Nicholson from posts on this blog and references elsewhere. For a novice is that still a good plan?

  6. Ben Kamp says:

    … And just when I was getting over the bench building bug, you once again get me thinking about another damn bench. It really is like collecting tractors.

  7. Wesley Beal says:

    Whenever I get around to replacing my 3 1/2 inch layers of MDF and plywood, I’m planning on building the Nicholson of “The Naked Woodworker” fame; but I’m still going to buy this book (again). The topic is very interesting, and you write about it very well.

    I’ve got a question: any thoughts you’re up to sharing on the differences in the Moravian workbenches, compared to the other forms? (No, I’m not suggesting you “just tack on another chapter”). They look (the photos and videos anyway) very solid to me.

    • Of course the Moravian form works. It’s basically a German/Continental form. The “Moravian” is because it is in the collection of Old Salem. Great bench.

  8. I also have your original workbench book. I am planning on doing a basic French bench, but I suspect your thoughts on joinery, especially joining the top to the base have changed over time. Is that the case? What say you? Drawbored? Glued? Both? None (gravity)? Thanks!

  9. Reblogged this on The Madcap Woodwright and commented:
    Chris Schwarz’s first book, responsible for the rediscovery of the Roubo bench, is a must have for any bench building junkie like me. If you would a enjoy well written, impeccably researched treatise on the design, construction, and use of “other than Scandinavian design” workbenches, buy this book.

  10. Chris,
    I’ve been an admirer and fan since my return to the woodworking fold. As a former, and current workbench building junkie, I want to both thank you, and curse you for bringing your first book to the forefront of my consciousness by way of its revision. Here I was, completely satisfied with my decision to build a modified LaChappelle bench for my self, and you go and make it too easy to reconsider the Roubo. Best of luck on the revised book’s sales. You can count on my purchase, a signed copy through LAP if I can swing it.

  11. Paul says:

    What will be the difference to your 2010 “The Workbench Design Book”? And what’s the difference between this one and the 2005 one, anyway? I just bought the newer one last year. Curious to know if I will miss something 🙂 I keep the PDF on knockdown benches for future reference, though. Keep up the great work!

  12. If the Milkman’s bench is the table top Moxon and tail vice – yes please. Don’t you just love how your followers want to dictate you book 🙂 Thanks for all the great work you do!

  13. bloksav says:

    Great news that the book will be printed in USA.
    Will you include the Milkman’s bench to the book?

    Brgds
    Jonas

    • Jonas,

      We thought about adding the milkman’s bench but decided (and I think correctly) to keep the book short and focus on the theory. The two benches we added were extensions of the two that were in the book and added joinery options.

      I do love the milkman’s bench!

  14. I am looking forward to it when it comes out. Thanks

  15. I can highly recommend both workbench books. If anyone is on the fence, I’ve used both heavily during my current Roubo build.

  16. 52woodbutcher says:

    Sign me up, Mr. Schwarz!

    Regards, Wes Faulkenberry, Jr.

  17. agfisher says:

    Chris, do you have a rough ETA on when it will be available?

  18. abtuser says:

    Let’s see…donate v. 1 to Little Free Library…darn, space limited. Regular library? Sure. Buy new version, can’t go wrong.

  19. I hope you don’t leave out any of the essentials. First, there must be a mug, a tankard or a stein (maybe a mason jar?). After all any self respecting joiner would just as soon be caught without his tools as without a beer container close by! Second, it must have the iconic photo of Megan and her LVL workbench. And third, let’s see, alcohol, women and…ah, yes song! Perhaps “The Irish Joiner”?

  20. Hello Chris!
    Thanks for all your inspiring work. I’ve been planing to build my own bench, and your “The best bench never built” seems to be almost exactly what I want. In the time since writing this, have you ever “updated” it? Have you perchance ever written about making your own “wagon” vise (ideally out of wood and with a non-extending screw)?
    Thanks for any help, Peter

    • There are plans for a wagon vise in the first edition from 2007. To make the screw fixed is simple: Support (or capture) the screw at its end with some sort of wooden pillow block. Drill a hole through the dog block for the screw and screw the vise’s threaded metal sleeve to the dog block. Easy.

  21. “It’s weird revising your own work. It’s like having a conversation with a younger version of yourself. As I make small changes I mutter to myself: “Yeah, you’re right. But you could have said it in a nicer way.” Good thing I work alone.”
    That, good sir, would be the perfect point made in the preface.

  22. Charlie Driggs says:

    Chris,

    Put me down for a copy pre-order.

    Charlie Driggs 102 Covered Bridge Lane Newark DE 19711

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  23. Jake England says:

    Chris,

    I think you should add some information on dealing with large slabs of wood for the top of the bench in your new book. Tips on squaring up a slab, or getting the end grain of the slab flat to join to an end cap for a wagon vise would be helpful. It would also be nice to see some information on making square dog holes in large slabs.

    Respectfully,

    Jake

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