With several hundred pounds of red oak now sitting on my workbench, it’s time to get serious about building the two benches for my next book, “Roman Workbenches.”
The simpler of the two benches has a top that is about 3-1/2” thick, 18” wide and 7’ long. This will be a low bench – somewhere slightly above knee height but below the groin. The height will require some experimentation because the operator needs to sometimes straddle the benchtop for some operations.
As a result, 38” would be too high, even with my ostrich legs.
This bench’s workholding is super-simple: a planing stop (copied from one recovered at the Roman fort at Saalburg) and a Roman holdfast. Both iron bits were made by blacksmith Peter Ross. In the last couple months I have become very fond of the Roman holdfast, which holds like crazy.
This simpler bench will also feature some holdfast holes that occasionally will have some tall wooden stakes in them. More on this later (those of you who have read “Woodworking in Estonia” probably know what I’m tilting at).
The second workbench will be taller and made with a larger slab of oak. It will have a wagon vise (perhaps the first one ever illustrated), a series of forged-iron dogs and a twin-screw vise. Oh, and a ripping notch.
Both benches will be made using staked construction with no stretchers connecting the legs. For a variety of reasons I’ll explain later, the legs’ tenons will be cylindrical instead of tapered. Boring these 3”-diameter compound-angle mortises might seem like it will require a ship’s auger. But I have a plan.
— Christopher Schwarz