While I call this bench a Roman model, perhaps I should call it a Holy Roman Empire workbench. It comes from a 1505 drawing in a Nuremberg codex, which discusses tools, weapons, clever doorways, instruments of torture and a love potion.
The workbench, as drawn in in 1505, is the same Roman form you’ll find in frescoes and stone carvings from the early part of the Roman Empire. The only difference is that this 1505 bench has been equipped with a lot of advanced workholding thanks to Martin Loffelholz, the author of the codex.
I’m trying to replicate the bench as close as I can to the codex’s drawings. The top is a single slab of oak from Will Myers and Lesley Caudle in North Carolina. The legs are massive tapered things that are staked into the underside of the top. The twin-screw vise will be made from wooden components (that I am making). The metal components for the wagon vise are being made by blacksmith Peter Ross. The wooden screw for the wagon vise is from Lake Erie Toolworks.
This week I got a good start on prepping the benchtop and the legs. This red oak is pretty green – I haven’t put a moisture meter on it, but my guess is that the components are somewhere about 30 percent moisture content (MC). Despite this, the top and legs are fairly stable. The slab for the benchtop (4-1/2” x 17” x 84”) was pretty flat so I dressed it on both faces in an hour. The long edges – also rough – took about 45 minutes to dress and true with a jack plane.
The legs are massive 6” x 6” posts, and I got those squared up and cut to rough size this morning before breakfast. I still need to taper them, which I’m going to do with a band saw and a jointer plane.
I hope by the weekend to be boring mortises for the legs and still be hernia-free.
— Christopher Schwarz