Factory-fresh Levard Workbench

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While picking up some work from Steamwhistle Letterpress, the owner, Brian Stuparyk, said he had a workbench to show me.

Brian’s letterpress shop is where all manner of interesting mechanisms end up, including printing presses, woodworking machines and machinist tools. Recently he received a load of woodworking equipment, much of it barely used.

One of the gems was a vintage Danish Levard workbench that looks like it had never been used. Brian said he found only one small sawcut and a single blotch of glue.

It’s the first time I ever had time to examine a Levard in detail. While being extremely well made (details to follow), I was surprised how lightweight it was. I know I’m biased toward massive French benches, but this seemed like a delicate flower.

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So now for the good stuff. First take a look at the jaws for the end vise. The top corners of the benchtop and jaw are inlaid with boxwood, like a moulding plane. It’s an interesting detail. That area of a vise can see significant abuse, but I’d never considered adding boxwood to the jaws.

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Also interesting: the underside of the benchtop. Like many European workbenches, the core of the benchtop is fairly thin and banded by thicker pieces. This saves on wood, but it reduces the bench’s overall weight and makes clamping things to the benchtop an occasional pain.

What really interested me was the way they had made the thick dog blocks that were glued to the thin core. To save material, the dogs are fully enclosed on only one side. I can’t think of any disadvantage to their approach.

The vise screws were all well-machined and moved smoothly, like someone cared. Also nice: The steel dogs (actually they were more puppy-sized), were well-made with nicely chamfered corners.

All in all the craftsmanship was excellent. I just think it could use a lot more mass.

— Christopher Schwarz

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21 Responses to Factory-fresh Levard Workbench

  1. You just need to slide your ATC under it – that should be heavy enough. Either that or take lighter cuts. These feel good anyway – much more like a heart surgeon than a dentist.

  2. @TheRainford says:

    That is interesting to see the seemingly delicate details on that bench and pretty good hardware quality. The labor saving changes like the dog hole strips w/o a back and the frames in the undercarriage that look like they are doweled or domino-ed together are unusual design choices but seem reasonable as a labor and materials savings as you’ve said. And does that shoulder vise have two sets of jaws that move at the same tie? I think I’d be walking that bench around the shop if I was doing any sort of planing and I don’t see an easy way to bolt it to the floor — much as I’ve danced with many a larger bench. I look forward to whatever other info you share on it.
    -Bill

    • jayedcoins says:

      I certainly don’t have this bench, but I have a very light bench. When I plane — even smoothing easy woods — I have to bump the bench up against something. This usually means one of the floor joist supports (basement shop area).

      It works but can be frustrating. I’d much rather have a heavy French style bench.

  3. henrik1224 says:

    If I recall correctly, Lervad only produced “sloyd”-benchs – i.e. benches geared towards various sorts of manual arts training. From pre-school up to teacher’s colleges. Anders Lervad was one of the pioneering teachers at Askov Sløjdskole here in Denmark

    So you can find them in adult sizes too, but they were not intended for the heavy use of professional joiners or cabinet-makers. Certainly they are much lighter in construction than similarly styled pro benches from Scandinavia or Germany — and they cannot be taken as typical of that sort of bench.

    This would explain the short cuts taken with regards to the top and construction methods (and perhaps also the extra protection afforded to the tail vise — to give it some added durability against abuse by novice users). Its qualities should (reasonably) be judged as a piece of school furniture.

    Best
    Henrik

    • Hi Henrik,

      Manual training benches were not all lightweight. Many of the benches sold in the United States and England (which I am most familiar with) were battleships:

      http://www.popularwoodworking.com/woodworking-blogs/chris-schwarz-blog/early-english-manual-training-workbench

      Hammacher Schlemmer, a leading supplier of manual training benches, made them in all grades, from lighter than the Levard to astonishingly bulletproof.

      So I definitely compared the Levard to other manual training benches when I made my assessment. It’s well made, but it’s a featherweight. Even a mild hip check sends it scooting.

      To be fair, Levards were sometimes arranged where multiple benches were interlocked. This would make them much more workable. But the benches were sold here individually in the United States to home woodworkers, who wouldn’t be locking them to anything.

      Thanks for your note,

      Chris

  4. schugn says:

    Lervad Technology bench. Why is boxwood chosen over other species for the vise jaw inlay?

  5. parks2167 says:

    My first bench, $100.00 used, danced all over the shop floor when I planed. It didn’t make any difference heavy or light cuts, the bench waltzed. Now with my new Roubo heavy partner, no waltz or polka or fox trot either. Would never go back to a light weight bench.

    • jayedcoins says:

      We have half the same story. 🙂 I’m in a used Sjobergs bench that, on the linoleum basement floor, slides like ice skates unless it’s against a wall or joist support. When I decided to embark on this craft, I didn’t even have a vice, so the cheap used bench with a vice was a steal.

      I get by with it. But I hope to replace it with a petit Roubo in 2017.

  6. I own one and it is my only bench until I get around to building one. I got it from my grandfather so the price was right. It is a decent bench, it moves less then you might expect if you are planing along the long axis. (I have it on high traffic type carpet) Working across the width it does tend to move a lot.

  7. It puzzled me to suddenly see “danish” pop up in the text about something named Levard – sounds very french to me. But then. It looks danish, and is danish, only made by the company BM Lervad. From Denmark.

    The reason for the dinky dimensions might have something to do with the fact that this company specializes in shop furniture for schools and the like. You know… Kids… Learning… Put saw to wood… For the first time. At age 11. (If they’ve got bad parents – otherwise they’d already be used to it from home)

    This is only guesswork, but it fits perfectly with the way danish public schools have been run, and we’re talking construction here. It used to be that function, quality and durability were the main, if not only, criteria for school furniture. This will explain the details, as for instance the inlaid strips in the vise. Durability. If indeed it is danish through and through, my guess is the inlay is hornbeam in stead of boxwood, which is not native to Denmark. As lumber anyway. Unfortunately these days lowest bid is the order of the day, resulting in future lives in torment of bad backs, the cultivation of throw-away society and perhaps closing perfectly healthy businesses as a result.

    I would guess this might have been a teachers bench, given the dimensions and the fact that it is a single bench and not a double or quadruple.

    You can see more of their stuff here: lervad.co.uk or lervad.dk (danish)

    • …Already late on the explanation I see – oh well.

      As for the weight issue. In schools in Denmark they would never see heavy use. Abuse maybe, but not heavy use. Portability and stowaway features have been of greater importance than heft.

      In all my years as a carpenter, my first encounter with Roubo was through LAP. Ulmia (DE) and Sjöbergs (SE) rule most pro shops, or at least patterns to match from older no longer existing local manufacturers. We are not used to that much weight. One reason being that the bench many times went along from jobsite to jobsite for cabinetry, so it would be most useful for one or two guys to be able to lug it around, which is also the reason for so many benches with knock down undercarriage with tusk tenons. It will fit in a station wagon or small van in stead of taking up most of the space on the bed of an F-350.

      • …and I really don’t know when or why building ones own workbench went out of style. Pretty rare. They might be comparatively too cheap to buy in relation to the effort put into a home/shop made one. Even Ulmia or Sjöbergs.

  8. charleseflynn says:

    I think the name is Lervad, not Levard.

  9. dtugboat says:

    I have one, my first bench. Right now just holds various other unused items. How ever one great feature is how it folds down and set up very quickly at craft fairs, flea markets and such where the customers want to see the crafter actually perform his craft. Creates immediate interest and draws a crowd, a good selling/marketing tool. Only used for light work, like small glue up’s, touch up paint, or any minor repair.

  10. Chris Decker says:

    My wife’s grandfather gave me the same bench a few months ago. It is the only bench I have ever used, but my observation of the mass is the same. It’s really easy to move it around when I’m planing on it, and it feels too short but I love it otherwise. I have been tempted to build a taller, heavier base for it and extend the width of the top. I hesitate to do that though, because this bench is one of the nicest parts of my workshop.

  11. ssayott says:

    In 2013 Charles Brock filmed Chris at the Highland Woodworking event. During the filming Chris displayed something he called a European bench.

    I am trying to find out where to get one or plans to make one.

  12. Tom Vanzant says:

    I’ve had a Lervad bench for 30+ years. The original instructions say that the benchtop could be lifted off the pegs, the base folded, and both leaned against a wall for storage. There was also an optional seat that clamped to the base…great for carvers. I have widened my bench to 18″ and replaced the base with a Roubo-ish design. A couple hundred pounds of wheel weights on the lower shelf prevents “dancing”.

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