Before I can complete the expanded edition of “Roman Workbenches,” I have to build a reproduction of the bench I saw at Saalburg this summer – the oldest surviving workbench I know of (about 187 A.D.).
I took complete measurements of the intact bench during my visit and I will reproduce the bench as best I can, right down to the unusual dovetail-shaped recesses in one edge of the benchtop.
What I won’t be reproducing, however, is the bench’s waterlogged, black and shriveled appearance. When wooden objects were pulled from the wells at Saalburg, Rudiger Schwarz says they were well-preserved. But as they dried out, the objects distorted a bit.
The original bench was oak and was perhaps rived from a trunk, according to Peter Galbert, who studied my collection of photos of the Saalburg bench this July.
My bench will be red oak from a slab cut by Lesley Caudle in North Carolina, who supplies wood for slab workbenches (read all about that here). Will Myers dried the wood and has roughed out the slab to its final dimensions.
I’ll pick up the slab next week and begin building the bench – the remainder of the work will all be by hand. I’m juggling two other projects currently – a walnut backstool commission and a dugout chair – so my progress will be slow at first. Despite this, the work should go fast. One of the great virtues of Roman workbenches is they take only a couple days of work to build.
So unless something goes haywire, this revised book should be done by the end of 2017.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. We still have a 28 copies of the letterpress edition of “Roman Workbenches” available. Once these are gone, they are gone forever.