The Best of Everything calls to ask if he can hire me to consult on his workbench build. And, if we get along personally, he would like to fly me to his shop so we can build the bench together.
Me: I have young children and a day job with little vacation. I can’t really do that, but I’ll be happy to help you (for free) like I do all our readers via email.
The Best of Everything decides to fly to Cincinnati, meet me for lunch, look over my workbenches and pick my brain about his design ideas.
Question No. 1, of course, is wood selection. His first choice: tiger maple from Irion Lumber Co. He shows me some photos from the website. I tell him it’s beautiful stuff, but that he might get a little nauseated staring at it all day. And it’s a bench. It’s going to get beat up and dirty. I recommend plain rock maple.
His second choice: purpleheart. My response: It’s dark and difficult to work – it’ll be hell on your tools. Plus, a light-colored workbench (such as rock maple) is much easier to work at in my experience. Setting your tools against the light background of a benchtop is much easier than against a dark wood.
Choice No. 3: Ipe.
Me: Really? Ipe? That’s not a wood. That’s a metal that once fondled some wood grain. And it’s dark. And it’s a pain in the butt to work – like purpleheart, but worse.
His final choice: Cuban mahogany – an old stash he’s located at a lumberyard. It’s the least objectionable of his other choices, so I say: OK, kinda?
Next up are the vises. He wants a vise for every corner of the bench: A Benchcrafted Glide on one corner, a Lie-Nielsen tail vise on one end, an Emmert patternmaker’s vise on one back corner and a Benchcrafted end vise on the final corner.
Me: May I ask why?
The Best of Everything: I can’t make up my mind about which vises are better, so I decided to get them all. I do have one question, however: Is there any brand that’s better than Benchcrafted that I should be considering instead? Something from Germany or Japan perhaps?
Me: No, there’s nothing better in my experience.
The Best of Everything: I also want six rows of dog holes on 3” centers all along the length of the benchtop.
Me: May I ask why?
The Best of Everything: I’ll be able to hold anything then, no matter its size or shape.
Me: No one needs that many dog holes.
The Best of Everything: I think it will also reduce wood movement in the bench because all areas of the bench will be exposed to the atmosphere.
Me: Aren’t you worried that dust, tools, screws and the like will fall into these holes?
The Best of Everything: Not at all. Every hole will have its own dog.
The discussion turns to the cabinet he’s going to build below the bench. (“I don’t recommend those,” I say.) The drawers will have Blumotion slides, and all the tools will be French-fitted with custom-cut foam. Do I have any recommendations on foam?
“Kaizen Foam,” he says, “is so coarse.”
I look up Kaizen Foam on my phone to see what the hell it is. He starts talking about getting his Benchcrafted vises chrome-plated. Oh look, I find a cat video on my phone….
— Christopher Schwarz, editor, Lost Art Press
Personal site: christophermschwarz.com
Next up: Workbench Personality No. 5: Frank Sinatra
33 thoughts on “Workbench Personality No. 4: The Best of Everything”
This is an account of an actual encounter–unembellished?
Wow from a stingy guy to an all out spender. I wonder if he’ll actually make anything.
What can you tell me about the tool chest/workbench at the top of the article?
I’ve seen these references as an “apartment bench”. Designed to close up and contain all your tools, stock, work, your hopes, your dreams etc…
I saw one in a modern workbench book… And I think Lee Valley sell plans for one? Looks like a massive faff and probably a less than ideal bench under normal circumstances.
I recognize the picture as a “Gnome” brand workbench listed in the old Hammacher Schlemmer tool catalogs from around 1910 maybe 1920. It was made in Oak or Walnut. If I remember right, it was listed exactly as “Combination Bench and Tool Cabinet” Gnome brand. Number 100, with tools shown for around $250.00. It was meant for apartments and homes with no basement shop. Kept in a room, work on it, when done, it closed up into a piece of good looking furniture. Lee Valley has a set of project prints for one like it in the plans section of their woodworking site. I helped a friend build one in 1968 from quarter sawn white oak we got at an Amish mill. We scaled drawings and made prints in drafting class and built it in wood shop class, hauled it home and finished at his house. It was a fun build, and he says he still uses it today.
The tool cabinet is a Hammacher Schlemmer outfit NO° 100.
Has two vices, with 100 tools for $85.00 in the 1906 number 355 catalogue.
$46 with just cabinet and racks
I’ll never understand a person who asks for your professional opinion and is willing to actually pay for that opinion, but completely ignores all of your advice. Egos are a strange thing. I have one myself, but, thank God, I can’t afford to pay for an opinion from a respected expert and then ignore it.
I have seen this in big dollar industries: Hire a consultant with leagues of experience, but the management don’t like his opinion… So they stick him in a figurative broom cuboard and keep doing the stupid, wasteful things they hired the consultant to fix.
More common than many would like to admit, I’m afraid 🙁
Another: Employees try to get a suggestion approved by management. No go. Hire a consultant, same recommendation. Now a good idea and implemented.
Careful, you are striking at the heart of the whole consulting industry!
oooooo! You can get your Benchcrafted vise chrome plated?
You can get anything chrome-plated. Just ask my ex . . .
So far, I can identify with all of them. That’s good, right?
Nearly there, I have to pass on this one. Although I am searching for the best/top shop dog, maybe that counts.
I cringe at all of these, because in some way I am probably just as non-normative as each of these guys. I thank whatever non-diety you subscribe to, that Chris has chosen not to describe me in his blog (at least so far).
Personally, I choose to get the custom Benchcrafted vises cut from a single block of milled tungsten. They are listed on the website under “Custom vises only 2% can afford”. The additional weight and stability they add to a slabbed African Pearwood (a nice, light-colored, dense, and just exotic enough to make you envious, hardwood) can’t be beat. Of course, for equal distribution of weight around the bench, I strongly suggest four mounted at each corner…
Ipe also moves live crazy, tearing bolts, screws and what not. Perfect description!
I’m hoping for Mr. or Ms. Mobile next. Someone who wants a bench that folds up, packs away, rolls around the workshop and is willing to compromise the sturdiness and utility of thousands of years of workbench design through several iterations to achieve it.
Not because I want to laugh at them; because I am them.
I have one. A kreg’s clamping table that is actually very solid for it’s size until you put wheels on it. Only bought it because it was about half price on EB. Can’t remove the wheels because it will be in the way (like everything in a small shop).
These workbench articles were much funnier when they described other people. 🤔
I lust for the Gnome #100 bench. Just like I keep buying Swiss Army knives and being dissatisfied with them when I use them. But the concept is irresistible.
Well, if you want to start on the tool list….
You are a very patient man.
I’m still laughing over the guy that wanted to use rice paste as a glue. This one reminds of a guy who bought an expensive workbench out from under me because I was demonstrating hand tool usage on it using my own Lie-Nielsen planes, saws, and chisels at a local woodworking event. After buying the bench he came back and asked for a list of all the Lie-Nielsen tools I was using so he could go and buy all of them to go with the bench. Wish I’d gotten a commission, I did the weekend demonstration for free just for the fun of it.
Seems clear to me that your opinion isn’t really what he wanted. He wanted to let you know how special and important he is. I’ve had the displeasure of running into a few of these.
^this is wisdom
That sounds like me…. except I don’t have all that money or time.
I was going to get some plywood and lumber in the meantime and screw them together…slap on a used vise and….save up for wenge.
My son lives in an apartment and wanted to work some in wood so we are building that apartment bench and tool storage. I’ll send pics as we get along.
Now that’s funny! Enjoyed it very much. I didn’t even think of chrome on my vise.
Hi I inherited my grandfather’s workbench from 1910 it has those dowg holes on front edge and 2 wooden vices. question for expert yourself did my grandfather buy plans to make his because I found exact one like mine in used furniture store 10 yrs ago
You mention a cat video but don’t share it??? Shame!
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