Bench Trials for ‘Ingenious Mechanicks’

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Will Myers takes a turn with M. Hulot’s “belly” – an incredibly simple and effective way to shave components.

Every book I write has a guiding principle. Something I mutter during the research, building, writing and editing. (For example, “Disobey me” from “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest.”)

For “Ingenious Mechanicks: Early Workbenches & Workholding,” my mantra wasn’t as catchy. But I love it all the same.

“The principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”
—    Prof. Richard Feynman (1918-1988), winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965

When you write a book, it’s like constructing a little world. And what you include, leave out or emphasize can change its message, even if you are want to do something as straightforward as building old benches and figuring out how they work.

So for my last couple books, I subjected myself to peer review. For “Ingenious Mechanicks,” I invited a bunch of woodworkers of all stripes – modern, traditional, all hand-tool, powered-to-the-max, beginners, experts – and showed them what I found. Then I gave them free reign to use the benches. I watched and wrote down what they said.

(Even better, photographer Narayan Nayar took dozens of gorgeous photos to illustrate the book. The photo at the top of this entry is one of his unprocessed jpegs.)

The participants had a lot to say, and the review process eased my mind. These benches and early workholding devices work brilliantly (with a few exceptions). And, most importantly, their comments didn’t send me back down a rabbit hole for more research.

The book is nearly done. The text of “Ingenious Mechanicks” is now being edited by Megan Fitzpatrick. I have to draw a few maps to illustrate Suzanne Ellison’s chapter. Then I can begin designing the book’s pages.

Whew. Buttocks unclenched.

— Christopher Schwarz, editor, Lost Art Press
Personal site: christophermschwarz.com

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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9 Responses to Bench Trials for ‘Ingenious Mechanicks’

  1. frpaulas says:

    Can’t wait!

  2. David T says:

    I’m looking forward to this one! I can see this having a lot of potential for working in the field, away from the workshop. I’m curious to know how these low benches stand up to the “kitchen test” that was described in one of your Workbenches books?

  3. jayedcoins says:

    I’ll ask a question — for anyone that used the “belly,” how do you feel it compares to a shave horse? I was planning on building a shave horse in the next handful of weeks, as I’ve been borrowing a knock-down one from a friend that will need it back in the spring. But if the “belly” is just as — or more — effective… pretty easy to make and sit on a simple bench.

  4. Anthony says:

    Can’t wait to get the book.

  5. Betweenist this and the Roman Workbench, there goes the book budget.

  6. meanmna says:

    Loving the concept for this book and can’t wait for it. Will be a lovely companion to the Roman Workbench book from last year.

  7. Chris- Would you mind providing a brief synopsis of the intent of the book. I’m imaging a treatment on all of the many known and lesser known methods of using your bench to tackle a host of jobs. Clamping, holding, bracing, finagling and jerry-rigging material so you can do your bidding. Am I close?

    • After I get the book designed, I’ll be able to discuss it more fully (when I can focus on the bigger picture). Basically, like my first book on Workbenches, this one explores ones that have nearly vanished and shows how some of their ideas were brilliant.

  8. Chris, I’m throwing this over the wall as they say in Ireland: Dutch Workbench https://hyvelbenk.wordpress.com/2017/12/01/hovelbenk-fra-oppigard-skori-amotsdal-seljord-kommune/

    Found on the Toolermera.com blog.

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