You can now place a pre-publication order for “Ingenious Mechanicks: Early Workbenches & Workholding” in our store. The price is $39, which includes domestic shipping. All customers who place a pre-publication order will receive a free download of the book in pdf format at checkout.
The book is scheduled to ship in early April 2018. We don’t know which retailers will opt to carry the book (we hope all of them will). But we will update you here when we have more information.
What’s it About?
Workbenches with screw-driven vises are a fairly modern invention (likely the 14th century). For many hundreds of years, woodworkers built complex and beautiful pieces of furniture using simpler benches that relied on pegs, wedges and the human body to grip the work. While it’s easy to dismiss these ancient benches as obsolete, they are – at most – misunderstood.
For the last three years, I’ve been building these ancient workbenches and putting them to work to build all manner of furniture – chairs, casework and carpentry stuff. Absent any surviving ancient instruction manuals for these benches, I looked to historical paintings of these benches for clues as to how they worked. Then I built the devices and tried the techniques shown in the paintings.
This book is about this journey into the past and takes the reader from Pompeii, which features the oldest image of a Western bench, to a Roman fort in Germany to inspect the oldest surviving workbench and finally to my shop in Kentucky, where I recreated three historical workbenches and dozens of early jigs.
These early benches have many advantages:
- They are less expensive to build
- They can be built in a couple days
- They require less material
- You can sit down to use them
- They take up less space than a modern bench and can even serve as seating in your house
- In some cases they perform better than modern vises or shavehorses.
Even if you have no plans to build an early workbench, “Ingenious Mechanicks” is filled with ideas you can put to work on your modern bench. You can make an incredibly versatile shaving station for your bench using four small pieces of wood. You can create a hard-gripping face vise with a notch in the benchtop and some softwood wedges. You can make the best planing stop ever with a stick of oak and some rusty nails.
Oh, one final note about what this book is not. It’s not a condemnation of modern benches. It is, instead, a way to expand the methods of holding your work. To make some operations simpler. And to allow you to do more at your bench without adding complex vises.
And it features a poem I wrote.
“Ingenious Mechanics” is 8-1/2” x 11”, 160 pages and printed in full color on beautiful coated paper. The binding is sewn to last for generations. The pages are surrounded by heavy hardbound boards that are covered in cotton cloth. And the whole book is wrapped in a heavy matte-coated dust jacket. Like all Lost Art Press books, “Ingenious Mechanicks” is produced and printed entirely in the United States.
— Christopher Schwarz