Now in the Store: ‘Ingenious Mechanicks’

IM_dustjacket2You 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:

  1. They are less expensive to build
  2. They can be built in a couple days
  3. They require less material
  4. You can sit down to use them
  5. They take up less space than a modern bench and can even serve as seating in your house
  6. 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

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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25 Responses to Now in the Store: ‘Ingenious Mechanicks’

  1. SSteve says:

    “And to allow you to more at your bench” is missing a verb. (Feel free to delete this comment.)

  2. flatironjoe says:

    Fantastic! This is the kind of work few others seem willing/able to dig into. Actually adding to the body of knowledge instead of arguing about microbevel angles. So glad Lost Art Press exists. This one will be particularly handy for me too, as I have a big move coming up and likely won’t be able to take my bench. I’ll be looking for a simple, compact solution to build on the other side, and I’m sure the information in the book will be invaluable. Thanks!

  3. Ed Clarke says:

    I like the front cover of the book and the picture of a modern user with a drawknife. It’s good to see someone wearing wooden armor between that sharp steel and his soft insides. Is there anything in the book that is used to protect the legs ( LAP March 2016 – The deadly knee hating drawknife )?

    Off to pre-order the book now.

  4. studioffm says:

    Chris you will be very pleased that this job is done. A job which seems to have engaged you on and off for three years. Hats off !!

    david savage

  5. Don Kennedy says:

    I don’t remember seeing an update on Canadian shipping (I probably missed it). Are we good to go? If so, I’ll place my order today. Thanks.

  6. Dan says:

    I think you once described your goal with this book as expanding Roman Workbenches. Does it contain a lot of the information that was in that, and expand it? Or is it sort of a companion volume? Put differently, for those of us who want to build an eight-legged low work bench one of these days, will Ingenious Mechanicks have the guide? Or should we go back and find a copy of Roman Workbenches, and then read Ingenious Mechanicks to figure out how to soup it up?

  7. Tal Deus says:

    Ordered mine! WOOHOO!

  8. Chris Decker says:

    If it’s not a limerick, I’m going to be very upset.

  9. sirlurkcalot says:

    Been looking forward to this since you first mused the Idea. Hopefully Classic Handtools will have it in stock soon.

  10. Has Vegas set the over/under for animal references in the poem? I’ll take the over anyway but just curious.

  11. ericfromdayton says:

    Perhaps a set of stickers, each with a different bench, would also be nice.
    Will place order soon for book. Looks exciting.

  12. I’ve been intrigued by the cover shot since you posted it a few weeks ago.. I have been working on a chair that called for 10 spindles. I have kiln dried ash. I was putting them off because I have no shave horse and no steady rest for my lathe. I have limited experience with a spoke shave and I own a chair devil and draw knife but never used either one (I like to start a project before I have figured out all of the particulars)
    The point is this- If Will Meyers can look so comfortable and relaxed shaving a chair leg I can give it a go. I used a standard bench with a modified stop for planting the spindle. I made a simple version of the “chest plate” and I proceeded from the standing position. Shave, shave… rotate repeat. Follow with chair devil and sandpaper. For comparison sake I tried to make a spindle using the same tools and a shoulder vice….. no comparison …NONE.

  13. johncashman73 says:

    I’m dying to see how that man from Nantucket has been getting along.

  14. craig regan says:

    I think I’ll sell my Swiss made Zyliss 4 in one portable woodworking vice for $39 and buy this book.

  15. DR_Woodshop says:

    I was going to send an email on this but decided to post here in case others have seen this as well …
    Not sure if others have seen this or not, but after purchasing on Wednesday, I have received two separate update messages for new downloads since the original download message. I downloaded the original on Wednesday and then the updated PDF yesterday. I just received another “The product Ingenious Mechanicks – Hardbound and PDF has just been updated” message with a new link. Is this truly an update and we should download and replace the previous versions, or is this some glitch in the PDF fulfillment service?

    Not far into it yet, but it has already started as a great read.

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