I’m in Charleston, S.C., this week to inventory my father’s belongings and start figuring out what to do with his possessions and his house. I also have one important personal task: retrieve a workbench I loaned him many years ago so I can restore it.
I made the bench in 2002 or 2003 for Popular Woodworking (you can see it here), and it stayed in the shop until I loaned it to dad in 2009. Like many of my early benches, it’s made with yellow pine and Veritas bench bolts – still a great combination that I recommend for bench builders. These days, however, most of my customers prefer giant oak slabs.
After my bench moved south, it endured multiple hurricanes and tropical depressions, including Bonnie, Matthew and Irma. My dad’s house is in a low-lying area with the shop on the ground floor, so there were a couple times my bench was afloat during storm surges.
Today I took it apart. This process should take 10 minutes. But everything – everything – was rusted, jammed and degraded. Wood screws that should have accepted a Phillips head were rusted to the point where nothing would unscrew them (except a hacksaw). The metal drawer slides were about 50 percent rust and required lots of persuasion to expectorate their drawers.
But the wood was in surprisingly good condition. The laminated top hadn’t split. The Veritas Twin Screws still turned (despite heavy rusting) and even the plywood edge tape on the drawer cabinet was in perfect condition.
Tomorrow the bench begins its journey back north, where I will clean it, replace the rusted parts and true up the benchtop. It’s going back to work. And I hope the that worst weather it will ever see is a Midwestern thunderstorm.
— Christopher Schwarz, editor Lost Art Press
Personal site: christophermschwarz.com