Hurricanes are Hard on Workbenches

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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.

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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

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized, Workbenches. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Hurricanes are Hard on Workbenches

  1. ctdahle says:

    You wrote: Wood screws that should have accepted a Phillips head were rusted to the point where nothing would unscrew them (except a hacksaw).

    I’ve had that problem and it finally occurred to me (after ruining a few things with hacksaws, crowbars and sledgehammers) that maybe penetrating oil wasn’t just for rusted bolts on sump-pumps and cylinder heads.

  2. Dave Bless says:

    I’ve made that journey Chris, and it’s not an easy one. Going through my fathers shop and tools after his passing brought more than a few tears. I imagine you’re going through the same. Good luck and hang in there.

  3. Wade Holloway says:

    Since you built most of the benches listed in the article you referenced and from what you said about the bench with drawer slides and Veritas twin screwed I can only assume the it is the Power Tool Bench that you gave your dad to use. Great looking bench but it sure is a lot different from the benches you build now a days.

    Good luck bring it home and hope you have a safe trip back.

  4. I honestly did not think you made that one.

  5. bronzy935 says:

    Chris I am so sorry to read of your loss of your Father: I know that pain. Stay strong.

  6. Mike Cerney says:

    Chris- I love to see something your dad possessed coming back online.
    Will you be sharing any photos of the lite restoration?

  7. Jack Kulze says:

    Chris, I live on the peninsula if you need a hand. Lost Art Press is awesome.

  8. Bill Morris says:

    Having legacy possessions with personal meaning is like a bridge to our past – funny how fond memories tend to come to our mind when we can reach out and touch these bridges 😊👍

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