We’re in the middle of building 20 (!!) French workbenches this week down in Barnesville, Ga., a small town south of Atlanta. Here, Bo Childs has graciously lent us his ample workshop and machinery (Martin planers and shapers!) to get the job done in a week.
Benchcrafted organized this massive event, which requires months of preparation (years, actually if you count the sourcing and air-drying of the wood). And like everything Jameel Abraham and Father John touch, it’s just as it should be.
There’s lots of help – you can ask Jeff Miller, Will Myers, Don Williams, Ron Brese, Megan Fitzpatrick or me for a hand with layout, joint fitting or assembly. The lunches are great (who eats bread pudding at lunch? Apparently, I do now). And the wood is just right. We’re using oak sourced from France that has been air-drying for more than a decade.
Some of the students have been a little bemused by the knots, splits and bug holes in the wood, but I keep telling them: That’s exactly what the old benches look like. I don’t want furniture-grade wood for a French workbench. Embrace the defects.
And I think we’re going to get everyone assembled by the end of day on Friday. I probably won’t get to see it, however. I need to be on a plane out of Cincinnati by 6 p.m. Friday to start a chairmaking class on Monday morning. (It’s a stupid way to make a living, but it beats working.)
I don’t know if Benchcrafted and Bo will ever do this again. If they do, I hope they’ll ask me to lend a hand again. And if you ever get a chance to participate, I recommend you start saving your pennies now.
— Christopher Schwarz