On this day in 79 AD, Vesuvius erupted and forever changed our understanding of the early life of Romans and Greeks. The eruption caused a staggering loss of life, but it also preserved a snapshot in time at sites surrounding the volcano.
We have learned a lot about early woodworking because of the eruption, and my book “Ingenious Mechanicks” explores the early workbenches preserved in paintings at Pompeii and Herculaneum.
But my favorite Roman workbench from this era was preserved by water – not fire. Far north of Pompeii, the Roman fort at Saalburg (now Germany) has what I think is the oldest extant workbench, which was found in a well. I got to examine and measure it. And I reproduced it for the book.
To commemorate this important day, I am giving away the chapter on how to build the Saalburg bench.
Many people have dismissed my love of the low workbenches, but I use mine all the time in the shop and find it practical for many operations (particularly in chairmaking).
— Christopher Schwarz
29 thoughts on “Free Plan: The Saalburg Workbench”
Couldn’t find the hardbound pdf.
Gotta love your commitment to not continually making a buck on IP. I love my low bench for bowl making and when I get to chairs, I imagine it will be prove handy as well.
I don’t see a pic of the side stops installed. Are they glued in or just tapped in?
They are fiction-fit and move up and down with mallet taps.
I am so sorry, but I do find humor in the pun “fiction-fit” (not that kind of humor, though).
Ordered the book from Lee Valley (for export shipment) last week. Also Make a Chair from a Tree (which is backordered til mid september). Very much looking forward to receiving them.
A recent discovery brings the date into question:
Archaeologists in Italy have uncovered an inscription they say may show that the history books have been wrong for centuries.
Historians have long believed that Mount Vesuvius erupted on 24 August 79 AD, destroying the nearby Roman city of Pompeii.
But now, an inscription has been uncovered dated to mid-October – almost two months later.
The latest discovery calls such certainty into question.
The inscription discovered in the new excavations is nothing more than a scrawl in charcoal, likely made by a worker renovating a home.
But it is dated to 16 days before the “calends” of November in the old Roman calendar style – which is 17 October in our modern dating method.
They believe the most likely date for the eruption was, in fact, 24 October.
There has long been some speculation that the eruption happened later than August, particularly centred around evidence of autumnal fruits and heating braziers discovered in the ruins.
The charcoal inscription supports that theory, the Pompeii archaeology team said.
Are you premature eruption shaming? And for some NSFW further musings by our toga wearing ancestors: https://kashgar.com.au/blogs/history/the-bawdy-graffiti-of-pompeii-and-herculaneu
Thank you LAP… your blood-pumper is large!
I would be very interested to know what are the operation you do for chairmaking on your low bench(as i’m reading the stick chair book) ?
I make all my sticks on the low bench (I show it in use several times in photos in the book). I also at times make the legs on the low bench. And when I have a Hi-Vise clamped to it, I do a lot of the arm shaping.
Thank you very much
funny coincidence, I spent several hours last night reading the IM book hoping it’ll bore me to sleep (didn’t work, stayed up reading it until 2am…) and planning-out low bench build.
I have a question to ask about the bench top. I have several 2×12 LVL boards earmarked for the low bench. I recall you built a regular work bench from LVL for Megan. I also recall you built a low bench for someone out of two 2×12 boards laminated on the 12xLength side.
Would you say it’s ok to use two LVL boards and laminate on 12xLenght side or is it better to re-saw them and laminate in a more traditional way (like you did for Megan’s bench)
You can laminate them face-to-face. That’s the easy way. Functionally, both approaches are fine. So take the easy route if you can.
Never… no. Always! take the easy way out
I’ll take it! lol
You forgot to mention the lemur castration tool on the planing stop.
That is an oddly specific lemur reference…
Thanks for the plans and description Chris.
Thanks for the download with the plans! I have the book but I appreciate the download.
Love this bench!
Very cool. I got the electronic version of IM in the spring and used a couple 8/4 knotty alder slabs to make a mutant Saalburg/Herculaneum bench with six legs (for the curious, there are two on one end and four on the other). I call her my Ant. She still needs the planing stop/vise matter addressed, but even just as a bench to sit on, I love the height and heft. It was also a nice intro to “building things to sit on” after only making various “boxes to hold things.” I’d definitely suggest anyone who can and is interested give this bench a try.
Thank you! Very generous of you.
Thanks for making this plan freely available. Straddling the workbench sure works for me,
though I’ve never had a bench made to do just that. I’m fairly sure that I’ll make one like
this, assuming I can find some suitable wood.
Just gotta say I loved this book, and it has been a huge inspiration. What buggered me a bit at first is how long the original version has to be – I don’t have the space to myself and need to be able to squirrel things away. Eventually I have settled on trying a shorter/smaller version just to get going.
It wanders perhaps too far off the beaten track, but what about writing a small blog post about benches to sit beside, like the japanese Atedai?
Already when I bought and read the book, I found the concept of low benches very interesting, and thus filed it away in the mind folder for “things to explore further”; however, recently, during the part of my (standard) bench build where I had the bench top upside down on saw benches for several months, I gained enough firsthand, practical experience of being able to sit on the bench one is working on to be fully convinced that I definitely want to also build a low bench!
While for obvious reasons I couldn’t straddle the upside down bench top (I may be fairly tall, but 22-1/2″ is beyond my straddling capacities), even “sitting side-saddle” was a revelation. I do have other projects that must and will take precedence, but a low bench is most certainly on my to-do list!
So basically this is a long stick chair?
This is great. I built my son a workbench after thinking about your low benches. But I probably use it more than him, particularly for shaping long stock. Also works great for operations with japanese tools. Perfect fit for my little urban cottage.
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