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