The following is excerpted from “The Anarchist’s Design Book,” by Christopher Schwarz – it’s a short sidebar from the chapter on building a staked sawbench (the sawbench, which also works as a stool, is more than a handy shop accessory; it’s a great introduction to making staked furniture of all sorts, including chairs).
There are historic furniture forms out there that have been around for almost 1,000 years that don’t get written about much. They are simple to make. They have clean lines. And they can be shockingly modern. This book explores 18 of these forms – a bed, dining tables, chairs, chests, desks, shelving, stools – and offers a deep exploration into the two construction techniques used to make these pieces that have been forgotten, neglected or rejected.
You can build an entire houseful of furniture using these two methods – what we call “staked” and ”boarded” furniture. They are shockingly simple for the beginner. They don’t require a lot of tools. And they produce objects that have endured centuries of hard use.
But this isn’t really a book of plans. “The Anarchist’s Design Book” shows you the overarching patterns behind these 18 pieces. It gives you the road map for designing your own pieces. (Which is what we did before we had plans.)
Once you own a pair of sawbenches you will wonder how you worked without them. Even if you don’t do much work with handsaws, sawbenches are handy platforms for projects in progress, stacking parts and sitting on while you work.
But most people use them for handsaw work. Here are some tips on sawing with them.
If your sawbenches are different heights (even slightly) then work on the tall one and use the shorter one to support your work. If you work on the shorter one, your saw will constantly get pinched in its kerf.
When crosscutting on a sawbench, your legs are the clamps. Bend your off leg and rest it on top of the work on the sawbench. Pull your dominant leg up to contact the work (if possible) so the work presses against your leg.
Now you can saw the piece and it will remain stable. Your off leg supplies the downward pressure. Your dominant leg prevents the work from sliding laterally as you saw toward yourself.
I’m not a fan of ripping on sawbenches. I prefer to rip at the bench. If you do need to make long rips on the sawbench, I find it best to have three sawbenches: one to work on that is between a second that is infeed support and a third that is outfeed support.
One style of French ripping has the worker sitting on the work on the sawbench. Note that the saw’s teeth are pointed away from the operator.
I use my sawbenches for many other operations. One of my favorites: I place an assembled carcase on two sawbenches and brace the carcase against the workbench. I can then easily plane the carcase to level its dovetail joints or whatever is sticking up. Or, if that doesn’t quite work, the sawbench can be a spacer between the carcase and the bench.
11 thoughts on “Sawbenches in the Shop”
The content of your blog posts doesn’t show up in my RSS reader anymore, any reason for the change?
Huh – I’m not aware that we made any changes. I’ll see if Chris knows anything (he’s teaching this week – might be a minute)
Started on all posts after Sept 12th, I use Feedly
We don’t know why this is happening to some people (but not all people!) – looking into it. Sorry for the trouble.
Ditto. Same here. I use Liferea, though doubt that the feed reader makes a difference. Never know though.
I read both the main feed and comments through RSS and have not seen any interruptions. Hope it resolves for you!
I might still try to build a sawbench in staked form, just for the exercise, if nothing else, but I built my first sawbench using a a design that incorporates holdfast holes, and I am so glad that I did. I followed the instructions on height (based on measuring my kneecap distance from the floor), and after the build, I found that the method of bending the knee to secure my work just didn’t work for me. It felt awkward, and uncomfortable, if not painful. (And it’s not like I have bad knees — I’m a long distance runner!).
So since the instructions had me add holdfast holes, I said, “screw this, let me try to secure my work with the holdfasts next time I need to do a crosscut.”
Voila! I was in heaven. I’ve been making all my crosscuts using my sawbench with holdfasts, and my noisy chop saw has been on the floor in a corner collecting dust ever since.
hold fast holes. that’s a good idea. i don’t see why you couldn’t add some to this design.
I’ve been experimenting with over-hand ripping at the bench, and so far I really like it.
Does the preferred grip change any with a thumb-hole handle on the rip saw?
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