While writing “The Anarchist’s Workbench,” I unearthed a lot of new historical images, and I reviewed images that had been bugging me for years.
One of the buggers is shown here.
Dr. Johann Georg Krünitz’s “Ökonomische Encyklopädie” (or “Economic Encyclopedia,” a 242-volume work published between 1773-1858) illustrated three interesting workbenches in a 1781 volume – about the time of A.J. Roubo. But obviously with more schnitzel and less brie.
The Krünitz bench shown here has everything. A planing stop and crochet (which are on the right end of the benchtop, suggesting this image was copied from an earlier source). A removable twin-screw vise. A holdfast with a doe’s foot. Plus two tool racks.
But what has kept me bewildered for months now is the structure on the left side of the bench. It looks like a drawer without a bottom. It is figure F, but I don’t have the original key to the illustration.
I can’t recall ever seeing anything like this on another historical workbench. If you have any thoughts (other than “bacon drying rack”), let me know in the comments.
I have finished writing the third and final book in the “anarchist” series, “The Anarchist’s Workbench,” which will be released in August 2020.
We planned to release it at Handworks as a surprise (indeed, I am exactly like a bearded Beyoncé). But because the pandemic has postponed Handworks, we’ll release the book as soon as we can get it to the printer.
What’s it about? Why badgers, of course. Specifically, badgers and ham sandwiches.
While I would love to write about badgers, “The Anarchist’s Workbench” is the culmination of 20 years of researching, writing about and building ancient workbenches. My ideas about benches have shifted during the last 20 years thanks to new research, getting to work on many different forms of benches and me becoming OK with saying to myself: You got that wrong.
The book is also the answer to the question I get asked the most: What is your favorite workbench? After 20 years of thought, I figured it out. During the last few months I built that bench. And I’ve documented its construction and all its details for the book.
The bench itself is a reflection of the way I live. It is built from sustainable and (mostly) inexpensive raw materials. It is designed to make furniture that defies planned obsolescence. And above all else, I built this workbench simply as a practical tool for making furniture. It is not an expression of my mastery of the craft or my success at amassing capital.
That’s where this bench comes from. And I suspect that most old workbenches came from the same place.
What’s left to do with the book? I’m turning over my third draft to some editors next week who (I hope) will think it’s worth publishing. I’m now drawing the illustrations for the book. And then I’ll lay out its pages.
In the meantime, I’ll be writing more about the research and hard decisions that led me here.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. I am sure many of you are wondering how this book will be different from my other workbench books. All I can say is that this one is written by the 51-year-old me, who has a lot of miles on the odometer. The 28-year-old me would have been happy to have this book.
Though the world probably doesn’t need another workbench book, I can’t control the ideas that grip my mind. If the book doesn’t sell, we’ll stack it up with all the unsold posters at the warehouse.