Popular Woodworking 2007-06 № 162, страница 5

Popular Woodworking 2007-06 № 162, страница 5

Out on a Limb

Illustration by Matt Bantly

Avoid Unworkable Workbenches

In the summer of 2002 I got to visit Sam Maloof s new workshop and home in Southern California and was floored by three things: the tactile perfection of his work, the delicious pork tacos he fed us and the workbench that he and his employees work on.

Maloof's workbench looked so much like a dining room table that we could have eaten the tacos there comfortably. The bench was the height of a dining table, had four tapered legs and four well-proportioned aprons beneath the maple top. The only work-holding device was a patternmaker's vise.

Maloof's work, of course, speaks for itself. And what the work seems to say is that you don't need a traditional workbench to do awe-inspiring work. And that's true. In professional shops all over the world, makeshift workbenches are the rule.

So why do I sometime s get on a high horse about workbench design? (As I do in this issue in the "Woodworking Essentials" section.)

Well, no matter how much excellent woodworking is done on solid-core doors and plywood on sawhorses, my own experience with workbenches is valid and true.

As a boy I began woodworking on my grandfather's bench, a European model with a smooth face vise and dog holes. But when I started woodworking after college, I worked on a few scraps of construction lumber piled on my back porch. Since then, I've worked on every style of workbench imaginable - from an 18th-century French bench to a 21 st-century power-tool workbench. I've built 10 workbenches, for myself or for others. And I've read every book in English that I could find about workbenches. Here's what I've found:

No matter what you build. No matter how you build it. No matter what tools you use.

No matter your skill level. Working wood is easier with a bench that's designed to easily hold boards so you can work on their faces, their edges and their ends.

Few modern-day workbenches can accomplish this simple task. Why? Perhaps we've forgotten how good the old workbenches were. Perhaps we equate the old workbenches as necessary for hand-tool work. Or perhaps we don't even know we're struggling.

Woodworking is, after all, about problem-solving. And woodworkers are ingenious when it comes to figuring out how to do a complex task with limited tools. So we get by with a substandard bench, and we manage to produce nice furniture. In the end, good work comes from the hands, not the bench.

But let me suggest that almost every task you do could be easier. And we don't even need to invent anything. Fully evolved workbench designs were figured out300years ago - they're just waiting for you to rediscover them.

Mark Your Calendars: June 9-10

Michigan tool collector John Sindelar is holding a big bash June 9-10, and Popular Woodworking will be there. The two-day event will feature tool auctions, swap meets and demonstrations from interesting people: planemakers Jim Leamy and Konrad Sauer, finishing expert Dexter Adams from Chemcraft and other surprises. Sindelar's tool collection alone is worth the trip to Edwardsburg, Mich. Drop me a line for full details. I'm going! PW

Christopher Schwarz Editor


mario rodriguez

Mario has more than 30 years of experience in woodworking as a builder, teacher and writer. After almost 18 years in the Restoration Department at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, he now teaches at the Philadelphia Furniture Workshop. Mario has two books under his belt, "Traditional Woodwork" and "Building Fireplace Mantels" (both from Taunton). He's also contributed numerous articles to many of the leading woodworking magazines. This is Mario's first story for Popular Woodworking; we're delighted to welcome him aboard. In this issue, he writes about methods for hot hide glue veneering, beginning on page 64.

megan fitzpatrick

Megan, the managing editor of Popular Woodworking, leads at least three lives. In addition to her duties at the magazine, she's working on her doctorate in English literature, concentrating on early modern drama. (Her favorite play is Francis Beaumont's "Knight of the Burning Pestle," which we've been told has a ribald pun in the title.) And when she's not correcting our coarse grammar around the office, Megan teaches literature and composition at the University of Cincinnati, practices cutting dovetails and listens to modern Americana music. Her interview with singer-songwriter-luthier Guy Clark begins on page 84.

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Popular Woodworking June 2007

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