Woodworking Vises

Workbench Designs — The History Of Wood Workbench

Author: Patterns

The workbench is the cornerstone of the wood shop, with a history almost as old as woodworking itself. Examples of primitive workbenches have been found dating back more than 2,000 years. Woodworkers in ancient Rome advanced the basic design, devising benches with simple stops that allowed them to secure pieces of wood. Until that time, craftsmen were forced to hold their work, cutting or shaping it with one hand while chopping or planing with the other. Further improvements came slowly, however, and vises were only added centuries later.

With each refinement the workbench has assumed an increasingly indispensable role in the workshop. It is little surprise that many call the workbench the most important tool a woodworker can own.

A good workbench does not take an active role in the woodworking process-it does not cut wood or shape it-but the bench and its accoutrements perform another essential task: They free your hands and position the work so you can cut, drill, shape, and finish efficiently. In the past, even the mostused benches have fallen short of the ideal. With its massive, single-plank top, the Roubo Bench of the 18th Century was popular throughout Europe, yet it had no tail vise or bench dogs to hold a workpiece; instead, the task was done by a system of iron holdfasts and an optional leg vise. One hundred years later, the American Shakers improved on the Roubo. Their bench was a large affair that sported a laminated top, a system of bench dog holes, an L-shaped tail vise, and a leg vise. The Shaker bench was not too different from the modern cabinetmaker’s bench.

The design of the workbench has changed little since the early 19th Century; only its accessories and manner of assembly have been altered. In fact, some claim that the only true innovation has been inventor Ron Hickman’s ubiquitous Workmate. Developed in the 1960s, the Workmate revolutionized the way many people look at work surfaces, because it provided some of the clamping abilities of a standard workbench with a collapsible, portable design.

Although the Workmater has found a niche in workshops around the world, many woodworkers-both amateur and professional-still opt for nothing less than a solid maple or beech bench. Often they choose to build their own, believing that the care and attention paid in crafting such a bench will be reflected in their later work.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/crafts-articles/workbench-designs-the-history-of-wood-workbench-1975739.html

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Comments ( 5 )

  1. ReplyMark H

    Woodworking vise info'? I have an old Craftsman woodworking vise and the part # is KO506-51920 I think. It is no longer available through Craftsman and I would like to know where I can get some info on the vise, like how to properly mount it and use it correctly. Thanks, Mark

    • Replygonecrazytoday

      Most woodvises mount underneath the bench top with 2-3 lag bolts. Or try this site www3.sears.com You do need to mount 2 flat hardwood boards to the inside of the jaws. You will see where the mounting holes are on the jaws. Note you will want to mount your board on the jaw closest to the bench as you won't be able to once the vice is on the bench. Put the second board in the vise and close to line up the boards flush with each other before screwing in place.

  2. Replynickacarroll

    Oak 2x2's for a workbench? I built a workbench base out of oak 2x2's. The top is 2" of MDF. Is the base strong enough to be a decent woodworking/handyman bench. Is it strong enough to mount a 70 lb. vise to?

    • ReplyOld Fool

      Not enough information, it all depends on how well it is braced. Caution! Caution! Caution! To test the bench you could sit on the corner and rock back and forth. If the bench moves at all forget it. Oh by the way if the bench is not built well you could end up on the ground and get hurt. Caution! Caution! Caution!

  3. ReplyJ.

    Where and How to Woodwork in the City? I'm a hobbyist woodworker who'd like to start up again, but living the apartment life now, I don't really have anything like a workshop or garage. I've been thinking I could possibly lug my tools to a city park, but I'm not sure about the legality of doing so (if there are ordinances against that sort of thing, or if some woodworking tools would constitute a weapon in a public place), and I would at least need some sort of vise or press to hold the work steady (I usually use planes, chisels and a drawknife on my projects.) Does the city park idea have any gaping holes, aside from lack of a work surface? Has anyone in a similar situation found a creative solution to the problem of urban craftsmanship?

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