The building of a workbench often becomes a right of passage for many accomplished woodworkers. For these artisans, it’s a tangible expression of their skills, esthetic, and approach to the craft. It’s also a prized tool. Why a bench looks and works the way it does will not always reveal itself quickly. But if you ever visit the shop of a master craftsman and ask about their bench, you might be amazed at what you’ll learn.
In this video, we get to do just that when we meet master cabinetmaker Patrick Edwards who gives us a guided tour of his massive, hand-built bench designed for working with hand tools. Patrick works almost exclusively with hand tools, most either originals or hand-made reproductions from the 18th and 19th centuries. Patrick says pretty bluntly, “The bench is the first tool. The bench is the beginning tool that every person who works with hand tools has to have.” In Patrick’s case, it truly is the centerpiece of the shop. And it’s easy to see why, because if you can’t hold the work, you can’t use a hand plane or a chisel or any tool that requires the workpiece to be held stationary. For hand-making drawers and dovetails, you really need a purpose-built bench.
Patrick’s bench is influenced by several historic styles. His incorporates characteristics of a typical Northern European style bench which features wooden-screwed tail and shoulder vises complimented by a series of dog holes (the bench style most famously used by Frank Klausz). And he also merged elements of the French style Roubo bench, which makes use of quick-release iron holdfasts. Then for good measure, he added an antique leg vise to one corner (which he purchased from Windsor chair maker, Michael Dunbar). The combination of all these vices and clamping stations allows him to hold almost any workpiece including often difficult to hold turned objects and carvings.
Now decades old, Patrick’s toothing-plane-scrubbed bench has a well earned patina, evidence left behind by the maker working his craft. It’s a patina just waiting to tell us its story. I hope you are inspired. (10 Minute Woodworking Video)
Patrick Edwards is President of Antique Refinishers, Inc. which offers restoration, conservation and reproduction of pre-industrial American and European furniture for dealers, private collectors, and institutions. Mr. Edward also owns and instructs at the American School of French Marquetry, Inc. Both business are based on San Diego, California. Mr. Edwards has also formulated a slow-set, ready-to-use liquid hide glue. which he produces and sells under the brand name “Old Brown Glue”.
Just saw the video for the first time. It will be watched again and again as there is plenty of information to be absorbed. It’s amazing how efficient this craftsman works. Everything about this workbench serves a specific purpose and every needed tool is conveniently located. Obviously, this massive workbench is the heart of this craftsman’s workshop and everything else in the shop revolves around the workbench. Great video production and very well focused on the subject matter as told by an expert craftsman!
Hey Keith, thanks again for another great video. Lots of top ideas. Only wish you made these more often.
Glad to see you back up after the move. I wish I had the pull to get you a TV show! I am designing a new bench and you just gave me some more ideas. Thanks for another great video.
It is always a pleasure to see that you have added a new video to the collection. Your expert video making skills make viewing this series a delightful and very valuable learning experience. The craftsmanship of your subjects is top notch.
Thank you very much.
Nice to see you back; it’s been too long. Thanks for another very informative and professional video. Roughing up the bench top is exactly the conclusion I came to after twenty years of “slip sliding away”.
Great video! Thanks a lot!
This was fabulous. It has given me some great ideas and inspiration to do my own bench one day. Perhaps a hybrid combo, of whatever sort, will be my direction too.
Thanks very much for the video and the inspiration.
I always watch for a new post at woodtreks.com. I have learned so much from all your posts. I’m new to woodworking but the videos you create always inspire me and fuel my desire to make everything I can as long as money and time allow. Thanks for educating those of us who would otherwise never have the opportunity to work along side such masters of this trade.
You’ve done it again – useful, interesting content and very nicely produced.
Thanks, and keep ‘em coming.
Thanks for the nicely filmed video! It was interesting to hear Patrick’s take on the toothing-plane-scrubbed bench — something I think I might try out on my own to see how I like it (easy enough to undo if I decide against it).
I just wanted to write to say a quick thanks to you for making such great videos and a great site! I am 28 and live near Atlanta and I had the same start with wood working that you had (in your ‘Behind the scenes‘ page) I have been interested since I was a little kid and I watched ‘The New Yankee workshop’ and shows like it while other kids played video games. I have been watching all of your videos and they are all amazing. I haven’t run across one that was not packed with information. Since I found out about your site yesterday, I’ve been watching videos back-to-back and they are completely awe-inspiring. I really appreciate the time you put into them and the effort and the amount of them that you have online, for that matter.
The request is that you make a video about your European work bench. I saw it in the hand plane video and since I am a new homeowner, I am fortunate enough to have a big basement that I am turning into my first shop (I was in the Army for 4 years and had to take a break from wood working while oversees). Anyway, My first big project (before I can make the smaller projects), will be a work bench and I love the look and build quality of yours (from what little you can see of it in that video). I’ve searched your site and I don’t think you’ve made one highlighting that bench. I would like to make one with a wooden-tooth vise like the Edwards bench and I believe yours has this feature. But I also can not find a wooden vise. (Any resources online that you can recommend that sells them?) I’ve also searched the net to no avail. Anyway, back on track: What kind of wood makes up your top and what was the process of building the top and the bench? Is the top glued up thick stock and how was it done? Did you chisel the bench dog holes or did you use a mortiser or similar? I think this would make a great video and would LOVE to see it.
Thanks for all that you do and keep up the great work!
Thanks for writing and telling me a bit about yourself and thanks for your service and welcome back home.
Also, thanks for pitching me on doing another workbench video. I think that’s a great idea and I have it on my “to-do” list. I must confess, that I don’t have a time determined, so I beg your patience.
At least for now, (since this is a video on Patrick’s bench, not mine) I can give you a few ideas on my bench’s construction. The tail vice was built using a hefty German made steel screw and associated mechanism. The face vice was also German made and is somewhat unusual in that it has twin metal screws to prevent racking. I built the bench a few years ago and purchased the vice screws from Lie Nielsen. It turns out that they no longer sell this German made hardware and have now begun producing their own line of vices and hardware. I really like the hardware that I used, but unfortunately, I was unable to determine the German manufacturer (even at that time). So it remains a mystery who the actual source is or if they still produce vices. I should point out that the vice hardware was somewhat expensive, but I can’t recall the exact price.
Regarding your interest in wooden screw vices such as those used on Patrick’s bench, I don’t know where to source these today. I wish I did. (UPDATE: see comments below for wood vise sources).
On your question regarding the top on my bench: it is made from hard maple, sourced from the eastern Ohio/ western Pennsylvania area. That’s Amish country and there are some nice hardwood forests in the area. The boards were 12/4 thick rough by 12″ wide or so with nice straight grain – flat sawn. You will have to poke around to find this type of wood, especially the thickness – most yards don’t stock it. I ripped it into 7′ strips that ended up being 2.5″ x 3.5″ (with the longer dimension running vertically when I glued them up. The end result was that the top shows grain that is vertical/quartersawn. Of course the goal was to make the bench top stable. There is quite a bit of detail on the construction, particularly with regard to how the top expands into the tool well. I’d like to give more details right now, but unfortunately it’s too much to go into here. Finally, to your last question, I did hand chisel the dog holes. I also hand chiseled the dovetails used on the breadboard ends and the mortises used on the trestle base made from cherry. I have to smile a bit thinking back. Building a bench this way a labor of love.
Again, I’ll look at doing a video on this subject, but I can’t promise a date right now. I wish you the best as your pursue building of your own bench. Let me say that I had wanted to build a bench for many, many years. And I built many things using pretty poor bench substitutes, but I did manage to get by. So if you don’t build it right away, don’t dispair. It’s always fun to have a goal to aspire to. Best of luck and I hope I’ve been of help.
This comment is to Chris asking about workbench construction.
In this link http://www.workbenchdesign.net/index.html
You will find all the info you will need to produce a top notch bench, as well as a source for wooden vise screws as well, and some of the absolute best money can buy as well. Look to Lake Erie Toolworks or http://www.bigwoodvise.com/ as they both sell very nice wooden screws. There are also a few companies that sell wood threading kits so you can make your own as well. http://www.bealltool.com/products/threading/ Beall Tool sells the unit I use now and I feel it is probably the best available to average woodworker.
As for metal vise hardware, Veritas makes a nice double screw vise, though after testing one of Lie-Nielsen’s own dual screw vises on my visit there last month, I have to say I don’t think you could do much better. The Veritas has it’s own high points, but the LN is just super rugged and built with excellent attention to detail and some very high end machining.
Lie-Nielsen also sells a shoulder vise screw, as well I believe they also sell a shoulder vise jaw as well, something I haven’t seen available anywhere else.
And if you ever decide to purchase a bench rather than build, Lie-Nielsen is the place to go. Yes, they are expensive, but they are built better than almost any other commercial bench, and it would be hard for may woodworkers to match the quality and structural soundness of them as well. They offer 3 versions, all of which can be customized in many ways to suit the user, the Roube, a european bench, and a copy of David Charlesworth’s bench.
Good luck, I hope you see this and acquire this info, as I know it will help. At least it did when I built my bench.
One last bit of advise, overbuild anything in question. It’s better to be too heavy and too strong than weak and floppy. Once you get a bench up to 300lbs or so, it doesn’t move unless you WANT it to move. Very good thing in a workbench.
I’ve recently become a hand tool fanatic, and these videos are some of the best I’ve seen.. very inspiring. In the basement of the house I grew up in is an old workbench with a leg vice, possibly as old as the house (1847). I need to go take a closer look at it!
As a followup to Kenny’s comment above, the direct link to Lake Erie Toolworks for obtaining the largest wood vise screws available today is http://www.LakeErieToolworks.com.
I deeply want to thank you for posting this video as I have been interested in Mr. Edward’s bench and others like it for many years. The inspiration this video provides means more to me than you may ever know. I look forward to seeing more. Thank you
Great design, Could I get a copy of the plans? or could I buy them? Thanks.
Keith’s Note: Unfortunately, there are no formal drawings for this bench that are available at this time. Perhaps we might be able to pull them together in the future, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Thanks for asking though.
Had the pleasure, a few years ago, to watch Frank Klausz make a drawer of cherry. Cut the wood, plane, (make) pins & tails and tap it together. Very fast and accurate. This was at the Somerset show.
Excellent video. New to your site and woodworking but will definitely be back. I became interested in woodworking because of Norm (PBS fame) but am leaning more toward hand tools, nothing against power of course.
Keith’s Note: Welcome aboard!
Think it’s time to move my bench away from the wall and into the center of the shop so I can work from both sides. Thanks for the video and getting me to rethink the way I’ve been working.
Really killer wood bench. Just what I’m planning to build. I did time in Dutchland in the Army in the 70’s. I went to France as well during that time. I LOVE the incorporation of both designs. I am a small marine/boatbuilding company in Oregon and will be doing alot of radius’s and epiliptical work via a steam chamber. I’m building out of a large propane tank – I recon to make Dogs or dowels in my bench for some of the more common of these.
Is there a working drawing you dont mind sharing?
I will contact the German company for the screw and hardware however.
Fair Winds to Ye,
Keith’s Note: I’m quite sure that Patrick does not have drawings. Sorry. And hey, enjoy building that bench!
I have my Red ceder logs ready for the mill up the street. I shall have them cut to 10″ x 10″ for the top. I have 2 black walnut 4/10 X 8′ that will be the tail piece. I probably will use the space underneath for a drawer system with rosewood (sorry guy’s advantage to living on a river in Oregon – I get plenty of wood Nov./Dec. floating by my pad) that I have stored up for the front of the drawers.
Thanks, Iron Man
We stumbled over here from a different web page and thought I should check things out.
I like what I see so now i am following you. Look forward to looking into your web page repeatedly.
Is there a set of blueprints to download and print or to buy and have sent to me via post or ups to build this great bench? I have retired to Thailand so it is very difficult to get good tools and I am trying to re-establish my shop over here. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Best Regards, David.
Keith’s Note: Sorry that I don’t have plans for these benches. There are some very good books on subject that might be of help.
I inherited a very similar bench that belonged to my Slovenian grandfather, and while the vice was obvious, this video was incredibly helpful for all the other little tricks he built in to his worktop. Thanks very much for the knowledge.