My foray into woodworking resembled a black hole, absorbing everything readily available about the subject. And, if I had learned anything along the way, it was that not only is a workbench a shop’s focal point, it also defines one’s work focus. My bench is no exception. Although it will never adorn the cover of a woodworking magazine, it seemed to hold workpieces nicely. Early on, my focus was quite blurry, trying my hand at many different styles of woodworking! My bench remained in lockstep and seemed to evolve right alongside. On one side, it resembles a Nicholson bench, with the characteristic deep front apron drilled to facilitate holdfasts and pegs to support the workpiece vertically.
From the other side, it is somewhat Roubo-ish. There’s a leg vise, a Moxon style vice, and a small wagon vice for securing work.
It even has pivoting saw-stops at one end that allow for off-the-bench sawing. There are two covered wells to store wedges and such and even an open well to store bench dogs and various tools.
Over the years, I have noticed that I’m using less and less of my bench. A few benchtop accessories have all but replaced the Nicholson side. The Moxon vice has lent the leg vise virtually useless, except for helping to secure my carving platform. Those nifty pivoting saw-stops are no longer needed as I have a dedicated saw bench. Oh, and those wells need constant cleaning as they fill up with chips and dust. And, I do believe that there is an unwritten rule that all horizontal surfaces must accumulate stuff over time! With everything that I have piled on my bench, I’m only using about a quarter of the surface area for woodworking. Perhaps you will agree that my workbench has seen better days and is now merely an obstacle.
So, having learned to manage a much smaller workspace, not to mention that I’ve started sitting on a stool while working, I thought, why not try a Roman bench. Having a work surface to accomplish necessary tasks designed for sitting on seemed like a win-win situation, especially since my aging back was starting to feel the strain of leaning over all the time. Such a bench needed to handle all the necessary woodworking tasks, such as sawing, face, and edge planing, mortise and tenon work, dovetailing, shaving, and of course, carving. It needed to be portable for transport to and from art shows. The bench needed to be comfortable to sit on for extended periods as well. After a brief Internet search for design ideas and careful consideration of functionality, I finally nailed down a design for a mini-Roman-ish low bench. Coming in at 7-1/2 inches wide, 48 inches long, and 19-1/2 inches high, say “Hi” to my new Roman bench. It is shown here with all of its current attachments. I say current because I plan on adding a small file box of sorts and perhaps a mortise bull soon.
If you are not familiar with Roman benches, they utilize wooden pegs and various wedges to hold workpieces in place. The shavehorse and carving attachments are somewhat modern conveniences.
Stay tuned as I put this bench through its paces, building carved boxes, ratchet bookstands, and whatnot.