Saturday, August 24, 2013
The French Oak Plate 11 Bench: Finished
On a late night last week I walked slowly from my office to the shop carrying the final piece of my French Oak Plate 11-style workbench: the letterpress-printed-on-hand-made-paper label made by Wesley Tanner. It was a bittersweet moment, and at the same time entirely satisfying.
What started almost three years ago ended as I pasted the label onto the underside of my bench, guarded by a layer of shellac to prevent the oak's tannins from feeding on the paper over the rest of the century (and perhaps beyond.)
As the FORP drew to a close last month, and during the final days of my own bench's completion, I spent a lot of time thinking about why I wanted to build this bench, and why we as a company would choose to organize an event centered around an object that promotes or incorporates virtually none of our own products, and certainly not visibly. We never second-guessed our motivations, but from a business standpoint there were some moments of head scratching. But moments after I had pasted the label onto the wood, shut the shop lights off, letting my eyes adjust to the moonlight pouring through the window and washing over the benchtop, I knew we had done the right thing. This bench was a tribute to Roubo, his incredible dedication to the craft, and the great legacy that he left us through L'Art du Menuisier. Without Roubo's elemental bench and its influence, Benchcrafted vises would not exist. This bench will forever be a source of inspiration for everything we do from here on out at Benchcrafted. We tip our hats to M. Roubo.
Here are some details of my finished bench.
Material: French Oak
Height: 34" (2" lower than my main Roubo)
Top Thickness: 5-1/2"
Top surface: flattened by hand, final traversing pass for texture with cambered iron.
Finish: One light coat of oil-varnish (Minwax Antique Oil)
Ironwork: Peter Ross
Workholding: holdfast and hole layout, planing stop and leg vise directly from Plate 11. Leg Vise threading and tapping by Nick Dombrowski, Lake Erie Toolworks. Crisscross mechanism by us.
I've already used my bench a few times to make some bench hooks from some of the French oak offcuts. The toothed planing stop, which I've never had on a bench before, has been a real surprise. For repetitive work, it it lightning fast. I will likely install one on my other Roubo bench from 2008.
One thing I will take away from this project that I doubt I'll ever get a chance to repeat. The camaraderie that I experienced with the other FORP participants. That is something I'll always be reminded of when using this bench.