Book review: Workbenches: From Design And Theory To Construction And Use

Workbenches: From Design And Theory To Construction And Use by Chris Schwarz is a book that every amateur hand tool woodworker should study thoroughly.

For most hand tool woodworkers, there is no more important tool in our shop than our workbench.

I just don't know how I can overemphasize the significance of this book. If you are thinking about buying or making a workbench, you should just get it. If you must, borrow it, but get it.

Chris describes in great detail the building of two different workbenches that would be appropriate for the vast majority of woodworkers. Both the English (Nicholson) and French (Roubo) benches he describes are surely among the greatest workbenches ever made.

He also includes a helpful section about work holding to help you determine which features you should add to your bench according to what type of work you want to do.

For the novice, the whole workbench thing is a bit overwhelming. What a face vise, end vise, doghole, holdown, quickrelease vise, twin screw vise, and many other terms mean are made clear and easy to understand and apply by this book.

Although I have been totally impressed by this beautiful, nicely done book, I have waited until I finished building my bench (guided mainly by this book), to write a review. This subject is so important to hand tool woodworkers, I didn't want to get it wrong. Frankly my opinion has matured, but not really changed. I still think this is an awesome book that every new woodworker (and a lot of veteran ones) should study carefully.

I do have a few suggestions, Chris, for a future version:

1. There is no discussion of how to build a workbench without having a workbench. Admittedly, this is a difficult topic and varies depending on the methods used, but a few pointers would be nice. For those of us trying to build this with hand tools with no bench to work on, well, it ain't easy. It is sort of like trying to change a light bulb in the dark.

2. Perhaps it should have emphasized a bit more, not only how heavy these benches are and how tiring it can be to build one (which it does quite adequately), but specifically how hard they are to move and how dangerous it can be to try it by yourself. Moving the various components around to work on them can definitely be non-trivial.

3. I would like to see a design for a portable bench that one person can move and set up in a minute or two sort of like a folding table. Ideally this one should be easier to build. Perhaps it would be a decent answer to point number one above.

Anyway, thanks Chris, you nailed it with this book.