Ingenious Mechanicks - Lee Valley Tools

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While the Western workbench design has changed little in centuries, few woodworkers know much about its origins or the benches that preceded it. Viewing the subject through the lens of history, Schwarz examines older benches, vises and other workholding devices that have long disappeared from use. He begins with examples depicted in medieval paintings, studying previously unidentified features to figure out how they were used, before going through the process of reconstructing three historic benches.

The first is an eight-legged low workbench shown in a fresco buried in the AD 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the earliest-known depiction of a woodworking bench. Schwarz then recreates the oldest extant woodworking bench, circa AD 187, found in a Roman well in Germany, as well as the famed Löffelholz workbench, illustrated in 1505, with similarities to both modern benches and older Roman types. He uses the completed benches to build furniture, testing the strengths and weaknesses of each. A fascinating look at a little-known aspect of woodworking history, the book explores an array of workholding ideas that are as useful today as they were in centuries past.

Hardcover, 8 1/2" × 11", 160 pages, 2018.

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