Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What Do Our Workbench Designs Say About Us?

Mine says I'm bottom-heavy.

But really, it's more than that. Our benches are often a reflection of our personalities.

Maybe you used reclaimed lumber because you're concerned about wasting our natural resources. Maybe your bench is basic and functional because it's a tool, not a piece of furniture.

We've all seen workbenches that are so beautiful we'd be afraid to work on them.  Or, heavily used, well-loved benches handed down from generation to generation.

This is an old 18th- or 19th-century
 French workbbench I saw in an
 antique store. 
Early woodworkers didn't have the leisure time that we do, so they built their benches to fit their needs, not necessarily their desires.

And yet, I have seen antique benches with a bit of flair added to them, much as you might see in old wooden planes that sport a bit of chip carving.

My bench will be solid, sturdy, and practical, but will have some decorative elements. However, the biggest thing it will reveal about my personality is that I always try my hardest, but fully embrace imperfection. I'm leaving the dents and dings and gaps alone. I'll even point them out to people.

My personality is exactly the same. What you see is what you get; I don't hide a thing.

During this community bench-build, I'm seeing woodworkers personalize their workbenches even if they're working from a set of plans. I think that's a big part of why we love to see others' benches. It says something about the builder.

So, what does your bench style say about you?


pedro said...

Soy solo un aficcionado a la madera y me fascina la perfección de sus trabajos, disfruto viendo tanta maravilla.
Saludos desde Granada (España).

A.J. said...

What is that hanging down under the left side of the benchtop? You can see it from the top surface -- could that slide up through the benchtop as some kind of enormous bench dog?

Kari Hultman said...

Thanks for commenting, Pedro. :o)

A.J. that is a planing stop that slides up through the benchtop just like a bench dog. This bench was relatively small as I recall. Not sure who added the wine rack beneath the top, but it had clearly been used as a workbench for some time.

Kari Hultman said...

Forgot to say that at the top of the planing stop were metal teeth to grab your workpiece.

Nathan Beal said...

My bench says that I am poor, but I'm dedicated to my craft. I used old weathered doug fir 6x6 that were going to be thrown away. I only had to spend a total of $20 on materials to get a nice sturdy bench.

rgdaniel said...

My workbench is currently one of those big old heavy wooden office desks from the sixties, big slab of wood over some dovetailed (if sticky) drawers. Which disproves your theory because I am actually a big old heavy thing from the FIFTIES with sticky drawers.

Anonymous said...

The way my current project is going, I should add a wine rack to my bench.

Wht is it that projects for the LOML always take a turn for the worst?

Morton said...

My bench says that I'm slow and procrastinate. I've had the wood for it for 4 months now. Still sitting nicely stacked. It's acclimating! :)

Anonymous said...

My bench is made from a variety of recycled materials. The top is 6' x 24 of maple--coming from part of a baker's table and part from a work-table from a refrigerated sandwich table, 6' grid of 3/4 dog holes. The rest of it is soft (western) maple coming from pallets. I also have a very thick bottom shelf, 6" from the ground, made up red oak and maple pallets.

My bench says: I like to buy nice tools, but am too cheap to buy new wood!

Dining Tables Perth said...

My bench says I lack the talent on making one because I never get to finish it because I really have no idea what to do next. Great post!

McGlynn On Making said...

I'm still working on my bench.

Does that mean I'm a work in progress? Or that I'm incomplete? Two vises short of a full workbench? Don't have any legs to stand on?

Jeez, I need to call my therapist now.

Vic Hubbard said...

Mine says I have room in the shop for a big bench. I'm a pack rat that has held on to some really old barn wood for years waiting for the perfect project to use it in. I like to make even the rustic as contemporary as possible and finally, that I don't mind spending money on quality hardware for something that will be in my shop forever.

Pgo said...

So why are a couple of young chicks like you tracking down middle aged ladies to help move your bench?

Kari Hultman said...

Nathan, your bench also shows that you're resourceful and clever.

Bob, you crack me up. :D

Anon, maybe it actually was a woodworker who added the wine rack. Maybe he built wine crates for a living and that was an added perk to his job. ; )

Morton, if I didn't have a deadline with this bench, I know for sure that I would not be this far along with it.

Anon, you have your priorities straight!

DTP, there are lots of great woodworking books on building workbenches and lots of help online. IMO, Chris Schwarz' books on the subject are the best place to start.

McGlynn, I think it means that you're a typical woodworker. ; )

Vic, your bench is fantastic! It also shows that you build things to last. That bench will be in use for many generations.

Pgo, thank you!!!

Tom Stephenson said...

My bench says I'm pretty simple, solid and dependable. And I have thick legs.

Tom C said...

My bench says I'm ugly, cheap, but functional. Dang, I think your on to something here!

Oliver said...

My bench doesn't speak. Is there something wrong with me?

Karin Corbin said...

Roy Orbinson wrote the lyrics that my previously owned by someone else workbench now sings to me...

Been beat up and battered around Been sent up and I've been shut down You're the best thing that I've ever found Handle me with care Reputations changeable Situations tolerable But baby you're adorable Handle me with care