The Value Of A Workbench

A workshop can be anywhere you can fit a solid surface. A retired carver friend built a superb workshop in the linen closet of his apartment. He only had to open the closet door, pull out a stool, and go to work. Everything he needed was fitted into a space of less than 10 square feet.

I built the small cherry bench in the photograph to fit an awkward alcove in my office that measures only 23 by 37 inches. For years I had been using my desk as a makeshift workbench and I was frustrated by both the lack of any decent clamping system and enough clear work surface. The desk is often as cluttered as the bookcase in the background.

With the workbench in place, I can now clamp wood for testing saws, chisels, bits, and so on, without knocking a coffee cup to the floor or spilling papers everywhere. The bench is also just the right height for using an inspection microscope, an invaluable tool for analyzing failures and successes in the world of sharp edges.

The bench occupies an otherwise unusable space next to a doorway. Since the floor space next to it can be used only for foot traffic, the bench only adds to the usability of my ofice; it does not detract anything. Incidentally, the bench was pulled out of the alcove for this photo.

More important than its utility, my bench adds a wonderfully relaxing and humanizing element. Like many people, I tire quickly of administrative detail. With a workbench handy, I can get up from my desk, wander over to the bench and tinker with tools for a while. It is like a mini-vacation in the middle of the day.

The humanizing part comes from surrounding yourself with things you like. I like everything about woodworking. My office is filled with old tools as well as books about their history and use. To add a workbench to the general clutter is iust another layer to the cocoon. The world looks much better when viewed from an office with a workbench in it.

Leonard Lee is thepresident of Veritas Tools and Lee Valley Tools in Ottawa, Canada, manufacturers and retailers of fnewoodworking hand tools. He is also thepublisher and executive editor of Woodcuts, a magazine thatfocuses on the history and techniques cf woodworking.

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