I knocked myself up a couple of saw horses yesterday from some old bits of pine I found laying around in one of the barns. I’ve already been forgetting to take tools on my travels between the workshops so I didn’t want to start carting saw horses around with me as well. With these built I’m now all set to start work on my new bench and I thought it would be a good time to explain why I’ve opted to go English.
If you’ve read my previous posts ( 1 & 2 ) on this bench then you’ll have noted that this is going to be my prepping workbench which I will be both building and using without the aid of machines. I’ve never felt that there’s one particular style of workbench that will be best for all situations but there are many reasons why I feel the traditional English approach is an ideal match for me here. I noted earlier that the majority of workbenches which I’ve built for customer’s over the years have been based on the French design and I’d say that the reason for this is down to the versatility of that design.
In their raw form both the English and the French style of workbench support the same type of working methods but the difference is in the ability of the French design to more easily adapt to suit a more modern way of working. We’ve offered and sold English type workbenches in the past and whilst I can’t be sure specifically why they have never sold as well I was nearly always asked to add a tail vice so I can presume that the lack of this is a turn off.
The simple and robust design of the French bench gives it a strong presence and I belive this has been further enhanced by it’s popularity in recent years; many woodworker’s have built beautiful examples in fine hardwoods and with expensive hardware which must really add to the design’s appeal.
The English bench whilst also simple is less easy to alter and is more likely to be seen built in construction grade timber than anything fancy. Bolting on modern additions such as a posh tail vice is also less likely since the deep front apron makes raising the bench dogs unpractical.
In my opinion the English workbench is best left in it’s original form to be used for a more raw way of woodworking where work is held with stops, battens and the worker’s arse. The English bench is a hard sell for modern woodworking when compared with the French and as a result we don’t often see it being used to promote new vices or bench add on in the same way which means it gets less publicity than what it perhaps deserves.
The French bench is beautiful to work off and so adaptable to our needs but I’m building this one English because there is nothing I wish to adapt. It won’t be the most attractive bench I’ve built but it will be ideal for constructing by hand.
The pinnacle point for which I’ve chose this design is because even hundreds of years after it’s first use I can go in to any builder’s merchants and pick up materials which ideally suit it’s construction. There’s no need to laminate to build up larger sections and this means it can be built quickly and simply all by hand.
We take you step by step through a traditional bench build, starting out with a discussion on choosing the ideal dimensions, demonstrations of how to cut the joinery, right through to flattening your workbench top and building the face vice from scratch.If you’d like us to guide you through your build with detailed videos and PDF plans, then you can find full details for this Workbench Series here.