John has proven my bench making how-to by completing the whole workbench replete with a clear, water-based finish before he left today. Filming prevents full-time making for him and Hannah and John sitting in on the filming with his background as an apprentice and maker helps with suggestions for clarity and ideas on what not to miss.
His bench exemplifies fine craftsmanship with protruding tenons formed and made without the benefit of a workbench and true vise to rely on. A bench stands a few meters away but John is on his knees on the concrete throughout the making as he determines the rite of passage for new bench makers to establish a first workstation without one, just for the challenge. It’s fun and even I at 70 would do the same.
The bench is tidy, as we in England might say. Tidy means good, exemplary, modest and honest. I would say this. Should John decide to, he could work from this workbench for the next 60 years every day and it will outlast hime even if he does retire from in his 87th year. No furniture maker no matter the standards or weight of his making would need anything more. It has no excesses and no shortages. Most people might go on to make a hardwood version but it would do no more and no less than this one. It would cost many times more and weigh more too, but these are of little value. I am happy to have worked from my work benches in the same style, weight and wood type for over 55 years. It’s good.
John bought the same vise as the one’s I have had on my workbenches throughout my life as a woodworker. It’s the Record quick release (QR), 52 1/2. His came with a brief history from the son of the owner who said his father had bought it new for his retirement years. It’s little used and in good condition, having such little wear and neglect. As I watch John fitting the workbench with the vise I was reminded of three years ago when Hannah built her workbench that she took home to do her woodworking there.
Currently, she has been in making her rocking chair. She’s close and I watch her working steadily when I pass by in my comings and goings. Being in such wonderful company, (appropriately and safely distanced) fills me with the happiest thoughts. My apprentices! There is something quite possessive about the term, perhaps in a negative sense like my this or my that, but that’s is nothing like what I mean. It’s not so much the possessive element often stated or alluded to as in some kind of ownership of people but actually the possessive rite of apprenticing. These two have apprenticed thoroughly.
Ask either of them about the tools and the workings of them, the way to restore and use them, maintain and find them, adapt them and so on and they will give a most knowledgeable account. In most cases, they would stand against the most knowledgeable maker and surpass any machinist who usually has minimal need, knowledge, or even time for hand tools these days. In my world, these, you, are the answer to the conservation of my culture in making in woodworking.