The box bench circa 1900

In the late 19th century there seems to be a lot of evidence for benches in a Nicholson-type form – the box bench. These benches can be found in both Britain and North America in various forms.

The first bench can be found in Bench Work in Wood (1890) by W.F.M. Goss, of Purdue University. He describes a simple bench with a length (A) greater than 6 or more feet, and a height regulated by the type of work (carpenter’s benches are 33” high, while cabinet and pattern-makers benches are 2-4” higher). The bench has a number of features: a parallel device (c) for the leg vice (d), and a series of holes (e) on the face (g) to support long pieces of work.

The workbench of Goss

George Ellis shows another version of a box bench in Modern Practical Joinery (1908). It is joiner’s bench 10-12 feet in length, 27” wide, and 28” in height. The legs are sloped to either side, with a box-type top structure. The top is made of three 9” wide boards, the front one 1.5” thick, and the remaining two 1” thick. The legs are 3×4” legs are held together with mortise and tenon joints, glued and wedged. The sides are formed by 9×1” boards fixed to the legs with screws. The bottom stretchers are 9” from the floor. The top is fixed in place using countersunk screws. The bench has a metal bench stop, and a front vice.

The workbench of Ellis

The book “Woodworking for Beginners: A Manual for Amateurs”, by Charles G. Wheeler (1899) also provides a vision for a box-type bench. He describes the entire process of building this simple bench, made of pine if possible. The description includes the simple leg-vise, a parallel device to keep the leg-vise parallel, and other contrivances to hold work.

The workbench of Wheeler

These benches may seem quite simple, are inexpensive, and in reality don’t take a lot of effort to build.


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