ceci n’est pas une établi

ceci n'est pas une établi

There’s a lot to be said about the French workbench, and in fact, a lot has been said about that bench, You know the one. Don’t make me say it.

Ok, Roubo.

Well, at least the bench that trades under his name.

Yesterday I mentioned that my next large scale project was going to be building a workbench – and specifically an English (Nicholson) style workbench. What I perhaps didn’t say is how hard that decision has been, and how often I’ve thought of switching over and building this French style.

There are so many good things to be said about this design, and so many of those things have already been said that I don’t think I could add much to that discussion. The design is evidently graceful, imminently capable and ultimately useful and although I think this bench and I would get along famously, I decided against building it.

And I made that decision both for what the bench is, and what it is not.

First, for what it is. It is heavy. Really heavy. From all accounts the sheer mass of the bench is its greatest design strength, but to me that’s also something of an Achilles heel. I had unexpected back surgery about two years ago and I am constantly reminded that there are limits to what I can now lift, push, pull and shove. It’s not hard to guess that a 300 – 400 pound bench is just a little outside of my range of comfort.

The corollary to the above point is my second reason for not building a bench in this style: It is heavy, therefore It does not lend itself to moving from place to place.

I’m not just talking about from one side of the shop to the other, I’m talking about packing up shop, loading a moving truck and hitting the road with little to no knowledge about what your next “shop” is going to look like.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m a pastor in the United Methodist Church. One peculiar thing about our polity is that each and every spring there is a very real possibility that the phone will ring and on the other end of that line will be the Bishop or District Superintendent saying we’ve been re-appointed to a new church. A new church means new living arrangements.

I’m lucky at this moment that our parsonage has a spacious two car garage that I have set up shop in, but the next place might not be so equipped so the thought of trying to move an 8′ behemoth into a U-Haul every couple of years and then shoehorn it into whatever space is available, well, this is not appealing to me.

The French Bench is a masterpiece. It is a work-holding beast and a hand-tool dream, but because of what it is (and is not) I’ve decided that, at least for now, it’s not for me.


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