Moxon's joiner's bench
Moxon’s joiner’s bench

While we’re looking at the workbench and its fittings, it’s worth thinking about Joseph Moxon’s book, Mechanick Exercises: or the Doctrine of Handyworks, published serially beginning in 1678. The first full edition was 1683. Chris Schwartz has just produced an excerpt of Moxon’s book, along with his explication of the material. When I first was learning seventeenth-century joinery along with (John) Jennie Alexander, Moxon was one of our mainstays in studying joinery practices of the period.

 

 

 However, we had the added bonus of some material that many tool historians either overlook, or miss altogether – Randle Holme’s Academy of Armory & Blazon. Holme’s work was begun in 1649, and published in 1688. Until recently it was only available as a very scarce reprint from the 1970s, but in 2000 the British Library produced a CD-rom of Holme’s manuscript illustrations. The book and its base material are not exclusively concerned with woodwork, but with all things that might or did appear on coats of arms. Thus most of material culture of England at the time. It’s well worth studying Holme alongside Moxon. They lean/borrow/overlap each other’s materials, but sometimes one has more or less detail than the other. Holme’s manuscript drawings are especially helpful.

 

 

 

 

 So here’s the example that made me think of all this. The bench screw on Moxon’s bench is a horrible illustration, and his description is not much better:

 Moxon's bench screw
   “c. The Bench-Screw (on its hither side) to Screw Boards in, whilst the Edges of them are Plaining or Shooting; and then the other edge of the Board is set upon a Pin or Pins (if the Board be so long as to reach the other Leg) put into the Holes marked aaaa down the Legs of the Bench; which Pin or Pins may be removed into the higher or lower holes, as the breadth of the Board shall require; So then, the Bench-Screw keeps the Board close to the edge of the Bench, and the Pins in the Legs keep it to its height, that it may stand steddy whilst the other edge is working upon: For in the Shooting of a Joint, if the Board keeps not its exact position, but shakes or trembles under the Plain, your Joint will very hardly be truly straight.”

 

 Moxon’s illustration left Chris Schwartz in the dark, but if he had Randle Holme’s drawing, the function of the bench screw would have been evident.

bench screw Randle Holme c 1688

bench screw, Randle Holme, c. 1688

the citation for the CD of Randle Holme is:

N. W. Alcock and Nancy Cox, Living and Working in Seventeenth-Century England: An Encyclopedia of Drawings and Descriptions from Randle Holme’s original manuscripts for The Academy of Armory (1688) (London: The British Library, 2000)

 

 

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