bench screws in the shop

bench screw in use
bench screw in use

An earlier post discussed period illustrations of  “bench screws” – a fixture on the edge of the workbench to aid in planing the edge of boards. Here is the bench screw I mounted on my workbench. It is based on the one in Randle Holme’s Academy of Armory (1688). Somehow mine needed more nails to hold it than Holme’s did. The one nail in his drawing is not plausible, it’s got to have at least 2, probably better to have 3.

 The other end of the board is propped up on a peg in a sliding board fitted between the benchtop and the stretcher. I have no seventeenth-century reference for such an arrangement. I have seen a Dutch painting from the 16th century that shows a 3rd leg on the bench front, with a row of holes bored in it. The extra leg is centered between the near & far legs. I’ll dig that picture out this week.

PF bench screw full view
PF bench screw full view










The next image is J. Alexander’s bench & screw; this one is lag-bolted to the edge of the bench. The bench has a wide apron, into which JA has bored holes for either pegs or a steel pin to support the other end of the stock.

JA's bench w/ screw, holdfast & hook
JA's bench w/ screw, holdfast & hook


There are other uses for the bench screw, and other means by which seventeenth-century joiners might have planed edges of their stock. But these two versions we did are a good starting point. The screws are about 7/8″ in diameter, if I recall correctly. The notches in the block can be made to fit any regularly-used stock dimensions; mine accomodate 1″ and 2″ thick stuff.

2 thoughts on “bench screws in the shop

  1. Thanks for the bench screw information. Felibien shows none, Moxon is almost completely illegible and Randle Holme comes through! The six inch deep apron on my bench together with tapered metal pins can secure stock up to six inches wide-sufficient for almost all work. Sorry Peter, though I had a few smith made pins, I think I sent them to you! I put handles on tapered machinist’s alignment pins.

  2. Here’s a question I have about this method—why the nails? I have the idea that I’m missing some piece of logic here, but it seems that if I were in a joinery shop, I would probably want to set something like that (which is taking tension) into a large dovetail or some such arrangement. Is there some additional logic to the nails, or is this just some arcane tradition?

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