seventeenth-century joiner’s bench

Stent panel
Stent panel

Much of the material I have been posting on the blog in the past month or two is related to a project that has been underway for some time. Along with Jennie Alexander I am working on a book that will be an introduction to the craft of joinery, as we have practiced it for the past 20 years. The project in the book will be a joined stool, but the principles apply to most of the forms of joined furniture common in the seventeenth century. The book is still a ways off, but this winter I am working on some new photography for it, then we will start to pull it together from our copious notes and drafts. 

 

A preview of that work is this carved panel, depicting a joiner and turner of the period. We have always come back to this panel as a cornerstone in our research. When we first conceived the idea to do a book, the first picture Alexander sought permission for was this panel. The present owner graciously granted it, and asked to credit “John Stent of Shere.” The panel is about 10 ½” x 24 ½.”

 

The “Stent” panel has been published a number of times. As far as we can tell, the first major publication to discuss the panel was W L Goodman’s excellent book The History of Woodworking Tools (1964). Goodman cited the saw handle as evidence that the panel is probably English.

 

The importance of this panel resides in its having been made by a seventeenth-century tradesman who worked in a similar shop rather than being an artist’s interpretation. All of the tools depicted in the carving are described in detail in Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises or Doctrine of Handyworks (1683) & Randle Holme’s Academy of Armory & Blazon (1688) and appear in early New England inventories. More importantly, marks left by similar tools are present on the interior and exterior surfaces of surviving furniture.

 

We intend to review the panel in detail in the book, and will sample some of that here. In light of recent posts, we note the joiner’s bench, bench hook and holdfast. The bench’s legs are bored to accept the holdfast, (or wooden pegs) in conjunction with the piece fitted on the bench’s edge for jamming a board edge-up for planing. If only we knew what to call it. Moxon’s & Holme’s are fitted with a wooden screw, and thus they call it a “bench screw.” This one clearly lacks the screw.  Note the flat arm of the holdfast; very different from the curved one seem more commonly.

detail, joiner's bench
detail, joiner's bench

 

 

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12 thoughts on “seventeenth-century joiner’s bench

  1. Scott Landis, in his “The Workbench Book” states Roubo called this hook the ‘crochet de bois.’ Makes sense to me — the wood hook. I’ve not found a copy of Roubo translated, but perhaps the original plate showing the hook on the bench would be a good touchstone as well. The bench hook in Roubo has no screw, like the one pictured above (and unlike Moxon).

  2. Peter: Unfortunatly, Felibien does not illustrate or name a holding device on the bench’s front edge. He calls the metal bench hook “crochet.” He calls the holdfast “crochet ou sergent.” I am told that “crochet” is French for “hook.” So far so good. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “crotchet” (note the additional “t”) as a “hook or hooked instrument.” We could call the thingee “wood
    crotchet.” Dean Jansa’s suggstion of “wood hook” is excellent and simple but this may be confused with the wooden bench hook. “Wooden bench edge hook?” or “Front Edge Bench Hook.” They are too wordy. Shop names are short. How about “wood edge hook?” or just “crotchet.”
    Your call.
    Bench hooks of all kinds are wonderul!

  3. JA,

    I would have to agree with you on Dean’s “The Wood Hook”. Isn’t that what it does. I have to admit that I have been procrastinating and have not got your DVD yet, but will soon! I also enjoy reading your website.

  4. David
    I have never seen the panel in life; only photographs. It’s privately owned, and quite far from North America. (Australia or New Zealand, I forget which…)

    I have seen conflicting reports about the species of wood, one said Oak the other Beech. I doubt the beech one, I imagine that would be infested by wood-eating bugs by now…

    it’s about 10″ x 25″ or so…not big at all.

  5. It looks to me, from the perspective of a re-enactor of the C17 period, that the ‘L’ shaped bar under the table, would fit in to one of the holes. Once in the hole, it could be rotated so that the other end slots in to the ‘hook’ on the table edge.

    One end of the ‘bar’ seems shaped; almost phallic. considering the high degree of attention to detail in this carving, I would suggest a specific purpose for that. Blacksmith devices come most to mind, or perhaps those used by cobblers to bang abainst when fitting cegs in to the sole of shoes.

    I wonder if there is some joiners tool; a sort of hammer in reverse, that it might be.

    Let me know when the book is completed please.

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