another workbench reference

French carving
French carving

My blacksmith friend Mark Atchsion sent me a link to the above image; I had seen this carving before, but never such a good picture of it.

It’s a misericord, from France. The only fixtures visible are the holes for a holdfast, and on the image on the web, it’s large enough so that you can see the bench hook. here’s the link.

here’s the caption they have:

Misericord. Detail: Carpenter. c.1500
France.  Paris. Musée de Cluny.

5 thoughts on “another workbench reference

  1. Thanks for posting this!

    I find it very interesting, especially the holdfast holes in the legs. They indicate the front of the bench was used for holding boards on edge for jointing.

    Being able to clamp work to the face of the bench, as well as the top, is too frequently (in my opinion) overlooked in many modern benches. Yet, maybe that doesn’t matter too much to people who focus on cabinet work. It certainly matters to me and my boat building which requires a lot of edge work.

    Very nice misericord. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for the heads-up! Very interesting. It looks like the top is thinner than later (Roubo) style French benches, which probably accounts for the arch supporting the top to help prevent too much flex. I’m wondering if the arch would also be found from the back legs as well. It seems something more from timber framing than what I would expect from a joiner, but my areas of ignorance are legion.

    I agree that holding boards from the front of the bench is of great value, and often overlooked. A good, substantial deadman can both accommodate pegs for passive support, as well as a holdfast for more active clamping. This extends the possible clamping ability past just having holes in the legs.

    Thanks again. I love seeing this old examples. I learn something, or at least suspect I learn something, from every one I see.


  3. Po boy wearing sabots? His feet must hurt. And what kind of handled plane is he using? This is taking galoot to a whole new level, I’m afraid.

  4. Peter,

    There is an interesting book on English Misericords – those that survive, that is, – with a good photo of a panel showing a German carver, about 14th C, complete with all tools – page 25 if you can locate a copy.

    The World Upside-down: English Misericords
    By Christa Grössinger
    Edition: illustrated
    Published by Harvey Miller, 1997
    ISBN 1872501982, 9781872501987
    192 pages

    Misericords depict all sorts of contemporary scenes, including numerous trades. There is a fine, almost complete, set in Cartmel Priory in Cumbria; I believe that if my memory serves me there are some trades depicted there, but I cannot put my hands on the book.

    The plane in your picture looks to be some form of Razee, not dissimilar to some of the tools in the Mary Rose collection.

    On the subject of planning edge boards, I don’t use hold-fasts very much for small scale cabinet making, but when I made a Klausz pattern bench about ten years ago I devised my own bench slave that will fit into the tail vice for short boards, or bolt onto the end of the tail vice. It is very rigid and can deal with boards up to 12 feet long and 16” wide, quite comfortably.

    Here is a photo link to my own variation:

    And this is what it looks like in use:

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