I haven’t written here in a while. It’s a long story, another time perhaps. Meanwhile, I’m knocked out with something just under the flu. One thing on my to-be-done list has been  learning how to convert JPEGs to PDFs, not for woodworking, but for the many books Rose has written.

But I practiced on Felebien first. So as a thank-you to all the blog readers here for their patience while I was busy bungling the latest tool sale, I’m posting the Felebien stuff I have here. The PDF here is the chapter on joiner’s work, from a reprint of the 1699 edition. Felebien’s first edition was 1676, i.e. pre-Moxon.

So while you’re waiting for Chris to finish up on the Roubo volume, now you can reach back to an earlier time in Paris, and see what Moxon was copying some of his stuff from…

plate 30

Felebien PDF

Now, somewhere I have some attempts at translation done for Alexander & I almost 15 years ago. Paula Marcoux (now the Magnificent Leaven http://www.themagnificentleaven.com/The_Magnificent_Leaven/WELCOME.html ) took a whack at it for us… so here is a “warts n’ all” translation. this is done as a Word document, I have had enough, so I’m not converting it to anything. Have fun.

Felibien w edits accepted

the other horse’s mouth – Randle Holme

Randle Holme, joiners' bench etc


the beat goes on, as they say. Here’s Gary Roberts’ post: http://toolemerablog.typepad.com/toolemera/2010/05/from-the-horses-mouth-moxon-on-workbenches.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ToolemeraBlog+%28Toolemera+Blog%29

and Chris Schwarz’ next one – http://blog.woodworking-magazine.com/blog/Joseph+Moxons+Bench+Screw.aspx?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+woodworkingmagazine+%28Woodworking+Magazine%29

(probably if you are reading one of these threads, you’re reading them all, but I put them here just in case you missed one. )

I will add a few things to the fray here. Above is a cropped image of Randle Holme’s joiners’ bench – the nice thing about this one is that it’s a drawing, not an engraving. Thus perhaps one step closer to the actual bench. BUT…it’s not all that enlightening. Sometimes Holme has more detail in his text than Moxon, sometimes less. sometimes they are essentially the same. Below is the pertinent text.

Now, I’m really leaving. I will see the rest of this junk when I get back next week. No doubt Alexander will chime in…JA – you there?

Randle Holme, Academy of Armory & Blazon, 1688 [from CD:  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)

 “the Joyners Working Bench, with all the Appurtenances belonging thereunto, as
First the Plank or Board for the top. in which are made several round holes for the Bench Hook and the Hold Fast; as they have occasion to hold the Work on it.
The Bench Feet, those of the Workmans side being made full of holes, in which are Pins put for the Board or other things to rest upon, while its edges are to be wrought, either by shooting with the Plain, or otherwise, which Pins are to be removed to higher or lower holes, as the breadth of the Board shall require.
The Bench Screw, set on its higher side, to screw Boards to the Bench side, while their edges are plaining or shooting, that they shake or tremble not, but remain steady while they are in working.
The Hold-Fast, which is to keep the Work fast upon the Bench while the Joyner either Saws Tenants, or or cuts Mortesses, or doth any other Work upon it.
The Bench Hook in it, which is to stay or hold Boards, or any other Stuff that is laid flat against it, while they are trying or Plaining.

the Bench Screw, it is made of Wood, the out part flat, which lieth or is nailed to the Bench side, the other part opened by degree or steps wider and wider, to fit Boards of all thicknesses that shall be put between the Bench and it, through the higher Tang or Lip is put a Wooden Screw, the same being screwed through the hole, its end holds the Board fast to the Bench side.

The Double Screw, is sometimes fixed to the side of the Bench, and sometimes the farther Cheek is laid an edge upon the flat of the Bench, and fastned there with an Hold-Fast, and sometimes two are fastned to the Bench to hold fast some sorts of Stuff, that are to have their edges wrought.
The Mallet, it is always to rest only on the Bench, because of its continued use.

 the double Screws, mentioned before in the Joyners Bench, numb.139. they are made of Spar, the Screws are fitted with holes or Screw Boxes in the Spars fit to receive them, which being turned, the two pieces are drawn together so hard, that they hold firmly any thing set between them.

 the Joyners Bench Hook, or the Work Bench Hook, which is an Iron with a long Tang to go through a hole in the Bench, and a flat half round head, with Teeth on the streight side, to hold any thing that should be set against it: So that in it there is the foresaid parts, Viz. the Tang or tail, the Head or flat, and the Teeth, and all but one Bench Hook. “

17th-century workbench questions continue

There was a big jump in the numbers of views here on my blog the other day, & I don’t think it had to do with bird-watching. As some of you know, I have been distracted by spring migration & haven’t written much wood-working lately. Views on the blog went about 500-600 a day, then a quick spike up to 954 views yesterday.

 The explanation is that I got “quasi-Schwarz-ed.” Chris Schwarz is writing this week about Joseph Moxon’s workbench, and in a teaser-post on the subject he mentioned my work… (it’s a “quasi-Schwarz-ing” because he didn’t post a link, making his readers work to get to me…a “full-Schwarz-ing” would have a link. http://blog.woodworking-magazine.com/blog/A+Visit+From+The+Ghost+Of+Joseph+Moxon.aspx?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+woodworkingmagazine+%28Woodworking+Magazine%29)

 Chris is dealing with the bench screw as it’s called by Moxon and Randle Holme. We’ll see how he gets on with it; it has always perplexed me. I’ll be away for a while up in Maine; so I will miss the fun. I have some notes about it here:



 One thing about Moxon’s bench that I did differently with my bench is that the front edge of the bench top overhangs the frame’s front face. This seems impractical to me, so when I made my bench I cut the joints so that the front face of the frame and the front edge of the top form a plane.

Moxon's joiner's bench, London 1680s
Felebien’s bench, top overhangs the front of the frame.
plate XXX of Felebien

The bench in Wierix’ Childhood of Christ also shows the top overhanging the front…funny, isn’t it? Has anyone made one that way?

Wierix, workbench detail

plow planes, Moxon, Felebien et al

plow plane, early 18th c
English plow plane, early 18th c

Well, if you have read this blog for a while you have seen how Alexander & I go at it…the latest is some back & forth regarding Moxon’s reversal of Felebien’s plow plane image.  To keep you from jumping around, here are Moxon & Felebien’s plows again.

plow plane, Joseph Moxon
plow plane, Joseph Moxon
plow plane, A Felebien
plow plane, A Felebien

Jennie Alexander wrote a comment the other day – here is an excerpt, with some of my comments in brackets:

Peter: I respectfully disagree that we should ignore the issue of miror reversed images Moxon’s printer made from Felibien. [PF: I said let’s get past it, not ignore it. It is well-known, & clearly proven, that Moxon’s image is backwards.]

This becomes important when a tool has what I call “handedness.” I believe the plow plane issue is important. Serious students of the Felibien and Moxon plow prints assert that the Felibien print is characteristic of a Continental plow because, among other things, the fence is located to the right of the craftsman…  [PF: I think JA has garbled this a little here, so she will chime in…]

When an actual Felibien plow is used, the craftsman typically holds the plane stock in the right hand, the staves by the left. The workpiece is held on the front side of the bench. The fence is on the hither or near side of the workpiece and to the craftsman’s left. Thus, as far as fence location is concerned, the Felibien plane is identical to the English plow. Your excellent shot of you using an English plow illustrates this fully. You would hold and use the Felibien plane in exactly the same fashion!  [PF: we are in agreement here]

The Moxon print confusion leads Moxon himself to erroneously describe the mirror reversed plow in his text: “For the Fence ….will lie flat against the farther edge of the board,…”  [PF: this is his description of the use of the plow…]

Moxon does not correctly describe an English plow or Felibien’s plow either.

[PF: this is the real stickler. I think Mark & Jane Rees are correct, when in Goodman’s 3d edition of British Planemakers, they point out that Moxon described a plow plane of the type we now assoicate with English or New England planemakers, not the Continental plow.

Here’s Moxon’s description of the tool, (not its use):

“The Plow, marked B6 is a narrow Rabbet-plane with some Additions to it: viz. Two square Staves, marked aa (yet some of them have the upper edges of them rounded off for the better compliance with the Hand.) These Staves are let stiff through two Square Mortesses in the Stock, marked bb. They are about seven or eight Inches long, and stand straight and square on the farther side of the Stock; and these two Staves have shoulders on the hither side of the Stock, reaching down to the wooden sole of the Plane, (for there is also an Iron sole belonging to the Plow.)  to the bottom of these two Shoulders is, rivetted with Iron Rivets, a Fence (as Workmen call it) which comes close under the Wooden sole, and its depth reaches below the Iron sole about half an Inch:”

 So, two square staves that go through the stock of the plane. These staves have shoulders on the near side of the stock, reaching down towards the bottom of the sole of the plane. Attached to these shoulders is the fence. See the early 18th century English plow plane at the top of this post. Nothing like Felebien’s plow…but sounds like what Moxon was writing about. The plane probably dates from just 20 or 30 years after Moxon, if that.

So I will hold with my statement that Moxon’s description of the plow’s make-up is an English plow plane rather than a Continental one seen in Felebien’s print, and reversed in Moxon’s own book. Principle differences being that on an English plow, the staves are fitted to the fence, and the body slides on them. On the Continental version, the staves are fitted to the plane, and the fence slides along them. Also, the fence on the Continental plow is a broad board on edge, and the English fence is slung under the plane’s body…here’s two views that should clearly show the difference.

English plow, early 18th c, front view
English plow, early 18th c, front view










plow, German
plow, German
This project got me looking through some favorite books; here’s a few. 
W L Goodman, British Planemakers from 1700 (3rd edition, revised byMark & Jane Rees; Astragal Press, 1993)
Josef M. Greber, The History of the Woodworking Plane: Des Geschichte des Hobels, translated by Seth W. Burchard (EAIA, 1991)
Don & Anne Wing, Early Planemakers of London: Recent Discoveries in the Tallow Chandlers and the Joiners Companies (Marion, MA: The Mechanick’s Workbench, 2005)
Gunther Heine, Das Werkzeug des Schreiners und Dreschlers (Hannover: 1990)
Charles F. Hummel, With Hammer in Hand: The Dominy Craftsmen of East Hampton, New York (University Press of Virginia for the Henry Francis duPont Winterthur Museum, 1968)


new old plow plane

“Wainscot plow” “joiners plow” or just “grooving plow” are several period names for the essential plow plane used in seventeenth-century joinery.

I just got a new old plow plane the other day. Bought it at an online auction, and was quite pleased with what I got. It’s marked W Greenslade Bristol. So I checked W L Goodman’s British Planemakers from 1700. I use the 3rd edition done by Mark & Jane Rees. There I found that Greenslade was in business making planes (& other goods) for many years, up until 1937. Seems Greenslade planes are quite common, and the 20th century examples are numerous. Fine w/me. this one was apparently never used. The wedges that secure the arms were missing, so today I cut 2 new ones from cherry. The plane came with 7 of its 8 irons. Not bad for $77.

W Greenslade plow plane
W Greenslade plow plane
plow greenslade
Which of course  brings us to Moxon, Felebien &  the plow plane.  The plow plane illustrated by Joseph Moxon has been discussed a number of times, and the gist of the discussion is that Moxon’s engraver copied a printed version of Andres Felebien’s work from 1676. Compare the two plates and you will see that Moxon’s is reversed, an easy mistake for the engraver, if it is a mistake. Might be that the engraver knew he was reversing the image, and just figured it would still convey the information required. Who knows .
plow plane, Joseph Moxon
plow plane, Joseph Moxon
plow plane, A Felebien
plow plane, A Felebien

Goodman’s  British Planemakers (pp. 87-89) has a concise discussion of these illustrations, pointing out that Moxon’s illustration copies Feleibien’s engraving, but that Felebien’s plow is a Continental-style plow plane, and that Moxon’s description is of an English-style plow plane. The differences center around fence and arms. Here is Moxon’s description:

 “The Use of the Plow.

 The Plow, marked B6 is a narrow Rabbet-plane with some Additions to it: viz. Two square Staves, marked aa (yet some of them have the upper edges of them rounded off for the better compliance with the Hand.) These Staves are let stiff through two Square Mortesses in the Stock, marked bb. They are about seven or eight Inches long, and stand straight and square on the farther side of the Stock; and these two Staves have shoulders on the hither side of the Stock, reaching down to the wooden sole of the Plane, (for there is also an Iron sole belonging to the Plow.)  to the bottom of these two Shoulders is, rivetted with Iron Rivets, a Fence (as Workmen call it) which comes close under the Wooden sole, and its depth reaches below the Iron sole about half an Inch: Because the Iron of the Plow is very narrow, and the sides of it towards the bottom are not to be inclosed in the Stock, for the same reason that was given in the Rabbet-plane; therefore upon the Stock is let in, and strongly nailed, an Iron Plate of the thickness of the Plow-Iron, for Wood of that breadth will not be strong enough to endure the force of the lower end of the Plow-Iron is put to: This Iron Plate is almost of the same thickness that the breadth of a Plow-Iron is. Joyners have several Plows, for several widths of Grooves.

 The Office of the Plow is, to plow a narrow square Groove on the edge of a Board; which is thus perform’d. The Board is set an edge with one end in the Bench-screw, and its other edge upon a Pins, or Pins, put into a Hole, or Holes, in the Leg, or Legs, of the Bench, such an Hole, or Holes, as will, most conveniently for height, fit the breadth of the Board; Then the Fence of the Plow is set to that Distance off the Iron-Plate of the Plow, that you intend the Groove shall lie off the edge of the Board: As if you would have the Groove lie an half an Inch off the Board, then the two staves must, with the Mallet, be knocked through the Mortesses in the Stock, till the Fence stands half an Inch off the Iron-Plate; and if the Staves are fitted stiff enough in the Mortesses if the Stock, it will keep at that Distance whilst you Plow the Groove: For the Fence (lying lower that the Iron of the Plane) when you set the Iron of the Plow upon the edge of the Board, will lie flat against the farther edge of the Board, and so keep the Iron of the Plow all the length of the Board at the same Distance, from the edge of the Board, that the Iron of the Plow hath from the Fence. Therefore your Plow being thus fitted, plow the Groove as you work with other Planes, only as you laid hold on the Stock of other Planes when you use them, now you must lay hold of the two staves and their shoulders, and so thrust your Plow forwards, till your Groove be made to your depth. 

If the Staves go not stiff enough in the Mortess of the Stock, you must stiffen them, by knocking a little wooden Wedge between the Staves and their Mortesses.”

I haven’t used the new plane yet, just wedged it today…here is the one I have been using for many years now, a gift from Jennie Alexander, I don’t remember when. I prefer these small British ones to the larger screw-arm plow planes often found in American tool collections. The smaller ones feel better to me…

plowing a groove in chest rail
plowing a groove in chest rail

another workbench illustration

When I stopped in at Baltimore recently to visit Jennie Alexander, I returned a book I had borrowed a year ago, thus creating good credit. So I borrowed two excellent German books on tools. Gunther Heine’s Das Werkzeug des Schreiners und Drechslers and Schadwinkel, Heine & Gerner’s Das Werkzeug des Zimmermanns.

Among the many things I have been copying out of these is this engraving by Heironymus Wierix, the title page to a book concerning the childhood of Christ.

H. Wierix, title page, c, 1600
H. Wierix, title page, c. 1600

Thus, here is yet another image of a  sixteenth-or-seventeenth-century workbench, this time Flemish.  Here the bench hook is clearly evident, but there is no holdfast, nor holes for one. Also, like the Moxon bench & the Felebien bench, the top overhangs the faces of the legs. This has always seemed counter-productive on a bench with holes in the legs for holdfasts. In the Wierix bench it’s less of a problem, but how you use this bench to grab stock against the legs is not immediately clear…

I tried cropping the picture so we could come in on the bench & some of the tools a bit. This is the first illustration I can think of that shows the tools piled/stored on the stretchers of the bench frame. 

Wierix, workbench detail
Wierix, workbench detail

Years ago, Alexander sent me a series of photocopies of the engravings from this set. As I recall, there are several scenes of Christ, Joseph & the angels working various timber projects.

further comments on Felebien

First, here is the full view of Felebien’s workbench.  Many years ago, a colleague of mine, Paula Marcoux, attempted a translation for us. She got us enough to pore over. An excerpt from her work follows.

plate XXX of Felebien
plate XXX of Felebien


The Workbench (L’Establie) XXX A with its bench-hook of iron (le crochet) XXX B in its Socket (sa Boete, i.e., Boite) to hold the wood.

The  Hold-fasts (Valets or Varlets) XXX C to hold the wood on the Work-bench.

The Mallets (Maillets) XXX D to drive in the Hold-fasts, and to strike the tools with while working.

The Bench-hook (Crochet) XXX E which one sometimes calls Sergent & and in some places David. It’s a bar of iron four or five feet in length and of an inch or nine lines of thickness square ( ligne=the third part of a barley corne, or the twelfth part of an inch in measuring, says Cotgrave), having a hook below, & another which rises and falls the length of the bar which is called the hand. It serves to join & hold the pieces of wood when one wishes to glue or pin them, & to fit up the work (faire revenir la Besogne), that’s to say to press the wood one piece against the other.

The Grippers (les Estreignoirs) XXX F are two pieces of wood joined with Pins; They serve the same use as the Bench-hook (Sergent), & to frame up doors and other things.

The Wood press  XXX G which one closes up with a Vise.