Tuesday, April 28, 2009

British Traditional Benches

The history of British woodworking is quite interesting to me. I haven't read much about it, admittedly, but the appeal factor alone is enough to conjure up nostalgia for things such as afternoon fox hunts, great paneled rooms of finely joined walnut, being served lunch in a country gazebo after the hunt and other things I've never experienced outside of movies like Gosford Park and The Remains of the Day. Okay, so I know next to nothing about historical British woodworking. Yes, I've read Joseph Moxon. But that's pretty-much it. I still have a nostalgia for British woodworking though, and I always feel like British woodworkers really seem to know what they are doing. Almost like it's in their blood.

I got that same feeling when I received an email recently from Richard Maguire, an English woodworker and bench-builder. Richard builds massive benches out of English Steamed Beech (that has appeal in and of itself) in the style of Andres Roubo and the Dominy family of cabinetmakers. Since I built my Roubo bench a year ago, I've come to greatly appreciate the pleasure of working on a massive bench. It's elevated my work, no doubt.

So it's nice to see this trend continuing. I think the age of the wimpy bench is perhaps behind us, thanks in no small part to Christopher Schwarz's recent contributions. And I can't think of a better time to usher in a new age of massive, serious benches to go along with all the fantastic new hand tools being produced by meticulous artists such as Thomas Lie-Nielsen, Chris Vesper, Ron Brese, Wenzloff and Sons, Dave Jeske, Ed Paik, Czeck Edge, just to name a few.

Please check out Richard's website.


  1. You mentioned Chris' influence on modern bench building, and indeed, his greatly influenced my bench.

    I think it is fascinating how one man can revolutionize or re-revolutionize a field almost single-handedly and have an impact on that field for generations.

    It is a story that seems to repeat itself occasionally in religion, business, science, and just about any field you can think of.

  2. I'm curious as to why the steamed beech wood used is steamed?


  3. Never mind. I just did some research. Some say steaming is intended to take some of the tension out of the timber, but steaming also gives a pleasant pink tinge. So it's for both aesthetic and practical reasons.



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