The Bench Apron

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  • #554944
    Rowdy Whaleback

    I don’t want to start a row but…
    Who could not have Aprons on their bench because they clamp things to the bench top at the front?

    I’m going to build a new bench. I currently have my old holtzapffel style bench which had a mid height rail at the front for holding work. I originally had a leg vise on it but found it slow and didn’t get on with the parallel guide. I changed this for a qr record type vise and stuck a plank accross the front making an adhoc apron. I have drilled holes in the top and use dogs and holdfasts.
    Here’s the thing. I’ve seen all Paul’s bench video’s andd work holding video’s. I’ve got Maguires videos on his English and also the rather wonderful Siemsen bench video and plans as well as his workholding video.
    I’ve got an old copy of Landis’s bench book and Shwartz’s second bench book.
    Shwartz, in particular seems to dislike aprons claiming you can’t clamp stuff to the bench. But he also uses holfasts.

    I ask again, if I make a bench with Aprons what could I be missing out on?
    To me the advantage of being able to sweep the floor without bearers seems to be an advantage too.

Viewing 3 replies - 16 through 18 (of 18 total)
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  • #554978


    [quote=554970]To clarify the question: Chris Shwartz roundly dismisses aprons because they prevent clamping to the top of the bench top. Which activities do you find such clamping absolutely indispensable?[/quote]

    Do you have a link to the article where Chris Schwartz says this? I have to wonder if something hasn’t been misunderstood. I can’t see Chris making that statement with no qualifying context as you present, because Chris knows better than any of us how useful holdfasts can be.

    Holdfasts are awesomely useful, they clamp workpieces to your benchtop (or to your apron), and the presence or absence of aprons does not interfere with their use. I will say that the presence of aprons in a design might infer a much thinner benchtop, and at some point a benchtop is too thin to support the use of holdfasts, which need …I’m guessing here…about 1.75 inches of thickness or so.

    Maybe Chris was only referring to “clamping” in the sense of using, for example, an F clamp, and only on the face of the bench which featured an apron (because you could still clamp to the top of your bench from either end of your bench, where there is no apron)?

    Assuming so, I wouldn’t worry about it. Chris has been woodworking since color TV was a novelty. He has developed his way of woodworking the way he likes it, and he prefers situations or equipment which allow him to work in his way of doing things.. As beginners, we’re much more adaptable, we don’t have “our way” of doing things yet, we’re still learning even the most basic way of doing some things.

    Look at Paul — he never clamps anything to his benchtop. “Paul’s way” of doing things, which is just as effective as Chris’ way, doesn’t need F clamps to the benchtop or holdfasts. Eventually we’ll all develop “our way”, but in the meantime, it’s probably best to not worry about one way or the other, try all available ways, because you never know what will really resonate with how your brain is wired to solve problems, and ultimately that will guide all your choices and lead you to find what is “your way”.

    Rowdy Whaleback


    Hello Edmund,
    Shwartz sets out a set of “principles” (not rules)
    Principle 8 about 3d clamping and principle 10 “Aprons and skirts are good to look at” calling them a “crime”.
    Not one of the designs in this second book “Better benches” has an apron. They are all pretty much roubo variations.

    Sven-Olof Jansson


    Adding, as Mr. P Sellers shows in a video, castor wheels to the legs makes cleaning up under the bench easier, as it can be moved around.

    Mr. David Charlesworth advocates the well bottom to have moveable segments, thereby allowing clamping from the rear, which, at the expense of sometimes quite big clamps, does away with the clamps obstructing the work.


    Sven-Olof Jansson
    London, UK; Cambridge, MA

Viewing 3 replies - 16 through 18 (of 18 total)

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