I get a fair amount of questions about my bowl horse, but this low bench has been at the center of my workshop even longer. I built it thirteen years ago, thinking something like this could serve as a multi-purpose bench that could take whatever I might throw at it — and it has. It’s pretty humble in appearance and construction, but it has proven to be reliable and versatile. It serves as my base for everything from heavy duty chopping to taking photographs. My chopping block is just a 7″ length of log with some pieces of old rubber mat tacked to the bottom; saves space and it’s easy to move off of the bench.
The height of the low bench (a little over 23 inches — or just above my kneecap) makes it handy for all sorts of general shop tasks, like sawing. The heaviness and widely splayed legs make it stable, yet it is still portable and fits into my small shop well. In construction, it couldn’t be more simple. The dimensions of the top aren’t critical; I had been given this oak timber (44 x 14 x 3 1/2 inches), and the size has worked out well. The legs can be anything tough and strong like oak or hickory. Mine are actually four roughly-shaved quarters of a hop hornbeam log. I wrote a post a while back about how I execute these joints — you can check it out here.
So that I could use holdfasts and pegs in a variety of ways, I bored 3/4″ holes all over the top. It may seem excessive, but it certainly hasn’t been a problem. There always seems to be a hole in the right spot. The slideshow below shows just a few of the potential arrangements related to bowl carving. I also have a few higher pegs that I can use in combination with wedges.
Chris Schwarz has been doing some in-depth and hands-on research into low benches used by Roman craftsmen a couple thousand years ago. His book on the subject will be printed letterpress!
And you can sit down to do some decorative carving on the rim (if you don’t feel like standing at the high bench). Here’s how I shaped the rim of the bowl after the bench photos had been taken.