By Joshua Farnsworth
I’m excited to announce that I’ll now be making and selling Portable Moravian Workbenches, like those used here at my school, and that you’ve probably seen in so many of my videos. In the above video you can learn more, or read below. You can purchase the workbench here.
This 18th century reproduction workbench was made popular in the video I produced called “Building the Portable Moravian Workbench with Will Myers” (see the DVD and HD download here).
Thousands of woodworkers have built it after watching the video that I filmed of Will Myers assembling the whole workbench in just 58 seconds. Here’s the short video clip:
Over the past few years a lot of students have fell in love with the Moravian Workbenches in my school, and have asked me if I’d consider selling Moravian Workbenches. Students either didn’t have the skills, time, or tools to build one, but they still wanted to have one. In the past I told them that I didn’t think I’d build any for sale, but now I’ve changed my mind!
Alright, now I’ll jump into sharing 6 reasons why the Moravian Workbench is so cool.
6 Reasons Why the Moravian Workbench is So Cool:
1. A Cool History
The original Moravian Workbench was made in the late 1700’s by a religious group of immigrants from Moravia (the “Moravians”), an area in modern-day Czech Republic and Slovakia. The workbench is in the museum storage at the Old Salem village in North Carolina.
Years ago my friend Will Myers saw the reproduction workbench in the Old Salem workshop, and decided to make a copy. His workbench build was featured in some online articles, and then he started teaching a class on building the workbench at Roy Underhill’s school. The class always had a very long wait list, and was almost impossible to get into, so Will and I decided to collaborate on making a video class on building the workbench. As part of the filming we were privileged to be able to film the original workbench that is stored in the museum archives (see the above photos).
2. Portability & Stability
Probably the main reason for the Portable Moravian Workbench’s popularity is the ease and speed of assembling the workbench, and the stability that the canted legs provide.
For handplaning on a workbench, you need a workbench that won’t rattle and move across the room when you’re planing. All other workbench designs require building a massive workbench with a very heavy top (like the Roubo workbenches that I built) to achieve stability.
This isn’t practical for all workshops, and is definitely not a portable option. For woodworkers who want to transport their workbench for work or for demonstration purposes, the Moravian Workbench is ideal.
I once received an email from a woodworker who had built a Moravian Workbench for his apartment in New York City. He was able to carry all the workbench parts in the elevator, up to his apartment all by himself, and then assemble it in just a minute or two.
3. Solid Joinery Construction
Another feature that I love about Moravian Workbenches is how they are built with solid wood joints, rather than with bolts that can come loose over time. When I make these workbenches, I cut dozens of solid joints that will hold the workbenches together for multiple lifetimes.
4. Multiple Ways to Hold Lumber
The Moravian Workbench is fantastic at holding lumber when you’re building furniture. First, there’s a very strong leg vise. Leg vises are my favorite style of face vise because of their strength and the way they hold the wood with very little obstruction.
These vise chops are available in oak or curly maple, and I source the maple screws from the best supplier of wooden vise screws. Note that I prefer to use a wooden garter (pictured below) as opposed to a metal garter (pictured above). A garter is used to lock the vise screw to the vise chop.
I workbenches will also come with a solid oak parallel guide which is used to prevent vise racking. I’ll also include a metal pin.
Next these workbenches feature a nice metal wagon vise, which was designed and refined by Will Myers:
The wagon vise lets you clamp wood between bench dogs for handplaning and other work. These wagon vises will work on any workbench, but they were specifically designed to work on the Portable Moravian Workbench. Click here if you just want to buy the wagon vise for your workbench.
And finally, the workbenches come with legs that are flush to the workbench top. This is a very important workbench feature, because it allows you to clamp long boards to the workbench with holdfasts or clamps.
The legs on these workbenches will come with holes bored for holdfasts. If you want to buy just the wooden screws from my source, click here.
5. Stable Laminated Oak Workbench Tops
I’ve designed these Moravian Workbenches with very solid, laminated rustic oak tops. “Laminated” means that the workbench top is made from multiple 2-inch thick air-dried boards glued together, rather than a solid piece of wood. Some of the Moravian Workbenches I’ve built for my school have slab tops, and while they are very beautiful (see below) they have bowed, cupped, and twisted. Solid slabs of wood just simply like to dance.
The laminated design is much more stable. And the tops weigh in the range of 90-120 lbs. which most woodworkers can carry by themselves.
A lot of machine and hand work goes into each of my Moravian workbench tops, including squaring up the top, chopping mortises for the leg vise, and boring holes for the bench dogs & wagon vise.
6. Removable Tool Tray
The last major feature that I love about Moravian Workbenches is the removable tool tray. I love tool trays because they give me a place to store the tools that I’m using, without having them in my way. But some woodworkers don’t like workbench tool trays because they say that they fill up with shavings and are hard to clean.
This isn’t a problem with a Moravian Workbench, because you simply lift the tray out and dump the shavings on the ground (watch the above video for a demonstration). And by building a simple spacer to go into the tool tray, you can have a wider work surface for the times when you want to do assembly or glue-ups. But 99% of the time the 13-inch wide workbench top surface is more than I need.
Buying a Portable Moravian Workbench
If you’re interested in buying a Portable Moravian Workbench, make sure you reserve your workbench today because I’ll be making these workbenches in small batches, so the wait list may get long pretty fast. And for the first couple weeks I’ll be selling the first workbenches at a great introductory price of $3,500. This is the same price as a couple factory-made, bolt-together workbenches that I’ve seen on the retail market.