I’m really glad to see Chris writing about this form. I’ve been a fan of what Chris has come to call staked furniture for a long time. I was first introduced to the form through Roy Underhill’s early books and shows. And since that time I’ve built several items (mostly for the shop) using this method of construction. One of them actually pre-dates this blog, though I wrote an article on it several years later to capture the process.
This saw bench was actually my second attempt at building a saw bench in this style. My first was built around 2005 or 2006 and did not have the additional stretchers. It was much more similar to the ones Chris has been building. I added the stretchers because I determined that legs made from home center 2x material do not do all that well in this design without the stretchers. The soft, spongy material has too much flex in it to be used without stretchers. The thinner 1-1/2″ top doesn’t help either. Using good hardwood, especially riven, and a thicker top, solves this problem. However, even with the shortcomings of using construction grade softwood, the sawbench pictured above is still in use today, and the joinery is still tight and solid, though it is about time I replaced the bench as the top is all chewed up from hatchet blows, saw cuts, auger bits, random oils, varnishes and glues, and other [ab]use that it has been put through in the last 8 or so years.
Another one of my earlier “staked” pieces was my shave horse. In fact, the shave horse was one of the very first items I wrote about on the blog when it was first started. I’m still using it today, the legs are still tight and solid. There’s some flex when I sit, but again, this has more to do with the softwood construction lumber used to build the bench rather than the method of construction.
The thing I like so much about this method of construction is the simplicity of it. A sawbench like this can be built in just a few hours. The one pictured above was built in a single day, maybe 6 hours of work, even with the three added stretchers. Once built and assembled, the bench is very lightweight, but at the same time, the structure is extremely stiff and rigid, making for a very sturdy work surface. I also like the aesthetic of the style. There’s a simple elegance to it. While I like high style period furniture as well, I don’t keep much of it in my own home. The simpler, less decorated, “country” style pieces are more my taste for my own home. The higher style pieces (like the ball & claw stuff I’ve done) are fun to build, but I don’t really want most of it in my house. So I’m excited to see what else Chris has in store for his upcoming book. It sounds like the stuff he’ll be including is exactly the stuff that interests me most. High style, fancy stuff is nice. But the simple elegance of the less ornate “country” stuff is a bit more my speed.