Workbench restore (Scandinavian style) #1: The short story of the Scandinavian workbench and a visit at a museum.

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Blog entry by mafe posted 11-06-2012 09:33 PM 14294 reads 1 time favorited 51 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Workbench restore (Scandinavian style) series Part 2: Bringing the workbench back to life. »

Scandinavian workbench restore
The short story of the Scandinavian workbench and a visit at a museum.

In this blog I will try to tell about the workbench as good as I can and then show the restore of an old one I bought and restored.
Actually my workbench is Danish, made in Denmark, more exactly Copenhagen app. 100 years back is my guess and the Scandinavian workbench is of German origin… First full version with front and end vise known is from Nürenberg app. 1500 by Löffelholz, but it took more than 200 years before it became standard. The end vise became standard in Germany and Scandinavia, where in the South the workbench was more primitive as the so called Roubo workbench, where it has a table, a stop, a holdfast and the leg vise where you need to bend down to lock the leg according to the board thickness (he was a French cabinetmaker and author). So it should have been referred to as the German workbench, but since I am Danish (and so live in Scandinavia) I will stick to that name (bandit I am).
But before I start I will share some good news with my fellow LJ’s here – I got a new workshop! – this was why I bought the bench; I finally got room for a full size cabinetmakers workbench that has been on my wish list since I was a young boy.

Here I am in front of the new shop, cheers guys and girls.
My shaving horse has become useful as a bench for me and the visitors.
The shop has two rooms, kitchen and bathroom – quite a luxury since I used to have only a small basement room.

Here the main room, a wonderful workroom with fireplace and plenty of room for playing.
I have started to use the shop but most of my tools are still in storage – my ohhhhh I can’t wait to find room for them all here.
But what is important for this blog is what is in the center; the workbench.

But we start at a museum city just outside Copenhagen:
It is a wonderful place called Frilandsmuseet.
In this place houses from all over Denmark and from different periods of the Danish history are now rebuild and all details including furniture and workspaces are intact.

Historically a workbench started something like this, known as the Roman bench.
Wooden pegs as stops and support or metal clamps could hold the wood in place.
A top from a board and some legs, simple as that, easy to make on the work site.

I will guess the shaving horse is just an advanced version of this.
Here a sample from the museum.

This is an old style table from a farmer’s house, the wedge holds it together and this detail is later transferred to the workbench.

A simple workbench could have been like this, just a sturdy base and two planks.
Notice the shaving horse.

A really old workbench where the front vise has been lost, but it is easy to see the main plank with bench dog holes and how the stretchers has been transformed into a tool storage.

And here it is, the traditional workbench.
Wedged together base so it can easily be moved.

From one end, notice the way it is joined is the same way as we use today.
Also notice the holdfast.

The front vise.

Holdfast old style.

From another workbench, more primitive holdfast.

Carpenters workshop, notice the plane cabinet…

Again the stretchers are used as storage.

Yet another bench from a sawmill, the guy is sharpening the saw.

(N. C. Roms, Haandgerningsbog, 1894)

An old style DIY workbench could look like this, quite elegant I think.

Or be a simple on top version that could be stored away.
End of this part of the blog, in next part I will show how my bench looked when I bought it and tell about how it was restored.

Hope it can be to some inspiration.

Best thoughts,


-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

51 comments so far

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1577 posts in 3805 days

#1 posted 11-06-2012 10:03 PM

Congrats on the new shop Mads! Great picture too. I will be following along this blog, it will be interesting to watch i’m sure.

Any idea why the old primitive holdfast were not bent? seems like these would be more difficult to make.

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

View Mauricio's profile


7150 posts in 3392 days

#2 posted 11-06-2012 10:06 PM

Great blog Mads! Wonderful pictures. Fascinating pictures. Cant wait to see the rest of the detail. Congrats on the spacious shop, you deserve it.

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View GrandpaLen's profile


1651 posts in 2513 days

#3 posted 11-06-2012 10:11 PM

Happy that you have found a space with a little more ‘elbow’ room.

Your dreams can now grow larger.

Work Safely and have Fun.

Best Regards. – Grandpa Len

-- Mother Nature should be proud of what you've done with her tree. - Len ...just north of a stone's throw from the oHIo, river that is, in So. Indiana.

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

21973 posts in 3346 days

#4 posted 11-06-2012 10:28 PM

I’m very happy for you, my friend!! You deserve a shop like that so you can create beautiful things the way you do and with more working space!! I wish I was there to celebrate with you and a few beers!!...........Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3544 days

#5 posted 11-06-2012 10:31 PM

i cant believe this, i am so happy for you i just cant sit still, seeing you outside of a real work space , MADS A REAL SHOP…this is most wonderful and my heart is so happy for you, the thought of what you have gone through and now to have this wonderful new place, a glorious wood stove to warm the place, i cant wait to see all of your tools there , and you doing the work you have loved, this is just a wonderful thing…you enjoy it, and you smile while you enter your new shop and let your creative soul go to work…fantastic brother!!!!!!!!!!

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3355 days

#6 posted 11-06-2012 10:35 PM

congrat´s with both your new shop and new bench Mads
know how you have lusterd for this since you packed the old shop
but you will have tooo many visitors that comes to look at the giraf in the Gallerie
to be able to make anything beside coffee for them …......... :-)

take care

View ksSlim's profile


1290 posts in 3130 days

#7 posted 11-06-2012 10:37 PM

Thanks for the tour.
Old fashioned hold fasts were more readily made from “short pieces” of material.
Hammer weld preformed “shorts” together.

Gongrats on the new work space.

-- Sawdust and shavings are therapeutic

View Brit's profile


7609 posts in 3083 days

#8 posted 11-06-2012 10:44 PM


So happy for you Mads. I can’t wait to see that shop with all of your wonderful tools on display. With that warm fire burning away, there won’t be any stopping you now.


-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Doe's profile


1420 posts in 3070 days

#9 posted 11-06-2012 10:48 PM

Congratulations! If you listen carefully, you can hear the cheers from Canada. It’s a beautiful shop and you absolutely deserve the very best. I hope you have many happy years working in it.

With fondest best regards, Doe

-- Mother Nature talks, I try to listen

View JamesVavra's profile


304 posts in 3556 days

#10 posted 11-06-2012 11:15 PM

Congratulations Mads.

View meikou's profile


115 posts in 3875 days

#11 posted 11-06-2012 11:38 PM

Congrats mate. Are you going to start making items to sell?

View Roger's profile


20965 posts in 3044 days

#12 posted 11-06-2012 11:44 PM

Congrats Mads. I know you’ll be happy

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View Sodabowski's profile


2385 posts in 3073 days

#13 posted 11-06-2012 11:45 PM

Whoaaaa you finally have the shop you need and deserve! :D

-- Thomas - Pondering the inclusion of woodworking into physics and chemistry classes...

View peteg's profile


4435 posts in 3063 days

#14 posted 11-06-2012 11:47 PM

Fabulous mads, it ooooozzzzzes a “creativity” from days gone by to match your inboard love for sharing History with us all.
Got the feeling this is going to be the start of a whole new & exciting era for you my friend.
Can’t wait to see what comes out of the woodwork from these walls.
The look on your face says it all ::: ))))))

-- Pete G: If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got

View littlecope's profile


3071 posts in 3742 days

#15 posted 11-06-2012 11:49 PM

Good News it is my Friend, Congratulations to You!!
I look forward to your bench and your shop’s metamorphosis… :)

-- Mike in Concord, NH---Unpleasant tasks are simply worthy challenges to improve skills.

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