help me restore this great old bench

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Forum topic by JoeRPhilly posted 05-22-2013 08:33 PM 3431 views 1 time favorited 35 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View JoeRPhilly's profile


172 posts in 2146 days

05-22-2013 08:33 PM

I was lucky enough to find this old workbench for free on Craigslist. I know, I suck! Made by Christiansen, Chicago. Don’t know the timeframe but it looks like they stopped making benches around 1940.

Unfortunately, this has at least a couple old coats of paint on it. The front vise is in bad shape and the tail vise is missing. The owner had been using it in his shed just as a bench, then left it out in the rain at least one night before I rescued it. He said he was going to cut it up but thought it would be too much of a pain, thankfully!It’s been almost 2 weeks in my basement and I still haven’t been able to turn the front vise.

So, I’d like to take off the old paint and work on restoring this to it’s original glory. I bought some Citristrip but haven’t used it yet. Should I use the citristrip? Hand plane? Leave it alone? I know it could be worth some money to some people so I’m not sure what if restoring it is best. Should I worry about lead paint if I do strip the paint?

thanks ahead of time for any input!

35 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10373 posts in 3641 days

#1 posted 05-22-2013 08:39 PM

I would scrape the paint off with a card scraper. There’s
probably oil in the wood underneath inhibiting paint

Missing the tail vise obviously.

Interior designers like these benches for shabby
“farm” kitchens in grand houses and loft decor.

View chrisstef's profile


17377 posts in 3000 days

#2 posted 05-22-2013 08:51 PM

Ohh hell yea. You’ve gotta bring that bench back to its glory. Id agree with Loren on using the card scraper to remove the paint. It should come off pretty easily … I hope. I vote for a blog on this one.

As far as lead paint is concerned, there’s certainly a possibility of it. You could get one of those little paint tester kits at the big box store. In any case if it is lead make sure you wash your hands, clean up the chips, and keep it away from the kids and animals. A respirator wouldn’t hurt either. I wouldn’t vote for sanding it if indeed it is lead. You don’t wanna make too much dust and inhale it or send it all over creation.

I hope that you would use it once its all cleaned up but its yours and you can do whatever ya want with it ;)

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View richardwootton's profile


1699 posts in 1949 days

#3 posted 05-22-2013 09:05 PM

That’s awesome! I would love to find something like that…

-- Richard, Hot Springs, Ar -- Galoot In Training

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15341 posts in 2612 days

#4 posted 05-22-2013 09:10 PM

Joe, I agree this must be saved and a scraper is your first line of attack. Is it lead paint? Maybe. Are you gonna eat what you strip off? Hope not.

You’ve really got a nice piece there. Looks very similar to one I have, actually, but it has no name on it that can be found. I started with some planing, then got smart and did the hand scraper for a way better result.

I can take some pics of the tail vise of mine if you’re interested in rebuilding the one that was on your bench, just say the word. I’ll ‘watch’ this post to see which way(s) you decide to proceed. Good luck!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View helluvawreck's profile


31019 posts in 2860 days

#5 posted 05-22-2013 09:20 PM

You can get acme screws and nuts from McMaster Carr. You can also get cold rolled or even ground shafting there as well. Good luck.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Mauricio's profile


7144 posts in 3145 days

#6 posted 05-22-2013 09:38 PM

Free! Yes you suck. Would love to see the restoration. I’m sure the vise will turn once it dries out. Does that end cap have a threaded hole for the missing end vise?

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

View JoeRPhilly's profile


172 posts in 2146 days

#7 posted 05-22-2013 11:08 PM

Thanks everyone, card scraper it is. Yes, I definitely feel lucky on this one!

Chrisstef, you are right, I should use it once I get it back in shape. I guess you can’t have too many benches either right? I’m in the midst of building my own, and it’s nearly done, but I certainly couldn’t pass this up when I saw it for free. I’m sure I’ll do the “right” thing here and use it for its original purpose. I figured it would be perfect for a blog, I’ll try to do that as I go.

Smitty, I would love to see some pics of your tail vise. I did find some pics of what looks like the original setup, but it would help to have some additional photos/options. I know it will be a challenge for me, but I would like to rebuild the tail vise.

Helluva, thanks but I think I will go with all wooden screws

Mauricio, the end cap has half of what was a threaded hole. Unfortunately it is broken.

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2479 days

#8 posted 05-22-2013 11:57 PM

If you’re up for an even bigger challenge, perhaps convert the missing front corner portion into a wagon vise.

-- Brian Timmons -

View OnlyJustME's profile


1562 posts in 2370 days

#9 posted 05-23-2013 12:13 AM

Bravo for deciding to restore it. And if it does happen to be too many workbenches you could always pay it forward to a needy woodworker. wink wink ;) nudge nudge. LOL
Let’s see some more photos. Definitely Blog worthy.

-- In the end, when your life flashes before your eyes, will you like what you see?

View Mauricio's profile


7144 posts in 3145 days

#10 posted 05-23-2013 12:48 AM

Hmm, so is there enough end cap/nut left to attach a new wooden nut? The other option would be to cut off the end cap and bolt on a replacement. Or you could cut off the remaining nub and use some modern end vise hardware?

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

View chrisstef's profile


17377 posts in 3000 days

#11 posted 05-23-2013 06:16 PM

Man the SOB that cut the front corner of that bench …. if I ever got my hands on him …. lol

You’ve got quite the audience now Joe!

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View Don W's profile

Don W

18707 posts in 2561 days

#12 posted 05-23-2013 07:05 PM

I’ll follow along. Gonna love to see the old girl get back in shape.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Willeh's profile


228 posts in 2333 days

#13 posted 05-23-2013 11:52 PM

This was a pretty sweet find! Hope to see your progress!

-- Will, Ontario Canada. "I can do fast, cheap and good, but you can only pick two... "

View BBF's profile


143 posts in 1833 days

#14 posted 05-24-2013 12:46 AM

Sweet find. Do it proud.

-- I've never been disappointed buying quality but I have been disappointed buying good enough.

View JoeRPhilly's profile


172 posts in 2146 days

#15 posted 05-24-2013 05:39 PM

Adding some pics.

I have started scraping. Thanks for all the input!
I do have quite the audience now, I’ll have to work hard, should be fun

showing 1 through 15 of 35 replies

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