In a bit of Karmic payback for the quality of life in Brian-Land last week, (a root-canal was a minor highlight) I scored!
Lee mentioned to me that the guy in the next industrial bay over had “some old watchmaker’s bench he’s been trying to unload…” Turned out to be a Rosberg rolltop bench, in solid oak. Needless to say, I saw my way clear to help him by taking it off his hands. It’s probably at least 100 years old, as it originally had a treadle to power the watchmaker’s lathe. (Not with it, unfortunately.) Even funnier, there was a repair on one of the drawers that was being held together by a football ticket…from the Stanford/Cal game in November 1940.
It’s in desperate need of refinishing, but the rolltop is in great shape. At the moment, it shows every day of that hundred years, but when I get it cleaned up, it should look good. There are only two or three real questions.
(A) The rolltop is in great shape….so…do I take it apart, strip it, and restain it, then put it back together? Or do I refinish the rest of the bench to match it? It’s not exactly the color I’d prefer, given my druthers. (Of course, given my druthers, I’d rather the bench were in Maple, with linenfold panelwork, but I’m perfectly happy with solid oak, thank you very kindly, O ye gods of the scrounge.)
(B) somebody took a saw to the front edge of the bench, leaving it with a very odd curve sticking out. The original tabletop isn’t anything to write home (or a blog) about, being full of holes for lathes, drivebelts & etc. I need a thicker tabletop to support a GRS mount anyway, so I’m pondering replacing the tabletop with another one lammed up out of 2″ thick oak. No, it’s not original, but it’ll be nicer than the original one. Part of me thinks “that’ll destroy the antique value!” and part of me thinks “they’ll be selling this at my estate sale. Meanwhile, I want the best bench I can (re)build.”
(C) the left “leg” of the bench is one giant hollow cupboard. It originally held the flywheel for the treadle rig, but that’s long gone. So I’m pondering what to put in there. I’m sort of leaning towards some sort of pull-out vertical pegboard system for long tools. Anybody ever seen any interesting conversions for that space? Equally, the bottom of the right “leg” is another cupboard in the space that normally has two drawers. I’m trying to figure out what to do with that space too.
For fans of my (in)famous Frankenbench, no, I’m not abandoning him, even for a solid oak rolltop. The Frankenbench is still a better jeweler’s bench, but for some of the things I have planned for the next year, this bench will do a better job. (PR pictures for one. ) Frankenbench is a great working bench, but nobody’s ever accused it of being anything other than…errr…functional.
So the plan with the new bench is to use it for photos, waxwork & inspection. The sorts of things where I don’t need to be able to brace my shoulders the way I can with the Frankenbench. I do actually have an old Boley lathe that I sometimes use for waxwork…..maybe time to clean that off too…
I have one other question: many watchmker’s benches of this vintage have that blank “hole” to the right of where the bench pin would go if it were a jeweler’s bench. On some of the more recent ones, there’s a small drawer there, but on the old ones (like this) it’s very clearly not a drawer hole. (It has a wood back panel at about 4″ deep, and a piece of half round moulding across the bottom front, for example.) Anybody have a clue what that was for?
Some weeks, your karma more-or-less evens out.