Time for an update on that Oak watchmaker’s bench I found back in February.
I now understand why I don’t refinish furniture. By the time I get this thing done, I’m going to have 60-80 hours in it, just in sanding!
On the other hand, under the dark brown stain, it’s absolutely beautiful wood. Some of the details (such as the treadle powered lathe) tell me it was originally built around 1910. Give oak a century to season, and it turns out right pretty. That golden oak color that everybody tries to stain modern oak to? This thing really is that color! The only drawback is the new white oak tabletop: it’s modern oak, and there’s just nothing I can do about it. So I’m going to try to stain it to match, before I seal the whole thing. The good news about replacing the tabletop is that while the wood was too chewed up to stay as a tabletop, there were plenty of board-feet in it to let me make up all the repair parts I needed out of the old oak, so everything but the tabletop should be a solid color match.
The new tabletop was built up out of 2″ thick slabs of solid white oak, so it’s solid as a rock. Inlet for a hardened steel bench block, and with grooves for a pair of armrests. (I like European style jeweler’s benches with the deep cutout. No way that’s happening on *this* bench, so I did the next best thing.)
The picture shows it up on its new wheels (yes, it did have wheels originally. These new ones even roll.) with the new tabletop sitting in place, and the armrests extended. The big space underneath will be covered by new kick panels cut out of the old tabletop. (The new wheels are an inch and change taller than the old ones, but much better overall.) There’s a slot along the back of the tabletop where the rolltop drops through. The side supports for the rolltop aren’t back on yet.
The wide area in the left leg has a nice panel door to cover it. That’s originally where the flywheel for the treadle was. At some point, someone decided to junk the treadle rig, and took a saw to the left center leg to get the thing out. So another bit of the tabletop went to replace the hacked up leg. (Looking at where things are internally, it looks like the thing was built as a blank shell, with the top attached first, and then all the interior drawers and braces were built out. Weird, but there it is.) The fun part of that is that the top was attached with blind screws that you now must reach through the drawer banks to access. Getting them out (with straight head screws, naturally) was entertaining enough. Getting back in there to put the top back on? Challenging. So I cheated: went out and got some similar screws in square drive. Let’s hear it for better living through technology.
This whole project has been an adventure. I still haven’t figured out what I’m going to do with that big empty left leg. And the thing being a rolltop (while very cool) has complicated things massively. If it weren’t a rolltop, I’d just put my toolboxes and an acrobat stand for one of the microscopes on top, and that’d be that. Unfortunately, I can’t do that without crippling the rolltop. So, much pondering later, I’m still pondering.
Stay tuned for pictures once it’s all done. Probably this time next year, the way I’ve been going.
PS–>Many thanks to Lynne Todaro at Mission College for letting me stash it in the back room of the studio all summer. I’ve been working on it after teaching my Saturday jewelry class. Having a somewhere to work on it has made most of the progress you see possible.