Workbenches are multi-taskers, from holding stuff off the ground, to sheltering the pooch from harm during a thunderstorm outbreak. This Roman design turned out even better than expected. Just ask Emma.
Here are only three of the holding devices that can be used on the AD 79 bench, traditional and modernized, though all are useful if not essential. The middle metal one, a forged bent piece of cast iron, is know known as a holdfast. Strangely enough, this wall tile from the Roman city of Herculaneum, buried in ash by Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79, has a Roman version of the same holding implement, securing the board on the right.
Used in combination with a bench top dog (stop), as opposed to the dogs under the bench, the holding ability equals any modern set up. The Romans likely used wooden pegs, which can easily be made in any length or form. The modern version is the metal dog, and the little Veritas made dogs on my bench are called “surface dogs.” They will likely last longer even than this bench. Combine the old or modern dog with a modern version of a holdfast, a Sjobergs “hold down,” the one with the screw down mechanism, and your work isn’t going anywhere you don’t want it to.
Anyone wanting to know how to build this style of bench should buy Ingenious Mechanicks by Christopher Schwartz. It is better researched than many scholarly texts, without the mind numbing academic terminology. And it has pictures.
Speaking of academics, I once had a student who acted in Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor, while she was still in high school (she played one of the merry wives who dumped Falstaff in the river). She also enjoyed jokes about punctuation, pointing out that without the comma, “Let’s eat, Grandma,” becomes “Let’s eat Grandma.” True enough.
Something similar is true with “finito Mussolini,” in that a comma makes it “finito, Mussolini.” Little Mussolinis can be found in parts of congress, various state houses, and truck stops everywhere. They should be reminded of what happened to the real Mussolini, and the importance a comma can make.