Maker Project - Thinking through practice

Peter Howcroft / Furniture Maker + Woodworker


PORTABLE WORK-BENCH SEAT

Ash, Leather Apron, Collection of Utility Accessories


We inherited a similar chair frame, when I was little: it came with the new house. From my early childhood I was inspired to find a creative, practical use for it: I played with it lots of times, really inspiring. My parents used it for all kinds of DIY projects.

So, when the frame, again, came into my life, which was now filled with artistic woodwork, using hand tools and local timber, leather and cane it was quickly clear to me: This frame wants to be a mobile ‘unit’, practical, diverse and as beautiful as possible. To be able to use/double use furniture, here a chair, was always my delight. To create something with so much meaning, to be part of my day-to-day process, a friend for life, is fantastic.

A chair frame forms a bench, for cutting, sawing, measuring; a working bench forms a leather upholstered chair; to be able to wheel it away when not in use, while two sizes of storage boxes underneath allow possibilities for tools, screws, off cuts, biscuits and teabags. To sit/rest on beautiful, thick Ash, with a stabilising, comfortable cutting mat (as a back rest) in the pocket of the leather apron; to hide the mitre box when not in use... Endless varieties, and every single one necessary.

It all started with a mitre box. This is a guide for a handsaw to make proper, accurate cuts. I browsed a trade catalogue to see what the market has in ‘fresh’. I found a mitre box with clamps and bench stops: the size fitted EXACTLY between the back bars of the chair.

I mixed the ingredients and this created a cutting list for the Ash bench top. I had won a cash prize in 2008 (Best in show) which I spent on a day’s saw-milling at Wildwood, Cheshire. You get a lot of unseasoned timber for your money, and the joy of what a log reveals, the smell of real wood... The Ash I used came as a huge tree log: I had to cut it by using a heavy axe and wedges, breaking it down 3-4 times: a major process.

The mitre box has a straight option which is off centre - I wanted to use a saw, so I had to have a gap exactly at that space. This gave two boards with a different width, to be able to use a saw comfortably.

I wear a heavy leather apron for my woodwork, which hangs on a hook in my studio. I tried it on the back of the chair frame one day, with incredibly luxurious results: it fitted perfectly!!!

I felt that the bench chair should be more mobile, just like other items in my workshop. I wanted the wheels to be light, elegant, very reliable and able to carry weight. I thought it would be best modelling on a sack trolley. I connected them without interfering with the steel work, by cutting leather washers out of hard-wearing leather. How to position the wheels was quite an adventure: the exact angle to achieve was a playful pleasure.

I finished the wood for long-lasting life, environmentally friendly, child friendly, made in Germany.

The final praline: to stamp my name on a leather tag, cut it out and ENJOY!!!


Maker Photo Diary 

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Creating the Ash workbench

Hand cut, planed and finished Ash planks glued and clamped together with a gap to provide the work/saw bench that also supports five detachable underside storage trays. Bench secured to chair frame with off the shelf zinc plated saddles. Proportion of sectioned work surface perfectly accommodates two A4 cutting mats. Off the shelf mitre block sits securely into position using the gap for a seating when in use and clamps to the back edge of the bench, out of the way, when used as a chair.

Apron becomes upholstery

The leather apron drapes over the head rail of the chair with the neck strap positioned around the underside of the ash planks and waist straps tied around the vertical tubes of the upper frame. This simple arrangement forms a safe and secure upholstered back for the chair with both cutting mats stored snugly together in the front pocket providing increased lumbar support.


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