Cobbler’s Workbenches

7000910_1_lI have come across these little benches for quite some time and I find them fascinating. I even started a folder in my image library for them.  A quick search around the web finds many of these in auction houses, on Ebay, Craigslist, and elsewhere, generally at exorbitant prices.  It appears they generally end their long lives as side-tables in a middle class home, assisting in the creation of nothing; just a curiosity to a collector. cobblers-benchThey really are remarkable and interesting professional tools; clearly bespoke to the needs and means of the craftsman who used them.  You can almost see their ancestry written upon them; a Roman or Medieval bench with simple splayed legs, a cutaway for seat, a little rail to keep tools from rolling away.  Later some small tills might be created to segregate nails and needles, and knife slots added so that they might be handy but safe.Genuine-Cushman-Colonial-Creations-Cobblers-Bench-Coffee-Table-245-Dealer-5534Really, a simple slab of wood, but as “needs must” it becomes a little workshop, self-contained.

Drawers or cubbyholes became a natural addition to the workspace as the bench replaces tool caddies.  Some can be locked up for safe-keeping and fancy builders made more comfortable seats.

shakercobbler2The essential layout seems to always be the same.  We are, after all, given the same basic human shape and the need is the same.  Organization, convenience, and a solid place to work.cobblerI can see this type bench being useful for other crafts as well but it would definitely end up modified over time to suit the specifics.CBENCHEven the above humble specimen has found a home, holding more collected crafts.  Slowly dying as a curio for some of us to ponder as a useful holdover from an era when we made for ourselves.CLbenchThe designs seem varied as the places they originate and the ingenuity of the makers.  Cordwainers, cobblers, leather bag makers, can all find the beauty in this design.primitivecobblerMany a zapatero could still find great assistance with a shop setup like this.earlycobblerI could make great use of this as an itinerant craftsman.  And maybe I shall someday.
shakercobbler
Perhaps, by looking into the past, we are seeing a better, simpler future

Cobbler at work, no citation, no date. Click for "source".

Cobbler at work, no citation, no date. Click for “source”.

“Round and ’round the cobbler’s bench, the monkey chased the weasel…”

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About George Crawford

archaeologist, archer, primitive technologist, and wannabee musician ... mostly
This entry was posted in cobbler, cordwainer, shoemaking and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Cobbler’s Workbenches

  1. gman3555 says:

    I’ve always been drawn to these type benches too. I do a lot of knot tying and I keep toying with the idea of building one for that purpose. You can’t help but look at one and imagine some self-sufficient sole toiling away creating or repairing some thing or another. It does hurt a little when I see them used as decoration with no regard for their original purpose.

    Greg

  2. They ARE great benches! Great designs…emphasizing organization! Love the cobbler photo, too!
    How are you doing today?!
    Beautiful day here…inside and out! 🙂
    HUGS!!! 🙂

  3. pjsandchocolate says:

    I WANT that bench!

  4. Jane Shoemaker says:

    I have a be4autiful 19th century cobbler’s bench complete with a set of drawers, the original leather seat and some tools. My name is Shoemaker, and I have had it for decades. I would love to give it to a museum or sell it, but shipping (from Charlotte, NC) would be a bear. Any thoughts? I have great photos but don’t know how to post them here.

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