A Workbench from Pompeii

Daedalus and Pasiphae discussing the pantomime cow. Wall mural from Pompeii, 1st century A.D.

The art and artifacts from Pompeii have been much on my mind since the major new excavations have been published the past couple years.  I was looking at this wall mural and noticed the very Roman workbench in the lower left, complete with bench dogs while the young carpenter whacks away with hammer and chisel.

Detail from Daedalus and Pasiphae.

At his feet lies his bow drill and what may be a small adze of some sort.  I have no idea what he’s working on here but it might be germane to the larger legend of Queen Pasiphae of Greek myth (here meeting with Daedalus the artificer who is constructing special hobby cow for her to ride in for special activities).

Of course, I wish there were more details of the carpenter but this looks very much like one of my benches or one of a million others built since Pompeii was buried; a heavy plank, four friction-fitted legs, and placed at a comfortable sitting height.  Standing all day is for suckers.

If you don’t know this story it is a Roman interpretation of a Greek literal interpretation of a Minoan myth about the daughter of the Sun and Ocean who became queen of Minos and did some very weird things.  I suggest you look for it elsewhere in order to keep this page PG-13.

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More on the Dovetail Theme

dovetailGraham Haydon of the Joiner’s Workbench shows a fun experiment while showing off his new dovetail saw from Skelton Saws.  Graham joins a couple 1 x 6’s in three minutes and does a pretty good job of it.  This is what I imagine some apprentice doing back in the pre-industrial era when he’s showing off his newly mastered skills to the master or a shop rival.  There is no real point for the speed other than to demonstrate how little time and effort is really necessary to form a traditional wood joint.  This is definitely upping my interest in perfecting traditional joinery.

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