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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Saw Bench Update

I worked on the bench a little more last weekend and have already put it to work over the last few evenings for some small projects.  I have found it’s usefulness and it is a tool I know I won’t regret owning.

bench1

Front side.

A second till shelf has been added to store saws, bench hook, etc. and a few holdfast holes have been bored through.

bench2

The off-side.

I realize now I didn’t get any low angle shots.  I’ll take those when I get it oiled up a pretty.

bench3

View of the bottom till.

Sturdy and low-cost, this project allowed me an opportunity to employ some free-form joinery, use some rough-looking scraps and enjoy a bit of wabi-sabi* design.  It’s not perfect, but neither am I.

*Wabi-Sabi: an aesthetic based partly on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic of wabi-sabi can be described as a beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.”