The Vasa workbench rebuilt

The almost finished workbench of the Vasa model are set up in our improvised workshop in Mariestad. Photo: Roald Renmælmo
The almost finished workbench of the Vasa model are set up in our improvised workshop in Mariestad. Photo: Roald Renmælmo

Vasa is a Swedish warship built 1626-1628. The ship sank after sailing about 1300 meters into her maiden voyage on 10. August 1628. The ship was salvaged in 1961 and its museum are today one of Swedens most popular tourist attractions. Among the extensive amount of relative well preserved artifacts are a Joiners workbench. Tomas and I have examined the original bench at the Vasa Museum and have had support from Fred Hocker and Evelyn Ansel at the museum. The bench is made of oak and some of the parts have been nailed with iron nails. Theese have corroded away during the 333 years on the seabed. There are traces after a bench hook close to the left front leg. There are also a lot of holes in the bench top and the legs. We have interpreted theese as holes for holdfasts. There are also a sliding deadman with holes of the same dimension. There are some traces after nails that would have fixed a crochet left of the left leg. A crochet have not been found yet.

There are some joiners tools from the wreck. Some of the interiour panels of the cabins where still unfinished when the ship sank. We think that the workbench is a Joiners bench and have been used by one or more Joiners making panels and doors for the ship. The bench are 3,3 meters long, 72,3 centimeters (28½») high and the benchtop 35,8 centimeters (14″) wide. We have made ours about 75 centimeters high after we have discussed how erosion might have made the original bench a bit lower. The average body length of the Joiners in 1628 would also have been slightly less than today. I have made a picture gallery of the last part of the work on our bench. Tomas has also made a similar bench that he has posted about. Click on the miniature pictures to display text and higher resolutions.

The workbench are going to be on display on «Bygningsvernkongressen» in Oslo in the beginning of September. Later we will use the bench and our workshop in Mariestad to do projects on historical joinery. I have some photos of details of the bench and I have made a small gallery of this.

We have done extensive research about this workbench and have posted our work on the blog. We have made categories about this: and: Most of the posts are written in Norwegian or Swedish, but a few posts are written in English. If you have any questions about the workbench from Vasa you are free to comment in English. We will try to ansver.

About Roald Renmælmo

Snikkar med fokus på handverkstradisjon og handverktøy. Universitetslektor og PhD stipendiat på NTNU i Trondheim. Eg underviser på tradisjonelt bygghandverk og teknisk bygningsvern og restaurering.

15 tankar på “The Vasa workbench rebuilt

  1. Roald & Tomas – very nice work; the bench looks great. Interesting that the stretchers are just rabbeted & nailed, not joined. Thanks for the English, too!

    1. Thank you Peter. So far we are satisfied with the bench. The long strecher are joined and pegged. It is just the short that are rabbeted and nailed.

      Regards Roald

  2. The bench looks great I will be interested to hear what you think of the sliding supports after you have used them for a while. The navar are interesting, are they intended for hardwoods? and was that a guard for one on the bench, blank with a hole in it? I was also intrigued, is the shed an earth building?

    1. Thank you Graeme. We might have to adjust the sliding support when we start to use it. I made it fit a bit tight so it does not slide as easy as it was supposed to. The navar is the most common auger in Norway and is used mostly on pine and birch. As I wrote we tested several different «navar» on the bench. Some of them where a bit too agressive and did not work that good on oak. On pine theese work well. The less agressive worked very good on oak. You can see a guard (navarhus, hus means house) on one of the pictures. When you order a «navar» from the smith they normally comes with a guard, navarhus.

      The «shed» are a small log house made by the students in Mariestad. Inside the logs are covered with clay, also done by the students.

      Regards Roald

  3. Very nice work, the bench looks awesome. Thanks for the detailed photos and also for the English post. Google Translate does an OK job with the Norwegian and Swedish posts but it seems to get confused by a lot of the woodworking terms.

  4. Excellent project. It’s amazing that the notion of raking the rear legs has been around for, at least, 400 years.

  5. Thank you for your comments Roger, Graham, Aymeric and Dennis. I think the workbench from Vasa should be interesting for woodworkers around the world. That is why I wrote in English. The original workbench are still the same at the museum, but I think I can «see» a lot more of the details and understand it better after making one with Tomas. It is a very special workbench with a history.

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