A new skottbenk for the Aslak Lie project at Folklore Village in Wisconsin

Nels Diller in Mt Horeb, Wisconsin, USA with his new self made skottbenk based on an old original bench found in Amana, Iowa, USA.

In 2017 some members of Norsk Skottbenk Union made a trip to Minesota, Wisconsin and Iowa in USA to do some research on traditional workbenches for jointing long boards in theese areas, and to meet fellow woodworkers. We had some knowledge about the Aslak Olsen Lie house project in Wisconsin and made a visit to the building site at Folklore Village. Luckily the carpenter Nels Diller where working on the site the day we came and he informed us about the work and showed us the original materials from the house built by Aslak Olsen Lie in 1848-49. We studied the floor boards from the original house and discussed if the boards had been made on a skottbenk. Inspired by this Nels have now made his own skottbenk based on the original old skottbenk we found in Amana, Iowa on our trip in 2017.

Nels Diller are a retired carpenter based in Mt Horeb, Wisconsin USA. He have studied with Ottar Romtveit in the summers of 2005 and 2006 at Raulandsakademiet in Telemark, Norway. He studied Norwegian log building (lafting) and Norwegian timber framing (stavkonstruksjon). They built a replica of the famous loft at Torvertjønn during the course. Nels built a scaled down model in 2012 at Mt Horeb, Wisconsin, USA. They call it a «stabbur» there.

Our member Jon Dahlmo are admiering the «stabbur» model built by Nels Diller in Mt Horeb, Wisconsin in 2012. Photo: Roald Renmælmo

Nels are presently working with Folklore Village, a traditional organization, near Dodgeville, Wisconsin. They are restoring the 1850 home of the Norwegian immigrant, Aslak Olsen Lie. The project is founded by individual contributions and volunteer labor, including the work done by Nels. They have a summer program for paid interns to work on the restoration/rebuilding. You can learn more at www.folklorevillage.org where you click on the Aslak Lie Home.

Aslak Olsen Lie, nr 2 from the right, and his family in front of his home in Wisconsin in 1874. Pay special attention to the typical «Norwegian» windows in the log built part of the house. The upper part has got the more typical american type of sash windows. Photo: Andrew Dahl, 1874

The skottbenk are built from the plans of the original skottbenk found in Amana, Iowa in anticipation of making flooring, window sash, doors and other millwork. If they are able to set up a working shop in the second floor of the building, the skottbenk will become a permanent fixture there. They hope to reproduce the cabinet work of Aslak Olsen Lie within the shop using traditional tools and techniques. There are many existing pieces of Lie´s work in the area.

This cabinet are attributed to Aslak Olsen Lie and we could do some research in the joinery details. Thor-Aage are taking photoes in the collection of furniture at Westerheim i Decorah, Iowa. Photo: Roald Renmælmo

We in the Union concratulate Nels at Folklore Village as the first official member of Norsk Skottbenk Union in USA. Now we hope many more will come in the years to come. The skottbenk made by Nels are made to be dismanteled for transportation and can also have longer jointing boards for jointing longer pieces. The bench has many very nice and clever details and will serve its owner for many years to come.

The base of the bench are made of oak and all joints are mortise and tenon joints without glue. There is a removable ⅝» black ocide threaded rod with wing nut that holds the base together. Photo: Nels Diller
The Threaded wood rod are made with a antique tap and die set, 1 ½» I.D., 1 13/16″ O.D. threads. Photo: Nels Diller
The clamp boards / jointing boards are held in place with removable ¼ -20×2 hex flat head cap screws and threaded inserts. Photo: Nels Diller
Everything breaks down easy for travel or storage. It is also easy to add longer clamp boards / jointing boards for longer work. Photo: Nels Diller

The «Skottbenk» from Amana, Iowa in measures

The original local Skottbenk at our stand at Handworks 2017

A group of dedicated members of Norsk Skottbenk Union made a trip to USA to see the Skottbenk that Jameel Abraham at Benchcrafted found in Amana, Iowa. Our trip where at the same time as Jameel and his family arranged Handworks 2017, a hand tool and toolmaking event. Handworks is a gathering of like-minded hand tool makers for the beuty of hand woodworking and the tools that go along with it. Traditional Workbenches are a important aspect of this. An important task on our trip was to take measures and documentations of the original Skottbenk found in Amana. Ivar Jørstad have posted in Norwegian about this. You will find all the measures in his post, but for English readers it could be a problem to read his Norwegian. I post the same drawings with English text here in this posting.

A measured photo of the Amana Skottbenk. All meshures are in Inches.

The height are among the higher benches compared to what I know from Norway. The long boards are very short compared to most known benches of this type. It might have been used in Amana Furniture Shop. For jointing parts for furniture or indoor paneling the length would be sufficent. That could indicate the use of this kind of bench in furniture making?

Meashured drawing of the Amana Skottbenk. Drawing by Ivar Jørstad. All measures are in Inches.

All parts of the trestles are made of oak. The two long boards are made of softwood and looks like white pine or something similar. I do hope that this could inspire woodworkers in USA to make their own Skottbenk based on this old original bench in Amana.

About the Norsk Skottbenk Union trip to USA

Our stand at Handworks 2017 in Amana, Iowa.

We are back in Norway after almost two weeks touring Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa in USA. For most of us it was our first trip to USA and it was a very nice experience for all of us. We have met a lot of skilled craftsmen and made many new friends on our journey. The first four days we spent in Grand Marais, a small city on the northern shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. There we met Trond Oalann that had a class making a Norwegian kind of timberframing, «stavline» at North House Folk School. On our stay here we had some demonstration of planemaking, splitting and hewing logs and forging plane irons and chisels. Peter Henrikson at North House let us have some pices of white pine so we could start to make a new Skottbenk for our demonstration at Handworks 2017. We did also assist Trond and did some work with his students.

After our stay in Grand Marais we drove down to Folklore Village near Dodgeville in Wisconsin. I had read about Aslak Olsen Lie (1798-1886), a woodworker from Reinli in Valdres in Norway who moved to Wisconsin with his family in 1848. Here he built his new home in 1848-49 and this house is now under restauration by Nels Diller who works for Folklore Village. We got to meet the director Terri Van Orman and the carpenter Nels Diller and could see a lot of original materials and logs from when Aslak built his home more that 160 years ago. Some of the preserved floor boards seems to have been made on a skottbenk, but we could not find a bench in that area. You can read about Aslak Olsen Lie in the very interesting book: Snikkaren Aslak Olsen Lie : bygdekunstnar i Valdres og Wisconsin. It might be available only for Norwegian readers?

We left Folklore Village and drove to Vesterheim in Decorah, Iowa. We arrived in the evening 16th May and could participate in 17th May celebration in Decorah the next day. It was still time to make a visit to the museum collection at Vesterheim. Darlene Fossum-Martin from Vesterheim guided us through the very interesting collection of tools and workbenches in the Painter-Bernatz Mill and the building in the Open Air Division. We even got to se some of the furniture collection where they had a cabinet attributed to Aslak Olsen Lie.

After our stay in Decorah we drove to Amana where Handworks 2017 where arranged. This was the main reason for us to go to USA in the first place. It was caused by a tip from Jameel Abraham at Benchcrafted who had found an old original Skottbenk in Amana. At Handworks we found a lot of hand tool enthusiasts from all over USA, Canada, UK, Australia and Norway. It was great to meet all the nice people we only had seen on various blogs and instagram. We went straight down to Amana Woolen Mill and found the old local Skottbenk. Then we finished the new Skottbenk we had started to make in Grand Marais.

It was a lot of things to see and do at Handworks and you might get an impression on Instagram #handworks2017. I recomend the YouTube video of the presentation Roy Underhill had on saturday at Handworks.

The first ever official skottbenk expedition to USA

Norsk Skottbenk Union will have a stand at Handworks in Amana.

This week 6 members of Norsk Skottbenk Union are going to Iowa and Minesota in USA to meet up with American handtool enthusiasts. We are also going to do some research for old workbenches similar to our Scandinavian Skottbenk. We are familiar with an interesting workbench in Amana in Iowa. We are going to make a visit to see this bench for ourselves and also have our own stand at Handworks 2017 to show how the Skottbenk works. At Handworks we will meet workbench enthusiasts from around the world. The maker of the official apron for Norsk Skottbenk Union, Jason Thigpen at Texas Heritage will also be there.

About Norsk Skottbenk Union

Norsk Skottbenk Union are a group of craftsmen with a special interest in traditional workbenches and tools. We are focused on the use of the workbenches and tools and strive to get other craftsmen interested in theese matters. We belive the Norwegian woodworking tradition are important to keep alive. By making traditional workbenches, making new tool in a local tradition and use them in restauration work and other kind of woodworking we belive we can make a difference. Our tools and workbenches are based on extensive research of old tools, workbenches and historical records. We have also done some work with older master craftsmen to get to some of the intangible knowledge in their craft. Some of the results of this work are posted on this blog. We write in Norwegian for our Norwegian readers because we believe it is important that we use the language that is connected to the traditions in our craft. For you English language readers we have a category for English blog posts.

Our trip

We will start our trip 10. May and go to North House Folk School where we will stay to the 13. May. From there we will start our journey to Amana where we plan to come the 17. or 18. May. We might make some stops along our route from North House to Amana so we are glad for suggestions from you. Theese members from Norsk Skottbenk Union will go to USA and are possible to meet at Handworks 2017:

Jon Dahlmo. Blacksmith that have specialized in making woodworking tools for carpenters and joiners. For members he is a great source for plane irons, chisels and all kinds of special tools for woodworking. He run his own company Verktøysmia in Drevja. Photo: Roald Renmælmo

Thor-Aage K. Heiberg. Joiner and Organbuilder. Trained in joinery both plugged and unplugged. Early member of Norsk Skottbenk Union. Enjoys the smell, sound and keen hand of traditional pre-industrial joinery and building conservation. Interested in toolmaking, and traditional woodworking handtools. Studied Technical building conservation and restoration work at NTNU and finished my bachelor degree in 2016, subject: The Sash window plane and Miter iron. Rediscovering a traditional 19th century sash window manufacturing process in Melhus and Meldal. Work as a woodworker and head of building conservations at Sverresborg Open-Air museum in Trondheim.

Ivar Jørstad. Master Carpenter with a special interest in traditional carpenters tools. He is studying at a bachelor programme in traditional building crafts at NTNU university in Trondheim. He work as a restoring carpenter at Buskerud bygningsvernsenter.

Siv K. Holmin. Have been working as a restauration carpenter, restoring traditional buildings for about 20 years. Focused on traditional working methods with traditional handtools. Have also done some intervjus/foto/filming documentation of working methods with elder people to understand and learn the handcraft. Teach woodworking and restoring. Traditional logging, pitsawing, splitting wood and hewing materials, making floorboard and dealboard with handplane in «skottbenk» and thatching traditional grassroofs with birchbark.

Peter Brennvik. Have worked many years with ship preservation, boatbuilding. Interested in woodworking tools, planemaking, høvelbenk and skottbenk. Are now working on a bachelor degree in traditional building craft at NTNU.  INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/37o9/

Roald Renmælmo
One of the founders of Norsk Skottbenk Union and active user of skottbenk and traditional handplanes. Have worked many years as a woodworker and restauration carpenter in Norway. My special interests and competencies are joinery, logbuilding, traditional logging, toolmaking and traditional woodworking handtools. Are working on a PhD in historic joinery at NTNU and Göteborg University. Teach as Assistant Professor in traditional building craft at NTNU in Trondheim. http://www.ntnu.edu/employees/roald.renmalmo

Breaking news, Skottbenk found in Amana, Iowa, USA

I must admit that I have been waiting for this day for some time now. The day when I can give you American readers a photo of a naitive «skottbenk» from USA. A few days ago I got a tip from one of my followers on Instagram, @iasjmobler, about a picture of an interesting workbench posted by @benchcrafted. One of our followers from USA, Jason Thigpen, where the first to comment that this bench is a skottbenk. Benchcrafted is a maker of workbenches and hardware and Jason are owner of Texas Heritage woodworks, the official maker of the shop aprons with the logo of Norsk Skottbenk Union. There are a few pictures on Instagram that are tagged as Skottbenk.

Skjermbilde 2016-05-14 09.05.36
The «Skottbenk» on the Amana Woolen Mill in Amana, Iowa. It was originaly used in the nearby Amana Furniture Shop. Now it is used in the shop of Amana Wollen Mill as a display. Photo: Benchcrafted

I am conviced that this is an old Skottbenk that where used in Amana. The bench are very similar to several Norwegian benches we have seen on this blog before. The pattern of the long boards and the vices are similar to the one that Lars Velsand have made, to the bench from Bredalslien and the bench from Bortistu Storlidalen. It is not very different from the Danish bench that Lost Art Press have blogged about. The bench could easily fit in the Norwegian tradition, but could also be related to the Danish or the German tradition. Amana is an old colony of seven villages in Iowa County. The villages were built and settled by German Pietists, who were persecuted in their homeland by the German state government and the Lutheran Church. They moved to Iowa in 1856 and lived a communal life til mid-1930s. For eighty years, the Amana Colony maintained an almost completely self-sufficient local economy, importing very little from the industrializing American economy. The Amanians were able to achieve this independence and lifestyle by adhering to the specialized crafting and farming occupations that they had brought with them from Europe. Craftsmen passed their skills and techniques on from one generation to the next. They used hand, horse, wind, and water power, and made their own furniture, clothes, and other goods.

In this setting the Skottbenk have made it possible to joint long boards with handtools in an efficent way. There could be more interesting stuff in this area? Some of our followers from USA might go there and search for old handplanes that could be connected to use on this bench? I would also like to get some more pictures and also som measurments of this American skottbenk. I would be very happy to get some more information about this bench, and even other similar benches in USA or other parts of the world.

In case you have missed it, we have posted in English before about how to use this kind of benches. In that post we also have some information about how to make your own Skottbenk. There is also a web adress to a Google SketchUp drawing of a skottbenk from Målselv made by James Groover. I have also posted (in Norwegian) about some American patents of some specialized types of Skottbenk.

The international launch of the Skottbenk

This is a typical situation with a "skottbenk" used with at "skottokse" (the handplane) for shooting the edgde of a long board. Photo: Roald Renmælmo
This is a typical situation with a «skottbenk» used with at «skottokse» (the handplane) for shooting the edgde of a long board. Photo: Roald Renmælmo

When I started this blog I wanted to get some focus on a type of workbench that where almost forgotten in Norway. I wanted to engage other craftsmen in Norway to search for old workbenches and to make their own and start to use them. I did not believe that this would gain interest among woodworkers in other parts of the world. About a year ago Dennis Laney wrote a post about the skottbenk on his blog: If you don’t know your hyvelbenk from a skottbenk – you should. It is not easy to explain the use of the bench and to translate Norwegian terms to English. Dennis wrote a new entry on his blog to explain how this skottbenk works: Skottbenk equals sticking board – Big sticking board. He has also made a later post: Murphy’s law, spring joints and skottbenks.

I have made a small Youtube video to show how I use the skottbenk to make floor boards with tongue and groove. It has some Norwegian text to explain the details but you will get the idea. I have also made a post in Norwegian that explains how to use and maintain the skottbenk. I have also an earlier entry in English on the blog: Jointing bench or shooting bench as English translation of skottbenk?

Some weeks ago I got an e-mail from James Groover, an American that where interested in the skottbenk and wanted to make a 3D model of one in Google SketchUp to help people to make their own skottbenk. We have been working on this model for some time and had some problems with the conversion from metric to inches and even from the Norwegian «tomme», a slightly longer inch. After some e-mails to solve theese problems, James has come up with a 3D model of a skottbenk. That might be the first in history? The model are based on the skottbenk I use in the YouTube video, that again are based on an original from Kverndal in Målselv. James has made his 3D model available for you all from 3D warehouse. You can download the file and use Google SketchUp to wiev the model in 3D.

Screenshot of the 3D model of the Skottbenk made by James Groover.
Screenshot of the 3D model of the Skottbenk made by James Groover.

I do hope that this will help you to make your own skottbenk even if you cant read Norwegian. There should be possible to find similar workbenches as the skottbenk in other parts of the world. Leonardo da Vinci did make a drawing of a skottbenk and I have found several American patents on workbenches that works like a skottbenk. That would indicate that it should be possible to discover a skottbenk outside of Norway. Thank you Dennis and James to help me to introduce the skottbenk in your part of the world.

Adress to the 3D model made by James Groover:


Jointing bench or shooting bench as English translation of skottbenk?

This is a typical situation with a "skottbenk" used with at "skottokse" (the handplane) for shooting the edgde of a long board. Photo: Roald Renmælmo
This is a typical situation with a «skottbenk» used with at «skottokse» (the handplane) for shooting the edgde of a long board. Theese workbenches have been very common in Norway. There is also a system of special handplanes that are used with theese benches. To the left in the picture you can see a long bench that are used when you work the flat side of the boards. Photo: Roald Renmælmo

As a blogger I want to know my readers and get some feedback from them. Our readers have mostly been norwegian, swedish and danish as they understand the Norwegian language. The last few days there have been an encreasing number of readers from USA, Belgium, Canada, UK, Portugal and Germany. This might be coused by a post on the blog, A Woodworker`s Musings that led the readers to both this blog and a related blog, Høvelbenk. There was also some traffic from a internet forum for workbench questions. For us it is very interesting to know if there are similar workbenches as the «Skottbenk» in other countries. Please comment on this post if you have any information.

The Norwegian word «skottbenk» could translate to shooting bench as it works a similar way as a shooting board or a sticking board. It is used for jointing and squaring boards and planks, usually long boards. There are some patents of such benches at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, some of them are presented in an earlier post. One of theese benches are called a Joiners bench «with improvement for Jointing and Squaring boards and lumber».  We could also translate «skottbenk» to «jointing bench». There are also other terms in Norwegian to describe theese benches. The word «rettbenk» could translate to «straight bench». The word «strykebenk» are both used to describe a «skottbenk» but are also the name for the coopers long jointing plane.

The «skottbenk» are used to hold the board when you work the edge with some special handplanes with depth stops (named «meie» that means skid) on both sides. The top of the long straight bords on the «skottbenk» works as guides for theese depth stops. There are planes just for jointing and are named «skottokse», and there are plows for flooring or panels. I have seen this system of work in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. The patented bences from USA indicate that something similar are known there to? There is also a drawing made by Leonardo da Vinci that shows a similar workbench. The last one is so complicated that it has been called a «planing machine», but it works a similar way as a «skottbenk».  If you know something about similar benches in other countries, please comment on this post.

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