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While studying workbench designs I read a 2007 article by Chris Schwarz in Woodworking Magazine about the Holtzapffel workbench. He describes it roughly as an eclectic bench with French, German and English influences.

Although the article mentions a tool tray and tail vise, Schwarz proceeds to build a Holtzapffel bench without them. The result looks a lot like a Roubo to me, except with a twin screw instead of a leg vise.

This made me wonder what exactly makes a bench a Holtzapffel instead of a Roubo. Is it just the vise, or is there more to it?

Please appreciate that my question is out of theoretical interest and not from any practical need. I can build a fine bench without worrying about the historical origins of the design.

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The defining feature of this bench is the mixture of elements from three traditions. Mostly French and German + a few English additions.

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  • Top thick only where needed to support vises.
  • "Tree-trunk legs"
  • Legs flush with front of top.
  • Tool tray.
  • Drawer under top.
  • Massive twin screw face vise, 24" ( 610mm) between screws.
  • Traditional European tail vise.
  • A variety of planing stops [square holes]
  • Holdfasts [round holes]
  • Bolts used in some places.

Building the Holtzapffel

The Holtzapffel Workbench

Workbench Tour No. 5: The Holtzapffel Workbench

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  • Thanks for your answer. If you look at the pictures in the third link, what is the difference with a Roubo? I really don’t get it yet.
    – Rinke
    Nov 7 '21 at 7:31
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    Cris Schwarz built his bench inspired by Holtzapffel design, not faithful to the design. It is not just the features he left out. CS version is like modified Roubo, not modified Holtzapffel original! "To be honest, the vintage Ulmia workbench in our shop is actually closer in design to Charles Holtzapffel’s workbench design than this bench."
    – Volfram K
    Nov 8 '21 at 6:52
  • Thanks. So put simply, most pictures of Holtzapffels are not really Holtzapffels, but modified Roubos. Is that right? That would sure clear up much of my confusion.
    – Rinke
    Nov 9 '21 at 8:37

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