There are some things so ubiquitous to the woodworker that you feel almost ashamed to admit to not owning one. A Record vice is one, for instance. We must be one of the few domiciles in the whole of the UK that doesn't have one somewhere around the place. At least that's what it feels like. Or a Stanley knife; that's a pretty standard one (and yes, we have "a few" examples of those). One that's been exercising me in recent months is the Black & Decker Workmate (TM). Okay, so we have one of those Chiwanese knock-offs that cost a tenner and has all the clamping ability of wet lettuce, but that doesn't count. It's to a proper Workmate (TM) what a Record SP4 is to a Konrad Sauer infill...
The Old Tools List didn't help matters any. Towards the back end of last year the Galoots got all excitable about old Workmutts and how the modern things couldn't hold a candle to them, even going so far as to mutter about type studies! Aluminium H-frame castings were king and anyone without one was virtually persona non grata. Call me a sheep if you must, but I'm easily influenced.
It was shortly after that that I started to notice the Workmutt in the front drive of the neighbour's opposite. From a distance it appears to have the desirable aluminium cast H-frames - as opposed to the less desirable stamped sheet metal ones. This poor Workhorse was being left out in all weathers in between duties as something to hold the firewood while a chainsaw was wielded dangerously close to those venerable castings. The fact that said neighbour is seldom there, and a total barsteward to boot, racked up the temptation stakes a notch or two.
But my mother didn't raise no amoral chill'un, nosir, so I resited. Coverted from afar, I admit, but still resisted.
This morning was coldish, but sunny. All together now - excellent car boot weather... Once again the parrots proved the perfect excu-, er, reason for venturing out (I found the desirable toy in the end, btw. I bought three!), this time in the guise of a half price offer on a parrot cage. Bertie's busy chewing his way through the plating on his current cage, and it's not good for him to ingest it, so something needs to be done (even though we'll have terrible trouble introducing him to a new "home", the bullet must me bitten). Anyway the cage was no good, but the place with the offer was admirably close to Pool Market and its Saturday/Sunday car boot sale. Mwahahahahaahahaaaa...
I cast my gaze about the place like an accomplished fly fisherman hoping to hook a salmon on the the Tay - and saw it.
Give me some credit for restraint. I went all round the rest of the market, including looking at another cage, before I came back to look more seriously.
I tentatively tried the clamping mechanism. Mmmmmm, smooooooooth. Smoother than the piece-o-junk-for-a-tenner one certainly. The plywood top a bit the worse for wear, hardly surprisingly, but emminently usable. £15 price tag. Well think of the price of a new, inferior, one - 70-80 quid? I was tempted. The seller sensed a sale and sashayed over. Give him his due; he didn't do the "looking to buy it for your bloke, love?" angle and was eagerness itself to haul it out and show me everything worked. And it did too, but something was, well, odd about it... Oh what the hell. I bought it. I must still be under the weather; I didn't haggle. I lugged it back to the car. Slowly. Stopping frequently.
It's bloody heavy.
If I could have remembered his name I'd have cursed Ron Hickman and his so-called "portable" bench every foot of the way... As it was it just about fitted in the back of the Jazz okay (useless little car that it is) and it was born home in triumph. Or rather in Honda... (ho ho).
When I got it home and turned to The Workbench Book and the 'net for guidance, the penny dropped. I realised why it was different, and why it's so darn heavy. No H-frames here, chum; cast aluminium or pressed steel. This beauty has welded on steel tube where the H-frames should be! The dog holes are also metal lined, which I'm not sure is normal, is it? For a fleeting moment I wondered if I'd bought a patsy - a reworked model with steel tube welded on afterwards to replace broken H-frames. But I don't think so.
T'was but the work of a moment to find the model number, but I Googled and came up empty-handed. It's obviously dual height, so a Mark II, and it's clearly a Black & Decker and not some wannabe. What was a Type XA? A heavy-duty model? I don't have a clue. But trust me to want to be one of the crowd and end up with an atypical example...