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  1. #1
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    Default Vintage Italian Workbench

    Spotted today in a Refugio or mountain cafe in the Dolomites, Italy hand screws still run smooth, bit large for luggage allowance,Ross
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  3. #2
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    I'm pretty sure I have a photo of that bench.
    My dad is from the Dolomites and I've been to see rellies there more than a dozen times.
    Really good food at the cafe from what I remember.

  4. #3
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    Default Same bench inDolomites

    Couple more photos
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  5. #4
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    Beautiful piece of craftsmanship.


    Quote Originally Posted by BobL View Post
    I'm pretty sure I have a photo of that bench.
    My dad is from the Dolomites and I've been to see rellies there more than a dozen times.
    Really good food at the cafe from what I remember.
    Bob, please correct me if my understanding of the history of the Dolomites/South Tyrol is wrong, but if that workbench was made before 1919, and it certainly looks older than that, should not the heading of this thread be Vintage Austrian Work Bench?

  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by GraemeCook View Post
    Beautiful piece of craftsmanship.


    Bob, please correct me if my understanding of the history of the Dolomites/South Tyrol is wrong, but if that workbench was made before 1919, and it certainly looks older than that, should not the heading of this thread be Vintage Austrian Work Bench?
    It depends where/when it was in the Dolomites. A south eastern portion of the Dolomites, known as the Venetian Dolomites, was part of Italy from the Unification (1859) and not under the Austro Hungarian empire.
    Prior to 1797 when Napoleon arrived on the European scene the Republic of Venice held most of the Dolomites under the state of Veneto.
    Here is an old map showing the extent of the Venetian Republic across Europe.
    Screen Shot 2022-01-27 at 5.39.55 am.jpg

    Dad's village was about 3km north of the pre 1919 Italian-Austrian Border hence my grand parents on that side were both born as Austrian citizens. The old (dilapidated) pre-1919 Border crossing buildings and customs house is still there by the side of the road and we pass by them every time we visit family.

    Although my grandparents were Austrian citizens and for centuries didn't have more than a donkey track connection to Italy (first two wheeled track was 1895?) they still had strong cultural and traditional ties to the Italians and spoke primarily an Italian type (trentino) dialect. They were taught in German at school and were set to WWI as Austrians. My grandad and 3 great uncles were sent to the Russian front because the Austrians though they could not be trusted to fight the Itaiians. Only my grandfather came back from Russia.

    Dads Village looking towards the Palle di San Martino (300 million year old coral reefs) altitude ~3200m
    Primierox.jpg
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  7. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobL View Post
    Dad's village was about 3km north of the pre 1919 Italian-Austrian Border....My grandad and 3 great uncles were sent to the Russian front because the Austrians though they could not be trusted to fight the Itaiians. Only my grandfather came back from Russia.
    Wow Bob, this is utterly spectacular! My grandfather was from Sudetenland (now in the Czech Republic), and he too unfortunately was sent to the Russian Front- horrible times. After returning, he and his wife had my father in the South of Germany (in a displaced person's camp), and growing up as my dad lived in a men's hostel from 13 onwards. He travelled extensively through the alpine area as a lot of the family lived in South Tirol, and back then as a young man in the 1960s with a pushbike, what better thing to do than explore the mountains, villages and forests! He always and still does speak of how the Dolomites took his breath away and how he would see young rock climbers drinking beer/wine and eating cold meats and bread on picture perfect grassy pastures under the shadows of these rock formations and how it was just like being in heaven.

  8. #7
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    When I first visited the Dolomites in 1987 I was blown away by their natural beauty and could not understand why my father left in 1952. Dad would not talk about why he lef, but over time my Uncles and Aunts and later mum described the sheer poverty and hunger in the 1930's and Dads horrific WW2 experiences that contributed to this. When he landed in Fremantle he found the nearest rubbish bin and burnt his military papers and Italian passport and vowed to never go back. He did go back 25 years later and found his relatives all living in relative comfort surrounded by all that natural beauty and I think he may have had some regrets. But he quickly started arguing with his relatives and left again in a huge huff. He went back twice more but only so mum could visit her relatives and they only went to see Dad's relatives (who I find delightful) for a short time.

    Dad only never spoke to us in heavily accented Italo/Aussie english he learned from his workmates at the sawmill and in the bush in the southwest of WA. Mum spoke Veneto (Venetian dialect) which is really my mother tongue and can still speak it today.

    I still have heaps of relatives in Italy (Dad was one of 11 and mum had 8 siblings) so we have heaps (too many) relatives we can stay with if we visit. I have been 13 times (and have 10's of thousands of Photos) but am not that fussed about going again - well maybe when this Covid thing dies down a bit. A number of my cousins are into winter mountain climbing, they're basically climbing on ice, because they can get to places that is harder to do in summer. Seeing video of this makes my skin crawl.

  9. #8
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    Default Vintage workbench in Dolomites

    Another bench and tools on display in Campitello in the Val di Fassa were i am now and have visited 5 times for the fantastic skiing but as i am a hobbyist woodworker at home i can observe the amazing craftmanship and engineering everyday. As Bob L has commented the history and breathtaking mountain scenery amazes and the whole area is world heritage listed. The first WW was bitterly fought for years in the mountains . To keep it on track the bench and tools are dated 1910 , thanks Ross
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  10. #9
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    Default Sorry pictures anywhere but right side up

    Tiny iphone screen ,hotel wifi , sorry

  11. #10
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    Val Di Fassa. in the middle of the Dolomites, is truly magical place. Dads village is in the southernmost valley (Primero).

    In contrast to the old workbench 2 of my Italian cousins own/operate an automated milling and joinery factory
    Look here Automated milling and joinery for more photos and details.

  12. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodsurfer View Post
    Sorry pictures anywhere but right side up

    Tiny iphone screen ,hotel wifi , sorry
    There is a simple explanation; one must remember to compensate.

    Globe.jpg

  13. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobL View Post
    ... Prior to 1797 when Napoleon arrived on the European scene the Republic of Venice held most of the Dolomites under the state of Veneto. Here is an old map showing the extent of the Venetian Republic across Europe.

    Screen Shot 2022-01-27 at 5.39.55 am.jpg
    Fascinating: compare to a modern map of same area - essentially only Switzerland is "largely" unchanged.

    Map Europe.jpg

  14. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodsurfer View Post
    Tiny iphone screen ,hotel wifi , sorry
    Great little bench that first one .
    The dovetails in the drawers are funny . Technically the wrong way around. loose glue and you'd pull a drawer front off.
    Their possibly nailed as well?
    Edit.
    None to be seen there .
    4513CCD9-F9C2-401B-BC67-FF9D3A21743B - Copy (2)a.jpg


    Puts an interesting twist on a piece seeing that . Did they do it that way, or is it a young guy eager to get his bench done and get on with making a living at his new trade ? I'd think its a young guy and the older Italian master may have had told him so.

    My Grandfather was also from Italy . Way down the other end though . The Island of Stromboli off Sicily. Sent away by his parents on his own to Australia around 1912 roughly ? Age around 14.

    I use an easy solution to loading pictures from my phone to the forum correct way up.
    Anything I want to load I first look at the picture with the phone upright, the normal way I use my phone as everybody does.
    Then I put my phone sideways to the left, the widescreen view and the picture rotates to that .
    Take a screen shot in that sideways position .
    Then when I'm in forum and search for pictures .
    1. The one or ones I want are at the bottom of my pictures list .
    And 2. They all load up the correct way on forum .

    Before I load them to forum I also go to pictures , then the picture and use the edit option to crop them down one by one as well.
    They can be to wide
    Just using the phone in upright normal way .

  15. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by auscab View Post
    ... The dovetails in the drawers are funny . Technically the wrong way around. loose glue and you'd pull a drawer front off.
    Puts an interesting twist on a piece seeing that . Did they do it that way, or is it a young guy eager to get his bench done and get on with making a living at his new trade ? I'd think its a young guy and the older Italian master may have had told him so. ...
    Well spotted, auscab.

    It is actually the second set of "reverse dovetails" that I have seen. The other was in a very simple Georgian style chest of drawers made from Oyster Bay pine probably between 1860 and 1880, and never polished indicating they were probably intended for the utility or servants rooms. The dovetails had then been dowelled; both from the side into the drawer face and from the front into the drawer sides.

    I could never decide whether the dowelling was an attempt to recover from a mistake or whether it was a a design feature. Being of a darker timber (blackwood?) a dowel through the middle of each dovetail actually looked good. Perhaps it was a young guy trying something different, and learning that the traditional way was better?
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  16. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by GraemeCook View Post

    It is actually the second set of "reverse dovetails" that I have seen. The other was in a very simple Georgian style chest of drawers made from Oyster Bay pine probably between 1860 and 1880, and never polished indicating they were probably intended for the utility or servants rooms. The dovetails had then been dowelled; both from the side into the drawer face and from the front into the drawer sides.

    I could never decide whether the dowelling was an attempt to recover from a mistake or whether it was a a design feature. Being of a darker timber (blackwood?) a dowel through the middle of each dovetail actually looked good. Perhaps it was a young guy trying something different, and learning that the traditional way was better?

    Graeme . I love colonial furniture and spent some time restoring and chasing it years ago around 1988. I still get the odd piece to work on . Exiting times .
    I never saw Oyster Bay pine though. There's plenty I didn't see of course. Some of the odd Aussie pines are hard to come by.

    Is it like a cypress pine look? The Murray pine ? Or a bit like a Kauri pine look ?

    A search turned up this lovely piece which has Oyster Bay Pine in it .
    110 Years of Tasmanian Decorative Arts 1803–1930

    And this is part of its lid interior . Does the red dotted pieces look like Oyster bay pine?

    S231.view03aa.jpg

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