The Bench Brigade
Over the years, several of the combat Wounded Warriors who received a PHP scholarship told us they were challenged to continue with their new woodworking skills when they returned home as they did not have a proper handtool workbench. A light bulb turned on and we decided we had to find a way get workbenches to the PHP selectees so they could continue their woodworking therapy at home.
We decided to build a workbench for all PHP selectees attending the Training the Hand Workshops. After a call out for volunteers, retired U.S Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Jack Lane volunteered to lead the building effort. Jack developed the idea of a network of volunteer woodworkers who would fund, build, and deliver a Cosman Workbench to each PHP selectee once they returned home from their Training the Hand Workshop, thus the Bench Brigade was born.
The Bench Brigade Today
Today, Jack Lane coordinates an ever-growing pool of bench builder volunteers who make up the Bench Brigade, mostly in Canada and the United States but a growing number of international volunteers as well. Jack matches up a volunteer who is located near the hometown of a PHP Selectee and he or she builds a custom workbench and then delivers the bench to the PHP selectee. These deliveries can get quite emotional and are as satisfying for the volunteer as it is welcomed by the PHP scholarship selectee.
The Cosman Workbench
The Bench Brigade volunteers build The Cosman Workbench for all PHP scholarship selectees. The Cosman Workbench is a premium workbench that meets the three key criteria for a hand tool workbench: mass, work-holding, and a flat reference top. It comes with an end vise, a sharpening station, and bench dogs. The bench is easily disassembled for transportation. Click on the video picture to the left to learn more about The Cosman Workbench.
Volunteer for the Bench Brigade
We are always looking for skilled woodworkers looking the give back to the combat Wounded Warriors we serve by joining the Bench Brigade and building and delivering a Cosman Workbench to a deserving combat Wounded Warrior. If you would like to volunteer for the Bench Brigade or find out more information about the Bench Brigade contact Jack Lane by clicking the button below or email to Jack.Lane@thepurpleheartproject.org.
Bench Brigade volunteers are especially needed in the following areas: San Diego (Camp Pendleton area), South Central Kentucky / Northern Tennessee (Ft Campbell area), Eastern Virginia (Norfolk Naval Installations / Langley AFB), Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Central Alberta, Southeastern Ontario, Quebec, Australia, England, Scotland, Ireland.
Austin Reese's Bench
Austin was a Naval Explosive Ordinance (EOD) specialist who was paralyzed below the waist in a tragic parachute training accident. Austin, who lives in Montana, was paired up with Alberta Canada Bench Brigade volunteer David Anderson. David is a retired architect with extensive experience with handicap adaptations. He carefully evaluated Austin’s situation and built a highly-modified Cosman Workbench that perfectly enables Austin to continue his woodworking therapy. David drove almost 8 hours to deliver Austin’s bench. This was David’s second long-haul bench build.
How it Works
The Bench Brigade maintains a list of volunteers who would like to build a bench for a combat Wounded Warrior. Once a combat Wounded Warrior is selected for the PHP program the closest Bench Brigade volunteer is alerted to build a bench. The volunteer contacts the PHP selectee, and they discuss the build and any special requirements. The PHP provides the build plans, vise, and hardware. The volunteer provides the wood, glue, and the labor. Once the bench is completed the Bench Brigade volunteer delivers the bench to the PHP selectee.
Featured Bench Builder
Dr. Jose Santiago, a pulmonologist in Louisiana, is our featured Bench Brigade volunteer. In the picture on the left, Jose (wearing the hat) is delivering James Teal's (wearing glasses) PHP workbench. Jose built the workbench without the aid of any large woodworking machines such as a table saw, band saw, or jointer because "they are too dangerous." He built this awesome bench using only hand power tools such as a router, skill saw, and power drill. He added a second vise, a tool tray, a sliding lamp, and a stationary dead man. He wrapped the top in Purple Heart wood and used figured wood for the vise jaws. We think Jose did an extraordinary job and we are so glad he is a member of the PHP Bench Brigade. We salute Jose and his untiring support of combat Wounded Warriors through the Bench Brigade.