The apron I’ve had in my shop for as long as I can remember isn’t good for much. It’s made of denim and has a single flat chest pocket, a neck strap, a waist strap, and “Zabar’s” written across the front. I usually put it on only before I do some painting or gluing and I’m too lazy to change into my work clothes. My low opinion of aprons for woodworking changed when the Verksted apron I’d ordered from Leah Kefgen at Best Coast Canvas (BCC) arrived in the mail. Even before I put it to use, I liked the look and feel of the waxed 24-oz canvas, which is dyed oak brown and neatly sewn with a very heavy-duty thread.

If tying knots behind your back isn’t in your skill set, the brass trigger snap is a useful feature. The weight of the apron and tools is taken by the shoulders, much better than by the back of the neck.

The soft rope shoulder ties are finished with wall-and-crown knots in the front and connected with a double sheet bend to the waist ties, which are fastened at the back with an eye splice and a brass trigger snap. These are all familiar nautical elements, by design, evidently, as the BCC web site notes that the apron was “originally designed for shipwrights and woodworkers.”

All photographs by the author

The apron made a noticeable difference in the projects I’ve done while wearing it. Having my combination square, safety glasses, center punch, pencil, and measuring tape on me saved time and allowed me to work without the annoying interruptions caused by stray tools.

There are ten pockets on the apron. The flat pocket at the top is divided into four compartments: one that fits a pair of glasses, and three I use for pencils and a spring-loaded center punch. The shortest of those three is 3″ deep, so oft-sharpened pencils nearing the end of their useful life won’t get buried in the pocket. The pencil spaces accommodate carpenter’s pencils as well as common round or hexagonal pencils. The fabric is stiff enough to keep them from slipping out accidentally.

Safety glasses, a center punch, and pencils occupy the top pocket. The tape measure spends almost all it’s time clipped to the apron, even when the tape is pulled out. The pilot drill and the driver bit are held by magnets I attached to the apron.

I have a 12′ measuring tape clipped to the bias binding to the left of the top pocket. The tape feeds out from the bottom so I pull it out for most jobs without unclipping the housing from the apron. On the other side of the pocket I added some magnets to hold driver and drill bits.

The middle row of pockets is sewn flat on the apron and 4-3/4″ deep. The two pockets on the sides are 2-1/2″ wide; the adjacent pockets are 5-1/2″ wide. The three pockets in the middle are 1-1/2″ wide. The regular occupants of this row are my calipers and notepad.

The Verksted apron has 16 separate places for tools and two loops for hammers. Even with only a half dozen spots occupied, the apron earns its keep.

The bottom row of packets is 6″ deep and has three 5-1/4″ wide pleated pockets flanked by two 2-3/4″ flat pockets. There are loops for hammers copper riveted over the side pockets. The pleated pockets can be filled to suit the job and hold fastenings or tools like palm planes and large tape measures. I keep a combination square in the flat pocket on the right, and a utility knife in the pocket on the left. To keep the knife from sinking too deep to get a hold of it, I shaped a wooden plug to fit in the bottom of the pocket.

I bought the long version of the apron; it extends 8″ below the pockets and covers me just about to my kneecaps. The short version ends with the bottom of the pockets.

I’ve worn the Verksted apron to do a bit of gluing with Titebond III and got a few drips on it, but the dried glue could be picked off the waxed canvas. I’ve seen what epoxy does to a good pair of pants, so I’ll let Zabar’s handle that mess and spare the Verksted that indignity.

When I first started wearing the Verksted apron, it took a while to break some old habits. I’d catch myself scanning the workbench for my pencil or combination square, unused to the idea that I didn’t need to look. Soon enough I could get to the tools on the vest by touch alone and, with less time wasted searching, my work went noticeably faster.

I think of the Verksted apron as my workshop PFD.  I have a lot of tools and machinery crowded into a one-car garage—it can be a hostile environment that tries my patience every time it swallows up tools and pencils as surely as if they’ve been dropped overboard. The apron keeps my enthusiasm afloat and keeps the tools I need on me.

Christopher Cunningham is the editor of Small Boats Magazine.

The Verksted apron is handmade and sold by Best Coast Canvas. The long version, featured here, is priced at $139, the short at $129. There are versions sized for women and children. The aprons are individually made to order; allow 4 to 6 weeks between placing an order and shipping.

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