Wow, was my timing ever bad. There I was, ready to leap into the Last Minute Elf week just as I was finishing the new workbench. And, all through last week, I was dying to show you how it worked, but my patience was rewarded.
Yes, this is a Nicholson bench, styled after the one drawn up by Peter Nicholson in his 1831 book Mechanic’s Companion. It’s a traditional English carpenter design, and it has some pretty cool features that my old bench never could have dreamed up.
Yes, this was all built with dimensional 2 x lumber, all southern yellow pine. It did take some time in the local home center, picking out the flattest boards that didn’t contain the pith (center) of the log. I have cut a few boards with the pith in them, and they seem to warp and pinch on blades, making sawing them a pain in the patootie. I also had to make sure they were as flat as possible. Surprisingly, you can pick up a warped board very easily.
As you have seen in the previous posts, the construction is very straightforward. Mostly screws and glue, the bench went together easily, and I took my old Wilton vise off the old bench and put in on the face of the new one where it went to work immediately.
I also took an old Record quick-release vise off the front bench in my shop and bolted it to the tail end of the bench. I also attached a chop to this vise, and it’s ready to work as a tail vise for planing on those long boards. I also lined up the dog holes so I could use those in concert with the dog hole on the vise.
Down closer to the face vise, I threw my recently purchased Veritas planing stop. It is one handy little tool, securing into a pair of dog holes so I can plane against it. As you can also see, I built the top as a split top, meaning I can insert a 1/2 inch board into the crack to serve as an additional stop to plane across boards.
The real magic about this bench is the choice of clamping arrangements. The front aprons are drilled with a pattern of holes where I can use a series of bench dogs and holdfasts to secure long and heavy boards to the bench so I can work on them. As you can see above, a leftover 2 x 10 is clamped into the vise chop, balanced on a pair of bench dogs in holes and held in place tightly against the bench with a holdfast. Believe me, that board is NOT going anywhere.
The best part about this bench? It cost me a grand total of $70 in lumber (I already had the vises, glue and screws around the shop) and took – brace yourself – about 15 hours for me to turn the stock into the bench.
And, what happened to the old bench, you may be asking? Well, my neighbor saw me working on the new one and asked me what I was going to do with the old one. I told him that it was his (if he wanted it), and later that morning, we carted it down the street to his house, to become the heart of his workshop. I hear I may have visitation rights…