A half-year with my bench

So, it was just a little bit more than six months ago when I decided the time had come to build my new workbench. Building a traditional Nicholson bench was a big risk for me. After all, my old bench was plenty wide for doing lots of different things at once, it was heavy and it served me well for many years.

But, it had some other shortcomings. It racked when I planed on it. It was a pain in the butt to clamp to it. And, well, it was kind of amateurish…

That’s why I jumped in and built the Nicholson. Why that design? Well, I didn’t have immediate access to seriously thick lumber for a Roubo, and I liked the looks of the Nicholson. Plus, from what I have read, these babies can take a beating.

So, now that I have had the bench in the shop for six months, and the new-bench smell is gone, what have I noticed?

  • This bench is solid. Some people knocked on the Nicholson because it was a ‘light weight’ alternative to a Roubo. Let me tell you something, this bench is a monster. It has quite a bit of construction lumber in it, and planing hasn’t been a problem at all. And, I was amazed at how rigid the structure was. My old bench had some give to it – this one doesn’t budge an inch.
  • The clamping situation is awesome. Those large aprons give plenty of places to set a peg where I can rest a board to be clamped, eliminating the need for clamps to hold the piece from falling onto the floor, and plenty of places to drive a hold down. Clamping to the top is easy, too. Those large sides do make clamping to the top a bit of a puzzle, but I quickly discovered that I could clamp on the end of the bench, making it easy.

  • Insetting my face vise was inspired. By insetting the rear jaws of my face vise into the sides of the bench and using an oversized chop, I have fallen in love with my face vise all over again. That baby grabs like nobody’s business, and works so much better that the old setup.

  • It works for traditional – and modern woodworking. Pocket screws. Hand planing. Pattern routing. This bench has filled the bill admirably. I am totally surprised at how flexible the design has been.

  • It’s a great place to podcast from. I routinely head to the shop to do podcasting duties for the Modern Woodworkers Association. Seated at the end of the bench, I can pull right in, close to the microphone, and really get into the discussion.

If you were sitting on the fence, wondering if a traditional style bench would suit your needs, I’d have to say go for it. The Nicholson was easy to build, and for the past six months has proven easy to live with.

One thought on “A half-year with my bench”

  1. Tom, I just happened to see Mike’s workbench advertised in Schwartz’ Lost Art Press. I was on the fence about what type of bench to make after having collected and collected a number of articles about benches. (TMI?) I bought the video and used it as my template to make the bench. Just “finished” it yesterday and it’s awesome. Siemsen’s way of teaching the build is masterful.


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