Materials & Tools for the Knockdown Nicholson Workbench


I’m teaching two classes in building the Knockdown Nicholson Workbench in 2015 (details on the locations to come) and needed to prepare a list of materials and tools for the students. Because I received an S+ in “Sharing” in kindergarten, I am also posting it here.


  1. Ductile mounting plates for 3/8” x 16 threaded rod. You need 16. Available from McMaster-Carr.
  2. High-strength steel cap screws, 3/8” x 16 thread. You need 16. Available from McMaster-Carr.
  3. Plain steel 3/8” flat washers. You need at least 16. Buy a pack of 100 from McMaster-Carr.
  4. Plain steel split lock washers, 3/8”. You need at least 16. Buy a pack of 100 from McMaster-Carr.
  5. No. 10 x 1” slot-head screws (for attaching the mounting plates). You need at least 32. Buy a pack of 100 from McMaster-Carr.
  6. No. 8 x 2-1/2” wood screws to assemble the ends. A box of 50 should be fine. Here’s a link to the square-drive ones from McMaster-Carr.
  7. No. 8 x 1-1/4” wood screws for attaching the interior apron bracing. You’ll need about 20. You can also buy these from McMaster-Carr.
  8. Gramercy Holdfasts. One pair. Available from Tools for Working Wood.

For a 6’ or 8’ bench, I recommend you buy four 2x12s that are 16’ long. Buy yellow pine or douglas fir, whatever is available in your area. Buy the clearest, straightest stock in the pile. (And if there’s another 2×12 there that looks good, grab it too.) This will allow you some waste and to cut around knots, shakes, pitch and ugly. Note that this does not include the shelf – add a 2×12 x 16’ if you want a shelf. Yes, you will have leftover wood.

You will also need 1×10 material for the interior apron bracing. For a 6’ bench you can get one 1×10 x 8’. For an 8’-long bench, get two.

You’ll need basic marking and measuring tools, plus screwdrivers, a handsaw, a cordless drill, chisels and a block plane. Here are some of the specialty tools that will make your life easier. Plus:

  1. 9/16” socket set to assemble and disassemble the bench.
  2. 3/4” WoodOwl Nailchipper bit. Get yours at Traditional Woodworker.
  3. Forstner bit. You’ll need 1-1/8” for the counterbores.
  4. Brad points. Bring your set. Bench building is a lot about drilling holes.
  5. Tapered countersink bits. The Snappy set from Woodcraft is good.
  6. A pair of sawbenches or sawhorses to work on. (Barring that, a couple of 5-gallon buckets).

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Woodworking Classes, Workbenches | 13 Comments

Speaking of Gothic


One of the reasons I first became consumed by woodworking was the American Art & Crafts movement. Though I rarely build Arts & Crafts pieces anymore, I fell in love with the joinery and the oak about 1990 when a neighbor let me sit in his Morris chair.

I started collecting pieces, but there was only so much antique furniture you can buy on a $16,600 annual salary at a newspaper.

So I started building it.

The Arts & Crafts style was my gateway into the craft, and I’ll always be grateful for it opening the door into other furniture styles, especially Welsh chairs and the real early stuff I’m building now for “The Furniture of Necessity.” Some of these pieces remind me of looking under rocks at Wildcat Mountain Lake in Arkansas. If the creepy guys in the bathrooms didn’t get you, the copperheads might.

Like this aumbry I’m building this week. Some of it is so unfamiliar it’s just weird and difficult to see the pitfalls ahead. Like mortising into the edge of 12”-wide oak. That’s an odd feeling. And then discovering that the mortises graze the crease mouldings on the stiles. I didn’t see that coming.

Other stuff is just new territory for me. Cutting the crease moulding on the top rail felt weird – it was going to terminate abruptly on the stiles. Yet when the joints went together, the shop lights were off and it looked good – like a moulded apron between table legs.

Tomorrow I start the pierced carvings on the stiles. I’m not looking forward to doing it in dry oak, but that’s what I’ve got.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Furniture of Necessity, Projects | 8 Comments

Furniture Styles: From Gothic to the 20th Century


After reading Charles H. Hayward’s writings during his tenure as editor of The Woodworker, I think he was of two minds about furniture. While the magazine was filled with plans for up-to-date pieces that would look at home on the set of “Mad Men,” Hayward also took pains to educate readers about old work.

One of the ways he did this was by drawing pieces from the collection in the Victoria & Albert Museum, and all of those drawings will be featured in our upcoming book on The Woodworker magazine.

He also published one-page drawings that showed how a particular form of furniture – tables, beds, chairs – changed during the centuries.

Today we offer a free download of seven of these pages compiled in one pdf. You can download it using the link below.


One of the things you can see from the pdf is why we are so keen on publishing this book. The acid-based paper that these are printed on is deteriorating rapidly.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Charles H. Hayward at The Woodworker, Downloads | 9 Comments

This is Where we Fight about ‘Fishtails’


Here is joint I have not encountered yet. I suppose they are technically dovetails, but I think the construction looks more like tails of fish.

Paul Windle-Taylor of Brittany, France, discovered them at the back of the bottom drawer of an ornate carved Breton armoire made in about 1908 as wedding present by the father of the bride.

“As with much of this rural working, the external work is of fine quality but the intrinsic build is massive,” Paul wrote. “I was struck by the assumed bomb-proofness of the work. This is one drawer back that will not come off!”

What is awesome about this crazy joint is that it does not require glue to stay together. C’est bon!

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Techniques | 15 Comments

Petition for a Tree Substitute

skinnycowOK, please stop calling the hide-glue manufacturers and demanding cruelty-free hide glue. The post on liposuction glue was a joke.

I have received a couple of angry e-mails from industry representatives who are trying to set me straight about my misinformation on how liposuction from cows could make hide glue. Apparently I didn’t do any research on fats….

I love hide glue. If you want cruelty-free glue, use yellow glue, which kills only baby vinyls and fetal acetates.

— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Personal Favorites | 34 Comments

The History of Wood, Part 20


Image | Posted on by | Tagged | 7 Comments

A Petition for Cruelty-free Hide Glue


Last weekend while lecturing about hide glue to the San Diego Fine Woodworkers Association, one of the members mentioned a disadvantage of my favorite adhesive that I’d never considered.

“I bet the vegans don’t like your glue,” he said.

The statement stopped me dead in my tracks. He was right.

And that is why I am asking for your help to petition both Old Brown Glue and Franklin International (makers of Titebond Hide Glue) to change their manufacturing processes to make and market only “cruelty-free” products.

While I fully recognize you cannot make hide glue without animal by-products, these can be harvested in an ethical manner by using animals that have died of old age or in collisions with automobiles. Another alternative is to adopt the methods employed by the “No-kill Mutton Tallow” industry, namely liposuction.

I am certain that woodworkers would be willing to pay a premium for a glue that sticks well and also results in slimmer, more attractive livestock.


— Christopher Schwarz

Posted in Personal Favorites | 29 Comments