I have spent almost a year or so using only the Nicholson bench. I am very fortunate to have both the Nicholson and the first bench that Chris made titled “The $175 Bench”. The $175 bench is similar to the Roubo in that the legs are flush with the top which is thick and stiff and there is no apron. I have kept a piece of hardboard on the top of the $175 Bench which turned it into an assembly table.
Some thoughts on the different benches:
Nicholson: First the length of the Nicholson is awesome. In the first picture I have 21 items on it which all fit on the 8 foot top. The ability of a bench this long is that you can move different parts of your project forward at the same time or in my case work many different projects at once and not get any done!
Vises on the Nicholson: These are great. The wagon vise combined with the length of the bench make working the face or edge of board a breeze. I move the dog where I need it and put the other dog in one of the two holes in the wagon vise and I am good. I have also used the apron and leg vise to hold a piece that would have been two tippy in the wagon vise set up. The holes in the apron were perfect for getting the board to the right height.
The leg vise has also been smashing! It has a bit of leather on the inside of the vise and grips like a pit bull on a hobo.It has been a superior means to hold work over the traditional face vise on the $175 bench especially since it is placed on an angle which allows the work to reach the ground without hitting the vise screw.
That said, the one major issue I have experienced with the Nicholson is the inability to use my holdfasts.I am the proud owner of two holdfasts from Phil Koontz. These are perfect and work extremely well. It seems that the thickness of the top does not allow the holdfast to work.I am not sure if another type of holdfast would work or not. Since the Nicholson doesn’t have holes in the top like the other bench, I have tried to work around this with varying degrees of success. The only other complaint I have is that the apron does not allow any clamping to the top and requires me to reach underneath it to push up the bench dogs.I have also noticed that hammering anything is best done over the legs of the bench, whereas anywhere on the top of the $175 bench works fine.
Yesterday I unveiled the $175 bench from underneath its hardboard coffin. I needed to put a card scraper to a thin piece of wood. The ends were mitered and I knew the bench dogs would dent the ends if I squeezed them in the wagon vise. Instead I used a piece of scrap and with a thrill I hammered my holdfast. I did one side then switched it around. This was awesome! I also had the joyous feeling of putting my hands under the top without bending over.That was so nice I felt an urge for a cigarette!
I think I have the perfect setup with the two benches. I am going to keep the Nicholson against the wall which I have found to be an “ok” thing to do. I like the ability to move around a project and have definitely had a time or two where I was in a physically challenging position because of the limitations that were caused by the bench being against the wall. I would like to know if anyone else has been using their bench against a wall and have had problems with this configuration.