I’ve built a lot of knockdown workbenches in the last 15 years, but I’ve never been 100-percent happy with my knockdown mechanisms.
The problem: barrel nuts, bedbolts or whatever you want to call the cross-locking nut.
When installed, these things work OK. But installing them so they work smoothly is a lesson in precision down to the gnat’s angstrom. This summer I’ve been noodling a bench design that is inspired by three things.
- Mike Siemsen’s Nicholson workbench that he built for “The Naked Woodworker” DVD (coming very soon!) and has been taking to woodworking shows.
2. Planemaker Caleb James’s knockdown version of Mike’s bench, which used hardware found in woodworking jigs. I saw this bench at a Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event in Charleston, S.C.
3. McMaster-Carr part 94122A200.
It was No. 3 that pushed me over the edge. I have vowed to build a 6’ version of this bench this weekend using the surface-mount inserts and 3/8” hex-head bolts. Why are these inserts special? They can be screwed to the wood. Most tee-nuts use simple prongs that grip the wood. And these prongs have all the holding force of a fetal squid.
But these surface-mount inserts should stay put.
I’ll be documenting the build in my driveway and will post photos, a shopping list and several animal similes. And if you live in England, I’ll be teaching a class in building a bench like this for The New English Workshop next July. Peter Follansbee also will be teaching there at the same time (yup, read it here). And other yet-to-be-named people whom I like.
— Christopher Schwarz