Knockdown Nicholson Workbench, Day 1/2


The only thing difficult about building this workbench in two days is not building the whole thing in only one day.

I had only about four or five hours of shop time today because we’re packing up our oldest daughter to head off to college on Monday. Despite this, and going to three record stores and a pizza dinner (A Tavola, my favorite), I had to restrain myself from just building the whole workbench start to finish today.



This morning I broke down all the stock with a circular saw, jointed all the boards’ edges with a jointer plane and glued up the top. Then I ate a jelly doughnut.

I clipped the corners of the front and back aprons with a handsaw and then glued a 1×10 spacer to the inside of each apron. This spacer, which is an idea I swiped directly from “The Naked Woodworker,” is one of Mike Siemsen’s moments of pure genius on the DVD. The spacers add rigidity and set the location of the legs.


Then I removed the machine marks from the legs and drilled all the holes for the knockdown hardware. The surface-mounted tee-nuts are a snap to install. They press into a 31/64” pilot hole; prongs stop them from rotating. Then No. 6 x 1-1/4” screws make sure the tee-nuts never fall out when the wood shrinks. I was impressed by how easy these metal bits were to install.


And when I cinched up the legs to the aprons with 3/8” x 3” hex-head bolts and 3/8” x 1” washers, the assemblies were rock solid.

Note that the order of assembly here doesn’t appear logical at first. But I have a good reason for it. More on that tomorrow.

— Christopher Schwarz


About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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14 Responses to Knockdown Nicholson Workbench, Day 1/2

  1. Marilyn says:

    My niece is headed of to college in a week .. its a seriously happy, sad time for my brother. I’m excited and at the same time .. feeling strangely envious. Then I think about all the studying and the time I have to do woodworking now.. and smile. 😉

  2. adamwelker says:

    Hello, sir.
    Is the Makita circular saw in the picture a 7 1/4″ or bigger? I have been looking for a high end 7 1/4″ blade and was wondering what you use. Thanks.

  3. planning to gang the legs together so the saw cuts for the dado walls are perfectly aligned?

  4. Hey Chris did you glue or screw the spacer’s to the apron?

  5. vinemaple253 says:

    T-nuts rock I use them on my artificial climbing wall since early 1990s. Are yours galvanized or stainless? Can’t wait to see your build completed. I may pilfer your ideas for my next work bench build too. Nicholson benches are so versital. I’m excited for the new DVD too.

  6. Morgan Reed says:

    odd question, but if you had some 8/4 for the top pieces, would you use them? Yes it would make it heavier, but theoretically would make things like dog holes more useful.

    • Morgan,

      Perhaps. As you’ll see in the next post, the top is going to end up a full 3″ thick in the critical areas – plenty of meat for a holdfast.

      • Chris, about the whole thick bench top for hold fasts thing, I’ve read that a thick top is needed when using hold fasts. But, I recently built a saw bench using 2x syp, and just for S&Gs I drilled a 3/4″ hole in the top for a hold fast. I’ve tried it a couple of times, and it seems to work fine. Also, the aprons on traditional and modern Nicholson style benches are thinner than 3 inches, yet they have tons of hold fast holes. I have been wondering what the deal is with the thinner tops. Are they too thin to hold well, or do the holes round out faster because of the thinner top?

  7. Jeff Faulk says:

    Do I see drywall screws there, sir?

    Another question: Will there be stretchers, or are they unnecessary with the aprons?

    Following 🙂

  8. Tim Hill says:

    Chris, what is the minimal equipment I would need to complete the campaign furniture? Macnab

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Jeff Faulk says:

      I’m not Chris, but this is what I would tell you if you asked me that question:

      –Your usual suite of planes. Jack, smooth, block, jointer. Especially the jointer as if you can’t find large boards, you will have to joint smaller boards together. If you prefer to, say, biscuit-join or dowel boards together, or decide to build them with plywood, that’s another story. You could make do with *just* a jack plane and a block plane, though.

      –Chisels. Mallet to go with them and to help persuade the parts to come together.

      –You may want a shaping tool of some sort. Drawknife or spokeshave. Pretty much optional as most of the CF stuff is pretty straight-edged. You could use these to make a Roorkhee chair if you don’t have a lathe, though.

      –Saw for cutting up the wood. A finer saw for dovetails.

      –Screwdrivers and screws– almost all the CF pieces use screws in some way. Hinges, hardware, assembly, etc.

      –A good square and sharp pencils.

      I would say that is about it. Extra tools are helpful, but not necessarily, well, necessary.

  9. Mike Siemsen says:

    I see you knocked off the corners of the aprons. I like to leave them square as it makes the bench easier to lift and move around. There are reasons to do it either way.

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