I’ve built and worked on many Nicholson-style workbenches. And I’ve built and worked on many knockdown workbenches. This workbench is an effort to harness the advantages of those two forms and eliminate (or minimize) their disadvantages.
As I mentioned before, this bench is inspired by the get-it-done Nicholson bench shown in “The Naked Woodworker” DVD by Mike Siemsen. Also, planemaker and chairmaker Caleb James make a bench similar to Mike’s that uses barrel nuts to knock down. And wait until you see the vise Caleb made for it. It’s powered by holdfasts. Details to come.
There are myriad ways to build a knockdown bench. Here is what I was after with this design:
- You need only one tool to assemble and disassemble it (a 9/16” ratchet). You can install the hardware with one hand – no reaching inside the bench to hold a nut or other hardware.
- No faffing. I wanted to be able to assemble or disassemble the bench in about five minutes. Less time messing around means more time woodworking.
- Flat. I wanted to keep the disassembled components as flat as possible so they could be easily transported.
- Cheap. I spent $130 on the raw materials for the completed bench. (In truth I spent $250 purchasing bits of hardware to experiment with that did not end up on the bench.)
- Solid. One of the disadvantages of some Nicholson benches is the top feels springy or bouncy when you work on it. While you can add blocking to the underside to add thickness, I have found a method I prefer: Skip the “bearers” or “ribs” that go below a traditional Nicholson top and simply double up the thickness so the top is 3” thick in all the critical areas.
I could write an entire blog entry on why I prefer this method, but I really haven’t had enough coffee to go to that dark place in my mind that deals with the modulus of elasticity.
Some inevitable questions about this bench, and some answers.
- How does this bench compare to every other bench you’ve built? Is it your favorite?
As long as a bench makes it easy to work on the faces, edges and ends of a piece of work then that bench is a friend. I enjoy and – have no problems – working on a bench without screw-feed vises. You might have a different preference.
- Why no vises?
To keep the cost down. Someday I might add a leg vise. Maybe not.
- Will the plans be available?
Eventually, sure. I have to tune up my SketchUp drawing to make it presentable. Then I’ll post it in the 3D warehouse and put a link on this blog. First, I have some books to finish editing.
- I don’t have yellow pine in my area, what other woods will work?
Almost any construction lumber will do. Go to a home center or lumber yard and buy the stuff they use for joists in residential construction.
- Aren’t you just trying to sell product with this post?
Indeed. If you don’t purchase everything in our store right now, then you are a depraved human being. Fat, ugly and unloved. And by the way, this bench build was sponsored by Union Carbide and Brown & Williamson. You don’t need vises – you just need a Viceroy cigarette!
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. Apologies for not getting this video up yesterday. I shot it, but it took hours to process the video and post it to Vimeo so it could be shown in HD.