4 Workbench Classes, 3 Continents


I’ll never know the pain of childbearing, but I think I know the next-closest thing: bench building. That why I include a full bottle of ibuprofen on the list of tools needed for my bench-building classes.

Students think I’m kidding about the pills, but by mid-week they are hitting my personal bottle of painkillers like a candy bowl at the front desk of a Mars bar factory.

For 2015, I am offering four bench-building classes on three continents: Australia, North America and England. I don’t know how many more of bench classes I have in me, so take that as fair warning. Here are details:

Build a Roubo Workbench at the Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking, Feb. 23-27, 2015

The owner of the Melbourne, Australia, school scored a load of sweet yellow pine benchtops that are already glued up. We’re going to transform these into some fantastic French-style workbenches with the traditional joint: a sliding dovetail and through-tenon at each corner.

As always, you can add your own vises to build the bench of your dreams. That’s one of the huge advantages of the open architecture of the French format.

For this Australia class I’ll also bring a stomach pump in addition to my painkillers. Aussies drink like Germans.


Knockdown Nicholson at The Woodworker’s Club in Rockville, Md., May 4-8, 2015

Knockdown Nicholson at The New English Workshop, July 20-24, 2015

The knockdown Nicholson workbench is a new design this year (check out details here). I’ve made many Nicholson-style workbenches, but this one is by far the best, easiest to build and knocks down in less than five minutes.

This bench is suited for anyone who doesn’t have a dedicated shop space, or who might need to move their bench on occasion. However, even if you don’t fit in those categories, this bench offers no downsides. Unlike other knockdown benches I’ve worked on, this one has no compromises. It is as solid as a French bench.

The version we’re building has no screw-feed vises, but you can bring whatever you like and we’ll add them to your bench. A leg vises would be ideal for the face vise position. I personally wouldn’t add a tail vise to this bench – I work just fine without one – but this bench can accept several tail vises as well.

While I am very much looking forward to returning to Royal Leamington Spa and Warwickshire College for this course, I am not sure how the local pubs feel about our triumphant return.

Build a French Bench at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, Aug. 10-14, 2015
Using sweet, sweet ash from Horizon Wood Products, we’ll be building full-on Roubo-style workbenches in the well-equipped shop at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. And we will most certainly have a pizza-eating contest that week, courtesy of Frank Pepe’s.

As mentioned above, you can add whatever vises you like to this bench.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. There is one more workbench class scheduled for 2015: The French Oak Roubo Project. While that class is full, get on the waiting list if you want to do it. Spots may yet open up.

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14 Responses to 4 Workbench Classes, 3 Continents

  1. raney says:

    England is a very small continent.

  2. richmondp says:

    I’ll echo the sentiment implied by Chris’s comments: build your dream workbench while you are still young enough to move the damn thing. I am 67, have a lifetime of heavy lifting behind me, and am now building a 350 lb. bench (or does it only feel that heavy? I haven’t weighed it). At times I feel like I am going to end up like Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea only, in my case, it will be The Old Man and his Work Bench.

  3. Not to whine (foreshadow: I’m going to whine), but I nominate somewhere in the deep south for a 2016 Roubo bench building class. New Orleans to New England is a long drive.

  4. johnkuszewski says:

    Hi Chris,

    Since you brought it up, what sort of tail vise can one fit into the knock down Nicholson?

    • If I were to put an end vise on a Nicholson, I’d put a small quick-release iron vise back there with a 2″ thick x 16″ wooden chop.

      Or I’d add the Veritas inset vise. Or build a wagon vise like I did in my first Workbench book.

  5. Sean Baker says:

    I really couldn’t say enough good things about taking a bench class with Chris. Just be prepared for things to get a little weird when Chris starts singing about his “no-no square”.

  6. Oh damn, I’m am definitely in for the Connecticut class. Would you cringe if I built one only 5-6 feet long? I’m in a Brooklyn apartment and unfortunately don’t have room for an 8ft monster.

    Also, I assume the French benches we make in the CT class are not knockdown. Do students usually do finally assembly at home? I have a minivan so might fit fully assembled.

  7. abtuser says:

    Darn, I’m here in the Lost Continent (sitting next to Cesar Romero and Hugh Beaumont). Connecticut and Maryland are almost in England. Was hoping we’d get a chance farther west, out here with Indians and French fur trappers.

  8. WarrenP says:

    I just read your 2007 workbench book. Ordered the 2011 one to read next. Been looking for Southern Yellow Pine up in Canada, and I often get this response “We do not stock Southern Yellow Pine as it is prone to warping in Canada”. I read a preview of your 2011 book online and I know in the new book you were less into the species, and more into the “just build it” category. Nevertheless I wanted to ask, have you ever seen yellow pine dimensional lumber warp AFTER it has been laminated into a benchtop? My guess is that can’t happen, because you’d be alternating the curve of the annular rings and the pieces would hold their neighbors pretty steady. You’d get expansion and shrinking (and boy howdy you had that in the SYP roubo) but no splits, warps, cups, potato-chip behaviour, right?

    Love the Workbench book. Come on up to Canada eh?


    • Once a species (especially a softwood) reaches equilibrium with its environment, then it moves very little in comparison to movement that occurs during drying. Yellow pine, fir, hemlock and all the other tough softwood species all do fine in a bench once they have reached equilibrium. So no, taking yellow pine across the border will not cause problems.

      I do teach in Canada (three or four classes in 2014 I believe). I’ll be returning to Rosewood Studios in 2016.


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