When the Nicholson Bench is Not a Time-Saver

Alex Primmer and Deneb Puchalski during one of the many panel glue-ups last week.

Alex Primmer and Deneb Puchalski during one of the many panel glue-ups last week.

The Nicholson-style workbench is a great choice for a woodworker who is short on time or materials – I can usually build one of these benches in half the time of a French bench and this English form requires half the materials.

Unless you have narrow wood.

This last week a group of us at the New English Workshop birthed 10 new Nicholson-style workbenches during a class held at Warwickshire College. After five days of work, we got all the benches assembled and ready for final clean-up and vises.

That’s exactly how long it takes to get a French-style workbench assembled in a classroom. What happened? Why weren’t we sipping sloe gin and eating meat pies on Wednesday evening while sitting upon 10 finished benches?

more-benchesIMG_3803

The Nicholson benches I have built used 2x12s. The top is two 2x12s glued on edge – that is the only panel glue-up. For this class, we couldn’t get our hands on any primo dimensional stock for the benches, so we used ash that was ripped down to about 6-1/8”.

One of the benches knocked down flat for travel.

One of the benches knocked down flat for travel.

So we had to glue up the top from four boards. The aprons were two boards. Some internal bits also had to be glued into panels. As a result, we spent two entire days gluing up panels and truing them up. And that’s why we barely squeaked by late on Friday afternoon.

The lesson here is to use dimensional 2x12s for a Nicholson bench. Otherwise, you negate the time-saving advantage of this classic English form.

— Christopher Schwarz

A stack of a few benches. Note that the legs are still over-long. Many of the students wanted high workbenches. Who am I to argue.

A stack of a few benches. Note that the legs are still over-long. Many of the students wanted high workbenches. Who am I to argue.

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
This entry was posted in Woodworking Classes, Workbenches. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to When the Nicholson Bench is Not a Time-Saver

  1. Derek Long says:

    The bench height looks perfect to me. I’m 6’2″, and find 36-38″ to be perfect all-around height to work without back pain. There are trade-offs between tasks that a low bench is good for, and tasks that a high bench are good for (some fine tasks like carving I’d even prefer 40″ or more to sit at the bench). I know there’s a lot of strong feeling one way or the other on the Interwebs. To each their own bench height.

  2. oldbaleine says:

    Nice floor in that shop.

  3. Alex is good people! Wish I could have been there. Also, I owe him some melted chocolate auto treatment…

  4. gblogswild says:

    I am doing it the REALLY HARD way. 2x3s, face glued, then hand trued.

Comments are closed.