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?
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”.
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