Workbench Personality No. 6: The Undecider

KD Nicholson Workbench_underside

Of all the workbench personalities, only The Undecider has driven me to reconsider my career in woodworking.

Like herpes, when you encounter The Undecider, everything seems kinda normal at first. But then, inexplicably, you cannot get rid of him.

The Undecider: Hey, I LOVE that Robo workbench on your blog. I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about wood movement, wood selection and anything you would change if you built it again.

Me: Sure…. And blah, blah, blah.

Six weeks pass.

The Undecider: Hey, that Nickelback Bench is amazing! It really got me rethinking my workbench plans. Do you think oak would work for this bench? Could I equip it with a quick-release vise?

Me: Sure…. And blah, blah, blah.

Seven weeks pass.

The Undecider: Hey, I just read the article on John White’s “New-Fangled Workbench.” I was wondering if you could compare the strengths and weaknesses of this bench with the Rubiot bench, the Niklesen and this Newfangled one.

Me: I’ve never even seen one of these benches from John White. I read his article, of course, and it’s very interesting. But I’m afraid you know just as much as I do.

Eight weeks pass.

The Undecider: Hey, have you seen the height-adjustable bench? Do you think that could be combined with a Robo bench and the planing platform from the Newfangled Bench? Love to get your thoughts on how this might work.

I put the email aside. I needed to think of how to answer this email without using the phrase: “How many Hot Wheels can fit up your butt?” This process takes a couple weeks and includes some guided meditation. Finally, I am ready to answer this without sounding like a pirate. Then my email dings.

The Undecider: Hey, me again. I’ve actually been thinking I should just buy a workbench and “get to the good part” – you know, making furniture. But I can’t decide if the Lie-Nielsen bench is really worth the money compared to the Sjoberg. Do you think you could do a side-by-side comparison for me? Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

Me: Dude, my thoughts would get me arrested in 22 states.

— Christopher Schwarz, editor, Lost Art Press
Personal site: christophermschwarz.com

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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42 Responses to Workbench Personality No. 6: The Undecider

  1. You giggled out loud when you wrote “Nickelback Bench,” didn’t you?

  2. BenfromTenn says:

    This one hits rather close to home.

  3. Andrew says:

    Dude! You make me laugh! Rock on brother! Love your stuff.

  4. Be an undecider that just decides to build them all! All the benches! Even if you have no room for them! Everything must be a bench!

  5. Anthony says:

    Love the hot wheels bit!

  6. sirjohnoldcastle says:

    I think for us amateurs and hobbyists, building a workbench brings up a lot of high pressure feelings, anxieties and self-pressure. It’s a big deal and you’re gonna spend a lot of time with it for a long time to come. Kinda like building your own perfect wife (or husband.) Smaller projects come and go, but you feel like you have to live with whatever you end up with as your workbench fairly long term. Our Mr. Schwarz has been given the challenging role of “workbench counselor” along with his numerous other hats. I am a variant of the undecider known as the “unfinisher”. I work on a big thick lovingly and laboriously handplaned top made of two locally grown 4×8 poplar beams (more like 3 x 7 by the time they were finished) on two store bought plywood sawhorses and braced against a wall at one end. More or less a double-wide Japanese planing beam with dog holes… It works like a charm for the time being and maybe one day I’ll put it on a set of sturdy legs, add a sunken tool tray section along the back side and maybe even a leg vise(!) and call it finished 🙂

  7. lclement4 says:

    OMG. What a wanker! Not you, of course. You’re my woodworking hero.

  8. Mike Cooper says:

    A great post for me because I’ve dealt with exactly this kind of person in non-woodworking contexts. They are everywhere and can make you crazy! I’ve built four workbenches in my life. The current (and hopefully last) bench was about half finished when you published and I stumbled across your workbench book. Made me re-think my design to the point I ended up with something of a hybrid. But I discovered the wisdom of keeping the skirt in line with the legs, the leg vice, and, being newly transplanted to the South, the existence of readily available SYP that I could laminate for a nice solid 3″ top. The point is its fine to adjust plans as you come across new ideas, but if you get hung up striving for perfection you’ll surly end up in the “undecider paralysis” you described. Just get on with it! In my own experience, when some woodworking project falls short of my initial ambitions it’s not because my bench [or saw, or plane, or chisel or whatever…] wasn’t good enough.

  9. I’m totally not this person.

    Nope.

    Not at all…

  10. *lmao* That is just priceless! Pretty sure by the time you’ve reached all 6 types, I can claim to be at least a pinch of the 4 of them – how outspoken, and at what ratio, I’ll leave up to others to decide. As testing as it might be on your usually easygoing self – this is hilarious!

  11. Bob Barnett says:

    Only 22 I am disappointed

  12. Well Chris, you did it, you managed to get though the all 6 bench builders and saved the one that sounds the most like me for last. I do suffer from paralysis through analysis from time to time. Mostly, I do my hand wringing in quiet desperation without involving others (occasionally my very patient wife does have to act as if she is listening as I go through my options.) I have been contemplating my bench design on and off for about 2 years now and have finally accepted my fate and now have committed to a design that I will be building over the holiday break. I can’t wait to get my benchmade vices pressed into daily action on my new bench. Thanks Chris for all the laughs, it’s good not to take ourselves too seriously.
    -Aaron

  13. “The perfect is the enemy of the good” – attributed to Voltaire. People who perform at a very high level in their main passion/profession sometimes believe their excellence should transfer to a field where they are newbies. This paralyzes them and can lead to large collections of expensive tools with few hours on them. Overcoming this barrier and producing good work requires an acceptance that they are going to suck (relatively speaking) for a period of time.

  14. Jeff says:

    Ouch, the truth hurts. I am somewhere between 1, 5, and 6. Maybe that makes it ok? No, I think it makes it worse. Thanks for the dose of reality.

    My #1 personality is coming through and asking for some way to link between all of these. They are hard to find all of them and I want to share.

  15. Dave Coleman says:

    Dave C.
    Just build a bench and you will use it! My bench came out of a school many years ago for 50 bucks when the school decided shop classes were of no value any longer… where is the wisdom in that? It has a 2′ x 10′ x 21/2″ thick laminated maple top and was mounted on two steel locker cabinets that went to the scrap yard on my way home. The next stop was the home center for 2×4’s and 2×6’s. With no plan in my mind, when I got home, I built legs and started using it in 1985. It had (has) an old Craftsman 8″ vise on the face and and older Wilton 6″ vise on the end. I’ve added a dead man, a Moxon vise, a shelf to collect seldom used STUFF and take a occasional nap on it for inspiration! Like I said, “just build a bench and you will use it!”

  16. mtnjak says:

    Ha ha! Awesome. I’ve been the “Undecider” now for about (gulp) 10 years. But I haven’t bugged Chris. I’ve just absorbed several of his books as well as other sources of info, went on only God knows how many other tangents, and now I’m thinking seriously (kind of) again about finally building a bench from my rough cut stock, still sitting from years ago. I guess that makes me “Procrastinator”. 😏

  17. Aaron Robichaud says:

    I think we’ve all pondered the “how many hot wheels?” question. Totally normal…

  18. Bob Jones says:

    Finally, I found my category. 😄

  19. Bob Glenn says:

    I think I was the only one in class at WIA that was paying attention when Chris said, If anybody drove their truck here and wants this bench top for twenty dollars, you can have it, I’m done with it! I immediately yelled SOLD. A 12 foot 6 by 6 mine timber and couple stretchers later and I was good to go. No muss, no fuss. Thanks again Chris!

  20. Chris says:

    Loved this whole series! The cheapskate is the best.

  21. Chris Decker says:

    Chris, are you familiar with the “let me google that for you” website? I feel like this gag could have saved you so much time over the years.

  22. neitsdelf says:

    Where were the Academic? The Pragmatist? The Youtuber? The Viennese?

  23. Jeff Hanna says:

    I always thought your workbench book should include a final step for those who think too much or baby their workbench like it’s an original 18th century chippendale highboy or something. Something like:

    “Final Step: Now take a hammer and thwap a large dent in the center of your workbench top. Your workbench is now christened; now find a project and get to work!”

  24. mike says:

    For a guy who makes a living giving advice, and for turning workbench research into a 24 hour woodworking news cycle, you seem kind of prickly about people asking for advice about workbenches. It seems you have created devils of your own design

    • bluefairywren says:

      I think the series was affectionately tongue in cheek, and although the examples Chris offers are at the extremes I think we can all see a bit of ourselves in these examples. Sometimes it’s good to have a mirror held up to you.

      Curious, though, Chris – what’s your bench personality?

    • davevaness says:

      At some point you will not learn anymore until you go out and do it. I would rather have Chris spent time with people that will actually build something.

  25. wmcdermott says:

    If these are the 6 more colorful archetypes, what is the clinical name for the type of bench builder we have all met… the one who designs, constructs and uses a bench as a matter of course with little deliberation and much action. S/he completes it quickly and competently and then uses it with gusto? I offer “Workbench Personality X: The Budweiser”.

  26. artisandcw says:

    One of my favorite quotes was from American evangelist Dwight L. Moody, responding to critics of his exuberant style of preaching. Substitute “workbench building” for “evangelism” in the quote and I think it is a perfect fit. (spoken as someone with a dozen workbenches in a half dozen styles…)

    “It is clear you don’t like my way of doing evangelism. You raise some good points. Frankly, I sometimes do not like my way of doing evangelism. But I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.”

    BTW I have found a straightforward Nicholson or a laminated SYP Roubo to be a bit more than 10-12 hours of work to build (once stock prep is done for the Roubo), tricking out fully another half dozen. Well worth a single dedicated weekend or week of evenings.

    Loved the series! It could be a recurring rumination.

  27. GaryBee says:

    Indecision may or may not be his problem.
    Thanks much for the many laughs in this and your other posts. I share your opinions but lack your eloquence in expressing them.

  28. davevaness says:

    I write (mostly for a scroll saw magazine) and I get these guys all the time. They want to understand everything about a project before they start. They will compare my article with something another author has written and ask why I do it differently “Is there something wrong with the other way?” They want me to explain the plus and minuses of each technique. Now I am retired and don’t really care if offend these guys so I just tell them that they won’t understand things any further until they go built it. I tell then understanding can be a delaying tactic. People who want to learn to swim jump in the water. Those that don’t will want to learn to swim will want to
    understand the water before they jump in. I tell them to do it anyway you want, my way, the other way, or even come up with your own way, but don;t write to me again until you try something,

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