This is the final tour in our series. I have one more workbench on site – the Loffelholz workbench – but it is upstairs and in use as part of a makeshift kitchen (we ripped out our kitchen on March 1 and then the project halted because of the pandemic). So someday I’ll post a tour of that bench after our kitchen is rebuilt.
The bench in this video is a personal experiment. I have worked on lightweight commercial benches such as this all over the world, including some schools. I always wondered if I could improve them to the point where I might say: Yeah, this is a good idea for a beginning woodworker.
I improved this bench with about $50 in additional materials (cheap plywood, lag screws, shelf brackets and carriage bolts). But it’s still not as good as a bench you build yourself. All told, this bench cost $270 once you add up the cost of the bench ($200), shipping ($20) and improvements ($50). For $270 I could build a lifetime bench that is heavy and functional. Here it is.
So why even show this video to you? Well, I know that some of you own these benches. You inherited them or bought them out of ignorance or in the throes of drunkenness. If you are in this situation, these are cheap improvements that will help. Also, any bench can benefit from more rigidity, and this video shows you two ways to do that.
Finally, and I say this in the video but it bears repeating: I am not picking on this particular manufacturer. There are loads of these benches on the market. And they are all about the same quality. This was the one I thought was the best of the featherweights.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the series. I apologize for the low-rent quality of the video and audio. But it was the fastest way to do 10 five-minute videos without hijacking our entire book-production process.
After looking at these videos over myself, you can rest assured I am not headed to YouTube anytime soon.
— Christopher Schwarz
45 thoughts on “Workbench Tour No. 10: Lightweight Commercial Bench”
I was looking forward to a review of the knockdown Nicholson bench. Y’all don’t have that anymore?
I’d like to see a long term review of that, as well. We are seriously considering building one for my dad’s workshop because hauling a roubo bench down the basement steps (and back up again eventually) just isn’t an option.
I may be talking out of turn here, but I have a fair amount of experience with the knockdown Nicholson. I have personally built 6 benches of this design, and my students at Highland Woodworking have built another 20 or so with me. I am a fan, plain and simple. It is heavy, it is rigid, it is simple to build, it is simple to maintain. I still own one, which is my only workbench in a remote shop I use a few weeks a year. I agree with what “fairwoodworking” says below: the front apron is the biggest issue. I won’t say it “gets in the way,” though. It feels like it’s in the way when I first come to it, because I usually work on a slab-topped bench with no aprons to get in the way of clamping stuff like risers, jigs, auxiliary vises, etc. directly to the bench top with a c-clamp or f-clamp. Workholding isn’t harder or less-effective with that broad, deep front on the Nicholson, it’s just DIFFERENT. Watch Mike Siemsen’s video on YouTube (search for “work holding without a vise”) for an excellent demonstration on how to work with this bench. Some of my students have mounted “traditional” iron vises or the Benchcrafted vises with that deep, wide front apron as the rear jaw of the vise, and I have heard no complaints from them. I say, try it! Worst case is you have a very sturdy bench to build your “forever” bench. Also, based on student reports, start out with the bench a little taller than you think you need it. Adjusting down is a lot easier than raising it!
I totally agree. That Mike Siemsen video was eye-opening, and confirmed the decision for me.
Nope. Sold it to a customer.
I suppose that is a review of sorts. I borrowed the idea from it for the top of my bench but built the legs, stretchers, and aprons the way Paul Sellers specifies. I think it’s good. At least as good as my homemade lasagna.
Would be great if you could provide a virtual text tour from your fond or not so fond memories… Nicholson fits a lot of needs in theory, but..?
I personally have 2 of the knockdown Nicholson benchs, one in my garage, and one in my basement shop along with my fancy split top roubo. The knockdown Nicholson shares the same issues discussed in the Nicholson video from last week, being that the front skirt does get in the way. Outside of that, it may be in my opinion the best value in shop made benches out there. Unlike many knockdown benches, this design for me has never needed tightening, and is rock solid. I can’t imagine an easier bench to build that can match the quality, and if you can’t get Southern Yellow Pine, don’t worry about it. Along with my two, I’ve also helped two others build this bench, all with locally sourced big box spruce/white pine lumber.
I built one as well, but used a 8/4 oak for the top. It works great and I haven’t had to tighten the bolts yet. Although I probably will when summer comes. Since I live in TX and it’s already 90 degrees I expect that should be any day now.
I think you are being too hard on yourself whenever you refer to your own videos. It is natural to be more critical of ourselves than others are; I am a choir director and happen to have a very low opinion of my own voice. Other people compliment me. I think they are full of poo.
So, just so I can compliment you and you can think I’m full of poo, I think your videos are really nice, and I don’t think you look like a laboratory animal as I seem to recall you saying in the past. I for one would enjoy more of them.
Low-rent nothin’. These videos are fantastic, and I will now miss awaiting new episodes.
Oh, yeah, looking at it a second time after reading what you wrote: the sound is a bit echoey, but that’s because you recorded the audio while filming I guess. Not really necessary to fix that, imo, but I prefer content over polishing a presentation without actual sense or content. The world is full of people who have nothing to say but do this in a very elaborate and polished way. (and cmon, that was a quick tour of the benches! We all loved to see them and hear your opinions, and that was why you made them.)
That said: when buying a book I really appreciate the work that went into producing the layout, artwork and the physical object itself. Just received my Anarchist’s Design Book, one of the nicest things I bought in the last year. Thanks! It is my first LAP book, but not the last.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Looks like something Pop Wood is pushing these days
What I’m saying is, I hate it. Showing this one after the last 9 is a real letdown. I was hoping you were going to leave us with the low Roman..
Anyway, I enjoyed the other 9 benches.
Well I guess my response is: Thanks for the kick in the nuts.
We try to provide as much free content here as we can. No sponsors. No ads. My opinion on that bench (which is low if you watched the video) came after spending $270 of my personal income (not LAP’s) to investigate questions I get from readers all the time.
BTW, I’m not looking for affirmation or a pile-on here. If it starts, I’ll delete it.
What happened to the Roman workbenches? – or don’t we talk about such things
One is at Brendan’s house and is his bench at home. One is on loan to a woodworker in central Ohio. The Loffelholz, as mentioned, is upstairs.
If be curious to hear what Brendan thinks of using the Roman bench of he is using it a lot.
I use it a ton! It’s a fantastic low bench. I’ve used it quite a bit in chair production, especially for slat mortising, and I’ve been using it more recently for some rougher handwork in stock preparation (isolated from the machine shop as I am right now). I use the vise on its end on occasion, and it works great for holding solid seats for shaping. It’s a fantastic sidecar to the shavehorse, too. I attached one of Texas Heritage’s Saddlebags, and with the layout tools in there, I do most of my chair layout sitting on the bench, which is easier than doing it at a standing bench and better than fumbling with stuff while sitting at the shavehorse.
And, it’s got eight legs, I mean, come on! I’m a sucker for many-legged pieces, for sure.
Thanks. I sat on it once, and it struck me as nice for several things (mainly oddball stuff and smaller pieces). I thought larger pieces might be difficult, but overall was intrigued.
Thanks for this series! It has been a great thing to look forward to these last few weeks between reading, building an ATC, and working from home.
Personally I really enjoyed the videos and wish you made more. Cheers!
The reality is that some people will buy benches like this. Maybe because that’s all the room they have, or funding says go to HF and buy their version of this style of bench. Or there may a hundred other reasons, none of which may be anyone’s business. I appreciate the thoughtfulness you put into the video of this bench, Chris, and your honesty about the (very little) good, the (bunches of) bad, and the (sad) ugly. You do good work!
Thank you for the workbench series. It was very generous of you to show your collection and explain how they all have their plus and minuses. Over the years I have built two of the workbenches from your book, the Nicholson knockdown for a specific commission where I needed something lower than a regular workbench and stronger than just a couple of sawhorses. Workout great, was easy to build, and cheap in material. The other one I built, is a Douglas fir version of your 2005 yellow pine roubo. That one is my baby, just love it! Best thing I ever built for myself!
I think it was very thoughtful of you to do this last video, and show how easily with a few dollars someone can solidify whatever they have and greatly improve the performance of their workbench whatever it may be. Not everybody is at the level or ready to tackle a big “roubo” build.
I deleted your “Shop Finish Recipe “.
Would you repost it. Please.
Here is a link to the article: https://blog.lostartpress.com/2020/01/23/our-shop-finish-recipe/
All 4,000 articles are available for searching and reading here: https://blog.lostartpress.com/
Hope this helps.
Search box, top-ish to the right is pretty good: https://blog.lostartpress.com/2020/01/23/our-shop-finish-recipe/
I’m almost certain it (WordPress search) does not index comments, only the ‘content’.
One thing I’ve learned from this pandemic is that there is copious amounts of video editing skills being put to good use during this time. Follansbee and you seem have found some willing and able assistance right at home.
Great series – thank you
I’ve been working on a cheap bench for a while now. It was very frustrating at first. I added some lumber to stiffen the frame (still racks considerably), thickened the top so I could use holdfasts, replaced the vise, and added a whipple hook. It’s a passable bench now, but still planning on building one in the near future. This series of videos makes me wish I had a source of slab tops so I could build a Roubo or Moravian but I’ll probably end up with a Nicholson style for now.
Don’t underestimate the laminated Roubo style bench. Easy to build alone and in stages. Sure, it does not have the cachet of a 5″ thick French oak behemoth, but it will work darn well. My current (third) bench is made this way from Ash, so I have a bit of experience with the process. Not advocating, just pointing out that the solid slab is not the only way to go. 🙂
Really enjoyed the workbench tours Chris – thanks for sharing. I thought you had made a smaller Roubo bench a few years back. Am I remembering correctly?
Thanks for taking the time to make these videos. It’s great seeing all of these benches and hearing your thoughts on them. I noticed, with your modifications, that you through bolted this top to the base. Is this going to be the solution to the LVL top on Megan’s bench? And if you were going to build a “quick bench,” like your Two-Day Roubo, is through bolting the top to the base better than using lag bolts from underneath?
Nope. Megan is going to suck it up and build a new bench sometime soon, this time with the Criss-Cross (Jameel, you owe me a quarter.) I’ll either sell the Gluebo, or (more likely) bring it home so that I’ve two benches in my basement shop.
Thanks for this series!
Throw that bench into the burn pile and use the one behind it in the video…
Thank you for the series.
Burn it? What will happen when he needs a nonary backup?
Got one of these benches so I could throw it in the back of the car when I needed to do an on-site demo. The best upgrade? 2 50-pound bags of play sand.
Several of my students have built benches from your books. One of these days, I’ll get around to it as well. Just need a wee bit more shop space…
I was hoping to here about that ash bench. That’s the one I seem to like . As I remember from a post I saw a moxon type appliance under the top next to the leg vise. Anyway looked interesting and the top is really neat looking 🙂 thanks for sharing about the benches .
I really have enjoyed this series of blog post, Chris. My Holtzapffel is still going strong after 12 years. I’ve shared each of these posts with the KC woodworkers’ Guild’s Facebook group to good reviews. So nothing to worry about as your videos go.
Thanks for the tour! Have you ever considered a pattern makers vice an any of your benches?
I haven’t seen the need for one in my work. If I were a old-school patternmaker who used wood, I’m sure it would be useful.
Comments are closed.