Sunday, September 13, 2015

Not quite a Nicholson

I have been struggling with a mess on my workbench for a little while during some shop reorganization, but today I found myself looking at a clean bench and realizing I have never posted about it. You may be familiar with the Nicholson style bench as popularized by Chris Schwarz, and nicely demonstrated by Mike Siemsen. This is basically the front corner of that set on some sawhorses. It's a fraction of a Nicholson ("Farthingson"?).

This bench-top is completed by some adjustable sawhorses, a spare plank, and lots of ballast.
Many woodworkers with voices on the internet sound like they speak from experience when they recommend figuring out your working style before building a fancy bench. Well, that's what this is perfect for. It's actually my second bench. The first one taught be a lot, but was too rickety and really meant for a child.

This one came about because I needed something I could make in a hurry and clamp to a kitchen island to provide a stable place for me to work with 3 friends. I soon realized I could put in on sawhorses and have a temporary bench better than what I had. I am planning on getting around to building a "Roubo" style bench in the near future (that's what the ballast is for), but this is really a perfect & simple way to get on with some projects while learning my preferences. Adjustable height sawbenches really take the cake.

And it couldn't be simpler to build. I screwed some 2x lumber together in an L-shape, then went over it with my jack plane (be sure to sink those screw-heads). I used some small blocks and screws to hold the benchtop to the sawhorses, and used an extra board for more surface area (not leveled with the main top).

Even the dog holes are easy, thanks to a healthy dose of procrastination. I used a marking gauge and dividers to lay out dog holes, but I didn't drill any except the few I needed at the moment. Whenever I need a dog hole that's not there, I grab my brace. I've been using this for over a year now, and there are still dimples in the front waiting for an auger to come along and make them [w]hole (sorry--punning is a disgusting habit). I just haven't needed them in that spot yet. And it's not tiring at all to drill one or two holes at a time.

I've got no vises (or even a crochet), and I do occasionally want for them, but for the most part this bench is great. 3/4" holes are incredibly versatile when aided by the vast array of accessories available today. A thicker top might be nice for holdfasts, and vises would make certain operations faster. I've figured out the bench height I like. So essentially I'm able to work efficiently now, and I know exactly what features I want in a more permanent bench.

You can do a lot without vises. For the picture I loaded it up with pretty much every accessory I have.

The best part is that I can store it on a lumber rack if I need to get it out of the way.

I recommend this bench design if you are just getting started, and you like the idea of being up and running in a couple of hours.

Heck, you can always turn it into a full-fledged Nicholson later if you have a free weekend.

1 comment:

  1. One thing I missed in the original post: there are a few braces to keep the front square to the top. Scraps of two-by-whatever with a square corner do the trick, and can be screwed in to place before flattening.