Another Big Change

What is the first thing any woodworker thinks of when presented with a larger workshop?…..

A BIGGER WORKBENCH!

As soon as I realized that my recent move was going to give me a larger shop area I began dreaming of a bigger bench.  However, being frugal by both nature and circumstance, I was immediately conflicted.

There is nothing wrong with my current bench.  I do wish it was longer, but it works just fine.  Its a 5′ version of Paul Sellers design.  Like I said, it works just fine and has served me quite well.  But I don’t work wood exactly the same way that Mr. Sellers does. I prefer to use Japanese pull saws.  Not a big deal, just a minor adjustment when working at the bench.  I also prefer to plane the faces of boards with the board on the bench.  I can do it on this bench, but the vise gets in my way more often than not.  My biggest gripe with my current bench is the tool well.  I loved it at first, but now I find it more of a nuisance.  It’s always full of junk, tools and shavings.  It also limits the working width of the bench.  The bottom line is that, while the bench works quite well, it doesn’t suit the way that I work.  That  being said, I could still use this bench for the rest of my days and be quite happy with it.

If you’ve been through my blog, you have undoubtedly seen my makeshift assembly/work table.  A couple of trestles with a slab of plywood on top.  It works and can be broke down and moved out of the way if need be.  So I began thinking about adding a permanent assembly table to the new shop.  It just so happens that an assembly table is the current Paul Sellers Masterclasses project.  I did the math and looked at the cost of materials.  Turns out the cost of materials for the assembly table is pretty close to that of a new workbench.  Hmm…..

Sometime ago Lost Art Press released a video titled “The Naked Woodworker“.  In that video Mike Siemsen goes to a tool meet, buys the tools needed to get started woodworking, tunes them up and then builds a saw bench and a Nicholson style workbench.  Well worth a look if you haven’t seen it.

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screenshot ©Mike Siemsen 2014 “The Naked Woodworker”

Not too long after the video was released Mr. Siemsen posted a YouTube video on how to work on a bench with no vise.  Also well worth a look.  I was quite intrigued by the bench that was built and have entertained the thought of building one.  Of course, being frugal by nature….

OK, long story long.  I went to Lowes after work on Wednesday.  You know, just to look around.  I ended up walking out with four 12′ 2x12s, some 2x4s, a couple of 1x8s and a couple of boxes of screws.  This weekend I’ll start building an 8′ Nicholson style bench based upon “The Naked Woodworker” video.  I’ll say it again, just so I’ll start to believe it.

Eight foot workbench.

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Greg Merritt

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21 Responses to Another Big Change

  1. Wesley Beal says:

    Plan on doing the same thing once our garage/shed is finished. We should get the rafters up next week, and I hope the siding up the week after that. That youtube video of him working without vises really captured me. Don’t know why. I like vises. But I really liked that video. Seems so versatile. Figure I’ve got my Moxon vise to work with too. Maybe I’ll build a smaller bench for joinery work, with a face vise on it.

    Anyway, looking forward to hearing how this build goes!

    • Greg Merritt says:

      Sounds like you getting close to having a shop again. Glad to hear it!
      Yep, that YouTube video really spoke to me too. I tend to be a little unconventional in my woodworking and I like the flexibility of the Nicholson bench. I like my vise though. I may put a vise on the opposite side. Then I’ll have the best of both worlds. 😉

  2. Matt McGrane says:

    Dang Greg, that’s going to be a long bench. I’m currently building my new bench. An exciting time. But it’ll be just 58″ long due to serious space limitations. Have fun with the build.

    • Greg Merritt says:

      It will be pretty big. My last shop space was 7.5’x9′ and the 5′ bench worked well. I have a few projects in mind and will need the extra length this bench will provide.

      Hey, good luck with your build.

  3. ant11sam says:

    Greg!
    So You will follow the path “size DO matters”…. LOL ;P

  4. Brian Eve says:

    I love my Roubo bench, but I think the only way to do it is in a class where you have 11 other guys to help flip and move that massive top. If I had to do it alone at home, I definitely would build a British bench.

    It looks like you might have the room, why not build a twelve foot bench?

    • Greg Merritt says:

      This thing will be just about all that I can handle on my own. Twelve foot will be just a little too big for the space. I want to have this bench out away from the wall so I can work all around it.

  5. Bob Easton says:

    Only 8 feet? If you’re going to go big, go big! 🙂

    • Greg Merritt says:

      Ha,Ha…I thought about your English behemoth early in the decision process. Twelve foot is just a little too big for my space. Plus eight foot will allow all of the parts to be cut from the twelve foot boards.

  6. Derek Long says:

    Can’t wait to see the new bench, Greg. Eight feet should give you plenty of workspace, especially if you make it a nice matching wide dimension. Are you doing the center divider route, or just a nice wide open real estate?

    I’m very sloooowly making a new bench as well, after working off a door on sawhorses for three years in the new house. I’m going the opposite direction from working around not having a good vise for workholding, to anxiously awaiting have two good vises.

    • Greg Merritt says:

      I’m sticking with the design on the video. The only change is that mine will be a foot longer. So yes, I’ll have the center stick. Seems like it will be very handy. I’ll also most likely install my existing QR vise on the opposite side of the new bench.

      Good luck with your build. A good bech is a game changer.

  7. Shannon Troester says:

    I built my Nicholson bench from the Naked Woodworker video with a few minor changes. I later bought a roubo style bench from a school that was selling one. I like my Roubo but love my Nicholson. The minor changes I made to Siemsen Nicholson:
    (1) Doubled the thickness of the type by laminating 2×12’s together face to face. One the largest complaints I’d read online about Nicholson style benches was that they were a little springy when chopping. Doubling the thickness solved that problem along with a few extra cross members beneath it.

    (2) I used a 2×10 instead of a 1×10 for the extra thickness on the inner apron assembly. This gives me 3″ of depth of holdfasts on the apron and works a charm.

    The only thing I wish I had done differently was to construct the bench to make sure I could retro-fit a quick release style vise in the face position. I’m thinking about building another one and if I do I will definitely incorporate the face vise. My wife has taken over mine and part of the plan for next year to re-arrange my two car shop so that may be the opportunity I need,

    In any case, I think you’ll love the bench. You can also watch the English Woodworker’s batten and holdfast video I think Mike’s workholding video covers most of it though.

    • Greg Merritt says:

      Sticking close to the video version. My material is SYP and is hard and dense. So I don’t anticipate any rigidy issues during chopping. I’ll bet your bench is pretty dang heavy and solid as a rock.

  8. billlattpa says:

    I think the English Joiners Bench (a la Graham Haydon etc.) is the best workbench form. Though my bench is probably closest to the “French Variant” that Christopher Schwarz describes in one of his books, if I were building a bench today it would be along the lines of the Siemsen bench without blinking twice. The front apron sells it for me. I find myself clamping boards to the front of the bench far more often than not, and that apron offers full support along the entire length. That’s enough for me to give it the thumbs up.
    Bill

  9. Jeff Branch says:

    I’ll be watching your progress. I want a similar workbench. Take lots of photos please. 🙂

  10. Stefan says:

    Hi Greg,
    nice Project. I think I would build a bench like this too, if I would have more space.
    Curious how things will go (yeah, I know. I just have to read the other posts 😉 ).

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