A place for me to occasionally record the comings and goings of all things wood in my life.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

New Workbench: The Official Tour

I more or less finished this bench this past week, and am thrilled to finally be able to show it off.  As is likely apparent from the photos this is my take on Chris Schwarz’s English/Nicholson Workbench.  I also included components inspired from others who have built this bench (e.g. Bob Rozaieski and Mike Siemsen), and added a couple small twists of my own.

 The bench is 66” long by 20” deep and a bit under 34” tall.  This was the largest I could fit in my VERY small workspace.  It’s made mostly from Southern Yellow Pine, the vast majority of which is recycled.  I’m not sure what the legs are made of, other than to say they’re softwood and the back legs are a different species than the front. They came from two large old beams I found at the recycled lumber dealer.    

The top was cut from a huge laminate beam that was given to me by a friend of mine.  The story is that that it came off an old church that partially collapsed after someone accidently ran a truck into it.  The only new lumber I bought for this project were the 2by12s usde for the aprons and the 8/4 maple used for the vice chops and the planing stops. 

Now for the work holding

1. The front vise is a slanted leg vise.  It’s amazing!  It’s rock solid and the clamping capacity is huge (can cover 8” to the right of the screw). The picture shows a 10” wide board clamped in it.   I had considered making a twin screw vise instead, but MAN am I glad I went with this.

2. The end vice is a small Groz Rapid Action Vise that I got from Woodcraft.  I extended the bench top past the aprons by about six inches so I could mount the vise as close to the edge as possible and thereby minimize racking when using my dog holes, which I also put as close to the edge as possible (centers are 2” from the edge).  This is really great for any kind of fenced joinery plane.

3.  Hold fast holes… Simple and effective…. Nuf said.

4.  Even though I have an end vise, I really like using planning stops, particularly for thin stock, which I use quite frequently.  So like Bob Rozaieski and Mike Siemens I decided to make a split top bench with removable planing stops.  The stops are notched so the I can flip them over and have them fill the gap in the top while sitting just below the work surface.

A small, but significant, adjustment I made was to use 8/4 stock for the stops. Why?  Well the one disadvantage of the large aprons on this bench is the ability to use F-clamps to clamp things to the top.  Yes, holdfasts are great, but sometimes you just need a clamp.  By using 8/4 stock for the planing stops I was able to have a gap in the top that was just the right size for most clamps and thus was able to mostly overcome the this issue with the aprons.

And finally… what workbench tour would be complete without the obligatory shot of one’s favorite planes and handsaws laid out on the bench in completely unrealistic way.

Anyway, I’ve only just begun to break this thing in, but I can tell you that so far it has exceeded my hopes and expectations every respect.  I can’t wait to put it to more use. If you’ve thinking about building a workbench, I highly recommend that you consider “putting a little English in it.”


Chris Griggs
New Orleans, LA


  1. I see you haven't posted in a few years, but I stumbled upon this article while reading about leg vices. I want to build a Moravian style workbench, and am thinking about building a slanted leg vice like this one. I read from one person online that they didn't like slanted vice because it didn't adjust easily. Guess the bottom guide rubbed or something? Anyway, do you still like yours? Would you make it again? Or would you prefer a vertical vise having worked with it for a while?

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