Another Nicholson Bench is Born

Well, not quite yet. But it is developing quite nicely. Andy Margeson has been building a new Nicholson bench and has started a new blog to document it’s progress. Andy and I have conversed through email a lot over the last several years, and I’m glad to see he is starting his bench build. It’s also refreshing to see someone else touting the Nicholson style bench. With all the French benches being built, we English bench fans need to put out some more press on these under appreciated but highly functional workhorses. So check out Andy’s new blog over at and follow along with his bench build.

Maybe with enough encouragement, he’ll share some pictures of some porringer tables he’s built too ;).


Another Nicholson Bench is Born — 13 Comments

  1. Bob,
    I saw his blog and the reference to you in helping with his decision. I must say, I have followed this blog for a couple of years now, well since the first podcast, and I honestly can’t wait to get started down the Logan Cabinette Shop progression. Once I have the time, I am planning on basically duplicating, in very poor fashion I am sure, the work I have come to respect on this site. Truly it will give me pleasure to build some of these projects (will mainly focus on shop projects for the first year) utilizing that saw I got off you last year ( that unfortunately I have not used yet). Two young kids really are a major time sink. I have no idea how you manage to still put out all these fine blog posts and podcasts. I truly thank you for the effort, as I am sure countless others do as well.


  2. I was hoping it was called a Nickle-son bench (cheaper to build). ;-)

    The Nicholson bench I would like to build is the one shown on the cover of Popular Woodworking June 2007. I believe it’s also in Chris Schwarz’s first workbench book. It’s the bench with the leg vise sloped to the right (see link below). I don’t have the book, but I do have the SketchUp drawing. I don’t know if one could build this bench just from the SketchUp drawing though. Are there plans for this particular Nicholson workbench anywhere? I didn’t see any plans in the Popular Woodworking store, and the June 2007 magazine article is on workbench rules but no plans.

    • There was a PDF of Chris’ English bench on the old Woodworking Magazine blog. I’m not sure if it made it over to the new PWM blog. Maybe someone has a link to the post with the PDF attachment. You could try searching Chris’ blog over at PWM, but I find the search function on their new site isn’t all that great. The PDF was only a one page diagram anyway. It was pretty detailed, but I’m sure you could probably get more from the SKetchup model if it is a true build drawing.

      • Thanks Bob, I do have the one page diagram. Not having built a workbench before, I was hoping for some discussion of the build with a few details explained. I don’t know what Chris has in his first book “Workbenches”, but I put a hold on the book at my local library. I should get a notice sometime after mid-December. I’ll then find out what may or may not be in Chris’ book regarding the Nicholson workbench.

  3. Bob,
    Thanks as usual for all the great info. I’m planning to make a Nicholson bench while I have some time off for the holidays (if wife and child permits). I was wondering if you could enlighten me on the spacing of your dog holes in the bench (side and top) so I can duplicate the workholding ability on mine. I apologize if that info is already in one of the podcasts (I don’t remember it being there :-).

    • Dustin,
      I purposely did not provide measurements for holdfast hole and apron hole spacing, because it depends on your bench and the appliances you will use with it. The spacing in the apron is easy. Mark a centerline down each leg, then divide the space between these centerlines into 4 equal parts. Each of these steps is a vertical column of holes. Then divide the space between the vertical columns of holes into 4 equal parts again to get the horizontal spacing of the diagonal line of holes. To get the vertical spacing, mark the centerline of the first (top) row of holes just under the cross bearing boards. Then mark the centerline of the last (bottom) row of holes in the apron about 2″ or so from the bottom of the apron. After dividing the apron up into a grid this way, the locations of all the holes should now be obvious. Continue the holes down the legs if you wish by steping off the additional holes with a divider.

      For the holdfast holes in the top, you put them only where you need them. Space them so that when you put a holdfast in each of two adjacent holes, the pads of the two holdfasts will overlap slightly. So this spacing depends upon the reach of the holdfasts you use. The holes are about 6″ from the back of the bench.

  4. Bob …… I believe your bench has churned up an awful lot of interest. You have been very kind in offering tips and advice when I have PM’d you or sent an E – Mail. I also have been talking with Andy as I hope to get started on mine here shortly. I had a move plus some unexpected problems with my Eye’s that has delayed me but things are getting better and hope to be able to start in a few weeks.

    I am still confused on the hole layouts for the Apron, I don’t know why I can’t get it to sink in but hopefully it will come together when I get started. I am still pondering over using my old bench as a base and add the split top, aprons, and then beef up the legs.

    I am looking forward to Andy’s bench build which I am sure will a really nice bench.

    Anyway’s I appreciate what you do and Thank You for maintaing this Blog as it is most helpful.


  5. Bob,I just finished my nicholson bench last week and love it. over the summer I built a roubo style workbench and I think they are both great designs. I would love to email you pictures of the bench and see what you think of it, but I am unable to get your email address from the contact me page. If you have the time I would appreciate it if you would send me your email address. Thanks

  6. I picked up the copy of Workbenches that I had on hold at our local library, and can say that they have a detailed section on building a Nicholson workbench (as well as a Roubo). I know that not all Nicholson’s have slanted legs and vise chops, but this one does. The one drawing I had downloaded, and Bob mentioned, turned out to be 1 drawing out of 9 total. Now I’ll have to purchase this book. :-)

    Based on Bob’s experience with his workbench, and comments by Chris Schwarz and others, I might want to increase the bench top thickness to 2 plus inches and not the 1.25 inches as in the Workbenches book. I realize that with all the cross members under the top, that it’s similar to a torsion box, so is probably sturdy in that regard, however, as Bob has noted as well as others, 2 inches is a minimum thickness if traditional hold fasts (downs), will be used.

    A quick question for Bob. Are you planning on putting screws through the blocks under the dog holes for the hold fasts in addition to the glue? I was wondering if this would solve the problem of popping blocks off when using hold fasts. I would just as soon use the blocks and leave the top at 1.25 inches as Schwarz did, rather than add a 2+ inch top. Or, do you think the thicker top is the way to go regardless of how well the blocks could be made to hold?

    By the way, I’m following Andy Margeson’s Nicholson workbench build. It looks like it’s coming together quickly.

    The links below are an example of the Nicholson Bench in Chris’ book, and the one below that is one that Mike Siemsen made which is the more traditional Nicholson workbench. The second picture is from Chris’ blog a couple of years ago (Jan 2009).

    Thanks Bob,


    Copyright Schwarz. Workbenches from Design and Theory to Construction and Use

    by Mike Siemsen

    • Dean,
      For the blocks that have come off, I reattached them with glue and screws and they are holding fine. So it will work, the full 2″ thick top would just be easier, albeit slightly more expensive.

      On a side note, I don’t know why I have to keep approving your comments. For everyone else, once they are approved once, I never have to approve them again. For some reason though yours keep being held for moderation. Do you use multiple different emails or computers?

      • Thanks Bob for the answers to my questions.

        As far as the hold for approval question, I can only say at my end, this is the first time I’ve seen a hold for approval (I’m not counting the one comment that was accidently deleted recently). The only other time I’ve seen a need for approval of my comment was when you changed to a new blog format and you told everyone that the first entry would require approval but after that no approval would be required. Otherwise, all other times I’ve left a comment they’ve always posted right away.

        I’ve had this email address for several years, and I have no other email address. I thought that maybe, in this instance, I may have misspelled my email address, but I can see in the “Leave a Reply” section that it’s still showing my name and email address in the comments section, and they are correct. Also, I have only one computer, and have had it for several years.

        The only other thing I can think of are the two web links I entered in the comment may have triggered the hold for moderation especially since they both point directly to a jpeg file. Some blogs will automatically show the picture instead, however it might be a security feature in your blog set up. Not sure though. Well, I guess this comment will be a test to see if it posts without being held for approval, since it has no links.

        Thanks again,


  7. Hello and thank you!

    I have been wanting to get a shop set up in my garage for almost 2 years, and being a research hound, a pragmatist, and a cheapskate I have been agonizing over a ‘best value’ bench design that would offer maximum return of functionality on investment. After being inspired by a Mike Siemens post last weekend I realized I was using my research addiction as just another excuse (along with no tools, no experience, not enough funds etc.) to avoid actually doing something. I picked up a bare minimum of hand tools and actually designed and built a simple garage bench which will handle diy projects, gardening matters, bicycles, small engines, etc. – for 30 bucks!

    …So now I’m hooked! – time to put the research down and actually build a real project for me. From the inspiration I have between this fantastic Site as well as Andy and Mike’s blogs, there is no doubt that the Nicholson offers the very best value and functionality of design, so that is my next build. After watching episode 23 I think I’ll even try to shake off my vise envy and stick to traditional workholding methods, possibly reserving the option to build a mobile vise in the future.

    As an interesting aside, my family history is a long line of United Empire Loyalists who settled and built this part of Ontario Canada almost 250 years ago, and when I showed my father the bench I had decided on, he remarked that this is the same bench my journeyman and millwright ancestors would have built for their own shops – kind of cool

    Anyhow…Thanks again for the great tutorials. I’m sure I’ll have dozens of questions in the coming weeks.

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