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This page has photos from building my Nicholson inspired workbench.  These were originally posted on Flickr, but I moved them here as well.  Note that aside from the first two (and the last ), the rest of the photos are fairly low resolution (and grainy due to low light) that were taken as I thought to while building it.

A couple of interesting features regarding the bench

It was built to be used from either side (note the plane stop on each side).  This was partially so my son and I could both work there (or one of us could work if the other left a bunch of stuff on the bench).  I also liked the symmetry of this.

The benchtop still lifts off (it locks into place).  I will likely eventually fasten it, but I still have to come to grip with if/what vise I am adding.  This is related to my desire to make it possible to disassemble (with a lot of work) in case we every move – as I don’t think anyone will carry it up the basement stairs

The original plan was a leg vise (probably just one side) – and I have debated a double screw on the other side.  But, I am wavering right now.  I have decided to try to live without a vise for a little while and see what I miss the most.

I toook this photo not long after I put on a coat of BLO.

I still need to add some sort of ‘planing stop’ on the side.  I am thinking I will add a small square hole where I can attach a crochet (wedged in from the back) and/or just a square stop.

The bench was made from Douglas Fir from Home Depot.  My goal (at least initially) was just to get it done fairly quickly – with a focus on making it functional, not perfect.

Gluing up the Legs

The legs are glued up 2×6 boards.  I debated 4×4 posts – but when starting out I was pretty convinced I would be adding a leg vice, and I wanted the leg to be wide enough to support the screw I have.

I did not surface the boards before gluing them up (but each leg consists of pieces from the same board with the grain oriented the same way).  Remember, I was shooting for quick and dirty.

That said, this is somewhat of a regret as a couple of the legs have reasonable gaps on the sides that, although in no way  hurt the functionality, do annoy me a bit to look at (I suppose I’ll get over it).


The stretchers are installed with draw-bored mortise and tenon joints.  The mortises are not centered on the legs, but offset to the outside – it seemed to look better that way.

I’d never cut mortise this big – this was a lot of fun – but it took a lot longer than I expected.

The pegs on the ‘long stretchers’ actually go all the way through the legs.  Not a big deal, but I wanted to be able to knock them out (I know the long stretcher might not survive) if we ever move and I need to somehow get this thing out of the basement.

At this point my wife was pretty sure I was really making a bed for the shop.


These photos show the frame with the sides attached.  Note the backing pieces between the legs, which do three things.  First, they help stabilize racking along the bench, second they support the cross pieces (shown later) and third, they give more thickness for holdfasts from the sides.

Also, notice that I (partially by mistake) ended up lining up the holes on both sides.  I am not sure I will every have reason to, but I could actually stick a dowel straight through both sides of the bench (provided I really drilled the holes straight – which is not always true).

Also, in my “what it I ever have to move this” worries – instead of nailing the sides on from the outside (my original plan), I screwed them on from the back.  Drilling those screw holes through the legs was the only time I cheated and used a power tool.

Cross Pieces

Fitting the cross pieces.   Two interesting problems here.  One, I had to resist the urge to make them too tight, as they tended to make the sides bulge.  Second, I realized I hadn’t worried too much about aligning the supports on the sides – this just created more work for me planing to make them all flat.

Fitting benchtop ‘hole backer’

This takes a little explaining.  I knew I needed to attached something to the ‘bottom’ of the benchtop to thicken the top for holdfasts to work correctly.  I decided I wanted one piece attached to the bottom of the benchtop along the length of the area between the legs.

So, I cut a notch on each end of the cross pieces.  In these photos,  I am fitting the pieces that are ultimately glued and nailed onto the bottom of the benchtop.

This has the added benefit of making the benchtop ‘fit in’ and lock in place (I still have not fastened it down).

 The photo to the left is a better view of how these pieces fit.  In this photo, you can also see here that I screwed the cross pieces down into the side supports (so they could be removed)

Although not pictured, I did also add seperate pieces to the benchtop – outside of the legs.

Bench Top

Finally, I aligned the bench top pieces with the sides and marked the positions of the “hole backers”.   I removed the “hole backers” from the frame and clued and nailed them to the bottom of the benchtop.  Next, I fitted the bench top and planed the edges to align with the sides.  Finally, I planed the top to be flat.

Once the top was mounted, I layed out the holdfast holes and drilled them with a brace.  Finally, I drilled and chiseled the plane stops.  The final picture shows the bench before it was finished.  It also appears to only have one plane stop completed.

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