The Nicholson Bench for Starters. (Also Beginners, Newbies and Novices)

Lost Art Press


I like to read and discuss old texts and try to figure out what the authors are trying to tell us. When I read about using hand tools I prefer texts that were written before the use of electricity. Nicholson’s “The Mechanic’s Companion” was one such book. His brief description of a joiner’s bench and the accompanying plate piqued my interest. Why all the holes and how does it work? Only one way to find out: Build it.

Peter Nicholson, definitely not naked. Peter Nicholson, definitely not naked.

Because this bench is the results of hundreds of years of development, I tried to stay true to the text and plate and build the bench with a similar mindset as the original users. One task of a joiner was to finish the interiors of houses, so the joiner built a bench 10’ to 12’ long from common materials and made all of the doors windows and…

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4 thoughts on “The Nicholson Bench for Starters. (Also Beginners, Newbies and Novices)

  1. I’m intrigued by this recent fascination with total hand-tool woodworking. I’m guessing that these guys drive cars, get money from the ATM, and plug in their refrigerators and computers, etc. So what’s the big deal about being such a purist when it comes to tools?

    1. I don’t think it’s absolute purism to eschew all power tools but there is something good in using a well-made and maintained hand tool that connects us with the craft. I have been teaching some woodworking lately and have found that for those who haven’t grown up with human powered tools, it is a real insight to just use a saw properly.
      Another facet of this choice is to ignore the gizmo and gadget culture of the cheap tool companies that convince an entire generation that nothing can be produced without factory-made jigs or ridiculously priced specialty tools.
      Your thoughts?

      1. I learned to use basic hand tools as a kid in the 60’s, made a living in conventional building when it was handsaws and hammers, and gradually accumulated the refined hand tools (planes, chisels, back saws) that I needed to learn cabinetry. Still using the workbench I built in the 80’s, and I can quite efficiently cut timber joinery without electricity, because I have the right tools, and they are sharp. Took years to get there.
        On the other hand, I don’t have any interest in giving up my Unisaw, or the 18″ bandsaw, just rebuilt. They expand my working possibilities. Took years to acquire them, too. Ripping or planing rough stock by hand is time-consuming, and wears on the joints.

  2. Jennie here
    The bench is a great idea. The price is right.
    Go t the Home Center, pull the pile apart an pick the decent straight fibered 2 x 4s. Face glue them up. If the 2 xs are techy pierce them with all thread. The 3+ depth oof the top will grab the holdfast.There is a set if holdfasts on the market for around $30.Forget the cast cheapos. Wooden threads make your single and double bench screw. The German metal bodied threader is wonderful but costly – but worth it.With your double bench screw half off the bench you can dovetail to your heart’s content. The depth of the front apron is to allow clamping doors-single bench screw on the end.
    Jennie Alexander

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