Workbenches – Which Path Do I Follow?

When a woodworker makes that fateful decision to build their own workbench, the next logical step is – what style of workbench do I build?  Roubo, Nicholson, Moravian, Scandinavian, etc.

Then there’s the many other factors such as: what type of wood should I use, what type of finish do I need, how tall or wide should it be, should it be a solid permanent workbench or a knock-down transportable type, how much should it weigh, what kind of vises should I use, and the list goes on.

It also might be heresy for me to say, but a fully wooden vise screw & nut isn’t always the proper choice for every woodworker given their own personal situation. There are times & circumstances when a metal vise screw is the best way to go.

The short answer to what type of Workbench you should pursue is, IT DEPENDS.

It depends on many factors such as:

  • Hand tool work or Power tool work (or a mix)
  • How much are you looking to spend (a lot or a little)
  • Will it be stationary or do you need to transport it frequently
  • Are you building small bird houses & gifts or large ornate furniture
  • Planning to do lots of joinery (dovetails, tenons, etc.) or not much at all
  • Are you working in a small apartment or a sprawling workshop
  • etc, etc, etc.

By giving all of this a lot of honest thought and after a bunch of research using the many fine workbench building resources that are out there (Books, DVDs, Websites), you will eventually land on a workbench path that you must follow.  The key is that everyone should chart their own personal path to their own workbench nirvana.

Until then, I’d like to point you to some additional resources that you can find on our “Links/Info” section of our Lake Erie Toolworks website.  First off, we have a section called “Workbench Ideas” that has a huge number of workbench styles for you to peruse & consider on your path to personal discovery.

We also have several links for you to follow to check out Will Myer’s workbench builds for his Roubo, Nicholson and Moravian Style Workbenches.  There’s also a link to a Workbench video series from Paul Sellers that I think many of you will find very informative.

We’ll keep adding more informative detail on our “Links/Info” page of our website in the future to help you in your quest, but until then, keep on driving until you find the right exit ramp to your own ultimate Workbench destination,

Best regards,

Jeff Dombrowski – Lake Erie Toolworks


Announcing our January 2011 Workbench of the Month

Adding our January 2011 Workbench of the Month from Jim C. of Excelsior, Minnesota to our Lake Erie Toolworks Blog for ease of access and historical awareness.

Lake Erie Toolworks, Face Vise, Nicholson Workbench, Wood Vise

Lake Erie Toolworks, Face Vise, Nicholson Workbench, Wood Vise

Lake Erie Toolworks, Face Vise, Nicholson Workbench, Wood Vise

Hey Nick, I attached a few photos showing your awesome screw installed in the finished Nicholson workbench. Feel free to use these photos on your site if you want to. The vise cheek is 25″ x 12″ x 2″, with over a foot between screw and guide bar. The movement is extremely smooth with absolutely no racking. The action is beautiful and I’m very pleased with it.

The bench is a reproduction of Peter Nicholson’s joiner’s bench, as described briefly in “The Mechanic’s Companion”. The length is 9 feet, which is long enough to plane moldings for large case pieces. The benchtop is 29″ from the floor. I used 2×12 and 2×6 construction lumber and built it entirely with hand tools in two weekends. The vise chop is a chunk of 8/4 poplar, as is the planing stop and vise guide bar. There is 12.25″ between the screw and guide, so I can get a
pretty good-sized drawer in there. I would guess the bench weighs around 275-300 lbs, but due to Nicholson’s clever design which uses the front and rear aprons as structural components, the bench is much stiffer than you would expect. I’m a big 300 lb guy, and I can’t rack the bench with all my might. It’s heavy enough not to move when I push it. There is no finish, except for paraffin wax on the screw threads and vise guide.

I think a metal screw would have looked totally silly on a bench like this, and I couldn’t get my mind around that. Maybe there’s no practical reason to work with antique tools in an entirely hand-tool shop, but some of the best things in life are impractical. There is a certain meditative aesthetic to the old ways, and the Lake Erie Toolworks wooden screw completes the picture brilliantly.

I’m really pleased with the screw kit I got from Lake Erie Toolworks and I’ve told quite a few people about it. Thanks for the great product!

Jim C. , Excelsior, Minnesota