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Making a Bench -- Has anyone tried Mike Seimsen's viseless Nicholson?

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Forum topic by LeftyBayside posted 09-11-2015 12:06 AM 1984 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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LeftyBayside

9 posts in 460 days


09-11-2015 12:06 AM

Topic tags/keywords: workbench viseless traditional

I am an absolute novice who is just getting started. First real project will be a workbench. I am leaning towards Mike Seimsen’s viseless Nicholson Bench (Naked Woodworker) but am also considering Paul Sellers’ version, which has a vise and is considerably taller. Does anyone out there have any real experience with either bench and any lessons or impressions they’d like to share? I’ve never done any woodworking, let alone ever worked on a bench so my personal experience is nill.

-- Lefty, Seaside


11 replies so far

View Dave G's profile

Dave G

303 posts in 1514 days


#1 posted 09-11-2015 01:48 AM

It’s personal for me and probably for others. I like having the bench low (knuckle height) for operating planes. And I like vises because I find them so darned handy and I like holdfasts because they’re really efficient when you’re flinging boards and tools around. First I would decide if I’m going to be serious about planing. That will set the height of my main work center. I can always add vises later and I will want a few holdfasts anyway so go ahead and plan on them right off.

All that said there’s probably a way to slowly build up my tools without breaking the bank and still having my fun.

When I’m not worried about planing I always make benches and worktops the exact same height as my table saw. I cannot believe how often that comes in handy.

Good luck and welcome. It’s a nice bunch here.

-- Dave, New England - “We are made to persist. that's how we find out who we are.” ― Tobias Wolff

View Matt's profile

Matt

137 posts in 1349 days


#2 posted 09-11-2015 04:20 AM

Lefty, welcome to the Lumberjocks! Here are my thoughts about my workbench,

I’m a beginner too and built the Paul Sellers workbench last fall. I followed his design because of the accessibility of the videos and blog entries about it; Paul presented it to the beginner as an affordable, simple bench to build.

I recommend you fit it or any workbench with a vise, then build some projects on it and add dog holes and holdfasts once you figure out how you work and what else you need. I recommend the vise because it makes holding small or awkward parts much easier than other methods. For example, you may want to drill holes in some shrinkage buttons (they hold a table top to its frame); this can be done in the vise easier than it can when clamped to the benchtop or held by a holdfast. Or you may want to sharpen and burnish a scraper; the vise will hold it in a good, firm position. I’ve added some dog holes across from my vise to make it more convenient to plane table tops and wide boards. Also, I’ve decided to add some dog holes on the front apron to make it easier to hold and edge joint long boards. I’d like some holdfasts for some occasions, but can get by with clamping to the bench when needed. You can add all this at the beginning, but I think it’s best to build it simple, then add what you need when you realize you actually need it.

As far as height, I built it to Paul’s recommendation and find it comfortable for planing and sawing.

My bench top is made from 2×3s instead of 2×4s. I can’t remember why I did that, but I remember thinking it might be too light and flimsy. I was wrong; the bench is solid, heavy, and sturdy. It doesn’t move even if I’m planing across rough grain changes and knots, nor does it shake when I plane and saw on it. It’s more about the joinery that holds it together which makes it so sturdy, than the weight itself. There’s a video on youtube of a guy building one of these benches with 2×6s for the top so it’d be extra strong. However, he finds out that the vise he has is meant for benches with thinner tops and has to chisel out a bunch of wood from the underside of the benchtop to get it to the right height. So, make it thicker if you want, but keep in mind how the vise will fit.

I think you’ll be happy with any bench as long as it’s sturdy, comfortable, and holds your work firmly.

View Dave G's profile

Dave G

303 posts in 1514 days


#3 posted 09-11-2015 07:59 AM

I noticed your user name has “lefty” in it. If you’re left handed you need to be aware that many bench designs have features that work best for righties. You want to do mirror image when it matters. I have a leg vise in a lefty position because of the space available in my shop and it’s a minor annoyance.

-- Dave, New England - “We are made to persist. that's how we find out who we are.” ― Tobias Wolff

View Lind's profile

Lind

9 posts in 467 days


#4 posted 09-11-2015 08:12 AM

Being a rookie myself, I recently had to make some of the same decisions for my own bench. I figured that since I didn’t know exactly what I’d need, I wanted a bench that gave me more options, not less. I’d definitely go with at least a face vise of some sort, or at least make sure the build leaves room for one to be retrofitted later on.

I’m not a super tall guy myself, so I was torn on the height argument too. Fortunately I decided to leave the legs a couple of inches longer than I originally planned to and just cut them to length after having tried it out. I’m glad I did, cause I eventually decided to leave them at that length.

I don’t think there’s a golden rule for workbench height, you just need to figure it out for yourself. In my opinion you should either build the top first and simply try out some different heights on a couple of sawhorses or build it taller than you think you need it. You can spend as long as you want measuring the distance from the floor to your palm, but it won’t answer what height is right for you.

Best regards

-- He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat

View LeftyBayside's profile

LeftyBayside

9 posts in 460 days


#5 posted 09-11-2015 04:09 PM



It s personal for me and probably for others. I like having the bench low (knuckle height) for operating planes. And I like vises because I find them so darned handy and I like holdfasts because they re really efficient when you re flinging boards and tools around. First I would decide if I m going to be serious about planing. That will set the height of my main work center. I can always add vises later and I will want a few holdfasts anyway so go ahead and plan on them right off.

All that said there s probably a way to slowly build up my tools without breaking the bank and still having my fun.

When I m not worried about planing I always make benches and worktops the exact same height as my table saw. I cannot believe how often that comes in handy.

Good luck and welcome. It s a nice bunch here.

- Dave G


-- Lefty, Seaside

View LeftyBayside's profile

LeftyBayside

9 posts in 460 days


#6 posted 09-11-2015 04:12 PM

thanks for the input Dave. Yep, I ‘m thinking that I can’t do without a vise, so I will have to work that in somehow. And good tip on the height of the table saw….now i just need to work on getting one of those…

-- Lefty, Seaside

View LeftyBayside's profile

LeftyBayside

9 posts in 460 days


#7 posted 09-11-2015 04:21 PM

Matt and Lind, thanks for the feedback; exactly what i was looking for. Your comments have clarified things for me and helped me make my decision. I’m going simple and taller with a vise; retrofits and shortening can happen later if/when needed. Appreciate your comments.

-- Lefty, Seaside

View LeftyBayside's profile

LeftyBayside

9 posts in 460 days


#8 posted 09-14-2015 10:15 PM

Matt,
I have a few questiobns for you if you are willing to indulge me. I understand you built your table top with 2×3 insteand of 2×4; I decided to go with 2×4s just for convenience. Anyway, I’ve watch the Sellers video and the Wranglerstar bench build series. All good, but some details escaped me.
1. How deep and wide did you make your tool well?
2. Did you use 2×4s for the well board?
3. Did you use 2×4s for the bearers? or 2×6s?
4. How did you attach the bearers to the leg assemblies? Or did you just set them on top?
5. Did you use 2×4s for your aprons/skirts? Are these simply laminated on edge?
6. By going with 2×3s instead of 2×4s did you avoid the issue of bullnosed/rounded corners of your boards?
thanks if you can address any of these….Lefty


Lefty, welcome to the Lumberjocks! Here are my thoughts about my workbench,

I m a beginner too and built the Paul Sellers workbench last fall. I followed his design because of the accessibility of the videos and blog entries about it; Paul presented it to the beginner as an affordable, simple bench to build.

I recommend you fit it or any workbench with a vise, then build some projects on it and add dog holes and holdfasts once you figure out how you work and what else you need. I recommend the vise because it makes holding small or awkward parts much easier than other methods. For example, you may want to drill holes in some shrinkage buttons (they hold a table top to its frame); this can be done in the vise easier than it can when clamped to the benchtop or held by a holdfast. Or you may want to sharpen and burnish a scraper; the vise will hold it in a good, firm position. I ve added some dog holes across from my vise to make it more convenient to plane table tops and wide boards. Also, I ve decided to add some dog holes on the front apron to make it easier to hold and edge joint long boards. I d like some holdfasts for some occasions, but can get by with clamping to the bench when needed. You can add all this at the beginning, but I think it s best to build it simple, then add what you need when you realize you actually need it.

As far as height, I built it to Paul s recommendation and find it comfortable for planing and sawing.

My bench top is made from 2×3s instead of 2×4s. I can t remember why I did that, but I remember thinking it might be too light and flimsy. I was wrong; the bench is solid, heavy, and sturdy. It doesn t move even if I m planing across rough grain changes and knots, nor does it shake when I plane and saw on it. It s more about the joinery that holds it together which makes it so sturdy, than the weight itself. There s a video on youtube of a guy building one of these benches with 2×6s for the top so it d be extra strong. However, he finds out that the vise he has is meant for benches with thinner tops and has to chisel out a bunch of wood from the underside of the benchtop to get it to the right height. So, make it thicker if you want, but keep in mind how the vise will fit.

I think you ll be happy with any bench as long as it s sturdy, comfortable, and holds your work firmly.

- Matt


-- Lefty, Seaside

View Matt's profile

Matt

137 posts in 1349 days


#9 posted 09-21-2015 04:12 AM



Matt,
I have a few questiobns for you if you are willing to indulge me. I understand you built your table top with 2×3 insteand of 2×4; I decided to go with 2×4s just for convenience. Anyway, I ve watch the Sellers video and the Wranglerstar bench build series. All good, but some details escaped me.
1. How deep and wide did you make your tool well?
2. Did you use 2×4s for the well board?
3. Did you use 2×4s for the bearers? or 2×6s?
4. How did you attach the bearers to the leg assemblies? Or did you just set them on top?
5. Did you use 2×4s for your aprons/skirts? Are these simply laminated on edge?
6. By going with 2×3s instead of 2×4s did you avoid the issue of bullnosed/rounded corners of your boards?
thanks if you can address any of these….Lefty
- LeftyBayside

Hey Lefty,

I just saw this and I hope you’re still around. Hopefully I can help, so here goes—

My tool well is made from three 2×4s laminated together, so it’s close to 10.5” wide. It has dadoes on its underside which fit onto the bearers, and is then screwed to them for a little more stability. It’s roughly 1” deep, if I recall correctly…I’ll measure it tomorrow. Any way, I haven’t found it to be too shallow.

The bearers are 2×4s and are glued and screwed to the rails. I ran a bead of glue on top of the rail, clamped the bearer on top, and screwed it down.

My aprons are also 2×4s laminated together. Feel free to use any size lumber you want. The smaller the size you go with, the way I look at it, the more practice you get edge jointing.

I still had to deal with the bullnoses on the 2×3s. I can’t remember why I went with that size, but I don’t regret it. I started out running each 2×3 edge over a small jointer (the machine, not the plane) I refurbished, to remove the bullnose. Then, I missed a staple and screwed up a blade, leaving a ridge on every single edge after that. So I abandoned that plan and went ahead and laminated the top. I found out the my boards weren’t perfect and it’s quite hard to get a perfectly flat panel during a glue-up, and I still had to use the plane to flatten the top. I learned that I wasted time running them over the jointer and should have just glued them up and then planed the surface down with a jack or scrub plane across the grain to remove the bullnose and flatten the tops.

So, I recommend you don’t worry about the bullnoses before you laminate the tops because you’ll take care of them when you flatten it. I’ve built a couple tables since that and have found that it’s better (for me, at least ) when gluing up a table top or panel to plane it to thickness after it’s glued up. I create less waste that way. When I did my workbench top, I wasted time and material by tending to the bullnoses beforw the glue up.

View AlanWS's profile

AlanWS

17 posts in 3024 days


#10 posted 09-21-2015 05:24 AM

I’ve used Mike Siemsen’s version of the Nicholson bench, with and without vises. They work fine. I’ve also helped make one: it can be done in a day by a beginner. That’s the big difference between this bench and others.

My bench has a 3” thick maple top, and took a lot more than a day to make. I like it, but the Nicholson benches work just as well.

At Handworks in Amana this summer, Mike had benches with a St. Andrews cross leg vise installed. I’m pretty sure he’ll have an article in an upcoming Popular Woodworking on the vise. But you don’t need a vise, as he shows in his you tube video.

I don’t think you can do better than his DVD to get you started woodworking on a limited budget.

-- Alan in Wisconsin

View BigYin's profile

BigYin

347 posts in 1883 days


#11 posted 09-21-2015 05:28 AM

bench height is easy
Make the bench about 4 inches higher than you think you need.
get a piece of thick plywood 2 foot wide and the length of your bench then screw some 3X2 timbers to the underneath giving 3 inch+ply vertical rise. work at bench on this riser for a few days. You stand on this riser to use the bench. if bench is too low turn 3×2 onto their sides lowering the plywood giving 1 inch more bench height.
If still too low replace 3×2 with 1 inch thick risers, if still too low remove the 1 inch riser leaving only the plywood. if still to low remove the plywood. Whatever the comfortable height for you, the amount of timber+ply beneath your feet is equal to the amount to remove from the legs to give your perfect bench height.

-- ... Never Apologise For Being Right ...

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