The Slightly Confused Woodworker

Home » Shop Projects » Oh Hell.

Oh Hell.


With summer fast approaching, I’ve made the decision to hold off on any major furniture projects until the fall. I don’t want to contend with the environment because that’s a fight I cannot win. My garage doesn’t have any real means of climate control, and in the past when I’ve tried to woodwork during the summer months I had to deal with uncontrollable wood movement that nearly ruined the projects I was building, and definitely ruined my good time. But even though I won’t be making furniture I do still have quite a bit of woodworking planned.

The first project I have planned is an easy one. Last fall I started a remodel of our bedroom. We are finally in the closing stages (the harsh winter put a hold on a lot of projects). My wife came to the conclusion that I should put in crown moulding as a finishing touch, and I agree. Rather than purchase the crown, I will duplicate the moulding I installed several years ago in my daughter’s bedroom, which is just a very basic cove and flat trim that I made using a router. It’s easy to install on an uneven plaster wall, and there is no complex sawing involved to get a tight fit, and most importantly, I think it looks nice.

Poor man's crown.

Poor man’s crown.

The next projects will be the workshop/garage projects I had mentioned in a previous post. I will start with a recessed wall cabinet that I am hoping will hold any and all of my miscellaneous tools, stains, etc. that I want within reach, but not necessarily in the way. I will then hopefully move on to a low profile wall-hung tool cabinet to hang over the right side of my workbench area. And speaking of workbenches…

I think I may just take the plunge and finally make my new workbench. I’ve been thinking about, and talking about it, and writing about it for the past three months, so it’s probably about time to put up or shut up. I’ve been watching Paul Sellers videos on making a Nicholson style joiners bench for the past few weeks, and they’ve been my inspiration to finally get started. While I like Sellers bench, my design will be closer to the bench of soon-to-be legendary English Woodworker, Graham Haydon. Sellers bench is a little high for my taste, which really isn’t an issue, but his also utilizes an apron that is not flush to the bench legs. While a bench with a wide apron doesn’t really need to have its legs flush to the top to work properly, I would like to use a leg vice, which needs a flush leg in order for it to work. At the same time, I could always use Sellers design and make only the vice leg flush, but I’m not at that point in the design phase as of yet.

Before I go on, I have to say, yet again, that Paul Sellers is clearly the best of the lot in the world of woodworking instruction, and I say that with apologies to several people. The man is a “real” woodworker, and that I don’t say lightly. I’m not going to get into all that much detail on why I formed this opinion, but if you are reading this blog and you’ve never really checked out a Paul Sellers video do yourself a big favor and watch one; there are many free offerings on YouTube. If you enjoy woodworking I think you will be extremely impressed with Sellers’ videos. I like him simply because his bench throws the whole “French” workbench theory on its ear. I have nothing against the French bench (and am I the only woodworker tired of saying ‘French bench’?) But the idea that you need a massive workbench in order to woodwork is completely ridiculous. Does it work? Sure, it’s 400lbs of wood, of course it won’t move. There is nothing special about the design-4 enormous legs with a thick slab of wood sitting on them. The bench that Sellers builds is far better engineered, yet uses less wood and is easier to make. According to Sellers, the bench has been in use in professional English shops for well over fifty years! That’s enough for me.

If I do make the bench, I will make the base first, and that base may just sit for a month or so until I get around to building the bench top. That’s the nice thing about already having a functional bench; I don’t have to rush. I know I’ve said before that building a workbench can be cost both a lot of time and money, and it may be easier in many cases to just purchase a good one and get to making actual furniture. I still feel that is good advice, as long as you can actually afford to purchase a new workbench; I, however, cannot.

So the real question is: Why build another bench when I already have a perfectly good one? Well, I don’t have a good answer for that if you want me to be honest. The stupid answer is that I’ve wanted to make the Nicholson bench for almost four years, and I think that a summer when I don’t plan on making any furniture is a good time to do it. I think it will be the perfect project to either keep me occupied during the summer, or the perfect project to piss me off, or in all likelihood both. Either way, nothing that happens while I’m woodworking surprises me anymore.



  1. dzj9 says:

    No doubt Paul Sellers knows the craft well.
    I don’t subscribe to his new age/ hippie worldview.

  2. Seekelot says:

    Make that 200 years, not 50. 🙂
    Nicholson wrote his book with the bench in 1812.

    When I made my bench, I choose the “French” format. For two reasons. It looked to be easier to make. And I didn’t like the idea of reaching under the apron to push up benchdogs. I really like my endvise with benchdogs, use it all the time. I don’t like the endvise itself, it is the universal woodworking vise with one screw and two iron guiding bars. Mine is crap. I have an old Record to replace it, but somehow never get round to it.

    • billlattpa says:

      Maybe even older. I also made a variant of the French bench. It works fine, and was fairly easy to make. I think the thicker and thicker bench top trend is ridiculous, and just for that reason I don’t subscribe to the French bench theory. If a woodworker can’t work with a 3 inch thick top then he is doing something wrong, and has a bench that is poorly designed.
      I don’t use bench dogs anymore. I have a row of dog holes in the center of my bench which I use for holdfasts. I also don’t use a tail vice, which is just a personal preference. I had one on my bench and almost never used it. I’ve found that a leg vice, or any face vice, is all I really need for what I do. Thanks.

  3. Seekelot says:

    In Moxon,the late 17th cenury, you don’t see the apron yet. So, the typical English bench probably developed somewhere in bewteen these two writers. But Moxon copied the pictures from the French Felibien, so maybe the Englis bench is even older

    Anyway, I like the English bench too. Whenever I get around to move my shop from the gardenshed to the garage, i might take that as an oppportunity to make a second bench. Either one of these “over the top” Scandinavian types, or more like the English.

    My bench has a top around 9cm thick, because that was the size of the beams I used to make it. Legs are the same material.

    Like you say, that’s plenty.

    • billlattpa says:

      The Nicholson style bench is a nice looking bench as well, not that it should really matter. But I’ve always said that a workbench needs to look like a workbench, and for whatever reason the Nicholson bench looks more like a woodworking bench to me than all of the other styles out there.
      The wide front apron is the real selling point for me. I do more bench work “on edge” than any other spot, and I think that’s where the bench will shine. I don’t dimension lumber, I only plane off the high spots if necessary, so the front of the bench sees way more plane action than the bench top when I woodwork. That, to me, seals the deal as far as which bench I want to make. Thanks again.

  4. gman3555 says:

    I’m a fan of Paul Sellers too. Although there is nothing revolutionary about the methods he is teaching. The methods are tried and true techniques that get the job done. What sets Paul apart is his teaching style. He is methodical and shows every step along the way. Often times he will show several methods to complete a task depending on your available tools. This makes his projects very accessible.
    I built the smaller version of Paul’s bench that is detailed in his book. I was a little worried about the height, but have never given it a second thought once I put the bench into service. Very comfortable to work at.
    Chris Schwarz posted a teaser about a simple to build bench from home store lumber. Looks interesting.

  5. billlattpa says:

    I like that Sellers makes no pretense about what he is teaching. Generally, the methods that people use to make furniture haven’t really changed in more than 300 years. Sellers went through a traditional apprenticeship and now teaches those same methods he learned 40 years ago. But I find him the most interesting, and natural “video” woodworker since Norm Abram.

    I find it funny when some people see a woodworker using a technique such as drawboring, and think that it’s something completely new.(Schwarz’s fans commonly do this-no offense to him). Not that there is anything wrong in learning something new, but they talk about it like he invented it. There is very little new under the sun as far as woodworking is concerned.

    I personally like a relatively low bench, 32-34 inches. A higher bench would have some advantages though, especially when sawing. I’ve found that if I am shrugging my shoulders to work then it gets uncomfortable really quick, and I tend to do that on a higher bench. Ideally, I would have a high bench to saw at and a lower bench for using chisels and planes. That is wishful thinking at the moment, as my garage doesn’t have enough room for two.

    I’ll have to check out the Schwarz bench when I get a chance. Thanks.

  6. Hey Bill, I’m currently LMAO :-). It’s funny you should be thinking about a new bench build. When my six board chest project is done I’m toying with doing a video series on a slightly tweaked version of the bench I built. One of the things I would change is the flush apron/leg set up. My aprons shrunk a bit and it has some unsightly gaps. I think the leg vice would still work fine with a projecting apron. My apron depth is about 10″ so there is a ton of claping surface on it. I do hope you find time to build one.

    • billlattpa says:

      Glad you liked it!! I’m thinking of doing what Sellers did, except I will laminate another board on the vice leg to build it out so it’s flush with the apron. I think that would help eliminate gaps due to wood movement.
      Now I’m looking forward to your series. I was thinking of documenting my build as well, but not as an instructional video, but just for fun.

  7. I built a sort of hybrid Nicholson/Roubo bench. There really isn’t any functional reason why the apron needs to be flush with the leg to install a leg vise. I used 3″x9″ construction lumber and the legs are the same stuff, with a 1″ rabbet cut into the apron around the legs to provide strength against racking stress when planing. So on my bench the apron sticks out about 2″. What I did was to put everything together and got the top/apron squared up, installed the vice screw, the chop, and the parallel bar in the leg. Then you just screw the chop in tight, take a brad-point bit of the diameter of the pin you are going to use in the parallel bar at the bottom, set it against your leg and the bar, and give it a tap to mark your first hole in the parallel bar. I ended up offsetting the first hole about 1/4″ so that the chop would angle in slightly toward the top of the bench so that I could clamp very thin material like a saw plate or card scraper in there.

    But just to state it a different way, in case I have muddled things up, if the apron sticks out 2″ from the leg, you could just measure 2″ along the parallel bar from the inside of the chop, and drill your first hole there, and then drill out the rest of the staggered holes along the 1×3 bar for clamping wider stock. I used a 3/8″ carriage bolt with the threads cut off for the pin. Plenty strong.

    I’ve used the bench for two years now, the vise works fine, if there is a drawback to this, I have yet to run across it.

    • billlattpa says:

      Thanks for the tips. I wondered if the off-set in the leg/apron would really make a big difference. Theoretically, I didn’t think it would, and your bench basically proves that it isn’t an issue.
      I’m not sure if it’s easier to just rest the front apron on the leg or to dado it in the back. The first approach basically turns the apron into part of the leg. I guess either way it will work just fine. I was thinking 2×6 material for the legs, and they should be plenty strong enough to woodwork with. The dado approach seems that it would make a stronger bench. Sellers used wedges in his dado-very old school and very effective. I love the wedge approach, though it makes the bench slightly more difficult to build, but not much.
      The good thing here is that I have all summer to mess around with it. My current workbench does a pretty good job so it’s not as if I will be stuck without a usable bench. After using the bench for more than 3 years I’ve come to the conclusion that the Nicholson bench will work best for me and how I woodwork. Now it’s just a matter of working out the design. Thanks again.

  8. I think Roubo benches are really elegant, and that the main reason to build one is if you want to build a really elegant bench. But from a functional, time and money standpoint, the Nicholson has some advantages.

    • billlattpa says:

      The Roubo bench is a beautiful workbench. It is way overbuilt, which is hardly a bad thing, but like it’s been pointed out many times before; a woodworker can build a highly functional workbench with a third of the material that the Roubo uses. In fact, my current bench is very much based off of the Roubo design, and it works very well. So as far as the Roubo bench is concerned, I would never call it a bad bench, quite the opposite.
      I don’t believe the claim that the Roubo bench works so well because of it’s massive top, though I’m sure that definitely is a part of it. I believe the massive base is just as, if not more important. Just in my own experience, my current bench has a massive base-4 1/2″ square legs with 2″ thick by 8 inch wide stretchers. The top is 3″ thick basic pine. It doesn’t move anywhere. I’ve never noticed the top flex, and it is much lighter than the base. Overall the bench probably weighs around 200-210 pounds, which is about the same weight I am. I can’t accidentally budge the bench for any reason, and I’m not bragging when I say that I’m fairly strong. I believe that the large base and wide legs do more to keep it stable than anything else. Sure, a 5 inch thick top could only help, but I just don’t think it’s necessary.
      In any case, both the Nicholson and Roubo benches look like real woodworking benches, which in my opinion is extremely important. Like I was told in the military, to be a soldier you have to look like a soldier, and that’s how I feel about benches. A door and some saw horses isn’t a woodworking bench, the same way four sticks and a piece of plywood isn’t a dining room table.
      Like you, I believe that making a bench that not only works properly, but also looks proper, is extremely important. The Nicholson looks more like a working man’s bench to me, that and the fact that when I was a kid it was featured in the Eric Sloane books as well as the Audels books probably makes me like the design more than any other. Thanks again.

Leave a Reply-I'll respond even if I don't like you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 947 other followers

May 2014
« Apr   Jun »



Me and my shop helper

Top Rated

Kinderhook Woodcraft

A Former Remodeling Contractor Turned Woodworker

Want Some Honey

Beekeeping with the bees best interest in mind

Knotty Artisans

"Knotty By Nature"


A woodworking journey

The WoodWorking Junkie

The WoodWorking Junkie - Not a Real Junkie :D

Australian Workshop Creations

Sustainable wooden signs and fine hardwood boxes.


Just another site


Woodworking, life and all things between

Fine Wood Tools

Use and Restoration of Fine Wood Tools


lost my what????


wood working, furniture building, timber framing, carpentry


An amature woodworker who works as a data analytics consultant


the pensieve of benjamin james lowery


Just another site


Design. Create. Build.

%d bloggers like this: