Nicholson Workbench Kickoff

I am in desperate need of a workbench after moving into our new home. My previous bench was , and probably still is, attached to the basement wall. It has worked out for the best, because I need to custom fit this bench for the space that I have. I have been working on the design for a couple of weeks now, and I think I have finally settled on how the bench shall be built.

I am a big fan of the Nicholson bench, and have been reading/watching other woodworkers blog about their versions of this bench. Every one and their grandmother (I’m sure there are some grandmother woodworkers out there) have been jumping on the Roubo workbench style. I have to admit, for a while I was going to go this route…that was until I came down to earth and started focusing on what would be most functional for me.

Rob’s blog over at Logan cabinet shoppe is a big influence on the design of my bench. I have watched his workbench videos over and over again. I also studied Chris Schwarz’s workbench book a great deal to make sure he would approve. There have been a couple of other woodworkers out there that have found great success with the Nicholson style.

You can download a model of my version of the Nicholson bench here from the 3D Warehouse. I think I changed my mind about 12 times in the past couple of weeks regarding every element of the design. Everything from lumber thickness, tenon placement & size, shelf design, overall length, etc. I get really involved during this process and it is pretty much all I think about most of the day.

I ended up making the overall length of the bench at 6′. I felt this was the best for the amount of space that I have…I need to save room for that Anarchist Tool Chest that I am planning on building in the future. I also need to save room for my snowblower…it has seen more saw dust than snow this year.

I picked up the rest of the lumber last week, and it is currently acclimatizing in the garage. I went with construction lumber to keep the cost down…I prefer to use the good stuff for furniture projects. This is going to be my workhorse, and it is going to take a beating. I don’t want to lose sleep over it when I ding it up. I had to go to two stores to find what I needed. At one of the stores, I had to cut two 16 footers in half in the parking lot in order to get them in my Taurus. The majority of the base will be constructed of douglas fir, and the rest will be the mysterious ‘whitewood’ sold at the big box stores.

The first step in the project will be to set up the legs with their mortises. As I wait for them to acclimate to my shop, I will try to post some more tool reviews. I recently purchased some new hand tools, and would love to let you know what I think.

– JR


Stanley Sweetheart 750 series chisel review

I purchased these recently from Stanley through Amazon. They were on sale for around $95 for the set of (4) with the leather tool wrap. I think normally they retail for around $119 or $129. The set of (4) includes 1/4″, 1/2″, 3/4″, and 1″ chisels plus the leather tool wrap.

I originally had my heart set on some chisels from Lie-Nielsen, but a few things changed my mind. First was the great deal…you can only buy (2) of the Lie-Nielsen’s for this price. Second, the reviews had been really good. Third, the Lie Nielsen’s are based off of the Stanley original 750 series.

My thoughts…

The packaging was great…a box within a box, within a box. Each chisel was individually wrapped to protect the chisel from shipping damage. All four arrived in pristine condition. Right out of the box, these chisels were flawless…and razor sharp. From what I could tell these were manufactured in England with great skill. I have never seen a blade this sharp…even plane blades that arrived from Lie-Nielsen that are ready to go out of the box.

The leather tool wrap is nice, and holds the chisels well. I already had a leather wrap for a set of chisels I already own, but for now I prefer to keep the Stanley’s in the wrap them came with. The Stanley wrap seems to fit the chisels much better, and the last thing I want is one of them falling out. This wrap is smaller in size as it only fits the set of (4)…this works for me right now as I am slowing loosing space in the shop.

The overall feel of each chisel is fantastic. They feel well-balanced, and the shape of the handles fit nicely in my hand. All handles were loose when they arrived. I quick tap on a board or bench and they are locked in. They were much lighter than I had expected, because my current set of chisels were quite heavy. I prefer these Stanley’s however, the light weight makes them feel like they are an extension of my hand rather than a tool in my hand.

I tested them out immediately without doing anything to them, except for wiping the excess oil off of them. I went first to cutting some end grain…the ultimate test. Let me tell you, these cut end grain like butter. I could slice through the end grain with one hand and a minimal amount of pressure. They cut equally as well in long grain situations. I only hope that I can continue to sharpen these as well as they have arrived. They helped me to realize what a really sharp edge is, and that I need some work on sharpening.

The back of these chisel were dead flat right out of the box as well. I tested them out on some tenons that I was creating. They were flawless again…cleaning up the tenons with ease. I also tried the chisels out making relief cuts for x-cutting (second or third class cut). They cut with so much control because they are so sharp. From this point on my sawing will much improve.

All in all, these are a great set of chisels. I know in the future I will be purchasing other sizes as needed. You simply can’t go wrong with them…I couldn’t find one criticism. I highly recommend them.

– JR


I have been using these out of the box now since the original post. Occasionally I have an issue with the handles coming loose. I thought about using the old hair spray trick, but in a pinch I just use good old saliva. Hopefully nobody will walk by the shop and see me licking my chisel sockets. I have also put these through a full shaping and honing session. I started with the backs, which I had stated were flat right out of the box. I did very little work on the 1000 grit water stone on the backs. I then re-ground the primary bevel to match my sharpening set up appliance for future sharpening. Then I honed a secondary bevel. I put them back to work with no issues. I have been chopping mortises, securing scribe lines, and shaving tenons quite a bit and the edge retention is very good. Obviously, not as good right off the stone, but a good ‘working’ sharp. Just ask my left index finger, which has just finally healed.


Nightstand Part 6 [Finale]

The crown moulding has been applied, and the project has come to an end…

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If you remember from the last post (part 5), I had set aside the cut-offs from ripping the base moulding. I had three pieces of length that I needed. Each piece had a square and straight reference face, which I ran through the cove router bit that I had used for the base moulding.

After that, I just ripped all of them to final width and cleaned them up with my block plane. I showed them to the case and marked them for their mitres. I attached the front piece first and then the sides. The cuts were perfect and the sides of the case were square, so there was no adjustment needed. I trimmed the crown flush with the back of the case, just as I had done with the base moulding.

Now I am in a weird place…

I am stuck in the let down of having just finished a piece of furniture, where it comes to an end and you will never work on it again…but, I am also stuck in the up swing of having completed a beautiful, useful piece of furniture. It happens every time I finish a project…as I said it is a little weird. After I start the next project these feelings of let down will fade, and I will be left with a strong sense of accomplishment.

What will that next project be?

Stay tuned…it will be good…it is a fairly hot topic in the woodworking community.

– JR

Nightstand Part 5

Last night I finished the base moulding…

After a couple of days of prep on the boards and final fitting, I was able to complete the base. I started by selecting the boards I would use for the moulding. My original intent was to wrap the moulding all the way around the case, however after pondering this for a while I made a change to the design. I decided to stop the base moulding flush with the back panel. Sometimes you just have to design on the fly.

I decided to take both the base and crown cove moulding out of the same board. This would allow for as little waste as possible, and save some efforts. After surfacing all the faces to the same thickness  with my jack plane, I showed one of the boards to the front of the case. I wanted to set the height or width of the moulding off the front because this is what matters in the design. The front piece should line up with the bottom shelf and the bottom of the face frame. I wasn’t too concerned where it landed on the side of the carcase…just made sure it was straight/level.

After marking out the proper width/height, I ripped the boards with my x-cut panel saw…yeah, still no rip saw in my arsenal. I cleaned them up and snuck up on the perfect fit trimming the edge with my jack. I set the remaining waste to the side for use later as the crown moulding.

I set up my router in the router table with a cove bit for the profile. I sent all boards through the bit, and then moved onto cutting mitres. I mitered the corners and attached the moulding with 4d finish nails.

I couldn’t be happier with the results. It’s nice to see the project coming to realization. All that is left now is the crown moulding…

– JR