Monday, November 21, 2011

The Nicholson Bench

I decided to create this blog to document my construction of a Nicholson woodworking bench from the English woodworking tradition.  It appears in an early 19th century book called The Mechanic's Companion by Peter Nicholson.  (available online at Google Books).  The bench is shown in an engraving (Plate XII):
This workbench definitely doesn't look like what we expect.  Its distinguishing feature is the wide (approximately 12") "side board."  It is used to hold boards horizontally for operations such as edge planing.  One end of the board is held in the vise and it is held up by dogs or holdfasts placed in the holes at an appropriate height.  The side board also functions as a large rear "check" for the "bench screw."

The side board serves a structural purpose as well.  The top of the bench is relatively thin, about 2".  The side board makes up for this, transferring the force of planing, chopping etc. anywhere on the top to the legs and floor.  It also serves to anchor what Nicholson calls "transverse bearers" that support the bench across its width like floor joists.  It's  not apparent from the engraving, but from the text there is apparently a narrower side board along the back of the bench to hold the other end of the transverse bearers.  The result is what we call a torsion box.  Clever design substitutes for mass in this bench.  Perhaps a reason is that it is a joiners' bench intended to be transported to worksites rather than remaining in a workshop.

The dimensions of the bench are given as 10 to 12 feet long, about 2 feet 8 inches tall and about 2 feet 6 inches wide.

No comments:

Post a Comment