Monday, November 28, 2011

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site Carpenter's Shop

Patrick Neal comments below that he volunteers at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site Carpenters' Shop where there are two Nicholson benches built from Nicholson's instructions.  I spent some time tonight searching for photos and found the following panorama, which is copyrighted so I'll just link to it here.  Carpenter's Shop Panorama  Read about the photographer here:  Don Bain.  The picture is quite unusual in that you can click on it with your mouse and look around the shop.

Notice that the benches only have the front sideboard, which is authentic.  However, notice the vise on the bench to the left against the wall.  Do you see what's on the guide?  Looks to me that it functions like a horizontal leg vise with holes and a peg in the guide.  Is it the functional equivalent of a twin screw vise?

I'm definitely going to go for a visit soon, take some detailed pictures to post here and try to learn more about their historical research.   Thank you Patrick.


  1. This is really interesting!

  2. That panorama is neat! This post to the oldtools list has a link to a few more photos:

    From the shameless-self-promotion department, I posted notes about my own Nicholson style bench to the list, also, including some photos:

    Since then, I've moved it to the center of the garage, and shoved my tablesaw into the corner. I've been really happy with the bench design, for the most part.

  3. Adam,

    Thanks for the pictures. Your bench is really nice and is set up very similar to how I am planning mine, except I am left-handed. I notice you put in two planing stops.


  4. Andy,

    To be honest, I was just following Mike Siemsen's design with the two planing stops. I thought I might put a batten across both of them to make a really wide stop, but haven't needed it yet. Being right-handed, planing against that stop is a non-starter.

    There are other uses, though. I'm currently using the planing stops for mortising, where I jack the stop up, then use a handscrew to clamp the workpiece to the stop. Since I stand at the end of the bench to chop mortises, either planing stop will work for this purpose. Because of stuff like that, I'd probably add two stops I were building another bench.

    Looking forward to seeing what you come up with for a design. Get it built so you can have fun using it!


  5. Andy, I do have a few additional pictures of the bench at Ft. Vancouver I would be happy to send you, but I need an email address. My address is These benches are very heavy and I have never experienced any problems with them. I think they are primarily oak. The legs are a true 4"x4". The top and front apron are 1 7/8" and the top is composed of three boards edge glued. The top is attached to the apron and the back and end rails with shop made metal brackets. The vise doesn't operate quite like a twin screw but close. The purpose of the guide arm with the holes and the metal peg is to eliminate racking. The bottom rails on the ends are let in with a half dovetail. And the apron has a diagonal notch that sits on the front leg. (the pictures provide a better description). I believe these benches are built on the same plans used to build the benches at Colonial Williamsburg.