I have kept the June 2007 issue of Popular Woodworking on my assembly table as I built my bench. The cover is the Nicholson bench Chris Schwarz built, but that isn't the reason. It contains his lengthy "10 Solid Rules for a Better Workbench" article, rules which he has repeated several times since in other publications. I think he would look at my bench and say I followed them all except for being clamp friendly and workbench height. I think this bench is clamp friendly; it's just that it emphasizes work holding by other means. As for height, he acknowledges that there is a range. I'm about 2" higher than his "pinky guideline", but, at over 6'2", 34" is as low as I will go.
In this spirit, I have decided to come up with 10 observations that I think may be useful to others considering building a Nicholson workbench. My hope is that you will chime in with comments, criticisms, observations of your own so that readers get a range of views.
So, here's Observation #1: You can design your Nicholson workbench to have as much mass and rigidity as you want. More is usually better, but not always. The most frequent criticism of Nicholson benches is that they lack both and I believe I have shown that it just isn't true. The amount of mass and rigidity your bench has is a design choice for you to make. Particularly if you use construction lumber, adding a 2x6 ledger for the bearers accomplishes several things. It solidly locks the legs vertical, like the shoulder of a huge tenon. With it, there is no need for a bottom stretcher along the length of the bench. It stiffens the side board, effectively turning the bottom half into a 4x6. It's easy, it's cheap, do it. The second best way is to add bearers. It is so easy to do this, I think the minimum number is seven. I'm leaving the top for a separate observation, so the third best way is to beef up the legs. Again, easy to laminate 2x6's. Especially if you are using construction lumber, material cost is not a big issue, so why not?
Mass and rigidity aren't always better. Mike Siemsen wants a bench that he can transport, so a bench over 300 lbs, like mine will be, wouldn't be good. You can always add bearers on either side of the leg so you have places on the bench that are super solid. Does the whole top need to be? Finally, you can build a solid bench raiser if you want.
My point is that this is a choice you get to make, not an inherent characteristic of the Nicholson bench.