A workbench should be heavy, very heavy.
So I build a lot of benches with good thick 4” tops and simple but robust bases.
Now a days we tend to call this the French bench, mainly due to recent trends in workbench designs.
I don’t think the evolution of workbench designs was clear cut or defined so regionally, but there are without a doubt some features that were favoured only in particular areas.
I’ve seen countless workbenches, some very early, that you could easily mistake for the ’French’ design even though this certainly wasn’t their origin.
The ‘French’ bench as we know it is, after all, really only one step evolved from the very basic design used by the Romans.
So the French workbench remained simple. It could be massive, it could be petite, but it did always remain simple.
Now, if we nail a couple of deep aprons on the front and back of this ‘simple’ workbench design then what have we got?
The Nicholson – An English Tradition
The English, or Nicholson workbench design is robust, simple and well worth considering if you’re planning to build your own workbench.
The photos shown below are of an English style bench made in oak, although pine tends to be my timber of choice for this bench design.
The oak bench in the photos was built for a customer, and whilst this example had the top nailed down, the design is closely based on a knock-down version that I previously built for sale.
If you’re interested in building your own workbench, then the English (or Nicholson – as many people refer to it), is a surprisingly accessible build.
You won’t need to laminate the top.
This alone will save you huge amounts of time and headaches (read more about the planked top here).
And the simple joinery is forgiving, yet incredibly strong.
If you’re looking for a rock solid workbench, but don’t want to spend all year building it then the English bench has a lot to offer.
We’ve produced a full video build of a traditional style English workbench.
The build is shown using minimal, basic hand tools. And you won’t need to bench to build it from… we build off a couple of saw horses.
There’s step by step instructions, explanations on the techniques, and PDF plans to follow.
We even build a traditional face vice, starting out with a screw & nut.
Interested in building along?
You can watch the Intro video here.
Building Your Own Workbench? Click To See Our Detailed Video Series With PDF Plans.