You can download a free construction drawing (in pdf format) of the English-style workbench shown in our article “Rules for Workbenches” in the June 2007 issue.
The English bench, which shows up in Peter Nicholson’s “Mechanic’s Companion” (1831), is essentially a torsion box in design. It uses a minimum amount of materials (about one-third of the wood required for a similarly sized French bench) and a lot less glue. The top of an English bench is thinner and is made stiff by the wide front aprons and interior ribs. The French bench relies on mass. My French-style bench has 25 boards in it and used up a half gallon of Titebond. My English bench has used up less than half of one of those little bottles you get at Lowe’s.
My bench isn’t a blatant copy of Nicholson’s. The legs are angled at 20Ã?Â°, a feature I found on a number of vintage benches I’ve had the privilege to examine. (The legs are not, however, angled to resist planing forces in my opinion , more on that later.) And I added a wagon vise.
Complete plans for the bench will be featured in the book “Workbenches: From Design & Theory, to Construction & Use” (Popular Woodworking Books) that will be released in October 2007. Until then, however, we’re posting the plans for the basic elevation and plan views of this bench. Several readers who have been eager to build the bench have requested plans. This should get you started.
By the way, the holes in the front apron are indeed for holdfasts (or a peg). The holdfasts I have (the excellent Gramercy and ones from Phil Koontz) don’t cinch down like they do on the benchtop. Instead they rest in the holes and act as support for long work.
The plans are in pdf format and can be viewed and printed using Acrobat Reader, a free program. For even more (and even nerdier) information on this bench, I’ve written quite a bit about it on my blog at Woodworking Magazine, our sister publication.
A low-resolution version:
Nicholson.pdf (86.35 KB)
A high-resolution version of the same drawing:
Nicholson-Sheet-3-A.pdf (2.2 MB)