Chris Schwarz's Blog

New Workbench from Lie-Nielsen Toolworks

I have always waited for and dreaded the day when someone made a commercial workbench that I would consider buying.

That day might (almost) be here.

This week I am in Warren, Maine, to shoot a video for Lie-Nielsen Toolworks on building the Shaker side table from the second issue of Woodworking Magazine. I’ve shot a number of DVDs with the company but this one is different because I’m working on the company’s new workbench, which will be on display at Woodworking in America this fall.

In all seriousness: If you are in the market for a workbench, this should be at the top of your list and at the bottom of your list (in other words, it should be the only one on your list).

Yup, this is the only commercial workbench I’ve ever considered owning. Why? Let’s go through the features.

1. The top is 4″-thick solid maple and 7′ long. No skirt. No tool tray. Just lots of maple that you can clamp stuff to.

2. The front edge of the benchtop is flush to the front of the 3″-square legs. If you have read anything I’ve written during the last seven years, then you know that this is an important feature when it comes to working the edges of boards.

3. The tail vise cannot sag. I dislike the traditional tail vise. This bench does not feature the traditional tail vise. It cannot sag. It is awesome, and it doesn’t have the “L” shape, which is a bad thing in my estimation. Too many woodworkers use the “L” block to clamp stuff to the end. And… surprise! The L-block breaks off.

4. The face vise is a chain-drive twin-screw vise with 12″ between the screws. This is plenty enough for most operations. For wider case sides, the Moxon double-screw is the answer. More on this in a later post.

5. The lower 5-1/4″-wide stretcher is flush to the front edge of the legs and benchtop. That’s perfect – exactly how I would build it for myself.

6. The entire bench is made of beautiful and solid maple. Price: $2,000.

That might sound like a lot of money until you start pricing out the maple, the vise hardware, the dogs and your labor. I have done the calculations. And while I think that most woodworkers should build their own workbenches, this design is the best alternative ever.

Truth is, I’ll spend more than $2,000 on a laptop every couple of years. This bench will outlast you and your children. It is a steal.

Today I spent the entire day building stuff on this bench and I found nothing to complain about. It is solid, holds work firmly and has tight joints. I cannot ask any more of a workbench.

So if you are coming to Woodworking in America, I highly recommend you stop by the Lie-Nielsen Toolworks booth and give this bench a try. Sign up to get one made for yourself – I am sure that there will be a waiting list soon enough.

— Christopher Schwarz

• But if you are too cheap to buy a workbench, then I recommend my book “Workbenches: From Design & Theory to Construction & Use.” This book explains what makes a good workbench, whether you buy it or build it.

25 thoughts on “New Workbench from Lie-Nielsen Toolworks

  1. katiedobe

    Well first off I love Lie Nielsen so don’t want to sound like I don’t. I like the bench but really Chris it sounds like you are being paid to promote something that you don’t really believe. I know you aren’t being paid.
    I have built your Roubo with a beefy leg vise. I also have your second bench book, (lol at the big kitchen table bench), and read it fully. In my humble opinion, I think they have it about 90% right but what they got wrong is really wrong, to my taste. No overhang on the left end of the bench. I find that area of overhang a great place to have. But the largest glaring piece that is missing is the leg vise. Man what a holding monster that device is. I don’t think anyone has improved on that since it was invented. So why not use it now? I think it is because they want to sell their chain driven hardware and they think it is best for that use. But I think they should offer the bench with a leg vise configuration option. At that point I think they would have a nice bench for sale. Glad to see them trying.

  2. kevin65kk

    At a total weight of 250lbs, this seems somewhat light. I have seen many a bench like this one move and sway with any of the primary woodworking task, sawing, chiseling and especially planing. It seems like some simple diagonal supports would end the rock’in but you never see any built into this style bench, why?

  3. abt

    Great looking bench. It’s so tempting as I’m getting ready to build a bench. I just priced 8/4 beech today, so I can see that between the vice hardware and the wood, the price point is on target. But I did want to build my own…hmmm….

  4. Howard Lobb

    I have tried this bench at a show here on the westcoast ,,, the only thing I would change is the handles on the vises especialy the tail vise ,,, from the ball too madallions that would not stick up past the top of the bench ,,, simple sollution and all in all it’s a beauti and I find no fault in the price.

  5. Deke

    You guys realize this thing comes with about $700 of vices. I was just quoted on a bundle of hard maple for a roubo at $1200. There is your LN bench right there. You can tell something is well thought out when the price hurts but not enough to say no.

  6. aschaffter

    I didn’t see the new bench on the LN website, not in the bench or “what’s new sections. The $2750 price cited by other posters was for a different bench.

    It looks like a great bench. The top may be a bit too thick for Gramercy and similar holdfasts to grip securely, it is can be supplied with round dog holes.

    I would like to see melding of new and old- how about the new Hovarter threadless lead screw (oxymoron?) leg and face vises on one of these benches?

  7. Deke

    I just wanted to say thank you for helping me with my serious medical conditions of sitting on the fence-itis and obsessive-compulsive-minutiaosis. I woke up today, yes today, to go out and purchase wood for my benchtop. Now… sigh…

    P.S. or perhaps FYI: The Lie Nielsen’s site seems out of date or not matching your information. The standard bench is shown with the L tail vice and the price is $2750. This must be new?

  8. walsh@iu.edu

    I am not seeing an accommodation for wood movement in the laminated top. Is that because of the grain orientation of the laminates?
    I love the Lie-Nielsen works in Warren. Visit there just about very year when vacationing in Camden. They’re really good folks.

    1. BillT

      Looks to me like movement should not be too much of an issue. First, it looks like the top is attached to the end stretchers with a couple lag screws placed sort of near the center-ish – which would allow lateral movement towards the front and back. Second, hard maple does not move quite as much as, say, oak or cherry. Third, it appears that the individual boards in the lamination have been rotated so that any expansion will mostly be in the vertical direction. So the top should be quite stable horizontally, and to the extent it does expand, it will get slightly taller.

      Leastways, that’s what it looks like to me.

  9. carheir

    If I were going to drop that kind of cash on a bench, I would have BenchCrafted make me one with their leg vise and tail vise. Don’t think you can do better than what they have come up with. JMHO

      1. carheir

        Not speaking entirely from a $$$$ standpoint. I just think that for the money, Benchcrafted has a better product. That’s my opinion and you have yours.

  10. billlattpa

    I was fortunate enough to work on a Lie Nielsen bench at one of the first classes I took. It was just for a few hours but I thought the bench was superb and the first real woodworking bench I ever used. When I finally became decent enough I made my own bench using Chris Schwarz’s books as guides as well as several patiently answered emails from Chris himself. My bench ended up somewhat like the French variant bench in the workbench design book though I didn’t intend it to be that way. It works great and looks like a woodworking bench. I don’t necessarily believe in the whole solid core door on trashcans approach to workbench design. One of the first things you learn in the army is that to be a soldier you need to look like a soldier. I feel the same way about workbenches.
    The bench probably cost me around $500.00. Knowing what I know now I could probably build my “dream” bench to end all benches for about $800-$1000. However, though I had a great time and learned a great deal building the bench, I would be very tempted to buy a bench from Lie Nielsen if I were considering making a new one. The time and planning in designing and building a workbench weighed in with the cost makes $2000 grand sound pretty reasonable. Just as I would rather purchase a quality new tool instead of restoring an old one(as well made as it may have been). In the end I would rather be building furniture that my wife is iffy about than making workbenches..

  11. Jim Barrett

    I spoke to LN today about the bench and put my order in…from what I understand the bench is “as is” except for the height…as far as changing the vise to the “other end” give them a call and see what they say.

  12. zackdog

    Chris, I wish that we’d had time to examine my customized Roubo that I picked up at LN after our class this past weekend (or maybe you did and didn’t want me to see your reaction). I had them add a 12-inch chain-drive screw vise to the left side of the bench (with a 2nd set of dog holes). Combined with the leg vise and tail vise, I think it fits your six criteria pretty well (exceptions are that the legs are 4″ and it’s 100 inches long)and then some. Of course, you’d have to find a second sofa (nearly) but I figured that I’d start with the best and not have any regrets later.
    Thanks for a great course and tons of patience with us “intermediate” or is it “semi-advanced novice” woodworkers.
    Joe

  13. funkyspacecowboy

    This is just academic for me since I’m perfectly happy with my shopmade French style bench but I am curious about a couple things. Do you know if they will offer a southpaw version of the bench with the vises reversed and will it come in different heights? My bench is very low to the ground (like me) maybe 26-27″ high and suits me fine but would be murder on a taller woodworker, likewise a 30″+ high workbench would be very uncomfortable for me.

    If they made a short, left handed version I would’ve been sorely tempted to buy it instead of build when did my bench a couple years ago. I really like the looks of the vise hardware…

    Cheers,

    Josh

  14. Steve

    That bench looks very nice. I’m guessing improvements would be:

    1. Make the joinery permanent for the long stretchers and top (but then it couldn’t be shipped very well).

    2. Make the top flush with the legs in back, too.

    3. Use round holes for bench dogs (preference)

    Was it hard to work with no overhang on the left side of the bench? I’m guessing this could be changed to suit the user. Also, are the short stretchers drawbored or just pegged?

    Steve

  15. Derek Cohen

    Hi Chris

    You know, I am now planning my first bench in some 20 years. Mine has been modified more times than I can remember. Just plane worn out. I have your first book on the subject, and it is very helpful reading.

    That LN bench is a good model. I like the tail vise idea.

    Here’s my question – because you need another question about benches! :)

    With the popularity of the Moxon double screw dovetailing vise (mine is at http://www.inthewoodshop.com/ShopMadeTools/MoxonDovetailVise.html), is there still the same need for a double screw face vise – would we be better served by a leg vise? This appears to have all the holding power one could need, plus it is a less fussy vise with wider holding capacity.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

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