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I see a lot of workbenches. Lots of them are gorgeous. Many of them are tough. Few benches are both.

Last weekend at Woodworking in America in Pasadena, Calif., I got to use a massive Nicholson-style workbench made by Erik Mortensen, an instructor at Cerritos College. For the most part, the bench is made from the tightest-grain Douglas fir I’ve ever seen. Erik said the material was supposed to be used for some stairs he was going to build for a customer, but the customer backed out. So he built the bench.

It’s a “partner’s bench” – it has two leg vises that use wooden screws with a very clever parallel guide. Instead of a traditional parallel guide with a movable pin, Mortensen’s vises use a second wooden screw at the floor that you spin with your foot.

This isn’t new, but one detail he added is something I’ve never seen: He made the cogged plate that you spin out of brass.


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