Nicholson Vise Question

I received this question from another Mike wondering about the „original style“ vise on the Nicholson Bench.

I hope this finds you doing well. I have a quick question regarding your Nicholson bench. I currently have a Nicholson which has a twin-screw vise rather than a copy of the original like you included in your bench. I've heard some pretty negative comments about the original style, but it certainly looks like it takes up less room than my twin screw, which requires 34". Would be nice to get some of that space back to make planing easier and more comfortable. Any thoughts you can share about your vise? Would you still include it on a new bench? Would love to hear anything you have to say about it, positive or negative. Thanks in advance…Mike

Mike, Roy Underhill says stop trying to improve on the 18th century. These benches and other styles in use at the time were in use at the pinnacle of hand tool woodworking with hundreds of years of constant improvement. Since that time we have lost a lot of information, or our information has been clouded by marketing, people selling us ways to avoid gaining skills by buying stuff. So people complain about their vise wracking instead of using their head and saving an offcut and blocking the opposite side. The vise that I have on my bench works fine, when planing through I usually just open it up enough to allow the plane to pass through, I can also remove it by unscrewing it all the way. It wracks if you clamp on one side of it, all vises wrack to some degree. I tend to remind myself that the people that originally used these benches knew a lot more than I do and I try to figure out a simple way to make it work. Over-tightening is not one of these methods. A little slop in a vise can even be helpful if you are clamping something with a slight taper. My vise jaw is around 20 inches. In my latest Nicholson I employed a metal screw from Lee Valley that cost $32 (the entire 8" bench cost $110). You might also consider a Moxon type twin screw vise that sits on top of the bench and a crochet placed low enough to not interfere with your fenced planes. Remember that the entire side of the bench in conjunction with a couple of holdfasts is also a huge vise. Hope this helps, Mike